Minneapolis park officials have a purchase agreement that will allow them to snap up one of two remaining significant riverfront properties needed for public control of most of the West Bank from near the Lowry Avenue Bridge to Interstate 694.
The proposed $2.7 million purchase of 500 feet of riverfront just downstream from the Camden rail bridge and North Mississippi Regional Park would add 4.35 acres to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's holdings. The proposal to buy from Ramsey Excavating comes before the board Wednesday evening.
But acquiring the other significant parcel, just south of the proposed purchase, could prove more difficult. The Park Board tried and failed to buy it in 2006, when it was outbid by Atlas Land Co., associated with the Isaacs family, former owners of a north riverfront scrap business. The Park Board and the Isaacs' business clashed in court in the 1990s over the firm's plans for a scrap shredder.
The pending purchase from Ramsey Excavating was applauded by the area's park commissioner, Jon Olson. "I'm excited about the possibility. It's a great acquisition for the system," he said.
The land now is used by Ramsey for its concrete recycling business, which is moving to Brooklyn Park. The Park Board currently lacks ready cash to pay for the property, so the proposal calls for it to string out payments, much as it did for the former Scherer Lumber parcel on the river's East Bank.
The deal calls for $500,000 down, which park officials plan to seek as a grant from the Mississippi Water Management Organization. The remaining $2.2 million would be amortized over 10 years at 6 percent interest with a balloon payment due in two years.
The deal would leave only three exceptions to public control of the West Bank north of the Lowry bridge. One is the roofing plant that lies next to the bridge and the city's 48-acre former barge terminal. The others are the 3-acre Atlas site and a slender Soo Line property. The regional park stretches from the rail bridge to I-694.
"Isn't that fantastic?" said City Council President Barbara Johnson, who represents the area. She said riverfront land is too precious for such industrial use.
Ian Alexander, the real estate agent and lawyer representing Ramsey Excavating, said the firm had a higher offer but liked the public purpose in the sale. The city offer includes $1 million to relocate Ramsey. The main parcel and a small adjoining parcel tied to it that the Park Board would resell include an elevator and a 10,680-square-foot office-warehouse.
For the short term, park officials hope to use the property as a tree-grinding site to replace one they must vacate in the Fort Snelling area. The long-term plan adopted by city and park officials calls for the upper riverfront to be redeveloped with a strip of parkland containing a parkway and recreational trails. In areas of more space, such as the former barge terminal, the city plans to develop housing and business parks.