The City of Minneapolis has narrowed the pool to three landscape architecture firms competing to design the 4.2-acre public park next to the new Vikings Stadium.
A review team will interview the remaining candidates vying for the high-profile green project called The Commons, formerly known as The Yard.
The three teams are:
The city received 14 proposals from both local and national firms by the Oct. 15 deadline.
Representatives from the various stakeholders in the Downtown East redevelopment will compose the review team. That group will then make a recommendation by mid-November for which firm they believe should be awarded the two-block project. Minneapolis City Council is expected to approve a landscape architect by the end of the year.
Now that Metro Transit's Green Line is in service, and two others in the works (Southwest and Bottineau), an ample amount of thought has been devoted to craft ways for rail users and pedestrians to safely use the Downtown East light-rail stop, particularly during Vikings games.
On Monday, the Metro Transit officials briefed the Met Council's Transportation Committee on a proposed pedestrian bridge over Chicago Av. S. that would link the new $1 billion Vikings stadium to a plaza near the intersection of Park Av. S. and Fourth St. In short, officials hope to avoid a dangerous scrum of fans on the rail tracks before and after games.
Metro Transit will issue requests-for-proposals for the project by mid-September. The transit agency will likely devote $6 millon from its coffers for the project (this figure could be offset by federal grants), with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (which oversees stadium construction) ponying up $2 million, and the rest coming from bonds issues by the Met Council.
Last year, about 6,700 Vikings fans (about 10 percent) took light-rail transit to games. The two Vikings games played at TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota saw 20 percent of attendees taking the new Green Line, which connects the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Once all four light-rail lines are completed, that figure could jump to 40 percent of game-goers, Metro Transit spokesman Drew Kerr said.
And you thought the Vikings stadium was a feat of engineering and construction might.
Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction has constructed North America's tallest flagpole. Located at the Sheboygan, Wis., headquarters of Acuity Insurance, the pole spans 400 feet. That is seriously tall -- if you dropped a ball from the top of the pole, it would take five seconds for it to reach the ground (this according to the Internet's mathematicians, so don't hold me accountable).
Acuity hired Mortenson to build the pole, which is a "symbol of freedom and hope," said the firm's president and CEO Ben Salzmann. The pole was dedicated last month.
The pole consists of six steel tubes, and Mortenson officials say they utilized their expertiese from the firm's renewable energy group for the project. Flagpoles are similar to wind turbine towers, apparently.
The flag is four stories tall, and two versions will be used: A 220-pound flag for normal conditions and a 350 pound flag for harsher weather.
The flagpole itself weighs about 420,000 pounds and is designed to withstand low temperatures up to 42 degrees below zero.
A video here describes the construction of the pole.
The Minneapolis Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee on Tuesday briefly discussed -- and then approved -- a plan calling for a hotel and apartments above a parking ramp in the Downtown East mixed-use development.
In a report last week, city staff recommended a plan put forth by Ryan Cos., the Minneapolis-based developer of the Downtown East project. The $400 million project includes twin office towers for Wells Fargo & Co., 200 apartments, retail shops and restaurants, a 1,610-space parking ramp, and a nearly two-block public park near the new Vikings stadium.
The city solicited separate proposals for a spit of land along 4th St. S. and the space above the parking ramp. An alternate proposal for a 300-room Marriott-branded hotel for the ramp was submitted by Golden Valley-based Mortenson Development.
When asked to comment on the city's actions, Mortenson Development's Bob Solfelt, vice president and general manager, said in a statement, “We appreciate the consideration of our proposal for a hospitality-focused development as part of the redevelopment of Downtown East. Our proposal provides a viable, hotel solution with committed ownership and financing that would serve the needs of the downtown community as it continues to thrive. We look forward to continued discussions with city leaders about its potential."
Ryan proposed a 150-room Radisson Red hotel, and another 200 apartments. The developer is also offering to pay the city $5.7 million for the purchase of the land and the so-called “air rights” above the ramp, which will be used by office employees, the public and those using the Vikings stadium. The ramp itself will be owned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body overseeing construction of the $1 billion sports stadium.
The City Council will consider the matter at its March 28 meeting.
A Hennepin County judge heard arguments Wednesday over whether the city of Minneapolis is exceeding its authority by buying and developing land for a public park that is part of a $400 million mixed-use development planned for the eastern stretch of downtown.
The hearing was related to a lawsuit filed last week by two former mayoral candidates and a former City Council president that challenged the way the Downtown East development is being financed.
The financing package for the development, which is located next to the new $1 billion Vikings stadium, involves the city issuing up to $65 million in bonds to help pay for a parking ramp that will be used by stadium-goers, and a public park.
While several of the claims in the lawsuit were thrown out by Judge Mel Dickstein last week, he did issue a temporary restraining order until a question over whether the City Council has the authority to establish and maintain a park under the city charter is resolved. The suit alleges that only the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which is independent, has that authority.
Dickstein is expected to rule on the remaining issue by year's end.
The plaintiffs in the suit are software executive Stephanie Woodruff, 60s-era city council president Dan Cohen and Anoka County prosecutor Paul Ostrow -- a former council president. Woodruff and Cohen ran for mayor, and Ostrow chaired Woodruff's campaign.
Ostrow said the suit is about urging city officials to be "transparent and open." Because the developer of the project, Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos., is expected to close on the purchase of the land for the development by Dec. 27, and the city is expected to issue bonds in short order, it's imperative for the judge to issue a permanent restraining order until the matter is ironed out.
The five-block area slated for redevelopment is currently owned by the Star Tribune.
However, Deputy City Attorny Peter Ginder said the city has the right to buy land for a park and subsequently turn it over to the Park Board to operate. "Nothing prohibits us from doing that," he said.
Feb. 1 will be a crucial day in the development of the new $975 million Vikings Stadium.
On that day, the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority, which will own and operate the stadium, will choose a construction manager -- the folks that will actually build the structure.
Naming the construction firm was delayed a bit to "accommodate requests from proposers for more time to develop proposals," said MFSA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, in a statement.
The design of the stadium by architect HKS Sports & Entertainment will be unveiled in the spring, with a groundbreaking slated for the fall. The new facility is expected to open in time for the Vikings season in 2016.
Janet Moore covers commercial real estate for the Star Tribune.