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Plazas and Open Space


The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth

The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth

  • Landscaping is encouraged in order to compliment the scale of the site and its surroundings, enhance the built environment, create and define public and private spaces, buffer and screen, incorporate crime prevention principles, and provide shade, aesthetic appeal, and environmental benefits. (10.6.1 p. 10-8)
  • Emphasize improving public access to and movement along the riverfront. (10.4.4 p. 10-19)
  • Use Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles when designing all projects that impact the public realm, including open spaces and parks, on publically owned and private land. (10.22 p. 10-29)
  • Enhance the city's commercial districts by encouraging appropriate building forms and designs, historic preservation objectives, site plans that enhance the pedestrian environment, and by maintaining high quality four season public spaces and infrastructure. (10.10.1 p. 10-15)
  • Views of the river should favor vistas that try to give longer views of the river. (10.14.5 p. 10-19)
  • Develop public plaza standards that give specific guidance on preferred design and maintenance of seating, lighting, landscaping and other amenities utilizing climate sensitive design principles. (10.14.6 p. 10-19)

Downtown East / North Loop Master Plan

Downtown East / North Loop Master Plan

  • Construct skyway stair towers at the edges of the skyway system to facilitate a series of strong, highly-visible points of interface with City sidewalks and proposed open/green spaces. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 59, 64)
  • Decking over freeway entry/exit trenches on the northeast corner of the Metrodome site would allow for the creation of a new public open space on the north side of the stadium. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan pp. 80-81)
  • Prepare and adopt urban design guidelines for the public realm to establish the general principles for streetscape and landscape improvements and the establishment of open spaces. Formally adopt these urban design guidelines to incorporate a performance-based checklist where a minimum number of points would be required for site plan approval by the City. (Chapter 6: Local Regulatory Framework 124)
  • Provide convenient connections from the bicycle network to new and existing features of the public realm including parks, plazas, skyway stair towers, and rail transit stations. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 55)
  • Consider the form of the space that will be created by trees. Use them to create “urban rooms,” so that the combination of trees and buildings will help to create special places for people to interact. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 76)
  • Establish significant public spaces in Downtown East and North Loop, especially where they are proximate to the places where people live or work. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 68)
  • Design public spaces and private plazas to encourage their use and to place a strong emphasis on the creation of “green” in these new spaces. Open spaces should connect directly to city streets and they should be well-integrated into the public domain. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 68)
  • Consider establishing an open space standard and instituting a development impact fee for creating new downtown parks in the Project Area. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 68)
  • The City should consider holding an international competition concerning gateway Designs to generate both citizen interest and design excellence. Suitable designs should be commissioned as opportunity arises. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 96)
  • It is recommended that, on average 10%, of the developable area of every full block or half block project be set aside for public open space. Smaller, infill sites should be exempt from this prescription. This residual space should be designed specifically for public realm use, with decorative paving, street furniture, trees, public art, water features, pedestrian lighting, planted areas and other amenities. (Chapter 5: Urban Design Plan 99)

North Loop Small Area Plan

North Loop Small Area Plan

  • New Planned Unit Developments should set aside publicly-accessible open space. (78)
  • Identify opportunities to plan and build new publicly-accessible open spaces in the neighborhood. (78)
  • Evaluate new construction for its sensitivity to preserving significant views of existing landmarks and/or enhancing view corridors from public spaces that need further definition. (78)


Zoning Code: Plaza Standards

Zoning Code: Plaza Standards

  • 535.810. - Development standards for all permitted plazas.

    All plazas with at least two thousand (2,000) square feet shall be subject to the following standards:

    (1) Placement.

    a. The placement of plazas shall not detract from and shall enhance natural surveillance and visibility of adjacent spaces and public sidewalks and facilitate pedestrian access and circulation.
    b. Plazas shall be designed to enhance interaction with occupants of adjacent buildings and uses.

