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WELCOME

Welcome to the new Park Watch website.  We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.

In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004.  With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website  presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.

ABOUT PARK WATCH

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Heads-Up for the April 1, 2015 Park Board Meeting

5:00 P.M.  REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.  Visitors to Park Board meetings can find at the back of the meeting room the agenda book with all the printed materials for the meeting

5:30 P.M.  OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time”

6:00 P.M.  CLOSED SESSION for a meeting to consider pending litigation in condemnation of easement for trail from Graco.

Listed below are some agenda items of interest:

–Authorizing the Formation and Charge of an Appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet Master Plan and Improvements in the Chain of Lakes Regional Park.

–Approving the Master Plan for Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park

–Authorizing the Acquisition of 1601 16th Avenue NE, 1510 Water Street, and 1415 Ramsey Street from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for $206,000

–Granting a Construction Permit to Metropolitan Council, for Design and Engineering Investigative Activities Only, Within Theodore Wirth Regional Park Associated with the Metro Blue Line LRT Extension Beginning on April 16, 2015 and Ending on December 31, 2016 and Allowing Staff to Extend the Permit for Up to an Additional 12 Months

–Authorizing Selection of Option A – Reduced for the Phillips Community Center Aquatic Facility and the Preparation of Final Design and Construction Documents Based on Option A – Reduced

–Approving a 4(F) Letter to MPRB Regarding the Construction of Mississippi River East Bank Trail Within Above the Falls Regional Park

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on April 1, 2015 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx .  Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on this web page two business days prior to meetings. Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org   The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch
www.mplsparkwatch.org

$70M North Loop Proposal Features More Green Space, Parking

The following item was broadcast on WCCO Radio on March 13, 2015.

$70M North Loop Proposal Features More Green Space, Parking

It’s one of the most booming neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. Now another new development in the North Loop is being proposed.

Two things that make this approximately $70 million project different: parking and a big park.

Both United Properties Inc. and Greco Development have been responsible for nearly a dozen projects in the North Loop area already.

United Properties has been responsible for places like: Freehouse, Caribou Coffee next to Target Field and Historic Ford Center, just to name a few. As for Greco Development, this would be their sixth project in the neighborhood.

United Properties is currently in the works to acquire the third parcel of the project. The renderings of the development show a new landscape set to cover three blocks between North 3rd Street, North 8th Avenue and Washington Avenue. The centerpiece of this joint project: much needed green space for neighborhood filled with pets and even strollers.

(credit: Greco Development /ESG Architects Inc.)

(credit: Greco Development /ESG Architects Inc.)

“We started in this neighborhood in 1996 with a project called Riverside Condominiums,” President of Greco Development, Arnie Gregory, said.

Gregory has seen the transformation of this Minneapolis neighborhood first hand. His two latest rental properties along Washington Avenue, including Elseware House, have currently reached max capacity.

It’s not just apartments, but condos too. Sotheby’s International Realty says condos are also going fast.

“The North Loop and Mill District are the two most in demand neighborhoods,” Josh Neaumann, Realtor at Sotheby’s International Realty, said. “If there’s a good unit that comes on — anything with a good view, it’s going to be sold that same day.”

One example of just how popular living close to the river has become: Neumann said on the newer properties in the Mill District — Stonebridge Lofts — is already at 99 percent occupancy.

“There’s not enough inventory, we could use more developers to come in and build more product,” Neumann said.

With all that demand, vehicles have to park somewhere.

“The neighborhood is starved for public parking,” said Gregory.

That’s exactly why his company, Greco Development, is hoping to break ground on a 330-stall public parking ramp in September.

If the joint development with United Properties is approved by the Minneapolis City Council, it will include: a 10-story rental building and a restaurant with room for a large patio space.

(credit: Greco Development /ESG Architects Inc.)

(credit: Greco Development /ESG Architects Inc.)

So, how about that view? There will be a park covering two city blocks.

“We envision having some water features, some paver stone walkways, a lot of green grass and irrigation and trees,” Gregory said.

Gregory calls the project a game changer. It’s expected to be presented to a neighborhood advisory board Wednesday, March 18.

“What we’re seeing is the core of downtown shifting closer to the river front,” Minneapolis City Councilman, Ward 3, Jacob Frey, said. “The more green space the developer is able to propose, they’re far more likely to punch this thing through the process at city hall.”

As for the park, it’s expected to be right around 20,000 square feet. If the development is approved by the city and park board the entire project is expected to be complete by the summer of 2017.

