Minneapolis park officials are changing course for a hotly opposed operations facility they earlier recommended for the Upper Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis.

The earlier plan called for two park operations yards in northeast and north Minneapolis to be consolidated for an indeterminate period on the riverfront land the park system bought in 2012. Residents want a park there and dozens testified against the plan last fall.

Now, park staffers are recommending to the Park Board that the riverfront property at 1720 Marshall St. NE be used for equipment storage and maintenance only on an interim basis for five or six years. That’s while the north and northeast facilities would be renovated to meet long-term needs.

That development is “definitely positive,” said Joy Smallfield, president of Sheridan Neighborhood Organization, who said that park staff presented the proposed change to that organization recently.

The land involved lies between the BNSF railroad bridge and Psycho Suzi’s bar-restaurant.

The neighborhood group wants a park constructed on the site, which is the second-largest bought by the Park Board on the East Bank riverfront in the 15 years since a master plan was adopted for the upper riverfront. It called for more parks and trails up that shore. A park on the site would require demolishing a large commercial building that covers about half of the partly contaminated site.

The Park Board last fall proposed spending at least $4 million to upgrade the building for use as an operations center, plus some beginning steps toward park use. Residents said that plans for storing forestry and park maintenance equipment wasn’t the best use of riverfront property.

“Since we don’t have support from the community, we don’t want to spend any more money on that building” said Cliff Swenson, director of design and project management. The proposed change of direction will be discussed Wednesday by the Park Board.

Swenson said that park staff proposes studying the feasibility of renovating the two existing operations centers. Park officials had earlier said that was impractical because the two facilities near Webber and Columbia parks are landlocked by railroads, parkland and roads. They said that buying bigger forestry equipment that requires fewer works means that more storage space is needed, and that indoor space would prolong the life of those machines.

It’s not clear yet how soon and to what extent the space on Marshall would be developed as a park after the interim period. But park commissioners indicated in discussing the original proposal that the renovated building and parking lot could have been used for decades as an operations center.

 

Twitter: @brandtstrib