Monthly Archives: March 2006

Business Journal: Condos, park compete for site near Guthrie

» Three competing proposals, including a park and a 30-story condo tower, are vying for a coveted site by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, along the banks of the Mississippi.

The City of Minneapolis received the plans in response to a request for proposals it issued in December regarding a 5.6-acre site adjacent to the newly built Guthrie.

The city was looking for development ideas that could include housing, entertainment or small retail. The site has some significant technical challenges, including a large power-line tower and related easements for Xcel Energy.

The deadline for proposals was March 2. Some or all of the respondents will be invited to present their plans on March 22 to a review committee established by the city’s economic development department. «

The story, by The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal staff writer Sam Black, goes on to describe the three proposals, which include:

  1. Brighton Development Corp. of Minneapolis and a Minneapolis-based nonprofit called Norway House have proposed developing two $20 million condominium buildings, including a 35,000 square foot American Norwegian business and cultural center.
  2. Hunt Associates of Minneapolis and North American Partners Development Co. of Dallas have proposed a 30-story contemporary condo tower with 47,200 square feet of restaurant and commercial space.
  3. The McGuire Family Foundation, a Wayzata nonprofit organized by UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire, proposed donating between $2.5 million to $3.5 million for a public park highlighted by a 25-foot tall observation mound.

Read entire article with more details at the Business Journal web site.

Minneapolis Observer: Park Board Likely to Buy Struggling Edison Hockey Arena

» Minneapolis Park Board officials have agreed in principle to acquire the cash-strapped Edison Civic Arena from the city.

Under the terms of the proposed sale, the Park Board would pay the city $710,000 for the facility at 1306 Central Avenue NE and manage it as part of its normal operations. The sale would allow the city to retire the bonds it issued to build the arena a decade ago and give the Park Board a second indoor ice arena to ease the pressure on the heavily used Parade arena.

The city also hopes to recoup the $187,000 in delinquent lease payments owed by the Edison Youth Hockey Association, which has been managing the facility since it opened. City finance director Patrick Born said the debt could be erased through a profit-sharing agreement with the Park Board. «

Profit-sharing? After ten years of losing money, how is the Park Board going to suddenly turn it profitable?

And just where is the MPRB going to get $800,000 to pay for this arena? They still have to come up with the $900,000 to pay the contractors for the Skatepark fiasco at Ft. Snelling by November.

Read the entire article at the Minneapolis Observer web site.

Downtown Journal: DeLaSalle Scores, Lawsuit Looms

In an article subtitled “ACLU ponders legal moves after Park Board OKs new athletic complex” journalist Sarah McKenzie writes:

» The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has given DeLaSalle High School the green light to move forward with plans for a new athletic complex on Nicollet Island.

The Park Board voted March 1 to approve the high school’s concept plan for the new athletic field and a reciprocal-use agreement with the school.

The Park Board vote was 6 to 3 on both proposals with Commissioners Tracy Nordstrom, Annie Young and Scott Vreeland voting no.

Before construction can begin however, the high school must get approval from city officials and the Metropolitan Council.

While Young said the Park Board has taken significant steps to improve its agreement with the high school, several issues remain troublesome, such as the field’s potential environmental impact on the river and the legal implications of moving forward.

She predicted the Park Board would face a lawsuit over the deal.

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic, who represents Nicollet Island, said he was “proud” to vote to move the project along. “This is for the good of the island,” he said.

The Park Board has faced a barrage of criticism since the controversial proposal surfaced in early 2005.

Opponents say the athletic field is an inappropriate use of city parkland and would jeopardize the historic charm of Nicollet Island. Meanwhile, supporters counter that a new athletic complex is a matter of equal opportunity for student-athletes at the private high school – and argue that the school never has had a proper homecoming.

While the school has a practice field, the football and soccer teams have games at suburban fields.

The new athletic complex would rise behind DeLaSalle on school property and 1.7 acres of city parkland. The complex would include new bleachers for 750 spectators and a new field for the school’s football and soccer teams.

The latest criticism of the Park Board’s agreement with the high school comes from the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In an advisory opinion sent to Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch on Feb. 24, Charles Samuelson, the chapter’s executive director, argued that the Park Board’s deal with DeLaSalle is unconstitutional.

“The agreement as it’s proposed, in our opinion, is deficient,” Samuelson said. “And it’s deficient because there is not enough public purpose, and there is too much sectarian purpose in the agreement.”

Samuelson said the proposal wouldn’t be objectionable if the Park Board had exclusive control of the proposed complex, he said.

“We’ve consistently said there is nothing intrinsically wrong with shared-use agreements, but they have to serve a public purpose,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Park Board’s attorney, Brian Rice, noted at the March 1 board meeting that the school and the Park Board would have equal time on the field. The Park Board also asked the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office to issue an advisory opinion on the reciprocal-use agreement, and according to a Feb. 28 advisory opinion, the office concluded that it appears to be constitutional.

Under the reciprocal-use agreement, the Park Board and the school would each have the field for 112 days a year. There would be down time in the winter months when there would be no activities on the field, he said.

Samuelson’s advisory opinion follows on the heels of other objections to the proposal.

