The Cultural Landscape Foundation announced that the City of Minneapolis received the Foundation’s 2019 Stewardship Excellence Award for the rehabilitation of the modernist icon Peavey Plaza. The downtown plaza was originally designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg. The award was given to Mayor Jacob Frey at an evening reception last month.
Peavey Plaza’s rehabilitation by Minneapolis-based landscape architecture firm Coen+Partners resulted in an innovative and sympathetic renewal of character-defining features of the revolutionary “park/plaza,” a term coined by its original designer, along with the introduction of new design elements, such as those needed to address accessibility. The plaza as originally designed lacked features for access for people with disabilities.
First conferred in 2001, the Stewardship Excellence Award is bestowed on a person, group, or agency that shares TCLF’s mission of “connecting people to places.” Past recipients of the Stewardship Excellence Award include individuals, nonprofit organizations, historic property stewards, and local and state municipalities. The aim of the award is to highlight stewardship stories that will educate and inspire future generations of cultural landscape stewards.
The process toward the happy ending for Peavey Plaza came about after a 2012 lawsuit by TCLF and Rethos (formerly the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota) resulted in a settlement that halted demolition of the plaza. As part of the settlement, rehabilitation plans had to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The city hired Miller Dunwiddie Architecture and landscape architects Damon Farber to complete a Historic Structures Report documenting existing conditions. This informed the $10 million rehabilitation project, funded by $4 million from the city, $2 million of state bonds, and $4 million from private donors.
Peavey Plaza was the first work by Friedberg listed in the National Register of Historic Places, an honor that was bestowed in 2013 when the plaza was only 38 years old—qualifying it as an “exceptionally important” site, a requirement for properties younger than 50 years.
“The successful rehabilitation of M. Paul Friedberg’s Peavey Plaza emphatically demonstrates how sympathetic change can be managed through site-specific design solutions that insure both continuity of expression and wise stewardship,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s president and CEO.
Green Minneapolis is the non-profit conservancy that anchored the public-private partnership that made the rehabilitation effort possible. Green Minneapolis raised $4 million from the private sector that, when paired by funding from the City of Minneapolis and State of Minnesota, enabled the project to begin. Fundraising continues to raise the $2 million needed to fund an operating reserve. Green Minneapolis now operates and programs Peavey Plaza under contract with the City of Minneapolis.