W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, along with team of local firms, selected to design River Learning Center at Crosby Farm Regional Park on the banks of the Mississippi River

The Great River Passage Conservancy and the City of Saint Paul today announced that they have selected a team led by W Architecture & Landscape Architecture to design the River Learning Center – a mixed-use, river-focused space and a National Park Service Headquarters at the Crosby Farm Regional Park, serving as a national gateway to the Mississippi River with year-round river learning and outdoor recreation experiences.

“Our River Learning Center stands to deepen our connection to the immense opportunities of the Mississippi,” said Mayor Carter. “I look forward to engaging with our community as this vital project takes shape.”

In October 2021, the City and Conservancy released a request for proposals for the schematic design and vision for the River Learning Center, including the execution of comprehensive community engagement and identification of year-round programming and public art opportunities at the site. Eleven proposals were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of twelve members representing Saint Paul nonprofits, tribal communities, neighborhood organizations and design professionals.

Engagement and schematic design will begin in February, with the final design, cost estimates, phasing, and partner roles and responsibilities to be determined and delivered by October.

“Our team is so excited to get working on this once-in-a-lifetime project,” said Barbara Wilks, founder of W Architecture & Landscape Architecture. “We believe that well-designed places can result in more sustainable relationships between ourselves, our communities and the earth, and the River Learning Center is an incredible opportunity to do that for Saint Paul, Minnesota, and visitors from near and far.”

About the project team

Founded by Barbara Wilks in 1999, W Architecture & Landscape Architecture is an international team of urban designers, architects and landscape architects based in New York City. The firm’s expertise includes working with urban waterfront sites and transforming marginal areas into vital places for people to gather, including projects such as the Inner Harbor Water Taxi Terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, St. Patrick’s Island in Calgary, AB, and the Tampa River Center in Tampa, Florida. W Architecture will collaborate with various local professionals, including architects at 4rm+ula, engineers at Solution Blue, cost estimators at CPMI, and community engagement and cultural resource specialists at 106 Group.  In addition, ETM Associates from New York will provide operations and maintenance expertise.

A community-driven effort

The Great River Passage Conservancy, Mississippi Park Connection (MPC) and Wilderness Inquiry have raised private dollars to fund schematic design for the River Learning Center. Rent from the National Park Service for its headquarters space along with private philanthropy from its friends group Mississippi Park Connection will support ongoing operations at the new facility. Further funding streams will be identified and studied as part of the schematic design process. The City of Saint Paul and Great River Passage Conservancy are also seeking $20 million in state bonding for the completion of design, site evaluation and site preparation.

“The River Learning Center and National Park Service headquarters have steadfast support from the private and public sectors,” said Katie Nyberg, executive director of MPC. “The collaboration surrounding this project is both unique and indicative of our excitement for an accessible and engaging connection to the Mississippi River at Crosby Farm Regional Park.”

About the Great River Passage Initiative

The River Learning Center is one of three capital projects being led by the City and Conservancy as part of the Great River Passage Initiative, aimed at reconnecting Saint Paul’s two greatest assets: its people and the Mississippi River. In 2013, the City adopted the Great River Passage Master Plan, which outlined the three key projects: the River Learning Center, the River Balcony and the East Side River District. To support this work, the City partners with the Great River Passage Conservancy as the Initiative’s independent nonprofit fundraising and advocacy arm.

“As we move into this design phase, it is my hope that community members engage with us in bringing the River Learning Center to life,” said Mary deLaittre, executive director of the Great River Passage. “We look forward to creating a destination for everyone to connect to the land, water and culture of the Mississippi River and a place that is beautiful, safe, welcoming and accessible to all.”

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