M. Paul Friedberg and Charles Birnbaum Letter Re: Peavey Plaza Design Proposals

To the Citizens of the City of Minneapolis:

You may be wondering what will happen to Peavey Plaza. We, two thirds of the team selected by the city to develop proposals for revitalizing the site, are too.

Unfortunately, it appears the public has been systematically shut out of what was supposed to be an open and transparent process to discuss the revitalization of Peavey Plaza, recently determined significant enough to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peavey Plaza’s revitalization design team was selected last November after a very public meeting facilitated by Mayor RT Rybak. The entire team includes a celebrated local landscape architect (Tom Oslund), an authority of the preservation of post war landscape architecture (Charles Birnbaum), and Peavey’s original landscape architect (M. Paul Friedberg). Our cover letter accompanying the winning proposal stated: “The team collectively believes this project should and will become a model for how modern works of landscape architecture are reconfigured.” Well, that does not appear to be the direction the design is taking.

We agree that Peavey requires revitalization, however we do not advocate or support any scheme that destroys signature and key defining elements of the original design – such an approach would be irresponsible. Where is the revitalization solution that builds on the creative and inventive aspects of the original?

Peavey Plaza is the first of its kind and the model of the American Plaza, combining green with structure. It has great bone structure that can accommodate a sympathetic revitalization. We’ve seen this happen in New York with two projects discussed by many of the design teams during the public interview process and deemed extremely successful, Bryant Park and the High Line. Each was in deteriorating condition and there were calls for outright removal. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, insightful and creative designers attacked the problems and we now have two remarkable and well-maintained examples of urban planning rightfully the object of great civic pride. Peavey Plaza can join their ranks.

The future of this nationally recognized, well-loved and public face of the city shouldn’t be decided on in secrecy by self-serving special interests. Call upon city officials to make sure the entire original design team that was selected does the work that you, the citizens of Minneapolis, commissioned them to do.

M. Paul Friedberg
Charles A. Birnbaum