Monthly Archives: December 2013

Heads-Up for the January 2, 2014 Park Board Annual Meeting

5:00 P.M. ANNUAL BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

This is the first MPRB meeting for 2014 and for the new Board.  The two new board members are Margret (Meg) Forney and Steffanie Musich.  This first meeting of the year is the organizational meeting where MPRB officers are elected and Board appointments are made and Board committees are formed.

This meeting will be televised.  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:

The first regular Board meeting will be on January 8, 2014.

5:30 P.M.  CLOSED MEETING. There will be a closed meeting regarding pending Downtown East development litigation.

The agenda for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Thursday January 2, 2014, is at

Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on two business days prior to meetings.

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

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

What the Downtown East Lawsuit Means


During the Court Proceedings on December 20, 2013, the city claimed that “The Yard” was a “square” and not a “park.”  Therefore the city would have jurisdiction over the “The Yard.”

But MPRB Attorney Brian Rice stated that “If it looks like a park, acts like a park and smells like a park, it should be treated like a park.”  And the judge did agree with this assessment that it is a park.

In his ruling, Judge Mel Dickstein found that the council has the authority to buy the land for the park in the Downtown East project, but the city charter gives the Park Board and not the city the authority to run parks.

He also said, “The city must eventually turn the land over to the MPRB.”

His concluding statement states that,” If the City continues to work with the Park Board, and the Park Board eventually takes over operation and control of the Downtown East Park, there is no apparent reason for the Court to intercede—only time will tell whether Plaintiffs or the Park Board have good reason to seek injunctive relief..”

So to sum it all up:

The property called the Downtown East Project can be purchased by the city, but the city must eventually turn the land over to the Park Board because the city can not develop or maintain a park and the Downtown East Project is intended to be a park.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

The takeaway on the Downtown East ruling

The following Opinion article by Stephanie Wood, Dan Cohen, and Paul Ostrow, who filed a recent lawsuit about the Downtown East park, was updated December 26 in the Star Tribune:

The takeaway on the Downtown East ruling


Why we filed our lawsuit, and what the court did and did not decide.

Article by: Stephanie Woodruff, Dan Cohen and Paul Ostrow

Updated: December 26, 2013 – 7:03 PM

We are the three plaintiffs who brought suit over plans by the city of Minneapolis for the Downtown East project.

On Dec. 20, Hennepin County District Judge Mel Dickstein denied our request for a temporary injunction on the grounds that it was premature. Nonetheless, his ruling, and the claims in our lawsuit, raise critical questions regarding transparency, citizen input and financial stewardship.

We are not naysayers. Plaintiff Woodruff is vice chair of the city’s Audit Committee, a former Fortune 500 executive and the chief revenue officer of a software company. Plaintiff Cohen is a former City Council president who currently serves on the Planning and Charter commissions. Plaintiff Ostrow is a former City Council president who played the lead role on the City Council on the development of Target Field.

It is important to stress what the court decided and what it left undecided.

We claimed that by using city resources to fund a $42 million parking ramp, the city of Minneapolis was exceeding its financial obligations under the stadium bill. The city never refuted our argument that absent city funding of the ramp, the Vikings would be required to finance and operate the ramp as a part of the required “infrastructure costs” for the stadium. The court did not reach the merits of our argument, holding, rather, that since the City Council created Downtown East as a separate development from the stadium, the council was within its authority to publicly fund the ramp.

The court also held that the City Council did not abuse its discretion by designating the development area as “marginal property” and by creating an “industrial development district.” We continue to believe that the use of this authority, generally reserved for the redevelopment of blighted areas, for the redevelopment of an area adjacent to a billion-dollar stadium and a light-rail-transit station, is bad public policy.

Finally, the court clearly and unequivocally ruled in our favor as to the exclusive authority of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to purchase, maintain and operate “the Yard.” The court stated that allowing the City Council to acquire and operate parks could result in the two bodies “working at cross purposes” and would be contrary to “the rules of statutory construction, logic, common sense, and the advancement of effective government.” Our points exactly.

Continue reading

Downtown East Project Financing

The following is an excerpt from an article about the Downtown East project by Sarah McKenzie in the January 1, 2014 edition of the Southwest Journal.  This excerpt focuses on the financing of the project, which provides clarification for taxpayers

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch


The latest version of Ryan Cos.’ proposal for a new five-block development in Downtown East has the developer and the Vikings kicking in more money for the project.

Details of an updated financing plan for the $400 million project were revealed to the City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Dec. 5. Ryan has pledged $350 million to finance the office towers, housing and retail portion of the development — $3.7 million more than they originally committed to the project.

The Vikings have also agreed to donate $1 million for the two-block park.

