The Minneapolis Park Board may take on the role of master developer after a Northeast riverfront site it hopes to redefine failed to draw proposals from private developers.
If the Park Board does take control of redeveloping 3.55 acres of the former Scherer Bros. Lumber property, it would be the first time the agency has served in such a capacity. At other sites, such as the Upper Harbor Terminal in north Minneapolis, it has chosen private developers to lead the redevelopment projects.
"They have never heard anything like this before," said Michael Schroeder, the Park Board's assistant superintendent for planning. "This is way different."
The idea was unveiled at a committee meeting Wednesday, the first formal update to the board since a request for proposals from potential developers expired without a single submission. Before that, the Park Board had rejected a proposal by Ryan Cos. and Graco to build office buildings on the site north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge and east of the Mississippi River.
The piece of land eyed for redevelopment, known as Parcel D, is part of a larger development plan that included a riverfront park, recreational trail and reclaimed Hall's Island.
Park Board members, however, weren't all convinced that they should step into the role of master developer.
Commissioner Jon Olson said he's "a little hesitant," adding the Park Board didn't have enough experience to take on this role.
"I just don't know if that's the wisest decision," Olson said. "We should sit on the property for a while and see what happens in the future."
Commissioner Liz Wielinski, whose district includes the Scherer Bros. site, also said she's wary about the Park Board becoming a developer.
Meanwhile, Commissioners John Erwin, Anita Tabb and Annie Young welcomed the idea of the Park Board taking ownership of the site's development.
Commissioner Meg Forney also leaned toward supporting the idea.
"This is a bigger undertaking but I am glad we're going down this path," Erwin said, noting that he felt prior proposals from developers didn't mesh with the Park Board's vision for the site.
Park Board members have said they hoped a private developer would be interested in leasing the land to build sites that include amenities such as concession stands that would help finance park maintenance and operations on the site.
The Park Board said it will seek guidance from private developers if it moves forward to take the role of master developer.
"We can't do this alone," Schroeder said. "We will still have partners in this."
But Tony Barranco, vice president at Ryan Cos., which teamed up with Graco to submit the proposal that was ultimately rejected, said the complex site may not be able to accommodate what the Park Board wants.
"They're trying to make a development happen that contributes to the park, but they're also hoping they could develop some part of this so that there's a funding source for some ongoing operation or other things," Barranco said.
"Matching those two things is just a tough thing to do."
The Park Board did not take action but plans to revisit the idea at a future meeting.