After two years of closed-door meetings, the Minnesota Twins and Hennepin County have formalized details for the $79 million Target Field transit hub and surrounding parcels of land.
Details of the deal have been under discussion for some time, even as the rail hub nears completion and will be feted with a grand opening May 17.
The project changed a few weeks ago when Metro Transit withdrew as a partner, canceling plans to build its new headquarters at the site. That left the county and the Twins' development arm, United Properties, to tweak the deal.
The extensive development is considered far more than a transit hub for five rail lines. It's seen as the bedrock of a transformation for the western edge of downtown Minneapolis, shifting attention toward the area around Target Field and providing a gateway to the North Loop neighborhood.
Both United Properties, the Twins' development arm, and county commissioners heaped praise on the complicated deal, which has the team developing neighboring parcels of land and "activating" the public plaza near Target Field with a large video screen, concerts and events at an amphitheater.
For the county, the hub becomes the literal center of the Twin Cities light-rail constellation, eventually providing one-seat rides from the farthest points of the lines in the north, south, east and west. Commuter rail lines also will flow to the site.
Twins President Dave St. Peter said transit has been a "huge part" of the Target Field experience from the beginning and will only grow as more light-rail lines snake into what is now called Target Field station. The team has a "great deal of interest" in ensuring the area around the field thrives 365 days a year, he said.
Tweaks in the plan
The final agreement included a couple of changes because of the withdrawal of Metro Transit.
For one, United Properties must pay the county $1.5 million in development rights for an adjacent parcel whether it decides to build on it or not. Previously, the team merely had an option to develop the parcel, likely to be used for a hotel and/or office building.
"We wouldn't be doing this deal if we weren't committed to developing that parcel," St. Peter said.
Also, United Properties has agreed to take over maintenance at the public areas of the site — with the exception of public restrooms. The county gets the responsibility for keeping those clean.
At capacity, the Target Field station will see 470 trains a day and be within a block of bus connections, County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.
He praised the project not only as a signature development, but also a financial boost. The deal includes a $3.5 million cash payment to the county and future parking revenues.
Land surrounding the area already is being redeveloped, moving a formerly blighted area onto the tax rolls.
A poke at city officials
The approval didn't come without a poke at Minneapolis City Hall, which isn't a major player in the project and has been viewed by the county as obstructionist on the Southwest Corridor light-rail project.
"Hennepin County views Minneapolis as an important part of the region," Commissioner Jan Callison said. "I would say I hope Minneapolis would be committed to the region in the same way."