Jan 27, 2016 • By

Giving back to our riverfront roots

A small stretch of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis is the birthplace of both General Mills and Pillsbury, home to mills built in the 1800s that made flour for people all over the world.

The area is important to our heritage, the city’s history, and the people who worked there and their descendants.

So today we announced a new commitment to a project that will make the riverfront a place that people can visit and enjoy for years to come.

As part of our 150th anniversary celebration in 2016, the General Mills Foundation announced a lead gift of $3 million over a three-year period to RiverFirst, the master vision and project plan for preserving and reinvigorating public parks, trails and spaces along the Mississippi River.


We revealed the gift at a news conference at the Guthrie Theater, not far from where Cadwallader Washburn opened his first flour mill in 1866.

“This project will be transformative for Minneapolis,” said Betsy Hodges, mayor. “General Mills is a company whose mission is to serve the world by making food people love … they honor that mission in no better way than by investing right here on the Mississippi River and by helping us create the connections we need to all communities in the city of Minneapolis, to our water, to our parks and to one another.”

RiverFirst will transform 11 miles of once-industrial land along the Mississippi, as the river flows through the heart of Minneapolis. It will create new access points to the river for under-served neighborhoods, support ecological systems and establish new parks, trails and gathering spaces in iconic locations, including where General Mills, Pillsbury and the city of Minneapolis were born.


The iconic Gold Medal Flour sign, overlooking the ruins of the Washburn A Mill in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is leading RiverFirst together with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation as its primary philanthropic partner (Video overview).

The grant from General Mills will support three of RiverFirst’s signature projects: Water Works, the 26th Avenue North Trail Link & Pier, and Hall’s Island.


Artist rendering of the 26th Avenue North Trail Link & Pier in Minneapolis.

“What better way to commemorate our 150th anniversary than giving back to the place that made our company possible?” said Kim Nelson, senior vice president of External Relations and president of the General Mills Foundation. “We are delighted that General Mills’ $3 million contribution to this vital project will be joined by charitable contributions from a wide array of supporters and funders representing Minnesota’s private and public sectors, who share in the belief that this riverfront is one of our community’s greatest natural assets.” (Audio of Kim’s remarks)

“We felt it was fitting to give a gift back to this riverfront,”added Ken Powell, chairman and CEO, General Mills. “None of our success would have been possible without the river behind us. It enabled opportunities to take our state, our people and our businesses to entirely new realms.” (Audio of Ken’s remarks)


Aerial view of the Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls and the milling district in Minneapolis. The Mill City Museum (and the ruins of the Washburn A Mill) is on the far left.

The Water Works project, near the site of the first Washburn mill, will link the Mississippi River to downtown Minneapolis with a year-round park that will include a pavilion, canoe and kayak access to the river, an outdoor classroom for environmental education and historic interpretation, and a signature place of arrival for Minneapolis visitors and residents.


Artist rendering of the Water Works project in Minneapolis.

“It is our honor today to invite and encourage the greater Minneapolis business community to join us in investing in this historic initiative that will give so much to this city, for so many decades to come,” said Kim. “We look forward to enjoying the riverfront with our friends, families and neighbors for yet another 150 years.”


Artist rendering of the view across the Mississippi River, from part of the Water Works project in Minneapolis.

Groundbreaking on phase 1 of Water Works will happen later this year.

Editor’s note: Artist renderings and images of the project were provided by RiverFirst.

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