Marshall Street project on hold for 2 months

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Outcry from residents and business people temporarily stopped the Minneapolis Park Board from locating an operations center on the Mississippi River at 1720 Marshall St. NE.

They got through close to 40 comments in about 45 minutes Aug. 20, chiding the board for going contrary to the Above the Falls plan, which calls for continuous riverfront parks, and inconveniencing residents by taking away Psycho Suzi’s valet parking which then would clog up the neighborhood streets more than usual.

There were concerns about living next to a facility where trucks come and go frequently. Ire that the park staff and consultants didn’t seek other location options.

Directing staff to work more with the public on the issue, the board plans to revisit the plan at their first meeting in November. North Minneapolis Park Commissioner Jon Olson made the successful motion.

Board member Annie Young, as chair of the parks’ planning committee, conducted the public hearing.

As reported in the Northeaster July 2, the park system owns the land and the vacant building on it which because of a bad roof, is full of mold. Rather than tear it down, they want to renovate it for vehicle storage, some offices and bathroom and break space for employees. Working conditions and capacity at present operations facilities for the northern half of the city are sub-par; this would help, but not totally replace the other locations.

In a total $4 million project, another parcel to the north of 1720 would be developed as an overlook, giving direct visual connection to river and connecting with a trail behind the building.

During public remarks, park board chair Liz Wielinski broke with protocol to ask Psycho Suzi’s restaurant/bar owner Leslie Bock if she would make a land swap to make up for her deck being built over another potential section of riverfront trail. Young eventually called Wielinski out of order after others in attendance jumped in.

Another factor in the discussion is a move afoot to make the west side of Marshall Street a bike trail, taking away even more parking.

Highlights from the board questions prior to the vote:

Will there be a need for pollution remediation at the end of this building’s life? Yes, “we are not mitigating twice,” staff answered.

Commissioner Brad Bourne asked, “c’mon, are future boards really going to tear this down?” (The argument has been made, since it could take decades before all other businesses are taken off the river or trails created to go around them, even a 39-year amortization of the $4 million could be considered a “temporary” situation.)

Commissioner John Erwin rankled the crowd by saying essentially “other neighborhoods would be thrilled, and you should be grateful for all this land we’ve gotten for you.” (Scherer Brothers, the Rosenberg property, this property and others in recent years.) He acknowledged later that sounded heavy handed and he said “you’ve made good suggestions, and we want “to make it as neighborhood friendly as possible.”

During the meeting it was mentioned that “a gift” had helped push things in the direction of developing an operations center.  The gift from an anonymous donor: $75,000 according to a source tapped after the meeting.