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Towerside Innovation District

Transforming a rundown industrial area into the most advanced urban development in the world

Background on Project

Towerside is a 370-acre transit-oriented development site that extends from the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis east into Saint Paul. Recognized as the Twin Cities’ only designated Innovation District, Towerside has been led by a partnership of government agencies, developers, businesses, community residents, higher education institutions, and non-profit organizations committed to principles of 21st century urban redevelopment and living. Towerside has expanded upon an earlier district designation as ‘Prospect North’, an 80-acre parcel which at the time anticipated the addition of 2,500 residences, two million square feet of commercial, retail, and office space, and 7-10,000 new jobs.

Ecala’s Role

Ecala was contracted by the Prospect North Partnership to develop restorative infrastructure plans for the 80-acre site. We customized an Integrated Utility Hub (IUH) design that would collect municipal solid waste and sewage from the region and transform it into renewable energies, recycled potable water, nutrient-rich fertilizer, and organic food for the district and surround areas. The IUH would anchor an Integrated Utility System (IUS) that includes district water and energy systems (with heating and cooling), a high speed broadband fiber network, an underground pneumatic waste collection system, and supplemental hydrogen filling station, solar farm, and integrated wind turbines. Ecala prepared a report that incorporated a schematic design of the IUS, a financial proforma of the system, financing strategies, ownership and implementation pathways, as well as opportunities, benefits, and barriers relating to key local stakeholders.

The Impact

As a result of our approach, the vision and goals of Towerside were significantly enhanced from ‘green’ to restorative. We also provided clarity on how an integrated district-by-district approach can quickly transform the broader region, and helped project stakeholders become comfortable with innovative technologies such as biodigestion, fuel cells, hydrogen filling stations, pneumatic waste collection systems, and industrial-scaled urban agriculture facilities. Ecala is currently working with municipal agencies on siting and financing an Integrated Utility Hub (IUH) within Towerside.

Read more about Ecala’s work at Towerside in the following article published in Next City:

Minneapolis Has a Plan for the Most Resilient Neighborhood in the Country

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