Monthly Archives: January 2014

Park Board sues over discharge to lagoon

The following article by Steve Brandt was posted on the Star Tribune blog on January 22, 2014:

Park Board sues over discharge to lagoon

A second Minneapolis agency has sued the owner of an apartment building at 1800 W. Lake St. for discharging groundwater into the lagoon between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun.

The complaint served last week by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board against Eden Prairie-based Lake and Knox LLC follows a city lawsuit last month: over the discharge of groundwater. The Park Board will ask that the two lawsuits be joined, attorney Brian Rice said.

The city and Park Board allege that the apartment owner exceed the limits of a temporary permit it was issued during construction of the 56-unit building to lower the water table to permit construction of a lower-level garage. The Park Board cites its statutory authority over waters adjacent to parks.

The Park Board asked the court to declare the discharge illegal, to enjoin further discharge and to award unspecified damages.

Lake and Knox is not due to file an answer until late this month in Hennepin County District Court to the allegations against it, nor has its attorney responded to Star Tribune inquiries.

The lawsuits allege that the apartment project is pumping an annual 89 million gallons into the lagoon. The Park Board alleges that causes thin ice and open water on the lagoon, creating hazards for skiers and others, mars the scenery, uses storm drain capacity, and impedes the effectiveness and hinders the maintenance of a grit chamber intended to remove sediment and accompanying pollutants.

The Yard Part 5 – Unanswered Questions Loom

The following article, which raises some relevant questions about the The Yard by blogger and Minneapolis resident Sam Newberg, was posted on the blog Streets.MN on January 15, 2014:

The Yard Part 5 – Unanswered Questions Loom

Some huge questions about The Yard remain unanswered (the latest stadium legal challenge: notwithstanding). The Park Committee: met on January 9 to begin fleshing out a vision for The Yard. The committee has made a good start by identifying prioritization of year-round activities (note, activities year round is different than year-round activities – a skating rink, for example is seasonal), the idea that active uses attract passive, and balancing daily uses with major events. This is all well and good, but I can’t help but think that now more than ever is the time to engage more professional assistance in thinking about this vision – I’m looking at you, PPS! (Actually, I’m looking at you, Park Committee, to commit some funds to pay for this.) Project for Public Spaces (PPS) has done this numerous times across the country. They could be of tremendous assistance.

Here are a few of the major unanswered questions:

Continue reading

Minnesota Supreme Court clears the way for new Vikings stadium

The following article by Janet Moore and Baird Helgeson, was published in the Star Tribune on January 22, 2014.  It is interesting to note that the state supreme court said that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.  Therefore, the constitutional issue was not addressed.

Minnesota Supreme Court clears the way for new Vikings stadium


Public financing of the $1 billion Vikings stadium is back on track after the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a last-minute legal challenge that threatened to delay the project.
State budget officials are now scrambling to sell $468 million in bonds in coming “days or weeks,” spokesman John Pollard said. “Timing of the bond sale is currently being worked on and will commence as soon as possible,” he said.

While the stadium is still slated to open in July 2016, two key land sales involving the Downtown East light-rail plaza and a parking ramp that were tentatively scheduled to close this week were postponed for a “few days” because of pending litigation, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body overseeing the project. But she said she didn’t expect any problems to arise from the delay.

Construction on the new stadium in downtown Minneapolis continued as the courts sorted through the legal challenge lodged by three Minneapolis residents 12 days ago. The Metrodome’s roof was deflated on Saturday, and demolition work on the structure’s foundation commenced shortly after.

But any further delay could have had a serious impact on the project and might have affected a related $400 million mixed-use development, as well, Kelm-Helgen said.

“We’re just so very thankful that the courts acted so expeditiously and obviously with a positive result,” she said.

Court ‘danced around’ issue, plaintiff says

Continue reading

How Downtown East Development and Park Would Be Financed

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 (see map). 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.

NPS Letter to Crown Hydro–December 30, 2013

The National Park Service has sent the following letter to Crown Hydro, opposing their attempt to amend their existing license.  A copy was also filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC).
United States Department of the Interior
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

December 30, 2013

Mr. Thomas Griffin
President, Crown Hydro LLC
5885 139th Street West
Apple Valley, MN 55124-6465

Dear Mr. Griffin:

The National Park Service (NPS), Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (NRRA), has reviewed Crown Hydro’s latest proposal to amend its license for the Crown Mill Hydro Electric Project (Project) – FERC Project No. 11175-024. We concur with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the proposed Project is substantially different from the one for which Crown received a license in 1999, and that you should submit a new license application.  (April 15, 2013 letter to Crown from FERC).

