New downtown east "park" could be controlled by Wilfs, MSFA for months each year

Categories: Minneapolis
This is the city's vision for how downtown east will look two years from now.
A crucial component of the new Vikings stadium plan involves a $400 million project to convert the property where the Star Tribune is currently officed into downtown Minneapolis's largest park.

But it turns out "park" should probably be placed in quotation marks. That's because, as David Brauer writes in the Southwest Journal, an agreement signed in February by the city, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and developer Ryan Cos. cedes control over what happens in the space to the Wilfs and the MSFA for 86 days per year, or up to 118 days if an MLS team comes to town. (Former Mayor R.T. Rybak recently criticized city officials for approving the February agreement in a Star Tribune op-ed.)

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Council Member Jacob Frey is one of two Minneapolis City Council members (along with Barb Johnson) on a five-member authority that is currently negotiating ownership and use agreements pertaining to "The Yard," as the downtown east park has come to be known.

Asked whether the Wilfs and the MSFA having that level of control over the space is a problem, Frey replies, "Yes, it is a concern."

But much is left to be decided, Frey adds.
Jacob Frey

"I think most of us [on the authority] are in agreement at this point that the Park Board legally should be the owner, and then the question is, which entity is best suited to run the day-to-day activities and conduct negotiations?" he continues. "I am a proponent of a conservancy with Park Board members, council members, business leaders in the area, and community members, and it would be set up so the sole purpose of the entity would be operations and maintenance ensuring that the Yard is a living, breathing, green space, so you would need an entity to do work like picking up trash and mowing lawn."

Access issues aside, Frey says another concern is where the money for park facilities and programming will come from. So far the Vikings have pledged $1 million, but up to $5 million more is needed.

"We need to ensure the park has adequate investment," Frey says. "We can have a bunch of dead grass and pigeons flying around or we can have a lively, rocking space, and I think in Minneapolis what's essential to a lively, rocking space is moveable, transient programming. So an outdoor movie theater during the summer that you could break down and take away, an ice rink in winter, perhaps fire pits to stay warm... I don't think we can go with the 1980s anal-etentive model of throwing up concrete and calling it a day."

But who will pay for all that?

(For more, click to page two.)

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