In November 2005, the National Park Service criticized the proposed DeLaSalle High School athletic complex for being inconsistent with federal policies designed to protect Nicollet Island’s historic resources.

The Nov. 23 letter sent to Minneapolis senior Senior planner Planner Michael Orange argued the proposed complex would go against park policy advocating open spaces and preservation of the riverfront.

Besides the Park Board’s backing of the proposed athletic complex, the City Council’s Community Development Committee approved the high school’s request for $1.8 million in Minneapolis Community Development Agency revenue bonds on Feb. 28.

The bonds would be used to refinance existing debt used to finance the construction of a new gym and classroom renovations in 2002, according to a report prepared by the Bob Lind, manager of the Business Finance division of the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department.

The full Council will review the bonding request March 10. «

Read the original article at the Downtown Journal website.

Star Tribune: Wirth-y Alternative

» Wirth-y alternative

Nicollet Island residents aren’t the only folks concerned about the impact of the proposed De La Salle High School football stadium on the island’s historic charm. Landscape architect Theodore Wirth, grandson of the legendary builder of the Minneapolis park system, pulled an alternative out of his hat at Wednesday’s Park Board meeting. Wirth noted that the undeveloped B.F. Nelson site owned by the Park Board is an easy walk from Nicollet Island via a pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River. His charming sketch shows a 1,050-seat stadium tucked into a berm on the Nelson site with nearby parking and a great downtown view. It even has a canoe landing. The Park Board was unmoved and approved the concept for the Nicollet Island stadium. Only the Heritage Preservation Commission, the City Council or lawsuits can stop the plan now.

LINDA MACK «

Read original article at the Star Tribune website.

Star Tribune: Letter of the Day

“The public is better served by more parks”

» Two articles in Friday’s paper — the proposed park adjacent to the new Guthrie and the threatened demolition of Station 19 by the University of Minnesota for a football stadium — have a surreal link to the proposal by DeLaSalle High School to develop an athletic complex on Nicollet Island.

The Minneapolis Park Board’s failure to perceive any problem with the loss of open space on Nicollet Island and the overbearing nature of the whole sports enterprise is astonishing.

The downtown park is a no brainer, it is such a grand idea, and long overdue — too bad the Park Board doesn’t see park land and open space as a positive option for the island. DeLaSalle should recognize the strength of its tradition as an academic institution and the richness of its downtown resource base of theater, art and music. Yet it persists in demonstrating it ignorance by suggesting that the only way to success is through the promotion of its athletics program.

The university should realize the condemnation of historic places — whether single buildings or open spaces — is not in the public interest.

THOMAS ROSE, MINNEAPOLIS «

See original article on the Star Tribune web site.

Star Tribune: Park sought to tame Minneapolis' urban jungle

In a story subtitled “United Health CEO William McGuire wants to build a $5 million park just east of the new Guthrie Theater” reporter Rochelle Olson writes:

» United Health Corp. CEO Dr. William McGuire is offering to build a $5 million park just east of the new riverfront Guthrie Theater as part of a personal effort to preserve a leafy urban reputation.

When McGuire and Council Member Lisa Goodman looked at a map Wednesday of properties surrounding the new Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie, McGuire said, “There’s too many buildings, too many buildings.”

McGuire’s proposed 7.5-acre park would feature tall shade trees, winding paths and a mound as tall as the Guthrie’s first floor, offering views of the river and the city skyline.

Late last year, the city requested proposals for the lone undeveloped parcel on the central Mississippi Riverfront just southeast of downtown. Proposals were due late Thursday.«

McGuire also says: “Great cities have open space, and great cities have parks.” What McGuire may know and others would be interested to learn is that Minneapolis did have a great downtown park at one time, right across the street from the post office.

The article continues with:

» Minneapolis has long been known for its public park system and the boast that every resident is within six blocks of a park. But in recent years, the city’s Park and Recreation Board has been known for divisions rather than leadership on green space management.

“There is a history in Minneapolis of having these spaces, and I think this vision’s been a little bit lost, to be polite,” McGuire said.

Goodman, who lives and represents downtown, saw drafts of the park plan for the first time this week. “I like the fact that it’s a passive park. It’s truly a green space … contemplative green space,” she said, adding that that has been “sorely missing” as more housing came to downtown. «

Read entire story online at the Star Tribune website.
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Star Tribune: DeLaSalle plan gets [a] Park Board go-ahead

In a completely wrong-headed pair of votes, the Park Board voted 6 to 3 to approve the site plan and the reciprocal use agreement for DeLaSalle’s proposed athletic stadium to be built on city park land.

Strib writers Myron Medcalf and Rochelle Olson report in a minimalist story:

The lengthy dispute over the construction of a football field on Nicollet Island could go into overtime, despite two supportive votes by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Wednesday night.

Neither opponents nor supporters of DeLaSalle High School’s proposal to build a 750-seat athletic facility put up much of a fight at the Park Board meeting, as members voted 6-3 in favor of two measures aimed at allowing DeLaSalle to build the athletic facility on park land adjacent to the school.

But after the vote, it was clear that emotions still run high and the battle will continue as the plan goes before other agencies for review.

Read the entire story here at the Star Tribune website.