In the mid-1960s the I-94 freeway connecting the Twin Cities was built through the heart of a lively African American neighborhood, destroying a once cohesive and vibrant community. At that time, Rondo Avenue vanished into the trench along with hundreds of homes and businesses. In 2013 a social club abutting the freeway was destroyed by fire and neighbors gathered to mourn its loss and celebrate the old Rondo neighborhood. To honor this legacy, the group set out to create a commemorative neighborhood/gathering space with support from municipal grants with assistance from partnering organizations. 4RM +ULA architects and TEN x TEN landscape architects were hired, both of which had roots in the neighborhood. The 4,500-squarefoot park/plaza – a hybrid design like Peavey Plaza – opened in 2018.
Nestled into a diminutive corner lot on the south side of I-94, the rectangular space is a commemorative memorial. Brushed concrete, crushed stone, and a generous rectangular lawn panel, create spatial definition and support various activity zones for intimate and larger gatherings. These three distinct spaces are reinforced by the plaza’s vertical elements: first, a wood and metal pergola with interactive art creates a porous, virtual edge along the site’s southern perimeter, next, built-in wooden seating atop a low concrete wall define the middle, central space carpeted in crushed stone; then finally the slightly larger multi-purpose sloped lawn panel. Serving as an inviting backdrop with its rich visual and written narrative, an interpretive “fence” is parsed into thirteen equal panels telling the story of the Rondo neighborhood and its cultural lifeways.