Rapson’s Riverside Plaza gets a makeover

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Riverside Plaza, Minneapolis

Riverside Plaza is about to get a $65 million facelift.

When architect Ralph Rapson designed the Riverside Plaza apartments in the early 1970s, he envisioned a chic living space reflective of modernist design. At first the apartments seemed fitting with the time and were even pictured as where Mary Richards lived on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show.

But over the years the colored panels on the buildings have faded, and the apartments have aged. Now it serves as a symbol of Minneapolis’ immigrant population, offering affordable housing in a neighborhood often referred to as “Little Mogadishu.” It is the largest affordable housing development in the state, serving approximately 4,440 residents.

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A shot of Riverside Plaza’s modernist interior, circa 1973

Today formally marks the start of a project that will renovate 1,303 units as well as common areas, and expand the neighboring Cedar Riverside Community School. Improvements will include work on energy efficiency and public safety. It will even restore the exterior panels to their original colors.

Work actually began in February; 65 units are being renovated each month through October 2012. Meanwhile, affected residents are temporarily relocating to “hotel” units while their unit is under construction.

The renovation and refinancing of the Riverside Plaza is, according to the city of Minneapolis, one of the largest HUD-supported projects in the country, totalling $132 million. The project will create 200 construction jobs, of which 90 are reserved for Minneapolis residents, with an emphasis on employing residents of the neighborhood.

Riverside Plaza was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2010. Architect Ralph Rapson is best known for designing the original Guthrie Theater, which was torn down in 2006

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A design rendering of the Riverside Plaza by Ralph Rapson