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Top 2014 Minneapolis building projects escape new park fee

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 16, 2015 - 6:08 PM

By any measure, Minneapolis had an impressive year for development in 2014.

But it had an unimpressive year for reaping park dedication fees from that development, compared to a number of suburbs.

The total value of building permits issued was a record $2 billion. That would be a near-record for the city even without the Vikings stadium. About 2,000 residential units were permitted, representing about one of every five units permitted in the metro area last year.

But drill down deeper into those numbers, and some significant projects escaped paying the new city-Park Board park dedication fee.

The top five projects that got Minneapolis building permits last year all beat the criteria in the ordinance triggering the fee.

They are the stadium, 401 Chicago Av., $793.7 million; the Ryan Downtown East development, 550-600 S. 4th St., $218 million; Wahu Apartments, 1024 Washington Av. SE, $64 million; 4 Marq Apartments, 400 Marquette Av., $59.9 million; Latitude 45 Apartments, 301 Washington Av. S., $53.9 million.

The ordinance adopted by the City Council and Park Board in late 2013 after years of debate exempts developments that either won approval of all required land use applications or submitted completed land use applications before Jan. 1, 2014.

So for 4 Marq, for example, its application was deemed complete in May, 2014, exempting it from the fee. although it didn’t actually obtain a building permit until last September, according to the city.

Just the three apartment projects that beat the fee would potentially have contributed more than $900,000.
That’s several multiples of the $221,000 that was actually collected in the first year of the ordinance. That yield was much lower than a number of suburbs collected in 2014. That's also partly because of the low fee, because some affordable housing was exempted and because downtown developments pay two-thirds of the normal fee.

Downtown suffers the most from the diminished collections because there's agreement that downtown is one of the most underserved areas of the city for parks.

Council Member Lisa Goodman, who led a successful effort to lower the fee and exempt many affordable housing units from paying it, said she doesn’t believe that developers rushed projects through to escape the fee. Park Commissioner John Erwin disagrees.

One piece of evidence that may support Erwin's point of view is that there was a gap of almost two months after the start of the year before the first fee was paid.

The one developer who returned Star Tribune inquiries last week was Hillcrest’s Managing Partner, Scott Tankenoff. He said that firm’s redevelopment of the former school headquarters at 807 Broadway St. NE had all of its approvals before the fee took effect.

“Fees and costs and taxes, they’re all part of the cost of doing business,” Tankenoff said.     

(Photo above: Ryan's $218 milion Downtown East development was one of the top five permitted in the city last year, all of which beat the deadline for paying a park dedication fee.. Photo by Steve Brandt)

Minneapolis marks record year for conventions, events

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 28, 2015 - 1:27 PM


American Idol contestants are interviewed by producers for the show before judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban arrive at the Minneapolis Convention Center to judge the local American Idol auditions in September. LEILA NAVIDI / leila.navidi@startribune.com


Minneapolis filled more hotel rooms and snagged more big events in 2014 than in any other previous year, according to the organization that handles the city's convention and tourism business.

Meet Minneapolis said this week that it hit record levels in four areas: the number of hotel room nights booked for future events, room nights booked for leisure, revenue from sponsorships and revenue from the Minneapolis Convention Center. The facility took in $16.6 million in revenue as the city hosted a record 534 meetings and conventions. 

Much of the good news is tied to hotel bookings for future events, including more than 71,000 room nights that have already been booked for the 2018 Super Bowl and more than 52,000 bookings for the NCAA Men's Final Four basketball tournament in 2019. 

Melvin Tennant, the president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, said in a statement that Minneapolis' 72 percent annual hotel occupancy rate stands out among other cities. Maintaining a rate of 70 percent, he said, is considered "nationally enviable."

The organization also noted that Minneapolis' Target Center was ranked No. 6 among all U.S. arenas based on event tickets sold in 2014, according to the agency Pollstar. It ranked No. 17 in the world. 

Events scheduled for 2015 include the National Senior Games in July, which is expected to draw 35,000 people to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington. 

"We certainly hope to replicate the past year's successes in the future," Tennant said. 

Council approves Lake-Knox settlement

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 16, 2015 - 12:38 PM

A settlement that's aimed at ending the pumping of groundwater into the Chain of Lakes from a luxury apartment building in Uptown won City Council approval Friday.

The consent agreement sets a March 31 deadline for Lake and Knox LLC to end discharge from 1800 W. Lake St., a 57-unit building. It is required to fill the lower of its two basement parking levels by then so that pumps can be shut off. The owners plan to offer valet parking for tenants until that lost parking can be replaced on an adjacent lot.

