Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd.

Riverfirst Collaborators

97 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) occur within the Riverfirst site. This vast interrelated system relies upon a healthy river and tributaries and generous riverine areas of moist and often saturated soils to support it in place.

RIVERFIRST is a multifaceted planning, landscape, conservation, sustainable transportation and architectural design project to address 21st century urban challenges in Minneapolis: Urban Ecology, Water, Mobility, and Green Business Networks.

The RiverFirst proposal addresses incorporation of new and existing transportation initiatives, focuses on the restoration of land to water and leverages the development of Riverfront Parkland to improve the health of the city and its neighborhoods.

Aerial view looking South over the Sheriden Park District. With the restoration of Hall’s Island and the creation of a river beach cove, this park will serve as a recreational entry point to the park system for kayaks, bikes, skiers, runners and walkers

The Flyway Trail System serves as a comprehensive riparian conservation spine. It provides an armature for the re-establishment of the historic riverbank canopy, which in turn supports pollinator and food web species

RiverFirst seeks to reverse disconnection and fragmentation of the river and related corridors by renewing the natural hydrology within urban conditions, increasing area’s native landscape types, and cultivating attractors for native species.

Constructed sustainably of reclaimed wood modules, with low maintenance recycled rubber walking surfaces, the Trail System allows bio-diversity to return to the river and flourish over time.

The River Talk app provides public outreach and education on local conservation. It connects visitors and residents with sustainable bike routes and pedestrian trails, local food initiatives, and environmental data.

A proposed park building and boathouse anchors the Scherer Park recreation area. Its innovative ‘thicket’ cladding blurs the line between the built and natural environments.

The recycled-wood thicket will become a part of the park’s regenerated ecology. The cladding plays host to native plants and wildlife while improving the building’s thermal efficiency.

Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd.
10 Farnham St

Riverfirst Minneapolis

RIVERFIRST, a collaboration of KVA MATx and Tom Leader Studio, won the international 21st century riverfront design competition sponsored by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the Walker Art Museum. The project was initiated to provide riverfront public access and improve the ecological health of 5.5 miles of the Upper Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis along the City’s industrialized Port district. It is the largest riverfront development project in the United States. The design team lead an extensive public review and consensus project to approve schematic design of phase I with the City of MPLS, Parks and Steering Committees, local leaders and neighborhood associations.

RIVERFIRST is a multifaceted planning, landscape, conservation, sustainable transportation and architectural design project to address 21st century urban challenges in Minneapolis: Urban Ecology, Water, Mobility, and Green Business Networks. The creation of strategic map representations of the urban district allowed the design team to create new ecological synergies between existing urban industrial territory and natural riparian systems. The project territory includes the design of large scale interventions to increase the carrying capacity of the river, improve river water quality and create a multi-tasking public park system with non-traditional soft infrastructure to mitigate anticipated climate driven flooding.

Seven sites for near-term development include a continuous Riverfront Trail System with solar powered Park WIFI network and River Talk mobile phone application; floating Bio-Haven Islands providing 8 acres of protected riparian habitat for migrating birds and endangered wildlife; a restored wetlands and comprehensive storm and run-off water remediation and planned development of 60 acres of Port and Park land with mixed use residential and light industrial buildings.


T: 617 442 0800
F: 617 442 0808


Date: 2010 - Ongoing
Status: Interdisciplinary UMR Initiative
Client: United States National Parks, City of Minneapolis
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Design Team:

Sheila Kennedy, FAIA; Managing Principal
Frano Violich, FAIA; Principal Consulting on Design
Charles Garcia LEED AP, Drew Cowdrey, Chien-che Hsu, Travis Williams, Catherine Winfield, Sasa Zivkovia

Landscape Architects: Tom Leader Studio, Kestrel Design Group
Design Consultant: St Paul Riverfront Corporation
Civil Engineering: Sherwood Engineers
Structural Engineering: Knippers Helbig
Traffic Engineering: SRF Consulting
Environmental Engineering: LBG-Guyton Associates
Development Strategy: Donjek, Economic Development Services,ConsultEcon
Preconstruction Management: Mortensen Construction
Media Design: Proverb, Gerald Jimenez, Solid Gold