The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) broke ground Aug. 29 for the nine-acre, $13.7 million Graco Park along the Mississippi River just north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.
Officials from other government agencies and Graco USA wielded gold shovels for the ceremony. The park will open next year, and the community center will open in 2025.
The park will include:
- A trail connection to Boom Island, under the Plymouth Bridge, that is expected to increase bike use from several hundred to over 2,000 per day.
- A community center for public use that will include a Spark’d Studio for teens and a solar panel array for electricity.
- An outdoor, covered amphitheater.
- Habitat restoration that will include a bee lawn, a wet meadow, a river walk and a promenade to the shoreline. There will be no human access to restored Hall’s Island.
- Heated sidewalks.
Al Bangoura, superintendent of Minneapolis parks, said prep work has been going on at the site for two years. He said he was most excited about the inclusion of the Spark’d space for teens. “Young people can explore their imagination with all sorts of technological pieces.”
Meg Forney, chair of the park board, said she’s sometimes called the “river commissioner” because of her advocacy for developing spaces along the Mississippi. She said Graco Park was part of a “big vision.”
“It’s expensive and it’s complicated, but it’s vital for the city. It will be a massive improvement for the riverfront trail system.”
Graco’s CEO and President Mark Sheahan noted that Graco is a global company with over 4,000 employees, but has its roots in its campus in Northeast adjacent to the park. “We are committed to our communities, and we think there is tangible value to this project.”
Graco’s investment in the project has topped $10 million thus far.
Billy Menz, District 1 park board commissioner whose area includes the Eastside, said the city doesn’t usually name parks after companies. “But this company has been very valuable to the community.” He said the park will be valuable to the kids in the city.
Kevin Reich, executive director of the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), said a lot of agencies and people came together to develop Graco Park. “Things like this don’t happen in isolation; they develop with collaboration.”
He said that 99% of the runoff water from the park will be captured and treated, meaning less phosphorus will be allowed in the river. He said people will enjoy the park, “but the river will like it too.”
MWMO chipped in $480,000 for storm water management, habitat creation and heated sidewalks. He said the sidewalks will mean easier maintenance and less use of salt.
Robert Lilligren, Metropolitan Council member, said the council maintains over 400 miles of trails in the Twin Cities, and said the new trail connection to Boom Island will be a boon for local citizens. The council granted $2.56 million for the trail underpass and other improvements.
The parcel that will be Graco Park was once part of the industrial riverside in Northeast, and the entire area was not considered for parks for over 100 years. In 1930 Scherer Brothers developed the site as a massive lumberyard. In 2010, the city purchased the land from Scherer and in 2017 reconstructed Hall’s Island.
In 2018, the park board and Graco came to a series of agreements that included Graco providing a $5 million grant for Graco Park and an easement for the trails. The city also sold land to Graco for $1.1 million, and the company constructed flood protection amenities.
Graco’s contributions will allow the park to be built a decade earlier than would have been possible otherwise.
The park board completed planning for the park two years ago after a series of public meetings.
With the Minneapolis skyline behind them, Kevin Reich, director of Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Mark Sheahan, CEO of Graco, Robert Lilligren, Metropolitan Council, Al Bangoura, Park Board superintendent, Meg Forney, Park Board chair, Billy Menz, Park Board commissioner from the Eastside, dug into the new Graco Park. (Al Zdon) A drone photo of the park showing its proximity to Hall’s Island and Boom Island Park. (MWMO) Ground preparation is done at Graco Park, which has a view of the Minneapolis skyline. Construction can now begin. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)