No deal in sight on Target Field transit hub, park

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2012 - 9:37 PM

Twins and Hennepin County have been negotiating for months.

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One proposed design for the Target Field transit hub would bring together multiple rail lines and bus stops, with an open plaza that could include an amphitheater, restaurants and bars.

The Minnesota Twins are negotiating with Hennepin County to help pay for and have a prominent presence in a $79.3 million light-rail transit hub and public park next to Target Field.

The county envisions an amphitheater and public space with restaurants and bars on the plaza and a station at the confluence of five commuter lines.

The Twins, along with Bloomington-based United Properties Inc., submitted the only proposal in response to the county's public request for a $22 million partner in the project. Closed-door talks with the county, the team and United Properties have been going on for most of the year.

There is "a lot to be gained by both sides if we can come to an agreement," County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said Thursday.

Twins Vice President Dave St. Peter said it remains to be seen if an agreement will be reached.

No one is setting a deadline for the discussions, but construction on the project has begun. It's scheduled to open in spring 2014 to coincide with the debut of the Central Corridor light-rail transit line connecting the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

County plans for the Target Field interchange say the space would connect the North Loop neighborhood to the Warehouse District at the corner of 5th Street and 6th Avenue N.

Twins tout event planning

McLaughlin touted the site's potential as the confluence of five commuter lines: Hiawatha, Central and eventually Bottineau, Southwest light-rail as well as the Northstar commuter rail. When Central opens in 2014, the number of daily stops at the site will double from the current 250, he said.

The deal is complicated by its many components. Included is a large plaza and train platform, a 250-space parking complex, storage tracks for rail cars and an area to ferry passengers between local trains on the tracks above and Northstar trains below.

In June, the County Board approved the hub plan and agreed to pay for $39.1 million of its costs, with an additional $17.2 million coming from the state, $10.5 million in federal grants, $10 million from the Metropolitan Council, $1.5 million from the Minnesota Ballpark Authority and $500,000 each from Minneapolis and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

The county launched the project by temporarily plugging a $22 million funding gap. That's where the Twins are attempting to step in.

"We think we're uniquely positioned to activate that space," St. Peter said, adding, "We like to think we know a little bit about programming" events.

But he said a deal with the county "has to make good business sense."

He noted the Twins already have a deal with Metro Transit to name the light-rail stop Target Field.

'Prolonged negotiation'

At issue for the interchange partnership are money, parking, development and naming rights. Asked about prospects for a Twins/United Properties/county deal, St. Peter said: "It's been a long process. I don't know if skeptical is the right word, but I'd say cautious."

Bill Katter, executive vice president at United, said there's no definite deadline, adding, "We'll either both decide there's grounds to make a deal or not."

Already, he said, it has been a "prolonged negotiation" with many parts, including development rights on a half-acre parcel at the 5th Street/6th Avenue corner.

Despite a gap in financing, McLaughlin said, the county doesn't need the Twins. Other proposals could be sought for separate components, including housing or office development rights and the parking, which he called "quite valuable" in the marketplace.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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