The money is accounted for and the final design set for the $50 million remodeling of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, officials said Tuesday, just in time for jackhammers to hit the pavement in June.
Lingering questions about special tax assessments and the timing of construction have largely been answered.
And while many downtown property owners, including the Minnesota Twins, had sticker shock in April upon receiving their Nicollet Mall tax bills, none have said they plan to contest the tax.
“We were not thrilled. But that was balanced by our belief that this is a critical project for downtown and the renovations have to be done right,” said Dave St. Peter, president of the Twins, who will pay Target Field’s $1.1 million assessment.
Renovations on the city’s signature thoroughfare will begin with utility work. The city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Downtown Council, co-leaders on the project, are working with Metro Transit on bus detour routes, which will begin mid-June and last two years.
Cyclists will be detoured from 2016 through the project’s completion in mid-2017. Taxis will be cut off during construction and not allowed back on the majority of the mall after construction. “We went from a great idea two years ago to a fully formed team, we are at the end of public meetings and we have all of our money,” said David Frank, director of economic policy and development for the city of Minneapolis.
But some downtown property owners, including office, hotels, condos and entertainment venues, are still trying to make sense of their assessments, which range from $10 to $1.2 million. The Legislature agreed to pay $21.5 million, and the city kicked in an additional $3.5 million, under the condition that downtown businesses and residents pay the remaining $25 million.
“I don’t think people had any idea that they would be assessing private homes,” said Margaret Oltmans, a condo owner in the North Loop who was assessed about $200. “Property taxes are so high downtown already.”
The owners can pay their tax up front or as installments over the next 20 years, with interest.
Target Field received the third-highest assessment, behind IDS Center’s $1.22 million and Wells Fargo Center’s $1.13 million.
“We fully expected that Target Field would be included on some level,” said St. Peter, who used to serve on the Minneapolis Downtown Council, a business organization. “We just really questioned the methodology that was used.”
He specifically questions why Target Field — being four blocks from Nicollet and across the I-394 corridor — was billed more than office towers immediately adjacent to the mall. “We’ve conveyed that to the leadership, and we are going to pay it,” St. Peter said.
The model was created by Shenehon Co., a Minneapolis real estate appraisal firm hired by the city. City officials and the appraisers knew from previous experience with the Downtown Improvement District tax that their model would be criticized. Instead, of charging only commercial property owners at the very core of the district, the Nicollet Mall assessment takes three criteria into consideration.
Proximity is classified in three zones, with those abutting the Nicollet Mall paying more than those along 1st Avenue, which in turn pay more than those in the Mill District. Property types are broken down into eight categories with descending assessment rates: office, hotel, retail, parking industrial, institution, residential and non-parking land. And more than 7,100 properties were appraised with more than 6,600 ultimately being taxed, according to city documents obtained by the Star Tribune.
The City Council approved the assessments last week, and Mayor Betsy Hodges plans to sign off on them this week. If a property owner does want to contest their assessment tax, a lawsuit would then need to be filed within 30 days.
New renderings released Tuesday night were likely the closest to reality that the public will see until the project is complete in 2017.
Representatives from the project’s landscape architect, New York-based James Corner Field Operations, presented three new developments, including the tree species, lighting and signage, at the Minneapolis Central Library.
Artists are being sought on four contracts — an iconic piece, something integrated, the light lanterns that will hang from trees in the center of the mall, as well as a curator for the old art being reintroduced and the new art being added.
Frank said they’ve received local, national and international applicants and are conducting a second-round of interviews this week.