Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

Discussion Item

North Lake Calhoun / South Lake of the Isles Design Charrette Discussion Item


Department:Planning ServicesSponsors:




The current master plan for the Chain of Lakes was completed in 1997. The plan has directed many of the investments that have since occurred such as pathway redevelopment around the lakes and shoreline restoration at Lake of the Isles.  As happens with all master plans, the circumstances upon which the plan was based have evolved since its completion.


Within the Chain of Lakes, the place where changing circumstances are having the greatest impacts is the area between the north shore of Lake Calhoun and the south shore of Lake of the Isles. In this area Tin Fish has become a wildly-popular destination, the Midtown Greenway is carrying hundreds of thousands of cyclists each year, the Calhoun Sailing Club has grown significantly and redevelopment is bringing ever greater urban density to the park edge – all circumstances that were mere glimmers when the plan was completed in 1997. The new norm of this area is putting significant pressure on the safety and enjoyment of the park but also opens exciting opportunities to reimagine this landscape’s place in the life of our City.


In many ways the area has always been an enigma; the soils are poor, much of the area is wetland, and a rail line and Lake Street create major barriers between the two lakes. The area feels and functions like leftover land. As a result, the recreational features are disjointed and a visitor has little idea standing at one lake’s shoreline that they are within shouting distance of the other.


Staff believes the time is right to take a fresh look at the broad area between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles (diagram enclosed). This effort is viewed as a supplement to the current master plan, not a replacement. Staff proposes a multi-day community design charrette that meaningfully engages the public and key stakeholders in envisioning the future of the area. The charrette would abide by four primary principles.


  1. Respect current uses: There is a spectrum of recreational uses in the study area such as dog park, athletic fields, sailing, wind surfing, and dining. Enhancing all current uses is viewed as central to the effort.
  2. Solve problems: Examples are to address the use conflicts at the sailing club/boat launch/Tin Fish area and resolve pedestrian/bike circulation and safety issues between Isles/Greenway/Calhoun.
  3. Envision a positive inter-relationship between park and development: How could Lake Street be re-envisioned as a great street through a park? How can future redevelopment at the vacant site adjacent to the Calhoun Beach Club be leveraged to enhance the park experience and vice versa?
  4. Reweave the landscape: This is a scarred and disjointed landscape. How can it be re-envisioned as a coherent landscape that simplifies and clarifies the inherent connections between these two celebrated lakes?

Much like the recent charrettes conducted for Wirth Park and Webber Park, a creative team would be contracted to participate with MPRB staff in the charrette and to prepare design concepts. The community would be asked to participate directly throughout the 2-3 day charrette process to identify core values for the effort and critique alternative approaches developed during the effort.


Once the charrette is complete, staff and consultants would package the outcomes and community feedback as well as develop core strategic directives for review and reaction from the community and the Board of Commissioners. There would likely be several formal actions resulting from the process that the Board would be asked to consider.


Staff proposes to conduct the charrette in October 2012 and to partner closely with surrounding neighborhood organizations and the City of Minneapolis in its conduct. There would be a significant communications and outreach effort to advertise the event and its outcomes. The charrette would be conducted in a location within or close to the study area in order to embed the event directly in the community and the landscape.


The approved 2012 Planning Division budget includes $30,000 to address the study area. If the Board is supportive of the charrette idea, staff will also ask other key stakeholders to financially-participate in the process.


The North Lake Calhoun / South Lake of the Isles area needs focused attention. The Park Board is the appropriate organization to lead the way in envisioning the future of not only parkland but the complex inter-relationships of all parties, public and private, within this landscape.





This item is for discussion purposes.


Meeting History

Aug 15, 2012 5:10 PM  Planning Committee Committee Meeting

Bruce Chamberlain, Assistant Superintendent of Planning, introduced the idea of conducting a design charrette to address the area around North Lake Calhoun and South Lake of the Isles. Mr. Chamberlain reported that many changes have occurred in the area since the last small area master plan was conducted, thus, creating a need to reevaluate the area. Key components of the charrette would be to respect current uses, solve existing problems, and reweave the landscape. The charette is targeted to occur in October 2012, and the MPRB hopes to partner with the City of Minneapolis, as well as with various neighborhood organizations. The feedback collected during the charrette would be used to plan for future Capital Improvement Projects.