Mixed reactions to proposed changes to North Commons Park

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As the Minneapolis Park Board looks to make improvements to more than 30 parks across the metro area, some proposed changes for North Commons Park are getting mixed reaction from residents. 

“When you walk through here it really does feel like you are out in the woods,” said David Opp, a resident, who lives near North Commons.

To Opp, North Commons Park is an oasis in the heart of north Minneapolis, but he worries the character of his piece of paradise could be lost if some of the proposed ideas for the park become a reality.

“We are concerned the park will no longer be a neighborhood park that serves neighborhood needs,” said Opp.

The Minneapolis Park Board is scheduled to begin making more than $2 million in improvements to North Commons next year. Some ideas in the new design include updating the water park, building a bigger community center with a gathering space, four basketball courts and an aquatic center inside and installing artificial turf and doming the football field, so young athletes can play on it year-round.

“I think there's a feeling on the north side that we are losing kids to the suburbs as soon as they graduate out of the fundamentals leagues that we do in our system ... because there is no high quality basketball venue, football venue, soccer venue where they can continue to play competitively," said Adam Arvidson, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board director of strategic planning.

The proposed redevelopment is part of a process to come up with master plan for all 32 parks on the north side. A similar process is also going on currently for parks in northeast and southwest Minneapolis as well.

Neighbors got a chance to weigh in on the design at a community meeting at the park. 

“I'm good with improvements because change is natural,” said Lorna Pettis, who lives near North Commons. “I just don't want it to look like it should be downtown."

Opp is grateful the park he walks around every night will get some much-needed improvements, but he would like to see the Park Board fix up existing structures, not build bigger ones that he believes won't fit into the neighborhood.

"We're just afraid we're going to get a facility that doesn't serve, isn't maintained and we have to live with for 30 years," said Opp.

A community advisory committee will make its final recommendation to the Park Board, which must then give final approval.