Wayzata, Minnesota was founded in the late 19th century as a lakeside retreat just 12 miles west of downtown Minneapolis. Located on the northern shore of magnificent Lake Minnetonka, the early city enjoyed all the beauty, health and recreation benefits of country living just a short carriage ride from the city. Not long after the initial settlement, disputes arose about lakefront access and economic development. According to local lore, the Great Northern Railroad purposefully located its western mainline between the new town and the lakeshore, effectively separating the town from its lake ever since.
Over the past 30 years, the City of Wayzata and its partner institutions have completed a variety of studies and frameworks attempting to capitalize on the assets of Lake Minnetonka and its associated waterfront. These studies created a series of comprehensive strategies utilizing sound urban design principles to enhance the experience of the waterfront and guided how the Panoway on Wayzata Bay project should take shape.
Wayzata is unique. The community as a whole has substantial resources, but recent commercial and residential growth has increased congestion and the scale of private development. This has prompted a robust dialogue about the future character of the city. The Panoway project has become a catalyst for the community to reexamine their priorities in reclaiming and revitalizing their lakefront.
The project was the result of a series of community-wide and stakeholder meetings 5 meetings each with an agency technical task force and an agency policy-level task force. The project looks to create a single unified place with a series of interrelated sub-spaces that generate a well-connected, year-round civic destination. For the first time in 80 years, people will be able to walk the length of the downtown lakefront.
The initial phase of the Panoway project included the following project components;
Lake Street Improvements
The initial phase of the Project included re-allocating space along Lake Street, the heart of Wayzata’s commercial core, to expand pedestrian and non-vehicular areas. By minimizing vehicular travel lanes and eliminating an underutilized center turn lane, the project integrated passive traffic calming measures to reduce speeds within this active and vibrant pedestrian area. These improvements enhance the experience and safety for people walking and cycling without reducing access for through traffic or parking.
In addition to roadway reconfiguration, the project introduced green infrastructure techniques for treating all storm water runoff on the 600 Block of Wayzata’s Lake Street. By introducing new treatment devices within a highly designed framework, the overall aesthetic of the project was maintained while providing a blueprint for the City to follow on all future roadway projects.
Lake Street Plaza
The former lakefront City parking lot was removed and replaced with a new Lakefront Plaza, complete with new public restrooms, large flexible lawn panels and a central plaza, enhanced garden rooms, and new seating options creating numerous opportunities to enjoy the view over Lake Minnetonka. The Plaza offers a variety of gathering spaces under a shade pavilion. Residents can sit around one of two community hearths, relax in Adirondack chairs, dine at the picnic tables, and enjoy the scenery of the lake. The plaza is flanked on both sides by large lawns with stone benches and decorative planters.
In addition to the main plaza area, a new interactive water feature was added at the intersection of Lake Street and Walker Avenue, providing an opportunity for the young and young at heart to cool on hot summer days. The fountain is surrounded by a garden room where benches originally along the shoreline have been reinstalled to provide more intimate garden experiences.
Dakota Rail Trail Connection
With over 250,000 users annually the Dakota Rail Trail spans 28. miles connecting Wayzata to Lester Prairie, Minnesota. The Phase 1 improvements included extending the trail approximately 1-mile into downtown Wayzata by way a of new protected off-street 12’ wide bike lane adjacent to the pedestrian improvements associated with the Lake Street Plaza. For the first time, trail users have direct and safe access into the heart of Wayzata and its many restaurants, cafes, and shopping areas.
The Panoway project strikes a good balance between supporting downtown businesses while improving community recreation, relaxation and pride. This partnership of citizens, businesses and city representatives have overcome a problem they have been burdened with for over 80-years and that many small communities face but for which there are few similar successful precedents to employ.
Constructed in the middle of the global pandemic, the Panoway team faced numerous challenges and relied on ingenuity and open collaboration. The team succeeded in creating a well-connected, year-round civic destination that provides new spaces to accommodate Wayzata’s diverse user groups and visitors who can overwhelm the lakefront during peak seasons. While many challenged the necessity of construction during a pandemic, the Panoway team utilized the reduction in traffic and restaurant use to expedite the construction process. By carefully orchestrating construction schedules the team ensured full access to the many businesses and restaurants located within the construction area when health restrictions were lifted, enabling many of these locally-owned shops the ability to re-open and begin the recovery process.
The Panoway project represents a growing trend across North America where smaller communities are realizing bold visions for their public realm. With over 30 years of efforts related to reconnecting Wayzatans to their waterfront, the Panoway project represents an extraordinary commitment and persistence by community leaders. While there were many reasons to give up on the vision, the leaders of Wayzata held strong in the belief that the Panoway project represented much more than just a new plaza space, it represented a place for Wayzatans to come together and build a stronger and more resilient community. Since it opened, the Panoway project has only existed during a global pandemic, and yet it has become a place that has enabled the community to re-connect and rediscover the joy of being around friends and family in a safe and socially distant way.
- Freeman Maple – Acer x freemanii ‘Jeffersred’ AUTUMN BLAZE
- Paper Birch – Betula papyrifera
- Purple Robe Locust – Robinia x ‘Purple Robe’
- Chinese elm – Ulmus parvifolia
Shrubs, Grasses, and Perennials
- Arctic Fire dogwood – Cornus stolonifera ‘Farrow’ – ARCTIC FIRE
- Horestail – Equisetum hyemale
- Purple Leaf Wintercreeper – Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’
- Daylily – Hemerocallis ‘Siloam Double Classic’
- Prairie Winds Cheyenne – Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Sky’ PRAIRIE WINDS CHEYENNE SKY (Prairie Winds)
- Red Meidiland Shrub Rose – Rosa ‘Meineble’ RED MEIDILAND
- Burgundy Candles Woodland Sage – Salvia nemorosa ‘Burgundy Candles’
- Harvest Burgundy Coral – Heuchera ‘Balheubur’ HARVEST BURGUNDY
- Bells Hosta – Hosta ‘Blue Angel’
- Hosta – Hosta ‘Cathedral Windows’
- Hosta – Hosta ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’
- Bobo Hardy Hydrangea – Hydrangea paniculate ‘ILVOBO’ BOBO
- Lilyturf – Liriope muscari ’Bigun’ CLEOPATRA
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):