Rybak said the additional financial contributions from Ryan and the Vikings were key elements in making the latest proposal viable in a briefing with reporters before the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Here are highlights of the proposed financing plan:

— Ryan will privately finance $350 million for the office towers, housing and retail;

— The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) will pay $28.9 million to build the skyways and a portion of the Block 1 parking ramp (see map); and

— The city will finance about $57 million of the project by issuing bonds — $19 million for the park; $33 million to pay for a portion of the Block 1 parking ramp; and about $5 million in other site costs. The debt service on the bonds will be paid by revenue generated from the parking ramps. Ryan Cos. will make payments to the city for the first 10 years and after that revenue from the parking ramps will go directly to paying off the debt service.

The city is basing projected parking revenue on the amount generated at the nearby Jerry Haaf Memorial Parking Ramp.

The MSFA also plans to transfer development rights for an area above and next to the Block 1 parking ramp to the city [a map is included in the print article]. City staff will issue an RFP for the site now that the Council has approved the deal.

Rybak said the site is prime real estate and he has already been in talks with interested developers. Rick Collins, vice president of development for Ryan Cos., said the developer is potentially interested in the site, but is staying focused on its already very “full plate.”

Wells Fargo and the Vikings have also come to an agreement allowing Wells Fargo to have a large sign with their logo on top of the office towers. The signs are also subject to the city approval process.

According to a report prepared by CPED, the Ryan project is expected to generate $3.9 million in property taxes in its first year — of that, $1.1 million would go to the city. Over time, the development is expected to generate $40 to $45 million in property taxes for the city.

Star Trib: Downtown East Gets Go-Ahead

The following item by David Chanen was published in the December 21, 2013 edition of the Star Tribune:

Downtown East gets go-ahead
Judge’s denial of temporary restraining order for park means that Minneapolis development project can move ahead without delay.

A Hennepin County judge denied a request Friday for a temporary restraining order against the $400 million downtown Minneapolis development near the future Minnesota Vikings stadium.

It was the last legal challenge in a lawsuit filed last week against the city and its Park Board by two former mayoral candidates and a former City Council president. At issue was whether the council has the right to establish and develop a park in an area a little more than 4 acres bordered by Park and 5th avenues and 5th and 4th streets.

In his ruling, Judge Mel Dickstein found that the council has the authority to buy the land for the park in the Downtown East project. However, he also said the city charter gives the Park Board and not the city the authority to run parks.

As long as the city and Park Board continue to work cooperatively, Dickstein said, there wasn’t a compelling reason to issue a restraining order. “Since the request for injunctive relief is an extraordinary legal remedy which should not be lightly granted, the request for a temporary restraining order should be denied,” he wrote.

Park Board President John Erwin and city attorney Susan Segal said they were pleased with the ruling, which allows the development project to move forward without delay.

The suit challenged the way the Downtown East project is being financed, a plan that involves the city issuing up to $65 million in bonds to help pay for a parking ramp and the park. The project, which will be developed by Ryan Cos., also will include two office towers owned by Wells Fargo & Co., apartments and retail shops

The area slated for redevelopment is currently owned by the Star Tribune. The newspaper’s headquarters will be demolished to make way for the park.

Before Friday’s ruling, Dickstein had thrown out four of the five counts in the suit, which was brought by former City Council President Paul Ostrow, software executive and city Audit Committee member Stephanie Woodruff and Planning Commission member Dan Cohen. Cohen and Woodruff ran for mayor this year.

Although Dickstein declined the restraining order, Woodruff said the judge left open the remedy of future injunctive relief if the city doesn’t act in accordance with the ruling.

She has been critical of the city’s handling of the project, saying there has been a lack of transparency and public input. Segal said there have been meetings with neighborhood associations, public presentations to the City Council and numerous media reports.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is overseeing construction of the $1 billion Vikings stadium, said she was pleased by the ruling and “thankful that there is nothing that is going to stop this part of the project.”

She added, “This development is as important [as] or maybe more important than the stadium. It’s $400 million in investment and 5,000 jobs.”

The office towers will link the stadium to the downtown office and retail neighborhood by skyway, a key selling point for the city and stadium authority in their efforts to attract national sporting events such as the Super Bowl and NCAA men’s basketball Final Four to the new stadium. Both championships are played in cold-weather months.

Rick Collins, vice president for development for Ryan Cos., called the ruling “another important step” in moving forward on a project that promises to reshape the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis for generations.

Press Release from Woodruff, Ostrow, and Cohen

The following item is the statement/press release issued on December 20, 2013 by Stephanie Woodruff, Paul Ostrow and Dan Cohen after Judge Dickstein’s Final Ruling:

Woodruff, Ostrow, Cohen v. Minneapolis Press Release

The Plaintiffs are very pleased with the ruling of Judge Mel Dickstein earlier today.  Although the Court declined the issuance of an injunction at this time, the Court left open the remedy of injuncive relief at a future date if the City does not act in accordance with the ruling.

