Local Current Blog

Seeing stars: First Avenue’s proposed Minneapolis riverfront amphitheater moves forward

A proposed amphitheater on the Mississippi riverfront at the Upper Harbor Terminal in North Minneapolis is taking shape with updated renderings and plans. SHoP architects and First Avenue, who will operate the new venue, have partnered with Coen + Partners (landscape) to design an Upper Harbor Terminal Community Performing Arts Center (CPAC), which would sit on the river just two miles north of downtown.

The City of Minneapolis, who owns the Upper Harbor Terminal, and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, who would oversee the park, have selected the proposal amid others that proposed new apartments or retail space; a planning process is now moving forward. If no insurmountable roadblocks crop up, construction could begin sometime around 2021.

A steel structure called “the Gantry” would hold a majority of CPAC’s 6,000 fixed seats, with the idea that the stacked levels of seats will leave space for more green space and create a distinctive landmark. The geometry and proportions of the Gantry were engineered to ensure that views from the lawn are not obstructed, while creating a more intimate space.

CPAC would be the first amphitheater within city limits, and it’s just one aspect of the proposal for Upper Harbor Terminal’s renovation. The latest proposal has two planned phases for development that would include a riverfront promenade, green space, a parkway, and space for markets, food trucks, and vendors.

In their latest plan, the development partners are responding to community concerns about gentrification and displacement in the landing’s North Minneapolis neighborhood.

The plan estimates that the project will create of 559 construction jobs and 269 operations jobs, for which entry-level positions would be filled through Step-Up, a North Minneapolis non-profit, using zip-code prioritized youth hiring to teach young adults skills for careers in the arts, event planning, and project management. The plan also estimates that the park would bring in $4.2 million in taxes every year while also charging a fee on ticket sales which would go back into free public programming at Upper Harbor Terminal.

CPAC will hold 10,000 people, a capacity comparable to Rock the Garden. Shows that quickly sell out the Armory, but that aren’t quite big enough for an arena, could be good fits for an amphitheater. The partners are citing positive response to shows at Hall’s Island and Boom Island, just across the river, as evidence that Minneapolis music lovers are ready for a permanent riverside venue.