Peavey Plaza demolition voted down

peaveynow200.jpg
Fibonacci Blue, Flickr.
Peavey Plaza has avoided demolition -- at least for now.
The controversial plan to demolish Peavey Plaza was voted down by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission Tuesday.

Peavey, a park plaza located next to Orchestra Hall on Nicollet Avenue, was designed by urban landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in the 1970s. Though not officially designated a historic landmark, it could qualify under the city's criteria, so it was being treated as one.

Nineteen people spoke at the committee meeting, a few from the Occupy MN movement, which has used Peavey as a public hub for meetings.

Also in attendance was Charles Birnbaum, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation, who came to Minneapolis just for the meeting. Birnbaum believes that the city has high-balled the cost of restoring Peavey Plaza in its demolition proposal, and says the public needs more information about alternatives.

"We're being asked to demolish one of the most important works of landscape architecture in America," he says. "What we need, at the least, is more information...You would never go to the dentist and start drilling without X-rays."

Birnbaum also authored a piece on Huffington Post about Peavey Plaza last week.

Aaron Hanauer, senior city planner for Minneapolis, says the costs came from an indpendent contractor. "We took the numbers that were given to us," he says.

Any passerby of Peavey Plaza has likely already seen the "Coming Soon" sign depicting plans for a new park. After demolishing Peavey, the city plans to replace it with a new design that would bring it "into the 21st Century." You can read about the plan here, but it would look something like this:

Peaveynew2-560.jpg
From CPED proposal for Peavey Plaza.

Beth Grosen of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development says there will be a meeting later today to discuss a plan moving forward. Among the options would be to appeal to the City Council.

Grosen says she believes Tuesday's meeting was just a speed bump in the city's plan for Peavey Plaza.

"Peavey plaza is a beloved space," she says, "and we look forward to having it be even more vital and sustainable in the future."

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15 comments
BTConley
BTConley

As a Minneapolis resident, plaza visitor, and a contender for Ward 7 in 2013 I really must say this whole redesign plan has been a misuse of taxpayer time and money from day one - and the problems began even before redesign was part of the dialog. Firstly, whenever something is no longer used according to its original function it is deemed unnecessary, outdated, and bound for the chopping block. Peavey gained that distinction years ago, in part and tangibly through the neglect of the water feature - that which truly makes Peavey a spot for serenity in the middle of a busy downtown and which reflects the image (no pun intended) of Minneapolis as the City of Lakes. By losing the main attraction you've lost the heart of the park. That neglect likely stemmed from a maintenance cost perspective, or it could have been short-sightedness, but neither excuse justifies what transpired. Secondly, a total redesign is unnecessary and the end result is even more unfriendly than what the original turned into. Sure the current isn't super ADA-friendly (easily fixable) but how many more times is this city going to take that which makes it unique and replace it with something you can find in any other city? It's hard to imagine that demolishing and rebuilding from the ground up is cheaper than building an ADA ramp and fixing up the water feature. $8.7 million for renovation? And it's the most expensive of four options? Wow. That is short-sighted. We have a park designed by a world-famous urban landscape architect and just as we did with other outstanding landmarks - like the Metropolitan building, for instance - we're content with tearing down and building not just something new, but something that has lost the innovative edge that made the former unique. If we are to tear up unique we need to replace it with unique.

When walking home from the Nick Lowe show at First Avenue last night I was thinking about how the city has said many times that it won't set precedents, that some other city has to do something first in order for us to feel comfortable doing it. How does innovation survive in a city that has this frame of mind? How does creativity really find nurturing in that type of environment? We have incredibly talented people in this city, and we have a great history of talent, creativity, and spark - but the days of unbounded innovation have been lost to endless bureaucracy, doing things on the cheap, and leadership that has no hope of ever getting it. There are a few out there that respect the history of this city - a history that put Minneapolis on the map in terms of culture, architecture, music, art, parks, and transportation. Are we still as exciting as we once were? Probably not, but not for a lack of big-thinking citizens. When Minneapolis was a growing city 100+ years ago it invested heavily in the things that make a society last and things by which a society is remembered. It's time that we get back to the days of unabashed investment in the heart of our society. If our leaders spent as much time and urgency on effective and long-reaching cultural investment as they do with sports stadiums and allowed the free flowing of ideas into the design of our city we could be world-class more on our own merit as opposed to what others have done first - and better. Invest well, maintain appropriately, and move ahead to a stronger. more exciting city.