The Court unequivocally rejected the City’s position that the City Council has the authority to acquire, own, maintain parkland in the City.  In fact, the Court’s ruling makes it clear that this was not a close call.  In critical part, the Court affirms the rights guaranteed under the Charter:  “The rules of statutory construction, logic, common sense, and the advancement of effective government all militate in favor of a reasonable division of responsibility between the Park Board and the City Council – that is what was accomplished in the City Charter, and the Court rejects the City’s assertion to the contrary.”

The Plaintiffs were compelled to bring this lawsuit because we believed basic democratic rights and protections guaranteed citizens of Minneapolis were not being vindicated.  Those rights are fundamental and are a part of the budgeting and priority setting process required by the ordinances and policies of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.  We are hopeful that as a consequence of this decision, the City Council and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board will delay any action that would commit public resources to the proposed park until the critical rights of citizens are vindicated.  Those rights include the citizen participation process, long term planning, land valuation protections and priority setting.

Since the Court’s ruling makes it clear that “the Yard” cannot be used or operated as a park without the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board owning, operating and maintaining the park, it would be reckless to proceed with an expenditure of $20 Million from the Minneapolis taxpayers without the formal approval of the project and its long term capital and maintenance needs by the MPRB.

The lack of transparency and public input on the Downtown East project has been appalling.  Judge Dickstein’s ruling gives the Minneapolis City Council and the Minneapoils Park and Recreation Board a chance to get it right.   We will be hopeful, but also watchful.

Judge Dickstein’s Ruling on KARE-11

The following is a KARE-11 report on Judge Dickstein’s December 20, 2013 ruling on Ostrow, Woodruff, Cohen vs. City of Minneapolis:


(Photo: KARE)

MINNEAPOLIS – Opponents of the Ryan Companies’ Downtown East development project in Minneapolis claimed a partial victory Friday in court.

A Hennepin County judge agreed that the City of Minneapolis can’t develop a park on its own, because only the Parks Board has that authority.

The project, which will be anchored by a Wells Fargo headquarters building and a large urban park, won’t be derailed by the judge’s order.

Developers and the City Council now have work with the Park Board on acquiring the land, which could delay the project.

Click on this link to view the story.  The video is preceded by a brief commercial.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Arne Carlson: Put the Brakes on Stadium District Development

An item by Tim Nelson was posted December 10, 2013 on MPR’s Stadium Watch.  It quotes a post by former Governor and City Council member Arne Carlson on his personal blog.  Carlson urged delaying a decision on the Downtown East park until the new Mayor and City Council take office in January (that didn’t happen):

”How can a City Council digest this complicated financial arrangement in a matter of days sandwiched in between Thanksgiving and Christmas and with six members of the Council and Mayor departing and looking for jobs?

“This not only weakens accountability but also denies the public any kind of understanding and participation. Frankly, it is totally reckless.

“Good projects improve in a democratic society when we have truthful and open disclosure and a thoughtful and thorough examination of all the elements involved.

“I pray that good judgment will prevail and that the incoming Mayor and Council will hold public hearings and do it right. Public service is at its best when it truly embraces the public good and earns the public’s trust.”

To read the complete article, go to:

Judge Rules in Ostrow Case on Downtown East Park


Here is the Minnesota Judicial Branch – District Court’s Order denying the Case filed by Paul Ostrow, Stephanie Woodruff and Dan Cohen vs City of Minneapolis. However, the order, which was dated December 20, 2013, states that the city doesn’t have the authority to develop and operate the proposed new park in Downtown East known as “The Yard”, and must eventually turn the land over to the MPRB.

Here is the link to the order which was issued on December 20, 2013.

Hennepin County judge agreed:

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

KMSP: $400M Downtown East Development a Go

The following item was reported by Maury Glover and aired on KMSP-TV on Dec 21, 2013:

$400M Downtown East development a go


After the state approved financing for a new Vikings stadium, Minneapolis came up with its own plan to mold the Downtown East plaza with two new office buildings, a parking ramp and a two-block city park. Now, a Hennepin County judge is giving Minneapolis the go-ahead to turn its rendering into a reality.

Hennepin County judge Melvin Dickstein denied a request for a temporary restraining order against the $400 million development filed by former Minneapolis mayor candidate Stephanie Woodruff and Dan Cohen and former city council member Paul Ostrow. Now, the Minneapolis City Council can issue $65 million in bonds to pay for the park and parking ramp.

While the city council can buy the two block now owned by the Star Tribune to turn into the park, to be dubbed “The Yard,” the judge also ruled the city doesn’t have the authority to develop and operate the park and must eventually turn the land over to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board or face a future lawsuit

Read more: $400M Downtown East development a go – KMSP-TV