Minneapolis Riverfront

Minneapolis, Minnesota

From 1880 to 1930, Minneapolis was the world's leader in flour production with its many mills powered by Saint Anthony Falls. After the decline of the mills--the last one on the riverfront ceased operation in 1965--the buildings were largely abandoned. In 1980, the city hired MacDonald & Mack--along with Miller Dunwiddie and Jeffrey Hess--to undertake an intensive historic and architectural study of the riverfront on both sides of the falls. Our team's work culminated in the book Saint Anthony Falls Rediscovered, in addition to guidelines for the new historic district.


Mill Ruins Park. One of the area's highlights is Mill Ruins Park, which opened in 2001 and features the remains of many historic mills, as well as the railroad that led to them. Before the park could be opened to the public, however, its deteriorating masonry walls and railroad trestles needed to be stabilized and preserved, a project led by MacDonald & Mack. At the outset of the project, we developed a prioritized list to guide the work. In both the emergency first phase and the more extensive second phase, our design solutions where guided by the goals of disturbing the site as little as possible, being as discreet as possible, and using materials sympathetic to those already on site.


Water Works / Fuji-Ya

Most recently, MacDonald & Mack has been working on the new Water Works Park (near Mill Ruins), currently in progress.


A critical step early step in the process up to this point was addressing the site of the former Fuji-Ya restaurant, which sat vacant since 1990. It was is in poor condition, leaving it vulnerable to the elements, intruders, and vandalism. After careful study, it was determined that rehabilitation of the building was not feasible for the MPRB, due to a variety of factors, including costs, ADA accessibility barriers, and the health and safety hazards presented by the overall state of deterioration. In 2017, portions of the building were carefully removed to reveal the historic mills below, as seen in the photos on this page.



City of Minneapolis



District Guidelines: Miller Dunwiddie, Jeffrey Hess


Water Works: Damon Farber Associates, 106 Group, HGA



National Register nomination

Information from the Minneapolis HPC

Water Works website

Find it on the map