Downtown Council Pitches Ambitious Plans for Mpls.

The Downtown Council, in conjunction with local business leaders, has a plan to boost downtown Minneapolis' residential population, revitalize Nicollet Avenue, build a "downtown sports district," develop a new park, and more.

The Downtown Council on Wednesday unveiled its vision for the future of downtown Minneapolis-and it foresees significant population growth in the city's core, a new park near the Mississippi River, added transportation options, and a new Vikings stadium near the Target Center.

The group's “Intersections 2025” plan-which was developed in conjunction with local business leaders-includes initiatives aimed at making the city a more attractive place to work, live, and visit.

A key part of the plan involves transforming and expanding the Nicollet “corridor” to cover 20 blocks-beginning at the Walker Art Center, passing Loring Park and Peavey Plaza ( which is set to undergo renovation by 2013), and ending at the foot of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

The plan also advocates for a new Vikings stadium-but at a different location than those supported by the NFL team or City of Minneapolis officials. The Downtown Council's plan includes a “downtown sports district” with a new Vikings stadium near the Target Center and Target Field. (Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak recently announced that the city has narrowed its proposal to the Metrodome site, while the Vikings still support an Arden Hills stadium.)

The Downtown Council's plan also calls for a renovation of the Target Center and expanded public transportation options. At the Metrodome site, the Downtown Council recommends a “new residential district” that leverages the new Central Corridor light rail line to link the area to the University of Minnesota.

Other goals include doubling downtown's residential population to 70,000 by adding 15,000 housing units; strengthening Nicollet, Hennepin, and First Avenues as the spine of the city's arts and entertainment district; and building “Gateway Park” to connect downtown and the Mississippi River, including a large public gathering space just north of the Minneapolis Central Library.

The council also wants to make strides to end homelessness in downtown and to launch a new annual festival to be held in Minneapolis.

“Thriving downtowns are critical to the economy and quality of life of entire metro areas,” Downtown Council President and CEO Sam Grabarski said in a statement, adding that even large employers based in suburbs have said that “a vibrant, livable downtown is a major selling point when recruiting employees.”

The Downtown Council said that John Griffith, executive vice president of property development for Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, led the planning process, which began in early 2010. And more than 80 people-including residents and business, government, and educational institution representatives-were “deeply involved” in crafting the plan. Elliot Jaffee, Downtown Council chair and U.S. Bank's Twin Cities market president, said that the plan is essential to continuing to attract employees, residents, and visitors.

The plan's developers will form “implementation task forces” to report progress at “regular intervals,” according to Grabarski.

The plan provides few details regarding funding for the various initiatives but repeatedly cites a need for both public and private dollars. Minnesota Public Radio reported that the total estimated price tag would be about $2 billion.

A slideshow of photographs and artistic renderings, as well as the complete 111-page plan, can be downloaded at the Downtown Council's Web site here.