A flexible new two-block park in downtown Minneapolis puts the city on dramatic display

By Christopher Hudson

Minneapolis’ 4.2-acre East Town Commons does double duty in two ways: One block features a large, open lawn for outdoor entertainment, skyline viewing, and throwing Frisbees, while the other offers a more varied and intimate landscape experience; and the park as a whole was designed to accommodate large events and smaller weekday crowds equally well. Still in the works? A cafe pavilion, an interactive fountain, and a park-support building with a large shade structure.

“The designers saw [the two-block scheme] as an opportunity. Now people can stand on the Great Lawn and look up and know that they’re surrounded by the city. And then they can cross Portland and have that moment of being able to sit down for a conversation amongst the flora and the trees there. It’s a testament that when you take a challenge and apply your creativity to it, you really can create something dynamic and magical.”
—Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges

“Portland running through the middle of the park enabled us to make two parks within one. One side has the awesome scale of the big oval, with wide views of the stadium and the downtown skyline. The other is a landscape that I’m really looking forward to experiencing in spring and summer. I think people will really feel lost—in a good way—in that side of the Commons. It’s a Minnesota landscape of small hills and valleys and lush plantings that can still be used in a variety of ways.”
—Hargreaves Associates senior principal Mary Margaret Jones

Client: City of Minneapolis
Landscape architects: Hargreaves Associates and Damon Farber Associates
General contractor: Ryan Companies
Completion: July 2016