What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Authorities charge second man in 2014 Northeast fatal shooting

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: March 20, 2015 - 3:14 PM

Relatives console one another after the death of Eulalio Gonzalez-Sanchez. LIBOR JANY/Star Tribune

Authorities on Thursday charged a second man in connection with the fatal shooting in Northeast of a 37-year-old man as he walked home from the bus stop last fall, officials said.

Montrell Webster, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was charged with first-degree murder with intent after confessing to the slaying, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court.

The shooting happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 21 outside an apartment building at the corner of 22nd Avenue NE. and 7th Street, the complaint said. Webster, 18, the complaint says, admitted to robbing the victim, Eulalio Gonzalez Sanchez, of Minneapolis, as he walked home to an apartment he shared with his sister.

Authorities charged another man, Jeremiah Elijah Blackwell, 20, with second-degree murder last December after matching shell casings recovered from the scene to a .40-caliber Ruger pistol they found in Blackwell’s possession during a later traffic stop.

Webster was charged after admitting to the shooting during an interrogation earlier this week, authorities said. He reportedly told police that he shot Sanchez after ordering him to get on the ground and taking his wallet.

Webster is being held on $2 million bond. 

Relatives and friends described Sanchez, 37, who had moved to Minnesota from Mexico in the 2000s to be closer to his sister and nephew, as a homebody who worked two jobs to pay his share of the rent.

Council to weigh $24.5M boost to Target Center project

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: March 20, 2015 - 4:18 PM

Above: A rendering of the proposed exterior changes to Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis may have to kick in another $24.5 million to a renovation of the city-owned Target Center in order to make the project a reality.

A City Council committee will weigh on Tuesday whether to increase the city's contribution from $49.5 million to about $74 million. The Minnesota Timberwolves would contribute another $5 million for a team total of $49 million.

The change would simultaneously decrease the city's long-term committment for building improvements -- once $50 million -- by $30 million. But staff said the actual costs for repairs and maintanence over that time would likely be significantly higher than the city’s pledge.

Inflation in construction costs made the original $99 million budget impractical for achieving their goals, said Timberwolves senior vice president Ted Johnson. The new renovation budget for the 25-year-old arena would be about $129 million.

"As much as we were able to drive down and reduce costs, we still got to a point where we decided we couldn’t meet the objective without new resources," Johnson said.

Council Member Lisa Goodman, a vocal critic of stadium subsidies on the council, said the changes are worth it. The exterior renovation was among the improvements that were under consideration for elimination, she said.

“I don’t take lightly the fact that more has to be spent. But it’s not worth doing unless we do it right," said Goodman, who chairs the committee that will hear the proposal. "And this isn’t the Cadillac plan. But to do the Yugo plan makes no sense to me….We get one chance at a refresh. And that means you have to do all of the pieces."

In a report on the plan, city staff said the changes would mean the city is issuing less general obligation debt since the private entities will now be responsible for their own financing. Staff also argued that performing some of capital improvements now, versus later, is more cost-effective.

As part of the agreement, the team and operator AEG are agreeing to lease the arena for another three years, until at least 2035. AEG's committment grew from $5.4 million to $5.9 million.

The city's portion of the project will be funded through a package of sales taxes that are currently paying down debt on the convention center and are committed to the Vikings stadium. They are a 0.5 percent citywide sales tax, a 2.625 percent hotel tax and 3 percent downtown liquor and restaurant taxes.

The convention debt is slated to be paid off in 2020, but the taxes were extended until 2046 to help pay for the two sports arenas.

The renovation would include a dramatic overhaul of the building's fortress-like exterior, as well as better technology, more VIP clubs, more accessible loading docks, extra seating capacity and improved gathering spaces.

The current loading dock is insufficient for major concerts, which are among the most profitable events at the arena. Seats are often stored outside because there is insufficient space inside.

The proposed changes are subject to approval from the City Council, which must also sign off on a maximum project budget sometime this summer. If all goes to plan, the project would begin construction in late 2015 and finish in late 2016.

GRAPHIC: Vacant property in Minneapolis

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: March 19, 2015 - 11:33 PM

We featured a story today exploring the city of Minneapolis' efforts to encourage more people to buy the city's vacant housing stock. Take a look at the graphic below to understand some of the stabilization efforts in recent years.

Officials: Person killed in Lowry Hill condo fire

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: March 20, 2015 - 11:56 AM

Minneapolis fire officials said a person died early Thursday in a blaze in an condo in the Lowry Hill neighborhood.

Firefighters were summoned about 4:15 a.m. to Groveland Terrace Condos, 48 Groveland Terrace, for a report of a fire in a first-floor unit. While battling the blaze they discovered the victim, whose identity hasn’t been released, Assistant Fire Chief Chérie A. Penn said Thursday afternoon.

The person was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and later died, Penn said. An autopsy is still pending.

Residents were hastily evacuated from neighboring units in the three-building condo complex across from the Walker Arts Center, while firefighters worked to knock down the blaze. No other injuries were reported. A neighbor said the fire started in the easternmost apartment in the middle of the three buildings.

Thursday fire fatality was the fourth in the city this year, Penn said in a news release, adding that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

No further details were immediately available.

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