Revitalizing Peavey Plaza

I’m very excited that this week, I helped unveil the new design for a revitalized Peavey Plaza for the 21st century.

Whether you visit, live or work in Minneapolis, people have loved Peavey Plaza for decades. For many people, it’s been a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the street where they can reconnect with the sights and sounds of flowing water. I’ve loved it for the same reasons.

The revitalized Peavey Plaza retains the most beloved aspects of the current Peavey Plaza — the feeling of stepping down from the street, terraced seating, a central gathering and performance space, water — and dramatically improves upon it.

Above all, the new design makes Peavey Plaza safe again, and finally makes it accessible to everyone. In addition, it builds in sustainability to the plaza, both environmental and economic. It creates a vibrant new interaction with Nicollet Mall. And it adds many other great features, including a performance wall, a sound garden and bathrooms (finally, bathrooms!), not to mention others that most of us wouldn’t notice, like power and data, that are required for putting on high-quality public events.

There is a lot more information and terrific renderings of the new Peavey Plaza here: I hope you’ll check it out and spend some time looking at the dynamic and beautiful future of this Downtown icon.

The revitalization is necessary because the Peavey Plaza that we have loved has fallen well short of our needs for some time now.

  • It has been far less safe than it should be: its current design has allowed for antisocial and illegal behaviors that no one should have to tolerate.
  • It has not been physically accessible to everyone.
  • It does not meet contemporary standards for managing storm water: draining the fountain for events sends 120,000 gallons of water directly into the sanitary-sewer system each time.
  • Its concrete and pipes are severely eroded — and concrete, widespread in public plazas at the time Peavey was built, is for good reason no longer commonly used for that purpose.
  • It is not set up to accommodate performances: it was initially designed as only passive recreation space and it lacks too many of the features that are now essential, making it far too expensive to host performances there.

In short, we could not — and would not — build Peavey Plaza today the way it is now.

Simply fixing the many broken features of Peavey Plaza would still leave us with a space that is not safe, accessible and functional for everyone. And it would actually cost several million dollars more than revitalizing it with the plan that we’ve unveiled.

Revitalizing Peavey Plaza fixes the problems that preserving it in its current state can’t fix — and gives us a plaza that is safe and accessible for everyone, builds in sustainability and conservation, and meets all the needs of it that we anticipate for the next several decades.

Doing so will take time and cost money, but it won’t cost Minneapolis property-tax payers: we will pay for it with $2 million in State bonds and $6–8 million more in private donations that we have begun to raise.

Many people deserve our thanks for helping to move Peavey Plaza firmly into the 21st century. Tom Oslund, whose firm Oslund and Associates was chosen through a competitive public process to design the revitalized Peavey Plaza, is one of the most progressive and visionary landscape architects anywhere in the world — and he’s based in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra, which is revitalizing and adding onto their own signature building next door, has been a great partner. We’re grateful to the State of Minnesota for the capital support and to Minneapolis’ legislative delegation for helping secure the funds. And the Minneapolis City Council has been very supportive — especially Council Member Lisa Goodman, who represent and lives in Downtown and has worked hard to moved the project forward.

But above all, you — the public — deserve our thanks. Over the last six months, we have asked you for your input, criticism and ideas, and you have responded in droves: more than 500 of you attended two town hall meetings, answered an online survey and came to an event that Council Member Goodman sponsored.

Great cities are dynamic, not static: they change, and one of the reasons that Minneapolis is great is that we haven’t feared change, we’ve embraced it. In the past 40 years since Peavey first opened, we’ve learned a lot as a society about how to build great, safe and accessible public spaces, lessons that we hadn’t yet learned when Peavey first opened. Now we’re applying those lessons to re-create and revitalize one of Minneapolis’ signature public spaces for the 21st-century.



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