    2) Access.

    a. All plazas shall be designed to allow for pedestrian and bicycle access through and/or around the plaza.
    b. Multiple access points shall be provided for each plaza, with one (1) access point being connected to a public street, public sidewalk or public pathway.
    c. All plazas shall be designed in accordance with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    d. Unobstructed walkways a minimum of four (4) feet in width shall connect the plaza to an entrance of any building on the same zoning lot.
    e. When adjacent to a transit stop, said transit stop shall be integrated into the design of the plaza.

    (3) Natural surveillance and visibility. Plazas shall be designed to control and guide movement through the site, promote natural observation and provide opportunities for people to observe adjacent spaces and public sidewalks.

    (4) Aerial obstructions. Plazas shall be unobstructed to the sky except for seating, arbors, trellises, kiosks, lighting, water features, public art and landscaping. Up to thirty (30) percent of the plaza area may include umbrellas, awnings or an arcade.

    (5) Surface materials. With the exception of landscaped areas, plazas shall be surfaced with durable and decorative materials, including but not limited to pervious pavers, decorative pavers, stamped concrete, colored concrete, or brick.

    (6) Seating.

    a. A minimum of one (1) linear foot of seating shall be provided for each fifty (50) square feet of plaza area.
    b. A minimum of twenty (20) percent of the required seating shall consist of fixed seating. A minimum of twenty (20) percent of the required seating shall consist of seating with backs.
    c. A minimum of two (2) different types of seating shall be required. Seating may take on multiple forms, including traditional and non-traditional seating, provided that it is accessible and all other seating requirements of this section are met.
    d. All seating must be of appropriate ergonomic design.
    e. Seating provided for sidewalk cafes or other adjacent uses shall not count toward the minimum seating requirement of this ordinance.

    (7) Encroachments and setbacks.

    a. Plazas shall not encroach into the public right-of-way without the property owner first obtaining an encroachment permit.
    b. All seating, water features, arbors, trellises, trash receptacles or other accessory equipment and furnishings shall comply with the minimum yard requirements of the zoning district in which they are located.

    (8) Plantings.
    a. Plazas shall provide a minimum of one (1) tree for each one thousand (1,000) square feet of plaza area. If proposed as part of a project that has a general landscaping requirement, trees located in the plaza shall contribute toward compliance with the general landscaping requirement.
    b. A landscaped area equivalent to ten (10) percent of the total plaza area may be provided in lieu of trees.

    (9) Additional amenities. Plazas must provide at least one of the following additional amenities. Plazas in excess of five thousand (5,000) square feet shall provide a minimum of two (2) of the following additional amenities:

    a. Living wall. Provide a living wall on at least one (1) building façade directly fronting on the plaza. The living wall shall be composed of panels that total a minimum of fifty (50) percent of the wall area on the building façade. A portion of the plantings shall provide greenery year round, if possible.
    b. Water feature, including but not limited to, fountains, reflecting pools, children's play features and waterfalls. Water features shall be designed and maintained for year-round functionality and aesthetics.
    c. Art feature. Art shall strive to promote quality design, enhance a sense of place and be maintained in good order for the life of the plaza. The art shall be located where it is highly visible to the public. The art shall be valued at not less than one-fourth (.25) of one (1) percent of the capital cost of the principal structure.
    d. Moveable chairs. Such chairs shall be equivalent to twenty-five (25) percent of the minimum seating requirement. Moveable chairs may be removed during the nighttime hours of 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
    e. Game tables and associated seating. A minimum of two (2) game tables and associated seating shall be provided.
    f. Kiosk. Such kiosk may be no greater than one hundred (100) square feet in area and may only be occupied by uses permitted in the underlying zoning district.
    g. Public drinking fountain. Such public drinking fountain shall be visible from an adjacent public street, public sidewalk or public pathway.h. Stormwater functionality. Provide capacity for infiltrating stormwater generated onsite. Such stormwater amenity may be counted as two amenities if done in an artistic and educational manner. 

Last updated Apr 3, 2015



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