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The Mpls Downtown Improvement District Greening Lab is a pilot project for improving public realm greening outcomes in the downtown Minneapolis community. It is supported through research assistants at the University of Minnesota College of Design in partnership with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB), Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) and Green Minneapolis.

MDID greening work includes:

  • Plantings we install and maintain
  • Celebrating private investment in the public realm (i.e. Greening Awards)
  • Advocacy for effective greening investments in street reconstructions (Nicollet, Washington, etc.)

Street tree outcomes on most downtown streets remain poor. Some of these contributing factors include:

  • Most downtown street trees were not planted according to best management practices
  • MPRB owns and maintains street trees but does not control or design the planting sites
  • MPRB Forestry cares for 600,000 trees
  • Standards maintenance regimen includes watering a new tree twice
  • Downtown environment is harsh for trees: hardscape, hot, dry, higher likelihood of damage

The Greening Lab’s scope of work focused on analysis of current greening situation, enhanced maintenance and streetscape pilot projects.


Through the MPRB inventory system, we found a robust tool that had incomplete and inaccessible data. Communication was not always straight forward. As of June 6, 2017, we had direct access. A UMN Research Assistant was verified.

Enhanced Maintenance

Through supplemental watering of 2016-17 trees, there was $10,000 raised from Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhoods Association to support the project. The outcome was MPRB watering new downtown trees weekly throughout June at their expense.

Tree tags with auto-populated information (species, inventory number, and an automated text system) were implemented.  The outcome was MPRB assigning dedicated tree inspectors downtown.

Research and communications efforts were also supported by MWMO.

New Investment

Funding to support streetscape improvements this fall are now taking shape. The City of Minneapolis is issuing $142,000 toward this initiative, and private funding is being fundraised through Green Minneapolis. The Greening Lab has already contributed to the Washington Avenue streetscape project, with more opportunities on the way.

Advancing and maintaining green infrastructure in downtown Minneapolis

The mpls downtown council’s Intersections: The Downtown 2025 Plan looks to establish and intensify the tree canopy throughout downtown—on every block and within every surface parking lot. Minneapolis’ notable urban forest should find its way into downtown. Mature trees should grow along every sidewalk of ever block, as well as around the perimeter and into the midst of every surface parking lot.

Turning The 2025 Plan’s goal into tangible action steps requires looking to cities with similar goals and how they have been advancing their own green infrastructure. Common best practices include:

  1. Involve all stakeholders
  2. Incorporate maintenance
  3. Clearly communicate cost savings
  4. Interative design
  5. Ongoing communication


In keeping with these best practices, we created three categories to track and frame all the progress being made toward achieving The 2025 Plan’s green infrastructure goals.