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By Kelly Busche for Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Initial redevelopment plans for a strip of land next to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis were unveiled Friday.

Minneapolis-based nonprofit Friends of the Falls envisions the property being home to a plethora of greenery and walking paths that better connect the public to the Mississippi River. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit released renderings of these plans during a press conference Friday.

Members of the local Native American communities have led creation of these early site plans, as Friends of the Falls aims to create a plan where the community can learn, experience restoration and heal.

“I think we can also all agree that this place, Minneapolis, as we know it today needs to move toward healing more than just about any other place in this country. And here’s an incredible opportunity to do that,” said Robert Lilligren, president and CEO of the Minneapolis-based Native American Community Development Institute, which is a contract partner of Friends of the Falls. He’s also a former Minneapolis City Council member.

The Falls site is located roughly between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lock and dam, Mill Ruins Park and the recently constructed Water Works project, a park area that includes the indigenous cuisine restaurant Owamni by the Sioux Chef.

Friends of the Falls envisions adding more public access points to the land, as well as access points that are easier to navigate for the public. Renderings show several gathering places and a network of paths leading to St. Anthony Falls – also known as Owámniyomni in Dakota – and the riverfront, overlooking a spot that was once home to Spirit Island.

Spirit Island, known as Wita Wanagi, is where the Dakota people came to give birth. The island was destroyed and quarried; and Friends of the Falls plans to recognize the importance of the island with art and signs.

“What we’ve done together in coordination with public engagement with those voices coming in an early design has invited all of us to commit to a path that restore native history and culture to this place,” said Kjersti Duval, of the Duval Cos., who’s working on behalf of Friends of the Falls on the project. “…We look forward to even deeper discussions.”

Along with releasing renderings of what the site could entail, Friends of the Falls announced that Shelley Buck, a member of the Dakota nation, is the organization’s new president. She replaces Mark Andrew.

Friends of the Falls was created in 2016, after the fall’s upper lock was closed for commercial uses.

The land is currently owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s not clear who will wind up owning the property, which will still require years of site work before the project is complete.

Friends of the Falls, which is now a majority-led by Native American members, will continue seeking input as it finalizes designs for the land.

“My vision for the future is one of healing, reconnecting, educating and community building,” Buck said. “…It’s important to remember these ideas are no way final and will continue to evolve as the project progresses and incorporates the input and directions from the Dakota tribes.”