The conceptual framework for the $400 million redevelopment of Downtown East adjacent to the new Vikings football stadium was unanimously approved by the Minneapolis City Council Friday.
There was little discussion about plans for two office towers, a parking ramp, a public park and residential and retail space.
Instead, the focus was on 36,000 square feet of space at the far end of the proposed park, across the street from the Hennepin County Jail, that the city will buy from Ryan Companies, the developer for Downtown East. Ryan is interested in buying that land back but giving the city control of the ground floor. Revenue from the sale to Ryan would be used to develop the park.
“Let's make no mistake, this will be a public park,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. “Under no circumstances will I be involved if this is not a public park.”
The proposal before the City Council would have allowed the sale of the land back to Ryan for the price they paid, which is expected to be $71 per square foot or about $2.6 million. Instead, the council changed to wording on the agreement from the $2.6 million to “fair market price at the time of sale.”
“The biggest thing the public is getting out of this … is this public park,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, who suggested changing the price to fair market value.
“What Council Member Gordon is doing is telling our friends at Ryan to buy early while the price is low,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who said an early sale is to the city’s advantage because it gives back money to begin park development.
“The land is going to go up in value fast,” said Rybak, “so let’s not establish a sale price a few years out. We want to encourage Ryan to buy it right away.”
The original proposal was that Ryan would buy five blocks of land currently owned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Three of those blocks would be used for two office towers and a parking ramp. They city of Minneapolis would buy two of the blocks, with revenue from the parking ramp, which the city will build, and build a public park adjacent to the office towers and the stadium.
“My understanding of what’s happening is there are multiple sites that will have development rights going forward. They might be sold individually or sold together,” said Goodman, “The question is how much resources we will have.”
Rybak said the city would like to use the ground floor rights for the land parcel for a destination restaurant with revenue from that business used to operate the park.