‘No windfall’ in sale of Plym-Penn Center


But the U of M’s purchase of the facility, plus loan forgiveness from NRP, could help NRRC pay off other debts and stay in business.

The Plymouth-Penn Shopping Center will soon be off the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council’s (NRRC) hands. The University of Minnesota has agreed to purchase the center for $1.125 million.

School officials say that after they finalize the sale in November, plans are to completely renovate the center. “The University of Minnesota is trying to create the first urban outreach research center [in the country],” said U of M Director of Real Estate Susan Carlson Weinberg, adding that it will be modeled after the university’s agricultural research centers already established around the state.

In a phone interview last week, Weinberg gave no impression that the shopping center purchase was ever in jeopardy. The school’s regents recently met during the week of September 3, and she said that they reviewed the offer.

“Everything is moving forward,” noted Weinberg. “We expect the Board of Regents to give final approval in November.” University officials already have begun talks with the center’s four remaining tenants and will pay their relocation costs, Weinberg noted.

Sullivan explained that the new center is the first result of the University Northside Partnership, which was created and approved in August 2006. The U of M and NRRC together will establish “a think tank that is going to generate research projects that will benefit our community,” she continued. “I think it is a life-changing event for this community at this critical time.”

Nonetheless, rumors and false charges, such as that NRRC secretly negotiated the U of M deal, continue to swirl around the proposed shopping center sale. Sullivan said such charges have come from people who don’t live on the North Side.

“We weren’t pursuing the university to buy our property,” Sullivan said. “NNRC was open to people submitting bids.”

She claims that in two meetings held in July and August of 2006, 65 percent of voting residents “said they were supportive of the university coming into the community. We had that community endorsement.” After that, the NRRC board authorized her to begin discussions with the U of M.

“There is no windfall” from the sale of the center, Sullivan stressed. NRRC has outstanding loans, including a $502,000 loan from Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Policy (NRP).

The MSR reported last week that NRP Executive Director Robert Miller was given 30 days to work with NRRC on that loan, which went in default August 1; NRRC had previously sought forgiveness of the loan but was denied.

Miller said that the 30-day negotiating period began August 28 and that he has started a “dialogue” with NRRC, agreeing to help them complete their 2006 financial audit. He added that NRP also plans to meet with other NRRC creditors in the next 10 days.

Even selling the center at supposedly 90 percent of its actual value (according to NRRC, it has been appraised at an estimated $1.7 million), is still a good deal in Sullivan’s view, ending over a decade of frustration in operating it. “I think it’s approximately around that value,” she surmised. “I did not see the hard copy of the appraisal.”

With renovation costs, plus relocation fees for the center tenants, as well as other costs related to acquiring the shopping center, Weinberg said that the university’s offer “is absolutely fair.”

“They didn’t low-ball us,” said Sullivan of the U of M’s final purchase price.

NRRC board member Shirlynn LaChapelle said she hopes the two Northside neighborhoods that the organization serves fully support the U of M deal. “We have a chance to build something beautiful,” she said. “I think it is a shame that the community as a whole doesn’t back this neighborhood organization and help to build this community.”

Finally, residents should be excited about the Plymouth-Penn area soon becoming a “university community” and “a learning community,” Sullivan pointed out. “We are going to have a University of Minnesota facility in this community that will be linked to a partnership that is unprecedented in the country.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.