About Towerside

Towerside is a 370-acre district at the heart of the Twin Cities’ 3.5-million-person metro area. The Innovation District extends from the University of Minnesota on the west to the Creative Enterprise Zone on the east spanning two cities and two counties.

The community-born vision for this district called for capitalizing on its incredibly rich concentration of assets – the University of Minnesota, its medical and research complex, three Green Line LRT stations, two thriving neighborhoods – by creating a high-intensity, high density mix of places and spaces where working, living and innovation come together in an equitable, diverse and sustainable community.

Seeking to become a new replicable model of urban redevelopment rooted in district-wide systems for energy, stormwater management, parking, and connected public realm, the Towerside Innovation District was formed to enable community stakeholders and facilitate the vision. As a community and economic development framework Towerside includes a wide array of partners such as higher education institutions, landowners, businesses, government, nonprofit organizations, and neighborhood groups. Towerside creates framework guidelines, finds early capital to support the district-wide infrastructure systems and advances this vision with potential investors, developers and the neighborhoods.

Art Vision Divider Collage A 1

Board of Directors

Towerside Innovation District is governed by it's volunteer board of directors and supported by its diverse partner organizations. Towerside’s strength and potential rely on public-private coordinated partnerships. This structure aligns leadership, improves cross-sector collaboration, and builds new models of inclusive governance to drive effective planning and project delivery.

Nina Axelson

Nina Axelson

Metric Giles

Metric Giles

Richard Gilyard

Richard Gilyard

Pat Mascia

Pat Mascia

Karen Nelson

Karen Nelson

Karl Reichert

Karl Reichert

Sabina Saksena

Sabina Saksena

Nina Axelson

Nina Axelson is the founder of Grid Catalyst, a clean energy accelerator working to address northern climate challenges through energy innovation and demonstration. Axelson has 15 years of leadership experience in renewable energy development and implementation, utility operations, energy and environmental policy, corporate social responsibility, and community outreach. Prior to launching Grid Catalyst, she served as the Vice President for Sustainability and Outreach for Ever-Green Energy. She currently serves on the board for Clean Energy Economy Minnesota.

Metric Giles

Metric is a policy coordinator with the Community Stabilization Project in Saint Paul, which advocates for tenants’ rights. He serves or has served in active roles with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, the Summit-University Planning Council and the Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Jordan Park School, the Dispute Resolution Center, the Circle of Peace anti-violence initiative and St. Paul Almanac. He also served on the Metropolitan Council’s Central Corridor Community Advisory Committee, working with community members and civic groups to include additional stations along the Green Line light rail corridor.

Richard Gilyard

Dick is a practicing/consulting architect who has served as senior designer and principal in charge of design for a broad range of clients, building types and urban planning challenges. Dick is president of Prospect Park 2020, Inc., a 501-(c3) community development corporation, and a board member of the Prospect Park Association and the University District Alliance established by the Legislature to address planning and development issues unique to the University community. He has served on the advisory board of the Metropolitan Design Center in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and currently co-chairs the facilities committee at the Textile Center.

Patrick Mascia

Pat brings extensive experience in both real estate law and development to the role, leading real estate development for five years at Opus and ten years at Duke Realty Corporation, and most recently as the real estate practice leader at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister law firm. While at Taft, Pat was also the executive director of Visus, UMFREA’s joint venture with the Pohlad family, and led the master planning work for the East Gateway Project, a real estate development project in the district adjacent to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. He and the UMFREA team are responsible for managing, leasing and developing UMFREA’s residential and commercial real estate portfolio. Pat serves on the boards of University Enterprise Laboratories and as a member of ULI Minnesota’s Governance Committee, Market Council and DEI Task Force.

Karen Nelson

Karen resides in the Saint Paul portion of Towerside and serves on St Anthony Park Community Council’s Board of Directors, the Land Use Committee and is active in the Transportation Committee. She is concerned about improving land use efficiency, increasing mixed-use zoning for industrial areas, housing supply, affordable housing, and improving pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure for all ages. Karen is a civil engineer working for Versa-Lok Retaining walls where she enjoys seeing civil plans for projects going out to bid across the nation.

Karl Reichert

Karl is Executive Director for Textile Center, a national center for fiber art based in the heart of the Towerside Innovation District in Minneapolis. Since November 2014, Karl has led Textile Center into an era of revitalization and artistic advancement. Previously he served as the Director of the Capri Theater for Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis (2007-2014), and he began his arts career with the Minnesota Orchestra, where he served as its Director of Public Affairs from (1992 to 2001), and then worked as an arts marketing and public relations consultant from 2001 to 2007.

Sabina Saksena

Sabina is a full time entrepreneur and investor in smart city technology, healthcare and social impact based ventures. She is currently invested in and leads three growing ventures, Cytilife, a Smart Campus company, B.Vell a Healthcare start up, and Smart North, a not for profit focused on driving digital equity in underserved and under addressed communities in MN. In addition to Towerside, she serves on the Board of Project Success, MN, and Women Driving Innovation, GA. Prior to this, Sabina worked for 20 plus years across continents and industries in leadership positions at global companies such as Pricewaterhouse Coopers, The Coca Cola Company, the Tata Group amongst others.

Art Home Footer Collage B 1

Partners + Stakeholders

Towerside is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed as an intentional partnership of non-profit and government agencies, higher education, community residents, businesses, and developers.

  • Aeon
  • Blue Cross and BlueShield of Minnesota
  • CenterPoint Energy
  • Central Funders Collaborative
  • City of Minneapolis
  • City of Saint Paul
  • The Cornerstone Group
  • Creative Enterprise Zone
  • Dorsey & Whitney LLP
  • Ever-Green Energy
  • Family Housing Fund
  • Greater MSP
  • Hennepin County
  • McKnight Foundation
  • Metropolitan Design Center
  • Minneapolis Public Housing
  • Authority
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
  • Mississippi Watershed
  • Management Organization
  • Prospect Park 2020
  • Prospect Park Association
  • Prospect Park Properties
  • Ramsey County
  • Surly Brewing
  • St. Anthony Park
  • Community Council
  • Trust for Public Land
  • Twin Cities Community Land Bank
  • ULI Minnesota
  • University Enterprise Laboratories
  • University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors
  • United Properties
  • The Wall Companies
  • Xcel Energy