Park commissioners are poised to condemn a riverside strip of land alongside a major northeast Minneapolis factory complex because the company so far hasn't granted an urgently needed easement for a long-planned trail.
The land at issue is owned by Graco Minnesota Inc., and it lies between a two-block-long factory and the Mississippi River. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board wants it for a recreational trail that would represent the first major trail extension on the East Bank in years. By May 31, the Park Board needs to either acquire the land or an easement to it, otherwise it will lose a $1 million federal grant for the project.
Graco agreed to grant an easement for the property in a 2000 agreement it made with the city in exchange for financial help on an expansion of its complex along Broadway and Marshall Streets NE. But the easement was never consummated — for lack of response by public agencies, the company says — and a Graco spokesman said a city representative later waived the requirement in a meeting.
The company wants to build — potentially a new headquarters building — on a portion of the former Scherer lumberyard the Park Board acquired several years ago for a riverside park. That property also lies on the riverside, between Graco's factory and the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.
Company spokesman Bryce Hallowell said the firm still thinks an easement can be negotiated if the Park Board wants to sell part of the Scherer site. "We'd like to be part of a package deal that creates a win-win," he said.
Longtime riverfront activist Mary Maguire, who attended community meetings held when Graco sought to expand 15 years ago, said it's immaterial whether the city released Graco from the easement requirement. "They made a commitment to the community," she said of the easement pledge. "They're playing like little kids."
Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said Graco is unhappy that the Scherer site was sold to the Park Board, instead of to the company.
Graco supported the Park Board's 2011 application for the trail grant, which would extend foot and bike paths from Boom Island Park to north of the former Grain Belt complex. The company termed the project "nationally and regionally significant."
Hallowell emphasized the company's $70 million payroll and benefits at a site that employs 765 people. The company makes equipment for foam and spray painting and for lubrication.
The Park Board will consider the condemnation proposal when it meets Wednesday.