The Project is located entirely within the Mississippi NRRA. The NRRA was designated by Congress in 1988 to “preserve, protect and enhance the significant values of the Mississippi River and to provide for orderly public and private development in the Twin Cities metro area.”

The authorizing legislation requires that all federal agencies undertaking projects within the NRRA coordinate with us (P.L. 100-696). Also, the Federal Powers Act requires consultation with the NPS for amendments or modifications to an existing license (18 C.F.R. §4.38 et. seq.).

The NRRA, however, was not invited to consult on the currently proposed Project prior to the public meeting on November 26, 2013, either by Crown or the Corps of Engineers. For some reason, the NRRA is no longer listed on the official service list. FERC, in its letter directed to you on April 15, 2013, required consultation with the NRRA. Due to the serious questions we have with the new proposal, we formally request to meet with Crown before the company submits the project’s license application to FERC.

A representative of the NRRA attended the November 26 public meeting. The public and various agency representatives asked many important and pertinent questions that Crown was unable to answer. Without answers to the questions raised, the NRRA cannot adequately assess the viability or impacts of the proposed project. FERC and the Corps of Engineers also requested information and studies that would help the NRRA and public better understand the Project’s potential impacts, but Crown has not addressed those requests or provided the studies.

As currently proposed, the Project has a new boundary and new lands and resources not previously analyzed when FERC first issued the license. The tailrace discharge tunnel is in a new location, which may cause different construction, hydraulic and environmental impacts.

The NRRA is concerned that the Project could seriously impact nationally significant cultural, natural and recreational resources, as well as the visual integrity and economic vitality of the St. Anthony Falls area. The St. Anthony Falls Historic District and the individual sites within it are nationally significant and helped convince Congress to establish the NRRA. As proposed, the new project could adversely affect individual sites, the overall historic district, and the scenic and recreational qualities of the area.

We continue to be very concerned about the potential impacts to St. Anthony Falls’ aesthetic character, which is central to the area’s economic revitalization. As pointed out in the November 26 public meeting and in comments from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and others, the St. Anthony Falls area has seen tremendous monetary investments since FERC initially granted Crown its license in 1999. Far more people live and recreate in the area.

Visitation has climbed to over one million people annually. The flow of water over the falls is a key aesthetic component of the visitor experience. What might have been acceptable in 1999 is not today. The issue is more complicated than the quantity of water. Previous discussions of this issue have raised the potential of treating the spillway surface to create the appearance of more flow, by making the water jump and splash more than it does now. Overall, this issue needs much more public review and consideration than it has received.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project. We look forward to your response.


Paul Labovitz

Edward A. Abrams, FERC
Nicholas J. Utrup, USFWS
Nick Chevance, NPS
Official Service List – FERC Project No. P-11175

Central Riverfront CAC Meeting, Wed. Jan. 29

The Park Board has issued the following announcement:

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board will host the sixth Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting to gather public input for the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan. This meeting is open to the public; please join us!

CAC Meeting #6:
Date –  Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Time – 6:00 PM to 7:45 PM
Location – Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board,
Board Room,
2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis, MN  55411
Teams – Central Riverfront Master Plan Team

The Park Board encourages the public to attend CAC meetings to share ideas, concerns and priorities with the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park design team.

For more information, please go to the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan project page:

Contact: Tyler Pederson,
Landscape Architect
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
[email protected]

Park Board Legislative Breakfast Friday, Jan. 24

The Park Board has issued the following announcement:


This meeting is open to the public.


I. Buffet Breakfast (8:00 a.m.)

1. Roll Call

II. Welcome & Introductions (8:20 a.m.)

1. President Liz Wielinski.

III. Draft Legislative Agenda (8:30 a.m.)

1. Commissioner Jon Olson: MPRB Legislative & Intergovernmental Chair

2. MPRB Staff – Presentation of Key Capital Projects

– Significant Legislative Issues for 2013

IV. Comments and Discussion with Elected Officials (8:50 a.m.)




Agenda Packet:

Lawsuit challenging Downtown East Minneapolis park is dropped

The following article by Jim Anderson was published in the January 19, 2014 issue of the Star Tribune:

Lawsuit challenging Downtown East Minneapolis park is dropped

Three activists had argued that only the city’s Park and Recreation Board has the power to buy and operate parks.
Photo by Ryan

This rendering shows the proposed Downtown East development in Minneapolis

A trio of veteran activists has dropped a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis that had threatened to derail or delay its plans to create a park tied to a $400 million development project near the new Vikings stadium site.

Stephanie Woodruff, Paul Ostrow and Dan Cohen, who had challenged the City Council’s authority to buy, own and operate parkland in the city, dismissed their court action as of Saturday. The suit had asserted that only the Park and Recreation Board had the power to create and operate city parks.

A ruling Friday by Hennepin County District Judge Mel Dickstein requiring them to post a $10 million surety bond to keep the suit moving proved insurmountable, Ostrow said, and appeal options were ruled out.

But Ostrow, a former Minneapolis City Council president who is an Anoka County prosecutor, said the group’s concerns about transparency in the process and financing issues raised by the lawsuit have not faded.

“The next step is not for us, but it’s really for the people of the city,” he said. “Are they concerned about these issues? … It’s kind of in the court of public opinion now.”

They are asking that the City Council, when it meets Thursday, consider changes in the development deal and the issuing of up to $65 million in bonds for the park, which is part of the Downtown East development and will be located on land now owned by the Star Tribune, along with a parking ramp.

The nearly two-square-block park is the centerpiece of the project proposed by Ryan Cos. that includes two office towers for Wells Fargo & Co., up to 400 apartments, retail shops and restaurants. The land deal with the Star Tribune is set to close on Friday.

In a letter to Mayor Betsy Hodges and City Council members notifying them of its lawsuit withdrawal, the three reiterated issues they said still could be addressed by changes in the development agreement.

Among their concerns about a lack of transparency, “perhaps most disturbing is the issuance of taxpayer supported general obligation bonds for the purchase of [the Star Tribune] property without any independent appraisal of the value of the land. The purchase price for the land is $38 million — more than double its current assessed value of approximately $17 million.”

Boom Island / B. F. Nelson Charrettes

The MPRB has issued the following notice for the MPRB – Central Riverfront Master Plan Boom Island and B.F. Nelson January Charrette Meetings:

Community Advisory Committee Members, Commissioners, and Neighbors,

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board will host a two-day charrette to gather public input for the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan. This is the fourth charrette of five for the Master Plan and will focus on Boom Island and B.F. Nelson Parks and their connections.  A charrette is an intensive creative session intended to generate alternative approaches to a design problem. It is a way to immerse a project team with key stakeholders and the community in a real-time, iterative learning and creative process. Please join us!

Charrette Public Meeting Day 1:
Date – 1/22/14 – Wednesday
Time – 8:00am to 10:00am
Location – MPRB Board Room – 2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis
Teams – Central Riverfront Master Plan Team
Meeting Info: Comment and feedback to define key site program issues, possibilities, and limitations for Boom Island/B.F. Nelson Parks

Charrette Public Meeting Day 2:
Date – 1/23/14 – Thursday
Time – 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Location – MPRB Board Room – 2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis
Teams – Central Riverfront Master Plan Team
Meeting Info: Review preliminary design framework plan and concepts for Boom Island/B.F. Nelson Parks completed during the charrette.

The Park Board encourages the public to stop by MPRB Headquarters to share ideas, concerns and priorities with the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park design team.  Later in January, ideas from this two-day charrette will be presented to the project advisory committees for discussion.

For more information, please go to the MPRB project page:

Thank you!

Tyler Pederson, RLA
Landscape Architect
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411
612-499-9084 mobile
[email protected]

Heads-Up For The January 22, 2014 Park Board Meeting

4:30 P.M.  CLOSED MEETING. There will be a closed meeting regarding Proposed Workers Compensation Settlement.

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.  This is the first regular meeting of 2014.

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.”

6:30 P.M.  CLOSED MEETING.  There will be a closed meeting regarding pending Downtown East development litigation.

Agenda items of interest include the following:

–Columbia Picnic Shelter Community Engagement Plan

–Letter Dated January 7, 2014 from Representative Erin Murphy Submitted Regarding a Grant Awarded by the Minnesota Historical  Society for Grand Rounds Historic District Nomination Work

–Approving the Submission  of a Grant Application Up to $800,000 in the 2017 Funding Year to the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for the West River Trail Extension from 22nd Avenue North to 26th Avenue North and a New  River Overlook at the Terminus of 26th Avenue North

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday January 22, 2014 is at 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:

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 The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch