Upper Harbor Redevelopment

The 53-acre redevelopment at Upper Harbor will feature a 24-acre district system of connected habitat, public spaces, and treated surface stormwater (HPS) across the site.

Project Details

City: Minneapolis

Type: MWMO Capital Improvement

Status: Active

Timeline: 2022–2030

MWMO Funding: $10.7 million

Partners: City of Minneapolis; First Avenue; Hennepin County; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; United Properties

Staff Contact:

Dan Kalmon, AICP
Planning Principal
Email Dan Kalmon, AICP
View Bio

The City of Minneapolis is transforming Upper Harbor Terminal into space for new housing, entertainment, and businesses, along with a 20-acre riverfront park. The MWMO is funding $10.7 million of environmental improvements to the formerly industrial North Minneapolis site. This includes shoreline and habitat restoration and an expansive district stormwater system, which entails a shared stormwater management approach with interconnected above-ground (i.e, infiltration basins) and below-ground (tanks and filtration systems) among 14 different public and private redevelopment projects.


The MWMO plans to invest a total of $10.7 million in stormwater, habitat, and shoreline improvements at the Upper Harbor site.


A 75-acre drainage area in North Minneapolis will be treated and then utilized in Upper Harbor’s new ephemeral stream systems.


Upper Harbor will feature a 24-acre district system of connected habitat, public spaces, and treated surface stormwater features.

For the MWMO, the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor site presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore a large section of Mississippi River shoreline in the Twin Cites urban core, as well as provide regional stormwater treatment to a large portion of North Minneapolis. Since 2015, MWMO staff worked with the Upper Harbor project partners to ensure that the 14 distinct redevelopment projects at Upper Harbor will incorporate a connected system of habitat, public spaces, and surface stormwater features (HPS).

The main elements of the planned MWMO project enhancements at Upper Harbor include:

  • Southern Regional Treatment System: An underground stormwater treatment system at Upper Harbor will clean polluted runoff from 75 acres of North Minneapolis, protecting the Mississippi River from pollution and providing water for the site’s Common Reuse System.
  • Common Reuse System: Stormwater runoff at Upper Harbor will be filtered and pumped throughout the site for use in irrigation and for a signature ephemeral stream feature that will support a variety of macroinvertebrate life forms.
  • Shoreline and Habitat Restoration: Removing invasive vegetation, regrading the riverbank, preserving healthy and mature trees, and stabilizing the riverbank with perennial and diverse tree plantings.
Map of Upper Harbor Terminal District System components.
A map of planned Upper Harbor Terminal District System components.

Project Background

Upper Harbor Terminal is a 53-acre former industrial site located along the west bank of the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis. The City of Minneapolis owns the site and is redeveloping it into a combination of parkland, commercial, and residential properties.

The MWMO took part in a multi-year planning effort with the City, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB), and private developers to transform Upper Harbor and use it to reconnect North Minneapolis to the riverfront. The MWMO’s goals for the site include providing large-scale (district) stormwater management, maximizing habitat creation with continuous habitat corridors, restoring the shoreline, and increasing public access to the river.

The MPRB is developing a new 20-acre park that will span the length of the riverfront at Upper Harbor. This represents the single largest addition to the Minneapolis parks system in decades, and a significant step forward in realizing the goal of an interconnected parks and trails system along the riverfront north of St. Anthony Falls (as envisioned by RiverFirst and the Above the Falls Regional Park Master Plan).

You can learn more about Upper Harbor Terminal and its history at the City of Minneapolis website. For information about the new park and concept plan, see the MPRB website.

Shoreline Restoration Work

The first MWMO-funded project at the Upper Harbor site consisted of a $2.6 million grant to MPRB for shoreline and habitat restoration, which began in 2022. MWMO funds were used to significantly regrade the slope along the Mississippi River shoreline and establish a variety of vegetation, including native plants and oak forest. Funds will also be used for a pedestrian overlook feature that will allow future bike and pedestrian trails to be routed in a manner that minimizes disruption to habitat.

The project converted more than four acres of riverbank deeply impacted by decades of industrial use. Prior to reconstruction, much of the riverbank at the site was steeply sloped and unstable. Most of the site was non-vegetated, and the areas that were vegetated contained a significant amount of non-native and invasive species.

In the fall of 2022, portions of the slope to the river were regraded to be more gradual, which will support the establishment of diverse native plant communities, including oak forest. Excavated soils were sorted on-site, and clean soils from Upper Harbor are being used for the redevelopment of Graco Park located down the river. The regraded slope and plantings will prevent the loss of shoreline, stabilize the riverbank soils, and restore habitat along the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). The regrading will also create opportunities for people to walk down and access the river.

Construction of a pedestrian overlook and ravine restoration is planned for 2024, and will be located across the river from the heron rookery. The overlook will span a ravine and allow bike and pedestrian trails to be routed in a manner that provides better habitat and stormwater connectivity along the new parkway. The overlook will also serve as a headwall to a restored riverbank ravine feature and an outlet for the district system’s ephemeral stream. In addition to habitat and stormwater benefits, the overlook presents an opportunity for art and interpretive features that were previously identified through community engagement.

Current Status

The MWMO is working with the Upper Harbor site project partners to finalize design work and agreements for the Southern Regional Treatment System and Common Reuse System described above. The MWMO Board of Commissioners has approved $10.7 million in MWMO funding for the totality of the MWMO’s projects at the Upper Harbor site. The MWMO and the other Upper Harbor project partners have also signed a reciprocal easement and operating agreement (REOA) that will serve as the primary agreement guiding all design, build, funding, operations and maintenance between parcel owners at the Upper Harbor site.

Construction of the initial phases of the Common Reuse System started in April 2024, and construction of the Southern Regional Treatment System began in May 2024.

Additional Resources

See more photos on Flickr.

Upper Harbor Terminal