Field Notes: Public Space Construction and Creative Engagement are Building Community in Richfield
The Cornerstone Group has reached a major milestone in our development of the Lyndale Garden Center site in Richfield, MN. A suite of new public amenities are under construction, and once complete, will connect Richfield’s neighborhoods, residents, and visitors through nature, food, art and culture. Over five years in the making, this public space along the shoreline of Richfield Lake will be the focal point of the future mixed-use site. The project has already reached substantial completion but several key elements are still in the working. During summer construction, a second annual artist-in-residence program produced a massive community-made mosaic which will become the cornerstone piece of public art for the entire shoreline.
Throughout summer of 2016, and during early construction, the Lyndale Garden Center site hosted three professional Minnesota artists as part of the Richfield Artist Resident Engagement (RARE) Program. A well known Twin Cities muralist, Greta McLain, lead multiple community mosaic-making workshops and hosted weekly studio hours at the Lyndale Gardens Artful Nook. Nearly one hundred Richfield residents participated in making their own mosaic tile art, which will all be installed together on the shoreline’s amphitheater in spring 2017.
Nationally recognized performance artists Shá Cage and E. G. Bailey lead a series of events between Augsburg Library, Flex Academy and the Cross-Town Collaborative studio where residents cumulatively and collaboratively created a community poem. Words from the poem are emblazoned into the mosaic and were unveiled at a Summer Art Jam event hosted on-site this September with community performers and workshop participants.
This engagement played out against the backdrop of the shoreline’s construction. Residents learned to break tile and create mosaics while contractors broke concrete and graded a new landscape. Excavators whirled up and down as dump trucks hauled debris and community artists held space for residents to explore their histories and shared future through poetry and dance. Community members otherwise uninvolved in development were asking questions about what was happening and the artists learned more than their fair share of how the development process works.
In the end the shoreline improvements will include:
- A designated trailhead connection through the development site from Lyndale Avenue and W 64th street to Richfield’s extensive pedestrian routes and bike paths, an accessibly designed path along the eastern shoreline of Richfield Lake, as well as a new pedestrian bridge joining the site to an existing lake trail and Wood Lake Nature Preserve.
- More than 5,000sqft of shoreline will become a community green space with further opportunities for engagement, art, and healthy living activities. An outdoor bread and pizza oven will anchor a large patio overlooking the lake and provide space for neighborhood gatherings that celebrate community, culture, and food.
- The north end of the site will boast the largest feature; a neighborhood-scale grass and concrete amphitheater surrounding an open-air stage available for public performances, art-making, fitness, as well as formal and informal community events. Its flexible uses, location, size, and equipment will make the amphitheater a complimentary and supportive addition to Richfield’s growing variety of cultural outlets and pubic spaces.
Staying true to our authentic approach of listening and responding to resident input, it has taken several years for Cornerstone to acquire the financing and development plans to complete such a unique neighborhood vision. In 2011 The Cornerstone Group was invited by the City of Richfield to redevelop the now decade-long vacant Lyndale Garden Center site into a transformational Town Center for the community. Cornerstone worked with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to actively engage Richfield residents in developing a vision for the site’s future. As a result, the new Lyndale Garden Town Center will be a mixed-use development sustainably designed to promote individual, family, and community-wide health with opportunities for arts and creative cultural expression throughout. A green and accessible public shoreline rich with opportunities for residents to participate in this vision has been a central component of the masterplan ever since.
The first phase of this mix-use development was completed in June 2014 with the opening of Lakewinds Food Co-op. Since opening the Co-op has far exceeded it’s projected growth, and other business in the downtown Lakes at Lyndale area continue to grow a Richfield Renaissance. In this time Cornerstone secured a $1,500,000 Met Council grant for public improvements at Lyndale Garden Center.
This Transit-Oriented Development grant is helping Cornerstone create public access to the eastern shoreline of Richfield Lake while adding key elements to support an active and lively place for the community. Critical infrastructure funded with this grant includes pedestrian-scale lighting and careful stormwater management for the entire site. The Cornerstone Group has also acquired environmental cleanup funding to remediate soil from the sites past industrial and commercial uses.
About the author: Hosted by the Cornerstone Group, a mission-driven development group in Minneapolis, Stephen Klimek is working to create a district-level approach to investment and development decisions in Prospect Park and beyond. Cornerstone is exploring the possibility for district systems to promote redevelopment and improve efficiency in the use of common resources such as parking, storm water, energy, heating and cooling, green space, data and waste.