IIn planning for the freeway (I-94) connecting the two Twin Cities, MnDOT presented two options. One was to the north of the Rondo neighborhood along a series of mainline railroad trackage. But the decision was made to build the freeway through the heart of a lively African American neighborhood, splitting the neighborhood and destroying a cohesive and vibrant community. Rondo Avenue, the central business thoroughfare, disappeared into the trench along with hundreds of houses and businesses.
When in 2013 a social club abutting the freeway was destroyed by fire, neighbors gathered to mourn its loss and celebrate the old Rondo neighborhood. In October 2013 the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder published an “obituary” of the building at 820 Rondo Avenue (which also used an address on the east side of the building – 327 Fisk Avenue) before it was demolished. Written as if for a person, the obituary noted its various uses and tenants over the years. These included a grocery store, apartments above, a barbershop, tailor, and by 1958 the home of Union Local 516, and a VFW.
After the building burned a group spearheaded by Marvin Anderson determined to create a commemorative park using city grants and funds provided by partnering organizations. Architects 4RM +ULA and landscape architects TEN X TEN were hired, both of which had roots in the neighborhood, and the public plaza opened in 2018.
Set on a corner lot in the heart of the neighborhood this small site is both commemorative and restorative. The central area is formed by brick pavers, and stone/wood benches provide seating for visitors.
A permanent wall of panels with images, information, and stories tells the story of Rondo. Native prairie plantings were placed along the edges of the site and at the north end of the space is a grass-covered mound topped by granite pavers that represent the streets and curbs of the old neighborhood.