Study suggests four sites for park in booming area
Given that the North Loop is among the most intensely competitive areas for developers chasing sites for new apartments in Minneapolis, does a neighborhood’s desire for a park stand a chance?
A new study outlines four privately owned surface parking lots as potential sites for a new park in the North Loop. It’s not clear yet if the property owners would be receptive to selling their land — or what the acquisition costs could be to buy the various identified sites. But it could be pricey, based on site sales in the area.
Real estate agent Fritz Kroll of Edina Realty said that he has heard some potential home buyers refer to that part of the North Loop as a “concrete jungle.” Historically, the North Loop area was home to industrial properties — not condos and apartments.
“You could probably count the trees on two hands that are in that pocket,” said Kroll, who also serves on the board of the North Loop Neighborhood Association. Kroll thinks that a new park in the area would be a nice perk for residents and would boost nearby property values.
The North Loop Neighborhood Association commissioned St. Paul-based Great River Greening to put together a scoping study that identifies four possible sites in the corridor between Washington Avenue North and Interstate 94 in North Loop. The findings will be officially unveiled at the North Loop Neighborhood Association’s annual meeting, held on 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Target Field.
“We need to provide people with the amenities that make density livable. And among other things that includes open space,” said David Frank, president of the North Loop Neighborhood Association.
But Frank acknowledges that property owners in the area now expect land prices to reflect the higher prices that developers are paying for multifamily sites.
Another potential North Loop park site, “Site D,” includes 701 and 729 Washington Ave. N. in Minneapolis. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)
“It’s definitely creating a value expectation,” Frank said of the development boom in North Loop.
In the priciest deal in the area, 222 Hennepin Investors LLC paid $6.7 million for a 2.44-acre site at 222 Hennepin Ave. in February 2012. The former Jaguar car dealership site is being developed into 286 market rate apartments and a 38,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery store by two Minneapolis companies, Ryan Companies US Inc. and the Excelsior Group.
The four potential park sites are:
Site A: 747 Third St. N. — 2.3 acres.
Site B: 246 Seventh Ave. N., 722 Third St. N., and 728 Third St. N. — 1.4 acres.
Site C: 753 Washington Ave. N., 729 Washington Ave. N. and 701 Washington Ave. N. — 1.1-1.3 acres.
Site D: 729 Washington Ave. N., 701 Washington Ave. N., 722 Third St. N. and 728 Third St. N. — 1.3 acres.
The Great River Greening study ranks Site A as the most appealing option of the four. The site is owned by Minneapolis-based BC Properties LLC, an affiliate of Minneapolis-based developer Schafer Richardson. The site has a current assessed value of $1.23 million, according to Hennepin County property tax records.
Kit Richardson, a principal with Schafer Richardson, did not return a call seeking comment about the site and the park study.
Other sites include land owned by Bloomington-based United Properties and Minneapolis-based Greco Real Estate Development. A spokeswoman for United Properties declined comment, indicating that the developer was not aware of the study. Arnie Gregory, principal with Greco, did not return a call seeking comment.
The study outlines cost estimates for a new park ranging from $1.8 million to $2.1 million. But those numbers don’t include the costs of land acquisition.
“These are just candidate sites to discuss,” said Deborah Karasov, executive director of Great River Greening. “It’s very expensive to rip down buildings. We only looked at surface parking lots.”
But Karasov considers the study a starting place for a discussion.
“To move this project forward, you need other partners,” Karasov said. “I do think this will happen. It will take time. And it needs to happen. North Loop is an important neighborhood for the vitality of the city as a whole.”
A Finance & Commerce analysis of development in the North Loop area shows 862 apartment units currently under construction and another 545 units proposed. Three projects with 336 units have recently been completed in the North Loop area. All told, that’s more than 1,700 recently finished, under construction or planned apartment units in the North Loop.
But there’s little park space.
“They need a place to throw a Frisbee around,” said Mark Stenglein, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, of North Loop residents.
Stenglein acknowledges that downtown Minneapolis in general is short on park space. In late 2011, the Downtown Council unveiled the Downtown 2025 Plan, which included ambitious plans for Gateway Park, which would stretch from a light rail transit station in downtown to the Mississippi River. It’s still not clear how that plan would be paid for.
“It’s pretty bleak down here. We’ve got to change that. That’s all there is to it. It’s very gray down here,” Stenglein said. “There’s a business case for making it happen because property values go up around those kind of amenities.”
Bruce Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for planning for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said that the Park Board has been following plans in North Loop. Even so, Chamberlain acknowledged that the Park Board does not have the resources to bankroll new parks.
“It’s challenging, it really is,” Chamberlain said. “Our strategy is really to rely on partnerships. When we’re considering new open space, we need partners. …The Park Board will not be able to accomplish it on our own, by any means.”
He said that Park Board is pursuing a park dedication fee for the city of Minneapolis at the Legislature this session, based on a model that suburban cities have long employed. Park dedication fees tap project developers to help pay for park space. Developers have opposed the idea of tacking another fee onto project costs.
But Chamberlain said that residential growth in sections of downtown Minneapolis is driving demand for new parks.
“If you look at the residential growth, we need a new park in North Loop. We need a new park in the core of downtown. We need a new park in Downtown East, just to accommodate the residential growth in those areas,” Chamberlain said.
Source: Finance and Commerce