Architects, preservationists concerned over Peavey Plaza’s future

What started out as a seemingly very open discussion about the future of Minneapolis’ historic Peavey Plaza is now being accused of just the opposite.

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Peavey Plaza was named a “marvel of modernism” by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in 2008. Now architects and preservationists are concerned a redesign will eliminate key features.

A group of landscape architects and preservationists are now expressing their dismay at how those involved – namely the city administration and the Minnesota Orchestra - have denied key people access to the redesign process. That includes two-thirds of its own redesign team, Charles Birnbaum and the original architect of the plaza, M. Paul Friedberg.

The coalition released a statement today listing its concerns - here are a couple of key excerpts:

…Sadly, the City and the Minnesota Orchestral Association have subverted the process of planning its revitalization. What was initially portrayed at the project’s onset as an open process, and included a public interview of the four finalist consulting teams at the Minneapolis Convention Center chaired by Mayor RT Rybak, is now a closed‐door process and guided by factors uninfluenced by public input.

…On October 12, 2011, CEC members were given a preview of the single option

developed for revitalizing Peavey, an option that removes the signature and defining elements. Setting aside the merits of the proposed re‐design, which some of our signatories have previewed, we are concerned that the design decision‐making process has not been transparent. The public was assured that several design schemes would be developed, and yet only one is being presented to citizens; meanwhile, the Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to take action to approve the redesign next week.

The project has $2 million in state funding, so the public should be given a greater role in determining the Plaza’s future. CEC members were told that rehabilitating the existing plaza would be more than twice as expensive as the proposed new design, and that prospective funders (yet unidentified) are unwilling to support a rehabilitation scheme. However, thorough cost analyses have not been presented for either scheme. How did we get to this point?

We call on the Mayor, the City Council, and the Plaza’s principal neighbor, the Minnesota Orchestra, to honor the right of citizens to effectively participate in the design decision‐making process. To do otherwise would diminish Peavey Plaza’s once and future role as the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

I’ve got a call in to the City of Minneapolis for a response the allegations made above, and will post it as soon as I get it.

Update (1:56pm): Krista Bergert at the City of Minneapolis says they’ve only just received the statement themselves, and there’s no one currently available to respond.

As for the Minnesota Orchestra, PR Director Gwen Pappas says “We’re supporting the city. We’ve seen the design, and we like the design.”

A public open house is planned for Wednesday, October 19, from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the MN Orchestra Hall lobby to review the design being recommended by the city and the orchestra.

  • Meg Arnosti

    There is also a Zoning and Planning Committee meeting about the Plaza on Tues. Oct. 25 at 1:30.

  • NexGenMpls

    “Supporters of Peavey Plaza”: I suspect that you’re upset not about the lack of “public” input, but because of the lack of “your” input into the project. How many artistic endeavors end well in committee? Once Oslund & Associates were chosen (with public input), it became THEIR project, not yours. Give them the leeway they need to create a great design. I know that M. Paul Friedberg is a great architect, but not all art or design is meant to be permanent! 4 decades is well enough time for one man’s public signature to last. Step aside and let a new generation’s vision emerge for Peavey!

  • irwinmn

    Isn’t it a wonderful iconic design that just needs refurbishing, (like any outdoor art) with allowances for Orch. hall changes? Why not just fix the water features?

  • Jason

    I have a feeling that the desire to redo Peavey has a lot to do with the desire of the city of Minneapolis to not have it turned into a flophouse of sorts during the day by the homeless that congregate there at the moment.