Area Council Member Lisa Goodman said the settlement's chief environmental contribution is ending the flow of an estimated 75 pounds annually of algae-feeding phosphorus borne by pumped groundwater into the lake. But she said it sends a signal to developers that ignoring city orders to halt such pumping won't be tolerated.

“I don’t think anyone else would be stupid enough to take this route,” Goodman said. The deal is expected to win Hennepin County District Court approval.

The city and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources already have issued permits that allow the pumping to continue legally during the basement work. Lake and Knox also is required to apply to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and its mortgage holder for permission to proceed.

If that approval doesn't come by Monday, when construction is scheduled to start, the owners get up to a two-week extension, but the March 31 deadline doesn't change.

If Lake and Knox misses that deadline, it faces a $5,000 daily penalty while it keeps pumping. But that penalty is cut to $1,000 daily if it's because HUD and its lender didn't act in time.

The agreement levies a total of $205,710 in penalties against Lake and Knox, with another estimated $78,000 to come. That represents city costs for extending piping onto Lake Calhoun to minimize unsafe ice in the lagoon between Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, the extra cost of cleaning a sewer grit-collecting chamber, and a fee for using city sewers. The Park Board separately is claiming about $32,000 for its costs.

Lake and Knox LLC consists of developers Nick Walton and Daniel Oberpriller, along with other unnamed investors. It still has financial claims pending against engineering firms that provided soil and engineering studies for the project.

The issue began when the city and state approved temporary permits for pumping away groundwater during construction, and grew into a public controversy when that continued after the project was finished to keep the lower garage from flooding. That led the city to take the rare step of filing its lawsuit in December, 2013..

(Above: A pipe, later extended farther, carried pumped groundwater from the apartment building onto the lagoon.)

Minneapolis moves up in ranking of 'creative' cities

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 14, 2015 - 1:13 PM

Mixed-media artist Andy Saczynski works on a billboard in downtown Minneapolis in August 2014. ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE

Minneapolis' array of "creative" jobs and organizations -- and its spending on everything from books to theater tickets -- has helped the city move up the list of the most "creatively vital" cities in the country.

A report delivered to the City Council on Wednesday showed that Minneapolis ranked No. 5 based on a comparison of the largest 100 cities' spending, sales and jobs in the arts. Last year, the city was No. 6. 

Gülgün Kayim, the city's director of arts, culture and the creative economy, said the rankings are based on data from a national organization, the Western States Arts Federation. The city first received the report in 2013.

The latest report shows that residents and visitors are spending more on things like artwork and concerts. In 2013, total retail arts sales were about $520 million, up 13 percent from two years earlier. Per capita, Minneapolis residents spent $1,165 per year on the arts. By comparison, the report said sports-related sales in the city amounted to about $534 million in revenue in 2013.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis generated another $311 million in revenues from arts-related nonprofits. That total includes grants awarded to organizations or museums and ticket sales for those groups' events. 

Kayim said the report is useful as a city planning tool and as a selling point for the city; she reported that at least two art schools use it as a recruiting tool. 

"We have a highly productive creative sector ... this is information that can help us create strategies for the city as an attractor and as a competitive advantage," she said.  

The report found that 26 percent of the "creative" employment in the metro area is in Minneapolis. The top occupations were photographers, musicians and singers, writers and authors, graphic designers and public relations specialists. The fastest-growing fields: actors, fashion designers, sound engineering technicians and agents. 

Council members said they were glad to see the city tracking the creative side of the city's economy and wanted to see more information on related jobs and salaries. 

Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents an area of northeast Minneapolis known for its growing arts community, said he's glad the report uses data from across the country to give the city an idea of its progress.

"It's a very real tool in that sense," he said. 

The cities that ranked ahead of Minneapolis were, in order: Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York City and Boston. 


City launches open data site

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 8, 2014 - 3:32 PM

The City of Minneapolis' new open data portal made its debut Monday afternoon, providing information on subjects ranging from fires and police incidents to air quality study results.

Most of the data was previously only available to people who submitted formal requests to the city. The city says it is now one of 38 states and 46 cities and counties that make open data portals available to the public.

Other information available includes: 311 incidents, crime statistics, open rental licenses, open liquor licenses, digital inclusion survey results, city boundaries and neighborhood revitalization program budgets.

Data can be downloaded in charts and maps, and will be updated with more current information.


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