MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For decades, the Port of Minneapolis near Dowling and Washington avenues was a dirty, dusty industrial site. It operated as a place for barges to drop their huge loads of salt, sand and gravel.

But with the end of Mississippi River shipping above St. Anthony Falls comes a new beginning. The Upper Harbor Terminal is a massive $200 million public improvement project.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council decided not to put the brakes on the concept but rather to slow it down a bit. Council members want to give more time to reflect the ideas of the public.

“Having community voice is 100 percent essential to the success of the project,” said councilmember Phillipe Cunningham.

Cunningham represents the area and envisions a grand use of an old site, complete with an entertainment center, hotel, retail and residential housing.

He says the city has one shot to get it right.

“Because of the fact this is such a massive project that we want to add additional steps so there will be a check in, that’s essentially what this is,” Cunningham said.

And that’s why the council wants some more time for ideas and is sending the concept plan back to committee.

“It very definitely will have an affordable housing component to it,” councilmember Jeremiah Ellison said.

That’s one of the major goals of north side residents, that beyond a flashy performing arts center and hotel, Upper Harbor Terminal fits the community. They want to see accessible parkland that people can use and housing they can afford.

“Taking the time to make sure that it reflects priorities of the new council members and the priorities of the community we’re serving, I think is the right way to go,” Ellison added.

The council’s economic development committee will meet next Tuesday to consider a larger package of ideas from the community.

The plan is to break ground in 2020, with hopes of completing the first phase by 2024.

Bill Hudson