Mrcommonsense49
Mrcommonsense49

"We're being asked to demolish one of the most important works of landscape architecture in America,"  Are these people serious?  Can this city even pick up an empty soda can off the sidewalk, without some lunatic deeming it to be a "historical landmark?"  Nostalgia isn't always a good thing.  This nut actually flew in from D.C. just for this hearing?  Probably on the government dime too.

Howbout
Howbout

Here's a radical idea for a public space downtown!  Just fucking fill the plaza with soil, plant some grass/lay out sod, and have a nice rectangle of turf for people to do whatever with. Maybe allow a naturally growing tree or two? No big thing, no pretentious architecture snobs whining 40 years down the road.  I bet people would like it.

Alex
Alex

As someone who lives and works Downtown, I ask anyone who doesn't think Peavey Plaza should be preserved to walk around by the waterfalls and tell me it's not a compelling space.

Erica
Erica

As someone who lives and works around downtown Minneapolis, Peavey Plaza needs to enter the 21st century. With Orchestral Hall being renovated, having PP look like it is still stuck in the '70s makes absolutely no sense to me.

demlova
demlova

Just wondering why we're even discussing this. Doesn't the City have more important issues and better uses of our money? No? Then get them the hell out of office!!!!

ThatSh*tCray
ThatSh*tCray

Peavey Plaza is historic.  It lends itself to the arts, culture, and community of downtown.  Perhaps I'm just too nostalgic, but I'd be very saddened if Peavey Plaza was changed.

Sometimes change isn't always the best.

Buzz
Buzz

 PP Blows

amiller92
amiller92

We should really be asking whether we should have a Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, and if so, whether it should have any meaningful discretion.  Just because something is a few decades old does not make it "historic" or important.

Peavey Plaza's design does not work well for it's intended function.  Keeping it as is just because that's what someone did 1973 does not make sense.

amiller92
amiller92

I live and work downtown too, and I usually go by twice a day.  There is rarely anyone there.  The fact that it gets no use is more than enough to show that the current design isn't working.

It would help if the fountains functioned better and were on all the time, but I just think the main problem is that a big hole in the ground isn't that all that appealing as a place to spend time.

I've only seen to pictures of the proposed design, but from those it looks like they plan to keep something quite similar, but reduce the vertical displacement some.  That sounds good to me.

ThatSh*tCray
ThatSh*tCray

Not everything has to look like it's from the Super Future. 

Jason Dorweiler
Jason Dorweiler

Well each time I've gone to the Plaza in the summer, its been a great spot for lunches or relaxing and many people that fill the space for this reason. In fact, I can't think of any other spots downtown that serve this purpose. Have you only been working downtown in the winters or something?

Paul Hannemann
Paul Hannemann

The evidence isn't that the design is bad or doesn't work, but rather the evidence is of demolition by neglect.  Of course it looks like crap when it's not cared for and allowed to fall into disrepair.  What makes you think they won't do the same with the new design?

The truth though is that no one is asking anyone to leave it as is.  What the preservation community wants is a more sensative approach that leaves the most important features of the plaza intact, and tastefully makes the modifications needed to improve and update the plaza.  What we got instead was homage by wrecking ball.

The new design is a weak, kitchy combination of what's been done elsewhere, with a couple of jumbotrons thrown in. Yay jumbotrons.

Dave
Dave

Peavey Plaza looks like what people thought the future would look like in the 1970s. Currently it looks like a rape plaza. 

amiller92
amiller92

Because I don't think the problem is disrepair.

Sure, the big hole in the ground would be a little more appealing if the fountains were running.  But it's still a big hole in the ground.  It requires passersby to decide they want to go down a flight of stairs to get to... well.... nothing.  

That's the point.  It's not drawing people in, thus it's not serving it's purpose.

And sorry, but it seems to me that what the "preservation community" (those poor benighted souls who can't help but to wring their hands over change, apparently), is for nothing they remember fondly to ever change.  That's just silliness.

I'm not convinced that there is any meaningful history attached to Peavey Plaza.  As for Mr. Birnbaum's concern about preserving innovative landscape design, that's what pictures are for.  Minneapolis deserves as space that actually gets used.

Again, I've only seen the two images that have been posted here.  But what I see in the new design is preserving the water and tree elements but making the plaza flatter and more usable.  That may not be enough, but it sure sounds like the starting point for improvement to me.

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