The Hennepin County board gave tentative approval early in May to a new transit hub near Target Field that would enable transit riders transfer to trains and buses. The board approved $22 million for the project to cover a budget gap in the project, estimated to cost $79.3 million and expected to be finished by 2014.
The upcoming transit hub near Target Field is called the “interchange,” which is not a lively sobriquet for a project likely to revitalize the western edge of downtown.
Hennepin County is driving the $79.3 million project that doesn’t get much attention — at least not yet.
The interchange, however, has the potential to be a hot spot for entertainment and activity fueled by the contagious verve of travelers making their way around and out of town.
The interchange will be a workhorse, not a show pony. It will serve as a two-tiered transit hub for five commuter rail lines: Hiawatha, Central and eventually Bottineau and Southwest light-rail as well as the Northstar commuter rail.
But the bigger goal is creating an artsy entertainment and dining hub with an amphitheater and restaurants.
Negotiations remain private between the county and the Minnesota Twins, who paired with Bloomington-based United Properties to submit the only bid for the project last year.
Last week, the County Board voted to enter into more closed-door negotiations — this time for a Metro Transit police headquarters at the interchange. Snazzy? Not exactly, but it’s an addition that will not only make the area safer, but also give it more life.
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin is the board’s point person on the talks with Twins-United Properties. Their plans remain unknown, but the team has interest in juicing up the area near the ballpark.
The team, United and the county are reportedly negotiating over money, parking, development and naming rights. The county hopes the Twins will help plug a $22 million funding gap in the project.
A few months ago, it wasn’t clear whether the sides would be able to reach agreement. Recent chatter suggests they are on the verge of a pact and an announcement, something McLaughlin doesn’t dispute.
“In terms of the basics, we’re in a good place,” he said. “It just depends on how fast we can get the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed.”
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson