Park Board pulls out of "the Yard," meaning huge downtown space won't be a park, per se
|This is the city's vision for how downtown east will look two years from now, but much work remains to be done and time is running short.|
Notice we used the term "community space," not "park." That's because the Park Board's lack of involvement means the Yard won't be a park, per se.
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Park Board members cited concerns about being tasked to oversee a "public" space that will be under the control of the Wilfs and the MSFA for 86 days per year, or up to 118 days if an MLS team comes to town. Another worry was that the Yard might end up being a money pit, as it's unclear at this point who will pay for the amenities officials envision the space having, not to mention maintenance.
But City Council Member Jacob Frey, one of the officials most intimately involved in negotiations concerning the Yard, says officials are now moving full speed ahead with the "conservancy" approach he's favored all along.
Asked to explain what that entails, Frey says, "You create a conservancy with a board and a couple of City Council members, [and members from] the Park Board, business interests, and community leaders, and they would kind of oversee the governance structure," Frey tells us. "The thought is the DID [Downtown Improvement District] or Downtown Council would do the day-to-day maintenance, mowing the lawn and that kind of thing."
"I was pushing for that all along," he continues. "The previous assumption was that the Park Board would own it, and it looks like they don't want to do it, and that's fine. The Park Board runs a tremendous neighborhood park system and this is different... it's a little bit of a different ballgame."
Frey, in fact, applauded the Park Board's decision to stay out of the project.
"All entities have their areas of expertise, and the Park Board has shown over many decades that they are extremely apt handling both neighborhood parks and riverfront land, and lakes," Frey says. "They would have to spend money, time, human resources, and capital and take that away from their other ventures, which are going very well by and large, and devote them to the Yard, and I don't blame them. I think they made a great choice."
The Star Tribune reports that money has already been earmarked for conversion of the land where the Strib's property currently stands into a no-frills grassy area. That'll cost about $6 million. But with amenities, the Yard's price tag is expected to balloon up to $20 million, and yearly maintenance costs could be as much as $3 million.
Meanwhile, the Park Board is facing a $1.3 million budget shortfall next year.
The need to fundraise to pay for the Yard is one of the biggest reasons it's important for officials to figure out the specifics of a conservancy as soon as possible, Frey says.
(For more, click to page two.)