Minneapolis parks commissioners ramped up pressure on Graco Minnesota Inc. by rejecting its development proposal for part of a planned riverfront park and instead seeking proposals from all comers.

The action means Graco won't have a leg up on developing about 3 acres of the former Scherer lumber site upstream from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge in northeast Minneapolis. The board vote was 8-0.

Graco had proposed two office buildings of about 50,000 square feet each on land it would lease from the Park Board for at least 99 years. The lease payments from any development would help pay park operational costs.

A key riverfront advisory committee rejected the proposal as "insulting" for not meeting previous riverfront planning guidelines.

Park staff earlier estimated that it might take 10 weeks to solicit additional proposals.

The action calls Graco's bluff in a chess match that has unfolded this year with a major employer. The company said it wants the right to develop the parcel in exchange for providing a key riverfront easement without charge to the Park Board for a major East Bank Trail extension.

That easement already has been filed under a judge's order, but a court process for setting how much the public will pay is still unfolding.

Superintendent Jayne Miller said city and park officials offered to support vacating a street between Graco and the future park, and grant a restrictive covenant sought by Graco against residential development on the site. She said they asked in return that the company waive a charge for the easement, keep its headquarters in Minneapolis and agree to keep 90 percent of its living-wage jobs in the city.

Miller said an initial meeting Thursday with developer Ryan Cos. seemed favorable, but Graco this week wouldn't budge from its previous negotiating stance.

Park staff said a key goal in seeking new developers for the site would be finding those who could meet previous planning goals and community interests such as maximizing public access to the park.

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