Hennepin County is committed to helping create an extraordinary downtown community. Their focused activity within the downtown core reinforces their commitment.
Through several initiatives including a refurbished Government Center North Plaza area and fountain, a redeveloped Washington Avenue into a modern, multi-modal boulevard and ongoing Go Outside free programming, Hennepin County has provided an environment for the residents and visitors of downtown to enjoy.
“All of these projects and initiatives attract people to downtown Minneapolis to live, work and play,” Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. “They help create a dynamic environment for people to thrive. It’s a way to think of government-owned space differently. We provide many services, but it doesn’t mean the space around these buildings can’t be used for a variety of activities for all.”
This fall, Hennepin County is being honored by the Mpls Downtown Council as a recipient of a 2025 Plan Leadership Award. The awards are aimed at recognizing and honoring individuals, organizations and initiatives that help make downtown Minneapolis more vibrant, and Hennepin County’s North Plaza renovation, Washington Avenue project and Go Outside initiatives are all examples of that mission.
McLaughlin said Hennepin County is honored to receive the 2025 Plan leadership award because it affirms their efforts to create a healthy, vibrant and safe downtown.
Their North Plaza renovation, connecting Government Center to the Light Rail station along 5th Street, helps maximize green space and create a welcoming area for people throughout the day. They’ve added more lighting and even enhanced the pool and fountain with more lighting. The space helps in Hennepin County’s mission of creating a public space that can be used in many different ways ranging from visiting with friends, enjoying lunch or grabbing fresh air during a meeting.
Work on Washington Avenue has transformed a major artery in the downtown area. Washington Avenue now reflects a 21st Century, multi-faceted stretch of roadway that accommodates pedestrians, bikers and drivers alike. It also helps build a stronger bridge for downtown’s core to access the Mississippi Riverfront—one of downtown’s greatest and, perhaps, often underutilized assets.
“This work reconstructed an aging roadway and improved multi-modal travel through the corridor,” Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene said. “Improvements include greening the corridor and enhancing the pedestrian realm, providing better connections between downtown and Mississippi River front and creating dedicated bicycle facilities.”
And through its Go Outside programming, Hennepin County offers up free activities and events for all ages and abilities to enjoy in two green spaces downtown—Government Center South Plaza and Target Field Station. The events include outdoor movies, trivia nights, music, fitness classes, food trucks and yard games, the Downtown Farmers Market and much more. From May through October, with the majority of the programming taking place during the summer months, people can enjoy outdoor activities with friends and family they can’t find anywhere else.
“These events activate Target Field Station and the Government Center Plaza and engage local residents and communities,” Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins said. “Event attendees enjoy free, fun activities that promote healthy living, while establishing connections with public spaces. People have the opportunity to engage in physical activity, such as yoga, and access fresh produce at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.”
Not only does it offer inviting activities, but it also gets people more acquainted with green spaces in our downtown that are there for public use.
“We are stewards of significant properties in the heart and at the edge of downtown Minneapolis,” Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison said. “We want to put out the welcome sign out for those who work here, play here and live here. Activating these spaces creates an energy and a feeling of belonging.”
Callison said as an employer downtown, Hennepin County enjoys being part of a vibrant and diverse community. It’s important to maintain that level of vibrancy, and through their efforts they’re doing their best to keep downtown thriving.
Hennepin County prides itself on creating a place where employees can connect. Both inside and outside their walls, they want people to flourish downtown.
That’s what The 2025 Plan is all about.
“The 2025 Plan is important because it brings private and public partners to engage the community in downtown Minneapolis’ vision for the future. It allows us to work proactively on improvements that make this space welcoming for all,” McLaughlin said. “At Hennepin County, we are not just serving residents—we are creating community for employees and for all who live, work and visit downtown Minneapolis! Come share our space! Welcome!”