Video of MPRB Presentation by Edna Brazaitis re Graco

The following article and video clip is provided courtesy of David Tinjum and the March 16, 2015 edition of the Mill City Times:

Video of MPRB Presentation by Edna Brazaitis re Graco

Riverfront champion Edna Brazaitis speaks at March 4, 2015 MPRB meeting during Open Time.

http://millcitytimes.com/news/update-on-graco-mprb-riverfront-trail-issue.html

Heads-Up for the March 18, 2015 Park Board Meeting

Heads-Up for the March 18, 2015 Park Board Meeting


5:00 P.M.  REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.  Visitors to Park Board meetings can find at the back of the meeting room the agenda book with all the printed materials for the meeting

5:30 P.M.  OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time”

6:00 P.M.  CLOSED SESSION for a meeting to consider pending litigation in condemnation of easement for trail from Graco

Listed below are some agenda items of interest:

–Amending Professional Services Agreement No. C-38659 with Barr Engineering Related to Professional Consulting Services for Environmental Review and Permitting Process Associated with the Development and Construction of Hall’s Island in the Amount of $ 202,000.00, for a New Contract Total of $598,000.00

–Receiving and Filing the Financial Status Report of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for the Year Ending December 31, 2014 and File Said Report as a Permanent Record with the Secretary of the Board

–Authorizing the Board to Amend the Professional Services Agreement with WSB & Associates, Inc. to Provide Planning, Design and Engineering Services Related to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park for Playground and Site Improvements, in the Amount of $18,000, for a New Contract Amount of $67,794

–Authorizing a Cooperative Funding Agreement in the Amount of $31,000 for Calendar Year 2015 with the Minnesota Historical Society and the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board for Interpretive Planning and Implementation in the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Interpretative Zone

–Neighborhood Capital Presentation and Discussion

–Discussion of Options for Phillips Community Center Aquatics Facility

–Memorializing the Surface Transportation Board to Require an Environmental Impact Statement Addressing Impacts on the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Resulting from Construction of Railroad Connector Track in Crystal, Minnesota Which Permits an Alternative Routing of Unit Trains Transporting Oil Products through the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area

–Approving a 4(F) Letter to MPRB Regarding the Construction of Mississippi River East Bank Trail Within Above the Falls Regional Park

–Authorizing the Formation and Charge of an Appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet Master Plan and Improvements in the Chain of Lakes Regional Park.  Also, under Petitions and Communications is the Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet (Chain of Lakes Regional Park) Engagement Plan

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on March 18, 2015 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx .  Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on this web page two business days prior to meetings. Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org   The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch
www.mplsparkwatch.org

How The Commons Became “the Worst Development Deal” in Minneapolis History

The following article by Cory Zurowski was published in the March 11, 2015 edition of City Pages.

How The Commons Became “the Worst Development Deal” in Minneapolis History

Gryffindor via Wikipedia

batterypark.jpg
 
The Commons could be green space for the people like Battery Park or V.I.P. party grounds.

There’s a boatload of head-scratching facts surrounding the Downtown East Commons, the 4.2-acre park that will be the centerpiece of the sprawling $400 million development project abutting the new Vikings’ stadium.

The price tag for the two-block parcel is double the assessed value. City taxpayers are flipping the bill for yet undetermined construction costs. Estimates range from $6 to $20 million.

Residents will also likely get stuck with annual operating costs topping out at $3 million, but they can’t use it a third of the time.

Adding insult to injury is the fact taxpayers get no say in how it’s run or how it’s used for at least 30 years despite shouldering all the liabilities.

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Southwest Light Rail Case in Judge’s Hands

The following article by Cali Owings was published in the March 10, 2015 edition of Finance & Commerce.

Staff photo: Bill Klotz

Southwest light rail case in judge's handsResidents concerned about the Kenilworth Corridor between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis are trying to stop the Southwest Light Rail Transit project in federal court.

Southwest Light Rail Case in Judge’s Hands

A lawsuit that could send the Southwest Light Rail Transit project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie back to the municipal consent process is now in a federal judge’s hands.

Attorneys for the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis argued in U.S. District Court on Monday that the Metropolitan Council violated federal environmental laws and the state’s municipal consent process for light rail projects by seeking approvals for the 16-mile line before an additional environmental review was completed and made public.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim said Monday that he would review all of the materials and issue a decision as a soon as possible.

 

The Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, a group of residents concerned about environmental impacts in the Kenilworth Corridor between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, filed suit in September against the Met Council and the Federal Transit Administration.  The alliance is asking the court to nullify the approvals granted for the $1.65 billion project in the municipal consent process and halt the project while a supplemental environmental impact statement is completed.

In an order Friday, Tunheim dismissed the alliance’s case against the FTA so the court is now only looking at whether the Met Council violated national environmental protection laws and the state municipal consent process.

