Oct. 7, 1986: Plan for Shinder's block would remove porn shops, bars, create parking lot

  • Article by: DENNIS J. MCGRATH
  • Star Tribune
  • October 7, 1986 - 2:27 PM

Minneapolis would demolish the pornography stores, bars, a transient hotel and other property along Hennepin Av. on the Shinder's block, converting the land to a parking lot until it is redeveloped, under a proposal by the city's development agency.

The recommendation by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA) is an attempt to clear blight on the block and "disperse" people attracted by businesses between 6th and 7th Sts. on the west side of Hennepin.

The block is notorious for attracting drug pushers, robbers, prostitutes and others who contribute to the street's negative image.

In a related action Monday, a City Council committee recommended that exclusive development rights for that block and the block between 7th and 8th Sts. be awarded to Ray Harris for six months. But Harris' proposed "Pageant on Hennepin" project, or another development, is not likely to be built for years, said MCDA Executive Director James Heltzer.

"Early acquisition (of the Hennepin property) will be one positive sign that the city is serious about redevelopment and will not ignore the problems which face businesses and residents on the west side of downtown," Heltzer said in a letter to the council.

The city also would buy the vacant movie theaters on 7th St. N., between Hennepin and 1st Av. N., under Heltzer's proposal.

The concept was endorsed yesterday by Frank Matthews, chairman of the Hennepin Avenue Advisory Board and by Council Member Tony Scallon, chairman of the council's Community Development Committee.

The purchase price, demolition and other costs associated with buying the parcels would total about $8.4 million, a figure that is likely to increase the closer a redevelopment proposal comes to
reality. Buying the entire block would be preferable, but the $14.7 million price tag is prohibitive, Heltzer said.

The Shinder's block, called " Block E" by city officials, "has long been identified as one of the problem blocks in downtown Minneapolis," Heltzer's proposal said. "The facilities located on the block - bars, a transient hotel, pornographic uses and vacant movie theaters - have helped to create the perception that the entire Hennepin Av. area, including 1st Av. N., is blighted and should be avoided. This perception is compounded by a reality that if shoppers and pedestrians venture onto the (Hennepin side of the block) . . . they are likely to be panhandled, verbally abused or worse."

Helzter cautioned the council by saying that if redevelopment is delayed longer than expected, "then a portion of Block E will be without structures, which in itself could be a blighting influence on downtown."

The MCDA considered and rejected the option of converting the property into a park. A park could be a magnet for the people the city is trying to move off the block, and would not bring in money, the MCDA concluded.

By constructing a 175-stall parking lot, the city could earn an annual profit of $103,102 after the first year, according to the MCDA analysis. The lot also would help alleviate a temporary parking crunch
while the city closes several parking lots to build a system of municipal parking ramps.

The block would be purchased with a loan from a federally funded Community Development Block Grant program, and a bank loan would be arranged if a cash flow problem necessitated that the block grant money be repaid. However, the availability of the block grant money was questioned yesterday by a city budget official, so the council may have to seek the money from another source.

The council is scheduled to consider the proposal in two weeks.

If the full council awards exclusive developments Friday to Harris, the city will review in six months the progress he has made in refining his development proposal and attracting investors who can
finance the $154 million project.

Granting exclusive development rights for six months would give Harris a stronger hand in negotiating with investors, but would not lock the city into selecting Harris as the developer, nor would it mean the city has approved his entertainment, office, hotel and residential development proposal.

The gap in the subsidy Harris has sought from the city and the increased taxes the project would generate has narrowed from a high of about $24 million to about $4.5 million.

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