The campaign to make the new Commons park in downtown Minneapolis a destination instead of a plot of grass has raised about one-third of its $22 million budget, organizers said Thursday in hopes of pressing more donors to step up.
In a news conference on the two-block site, as participants struggled to be heard over the bellows of nearby construction and excavation machinery, leaders from Wells Fargo & Co., Ryan Cos. and the city said they’ve collectively pledged $7 million.
The city has spent about $19 million to buy the land for the park, previously owned by the Star Tribune, and cover the cost of demolishing the newspaper’s former headquarters. The Minnesota Vikings, principal tenant of the nearby U.S. Bank Stadium that is being built adjacent to the park, contributed $1 million for that.
Those funds were enough to create a basic park. Now, a coalition of public and private leaders are trying to raise $22 million to create features such as a contoured “great lawn,” a water “cloud” and seating and eating areas.
“We are delivering this beautiful blank slate and asking the business community to pony up for the icing,” Jacob Frey, Third Ward City Council member, said at the event.
He and other participants indirectly criticized the Vikings for not participating so far in the effort to dress up the park. “There are three major players surrounding this park and two have already stepped up in a major way,” Frey said.
The Vikings were not asked to participate in Thursday’s event.
“The Vikings organization is continuing to talk to the city, but we’ve negotiated an agreement with the city on our contribution to the park with a previous mayor,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president.
City officials and the Vikings are in ongoing conversations related to the park, roads, tailgating locations and other logistics with development around the stadium. The Vikings recently agreed to contribute $3.5 million of the $7 million needed for an elevated pedestrian bridge that will span the tracks at the Downtown East light rail stop.
“There’s a lot of issues that we are still working through in terms of the stadium, and we need to continue to be collaborative on all things so this is a great experience for everyone who comes to the stadium or Commons,” Bagley said.
The park is a key feature of Ryan’s five-block redevelopment next to the stadium. Wells Fargo, which runs the state’s largest bank, is spending $300 million on two 17-story office towers next to the park and stadium. Ryan is building them.
Dave Kvamme, Wells Fargo Minnesota’s chief executive, said, “We are excited to be a lead contributor.” The company plans to announce its specific donation in the next month.
The Minneapolis Downtown Council, which has become the leader for fundraising, hired New Partners, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, to rally support from the private sector. Assisting the firm is a 15-person committee of Minneapolis civic and business leaders.
The park’s landscape architect, San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates, unveiled a design in May and is expected to return with final renderings this fall. Ryan is on schedule to hand over the first tower to Wells Fargo in December and the second one in April.
In June, the developer will plant grass in the park before turning ownership over to the City of Minneapolis in July — the same month U.S. Bank Stadium opens ahead of the 2016 Vikings season.