“The question presented is whether under the unique facts of this case the Met Council has improperly limited the choices available during the remaining stages of environmental review,” Tunheim wrote in his opinion Friday.

SWLRT 3/9/15 Court Update

The following summary of Monday’s SWLRT hearing in U.S. District Court was written by Mary Pattock, Board Member of the Lakes & Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, Inc., the group that initiated the lawsuit.

SWLRT 3/9/15 Court Update

Yesterday, once again our fine LPA legal team proved their value. They were cogent, spoke in English, eloquently brought forth the complaint of aggrieved citizens (a point reinforced by a full house in the observer seats), and described how the Met Council was driving inexorably toward a single alternative without benefit of an EIS as required by law.

By contrast, the Met Council attorney offered assurances that they were nowhere near honing in on a single alternative, and the doorway was open to future discussion. (Recall that bridge in Brooklyn you can buy for cheap.) Furthermore, he said, all those negotiated, signed-in-blood agreements with Mpls, SLP, MPRB were not binding, and actually, even if one or more municipality voted against the plan, the Met Council could still do whatever it darn pleased, regardless. He basically argued: trust us, we are doing and will do the right thing; there is still the final act.

At one point the Met Council attorney turned to our attorneys as he suggested that sometimes the “unpracticed eye” may interpret agreements as a done deal when they are not.

I am not a lawyer, and maybe there is some technicality having to do with case law that is relevant here — Met Council certainly brought up case law plenty of times. But on the common-sense ledger, I think most people would see through Met Council defenses that don’t make sense in the real world.

Judge Tunheim said he’d have a written decision soon.

COMMENTS BY COMMISSIONER TABB BEFORE THE SWLRT VOTE

The following comments were presented by Commissioner Anita Tabb, who cast one of the three dissenting votes, during the discussion preceding the vote regarding the SWLRT Resolution.

COMMENTS BY COMMISSIONER TABB BEFORE THE SWLRT VOTE

That we have gotten to this point in the SWLRT project should be a Harvard case study in how not to run government.  And yet it has come to the point where the Park Board is the only entity that has had the backbone to ask for a process that is fair and right.

First, let’s review how we got here:  The county worked for years on this project to select a locally preferred alternative – and I do mean years!  Commissioner Forney could probably give us details on how long ago this started but suffice it to say that this has been in the works for over 20 years.  And after many years of review, the locally preferred alternative was selected. Now, let’s review what that locally preferred alternative was:  it was to run the LRT through the Kenilworth Corridor and RELOCATE the freight to St Louis Park.

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Minneapolis Park Board Approves Deal for Kenilworth Channel Bridges

The following article by Peter Callaghan was posted on MinnPost on March 5, 2015.

Minneapolis Park Board Approves Deal for Kenilworth Channel Bridges

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Council

ThinDeckBridge640 A rendering of one of the Kenilworth Channel bridge designs.

In the end, it came down to price.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff had already concluded that tunneling under the Kenilworth Channel was a feasible alternative to new rail bridges planned as part of the Southwest light rail alignment. But when it agreed with Metropolitan Council staff last week that doing so would add around $100 million to the already pricey project, its legal position challenging the bridges fell apart.

So at a Wednesday night meeting, and after another round of testimony from opponents of the alignment and some emotional commentary from several commissioners, the Park Board voted 6-3 to give up its attempt to force through a tunnel. Voting yes were Board President Liz Wielinski and commissioners Brad Bourn, John Erwin, Steffanie Musich, Jon Olson and Scott Vreeland. Voting no were commissioners Meg Forney, Anita Tabb and Annie Young.

It wasn’t just the price difference between a tunnel and the bridges. Changing the alignment would delay the project by up to a year, with delays costing nearly $1 million a week.

“While a tunnel option has been determined to be feasible and the least impactful channel crossing alternative, the board may consider a tunnel to be not prudent because it results in costs of extraordinary magnitude,” said Park Superintendent Jayne Miller during a presentation to the board, “and the time required for additional review under Municipal Consent results in additional costs of extraordinary magnitude and threaten the viability of the SWLRT project.”
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Park Board Approves SWLRT Agreement with the Met Council

The following item is an account by Cheryl Luger of the MPRB’s March 4 meeting discussion regarding the SWLRT MOU agenda item.

Park Board Approves SWLRT Agreement with the Met Council 

In a long, emotional and a bit ‘challenging’ meeting tonight, the Park Board approved the negotiated Met Council/MPRB SWLRT MOU.
.
It wasn’t unanimous

Given the incredible pressures brought by the governor, county, Met Council, unions and corporations …. tonight’s outcome was probably the only one having the political will of being  possible after discussion and questions raised by residents and commissioners, sending it back to committee for one cycle might have been a good idea.

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