The following article by James Shiffer appeared on the Star Tribune website July 22, 2009. A more detailed history of the 201 Building fiasco was posted on Park Watch on October 14, 2008.
PARK BOARD COMPLETES SALE OF THE 201 BUILDING
Last year, Whistleblower described how a long-vacant property owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board would become an urban base camp for the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts bought the old cavalry building last year, and on June 24, the council closed on the second parcel, finishing the deal and ending the park board’s nine-year history with the property, said Don Siggelkow, park board general manager.
The sale of the old cavalry building and an adjacent parcel brought the park board $4.2 million, approximately the same amount the park board spent on acquisition, legal fees and other associated costs, Siggelkow said. The money went straight to the city to pay off the bonds used to acquire the property, he said.
Despite many uses envisioned for the property – a field house, a practice arena for the Minnesota Wild, a privately-developed skateboard park – it never did more than serve as storage for lawn mowers and other equipment. After the skateboard park deal fell apart, the park board even ended up paying $900,000 to settle a lawsuit – despite the fact that no public money was supposed to go into the project. Siggelkow said that the Boy Scouts’ plans for it fulfills the park board’s original intent to use the property for “recreational amenities.”
Still, he said the park board has learned a lesson from its experience with the old Drill Hall, also known as the “201 Building.” It’s difficult for a private developer to pull off a project when the park board retains ownership of the property, Siggelkow said. “If you’re going to pursue a private venture, we probably ought to consider a different mechanism.”
The experience with Drill Hall hasn’t deterred the park board from pursuing “enterprise” projects. Siggelkow said the board’s focus is now on the proposal to construct a new restaurant concession at Lake Harriet, the subject of a citizens’ committee that’s expected to wrap up its work in September.