Minneapolis became the owner of a brand-new downtown park this week, three years after city leaders announced plans to reshape the area around U.S. Bank Stadium.
The city paid about $20 million to Ryan Cos. for the proverbial keys to the Downtown East Commons, which is expected to be partly complete in less than a month. The “Great Lawn” is sodded, trees are being planted and lighting soon will be installed at the nearly two-block park bisected by Portland Avenue in an area once dominated by the Star Tribune’s headquarters.
“We’ve been watching the sausage get made for the last couple of years,” said City Council Member Jacob Frey. “If you walk by the Commons, the final product is looking delicious.”
Ryan Co. Vice President Tony Barranco said the goal is to open the portion of the park closest to the stadium by about July 20, days before the stadium’s grand opening. The western section likely won’t be open until mid- to late-August, he said.
A major question remains: How the city will pay for the long-term operations and maintenance of the park. That’s one reason the city’s semi-independent Park Board decided not to take on the project several years ago. The park is expected to cost about $1.9 million a year to operate in 2017.
Money set aside during a private fundraising campaign will cover early costs. Frey said every possibility is being examined for paying the long-term obligations, from concessions and full-service restaurant revenue to sponsorship deals.
The $20 million purchase price accounts for the land acquisition, demolition of buildings and preparation of the site. That cost is expected to be recovered through parking revenue from a ramp adjacent to the stadium.
The cost of the park’s design features must be covered by an ongoing fundraising campaign. In April, campaign officials announced they had raised about $14 million of the $22 million goal — a portion of which is being reserved for operations. The campaign had no updates Thursday, said spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff.
Earlier this year, the city held off on some elements of the project until enough money could be raised to pay for them. Deferred features include a proposed cafe building, lawn-side terraced seating and a water plaza.
The city said Thursday that enough money has been raised to cover all the work being done this year, which totals about $10.7 million.
The city may not own the park for long. A 2013 court ruling on the project made clear that the Park Board, rather than City Hall, is responsible for Minneapolis parks. As a result, the city will transfer the land to the Park Board, which will then lease it back to the city.