With its control of the Commons park in doubt, the Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to vote next week on handing over operations of the downtown green space to the Park and Recreation Board.
The new agreement was drafted after a Hennepin County judge ruled in a lawsuit earlier this year that the city’s charter did not allow it to operate the park, giving it three months to come up with a solution. The city has appealed the ruling.
Council Member Steve Fletcher, vice chair of the council’s ways and means committee, said regular operations of the park are not expected to change if the new arrangement is approved.
“We don’t know when the appeal will be settled and what that will mean for the future,” Fletcher said. “This buys us a year to have those conversations.”
The Commons opened in tandem with U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016 under an unusual arrangement. After the Park Board said it didn’t want to operate the Commons, the city sold the land to the Park Board, which leased it back to the city.
A nonprofit, Green Minneapolis, has a contract to run the park through the end of the year.
Under the new agreement, the city would sublease the Commons and transfer the nonprofit’s operating contract to the Park Board. The city would also give the board the remaining $375,000 budgeted this year for the park.
Up to $90,000 in donations to the nonprofit would also be given to the Park Board, which would pay it back to the nonprofit for park operations, according to the city.
If the appeals court upholds the Hennepin County judge’s ruling, the city’s lease would likely be terminated, and it would be the Park Board’s responsibility to determine how the Commons would be managed.
Park Board President Brad Bourn and Superintendent Al Bangoura were unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.
The park transfer will go before the council’s ways and means committee on Tuesday.
John Hayden, who along with former City Council Member Paul Ostrow filed the lawsuit over the park, said the new agreement was not making the situation any clearer.
“They’re not addressing the meat of the issue, they’re just passing the buck,” he said. “This is how convoluted it is now.”