Fundraising for Downtown East Commons is still falling short, even after plans for the downtown Minneapolis park were scaled back last year.
The nonprofit Green Minneapolis, a conservancy formed by the Downtown Council, raised about $14 million of nearly $15.3 million needed for the project in 2016. To ensure the park was ready in time for the July opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, developer Ryan Companies agreed to bridge the gap with a short-term loan.
“Even with some heartburn, we knew the importance of getting the Commons open,” said Tony Barranco, vice president of development at Ryan Companies. “We were simultaneously designing it while constructing it while raising money for it.”
Green Minneapolis will pay back the loan as more money is raised — including some that has already been committed but will come in incrementally.
At the same time, the nonprofit is trying to meet the initial $22 million fundraising goal for the park, which includes money for operations.
“The fundraising efforts are still deeply underway,” said Beth Shogren, Green Minneapolis’ interim executive director.
The city and the Vikings have already contributed to the project, as have local corporations and foundations.
A year ago, Green Minneapolis announced it had met half the $22 million goal. Days later — “in recognition of the pace of fundraising,” according to a report from city staff — city officials decided to hold off on some elements of the park, including two buildings, terraces and a plaza.
Downtown Council President Steve Cramer said future additions to the park may be different from what was originally planned.
“We’d probably make better choices about how to build additional features in the park, having had it up and running for a while,” he said.
It’s not yet clear how the Commons’ operations will be managed and funded long term, though plans are expected to solidify this year. As part of the 2017 budget process, the City Council directed staff to develop a funding plan for “downtown assets,” including the Commons, by March 1.
The Downtown Council and Green Minneapolis have been invited to give input in the planning process, Cramer said. Funding for the park will likely come from a combination of public and private sources and income from rentals or sponsorships, he said.
This year, pending City Council approval, the Commons will have a nearly $1.4 million operating budget comprising $500,000 from the city’s adopted Public Works budget and money raised by Green Minneapolis.
Green Minneapolis will be responsible for operating and maintaining the park in 2017, also pending Council approval. Council Member Kevin Reich, who chairs a committee that approved the agreement with Green Minneapolis Tuesday, described it as “an interim agreement.”
“We needed to do something at this point in time,” he said.