Case Studies

Peavey Plaza

Project Team
Original Artist:

M. Paul Friedberg and Associates

Renovation Landscape Architect :



City of Minneapolis

General Contractor:

Global Specialty Contractors

Peavey Plaza, an iconic sunken plaza located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, has undergone a remarkable transformation that not only restored its historic charm but also enhanced its functionality and sustainability. This case study focuses on the innovative use of granite as the paving material and the incorporation of a pedestal set system to revitalize this cherished urban space. The project, led by landscape architecture firm Coen+Partners, aimed to preserve the plaza’s historical significance, increase accessibility, improve sustainability, and rehabilitate its character-defining features.

Historical Significance and Design Goals

Designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in 1975, Peavey Plaza was originally envisioned as the “living room” of Minneapolis, a dynamic complement to the nearby Nicollet Mall. The plaza featured a large central reflecting pool and a cascading concrete fountain, making it a beloved gathering spot for the city’s residents. However, over the years, the plaza had deteriorated, faced accessibility challenges, and required extensive restoration.

In 2017, a revitalization effort began to bring Peavey Plaza back to life while respecting its designation on the National Register of Historic Places. The project had several key design goals. The primary objective was to preserve and restore the historic elements of the plaza, including its iconic central reflecting pool and fountain.

Granite as a Paving Material

Granite played a pivotal role in the revitalization of Peavey Plaza. The choice of granite as the primary paving material was not arbitrary but carefully considered for several reasons. Firstly, granite was selected because of its low absorption rate. Unlike concrete or brick, which can absorb water and deteriorate over time, granite’s durability and resistance to water absorption made it a suitable choice for the plaza’s paving materials. Secondly, the granite’s dark color was chosen to maintain a sense of depth and create a highly reflective water surface in the reflecting pool. This color selection had a profound impact on the overall appearance of the water. Lastly, initially, the team searched worldwide for brown shades of granite to match the original design. However, to simplify maintenance and logistics, locally sourced black granite pavers were eventually chosen. The finish of these pavers highlighted the stone’s reflective crystals, enhancing the aesthetics of the plaza.


Pedestal Set System

Incorporating a pedestal set system for the reflecting pool’s granite surface was a crucial element of the revitalization. This system, ideal for fountains and reflecting pools, had several advantages. Firstly, the pedestal set system allowed water to flow through the paver joints, creating the appearance of still water despite constant circulation. This feature preserved the character of the reflecting pool. Secondly, custom-milled perimeter weir stones were grouted in place to maintain a pristine level edge and effectively drain water to a collection trough for recirculation. With only 6 mm (¼ in.) of water, precise tolerances were critical, and the pedestal system enabled contractors to meet the specified 1.5-mm (1/16-in.) tolerance. Lastly, the pedestal set system’s quick drainage capability allowed the plaza to be transformed into a functional paving space for concerts and public use within hours.


The revitalization of Peavey Plaza stands as a testament to the successful fusion of historic preservation, innovative design, and thoughtful material selection. The use of granite and the incorporation of a pedestal set system not only ensured the longevity and sustainability of this iconic urban space but also enhanced its visual appeal and functionality.

Today, Peavey Plaza has reclaimed its position as one of Minneapolis’ most dynamic and vibrant public spaces. Its accessibility, character, and sustainability have been significantly improved, making it a beloved gathering spot once again. The careful selection of granite and the innovative use of the pedestal set system have breathed new life into this historic landmark, setting a powerful precedent for the revitalization of urban spaces.



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