Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON
A sweeping plan to add a park, jumbo display screen, retail stores and a public plaza to the $79.3 million rail hub being built near Target Field will get the go-ahead Thursday from the Hennepin County Board.
The new hub, to be called Target Field Station, will be Minnesota’s version of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal when it opens next year, Twins President Dave St. Peter said Wednesday.
“All things rail lead to this station,” he said.
The project is expected to revitalize downtown Minneapolis’ North Loop area. It arose from a need for a bigger transit hub both for riders coming to Twins games and the looming convergence of five rail lines — four light-rail and one commuter — at the site.
Rather than a bare-bones, transit-only hub, the county pumped up the project to include retail, parking, a public gathering spot and green space, the Metropolitan Transit police headquarters and potentially privately developed offices above the police headquarters.
“This is going to be a spectacular facility tied to the ballpark, transit and the neighborhood,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who led talks for the county.
In the deal, which has been the subject of closed-door negotiations for more than a year, the Twins and United Properties will pay $3.7 million to the county: $1.75 million in cash, $240,000 to defray the cost of building 250 parking spaces for future office space, $750,000 for a jumbo display screen overlooking the 65,000-square-foot public plaza, and $1 million in unspecified enhancements and features. The team and Metropolitan Transit also will divide operating costs for the plaza, which will include maintenance, security and programming.
The Hiawatha light-rail line — now the Blue Line — already snakes past the three-year-old ballpark to the Mall of America. The Central Corridor running down University Avenue to St. Paul’s Union Depot will open next year. The Southwest Corridor running to the suburbs is in development as the next line, and the Bottineau line heading northward is in public planning discussions. The North Star commuter rail line departs within steps of new station.
County Board Chairman Mike Opat said the station will be a “special place that people will remember whether they live here or are just traveling through. It’s part transit station, part art venue and part entertainment center.”
Target Corp.’s Bryan Suchy is part of the design team. He has worked on projects such as the Lincoln Center, the Washington Monument and the Beijing Olympics venue, Opat said.
Aiming for ‘dynamic’
The Twins play 81 home games a year, so the plaza on those dates will be tightly connected to the games. The county has retained programming rights for 15 days, McLaughlin said. Events on the remaining days will be planned with input from the team, county and North Loop residents and businesses.
For example, the plaza and amphitheater could be the site of movie nights, music and festivals. The jumbo screen could broadcast games for not just the Twins, but other Minnesota teams.
Funding for the project is coming from many sources, including $17 million in state bonding money, more than $20 million in federal grants, $1.8 million from the Minnesota Ballpark Authority (part of which is for three public art projects at the site) and $500,000 from Minneapolis. County taxpayers were to pay $22 million initially, but portions of the Twins deal could shave that contribution to $16 million in coming years.
“We were all focused on the same thing, which is: How can we brand the station? How can we take what’s already a pretty space and make it more dynamic?” St. Peter said.
The addition of Target Field extended downtown Minneapolis west past Interstate 394, McLaughlin said. And this project, he continued, will extend the urban core even farther.
The project will help connect the North Loop Neighborhood with its roots. The name refers to the trolley line that once ran through the area, which is part of Minneapolis’ Warehouse District. In the early 1980s, the North Loop evolved from industrial to artsy, and it has since become home to the ballpark, hip apartments, high-end urban lofts and some of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars.
The neighborhood population nearly tripled from 1,500 residents in 2000 to 4,300 in 2010. The project formerly known as the Interchange is touted on the neighborhood association’s website.
McLaughlin said the decision to put a tunnel under the rail lines was a bow to North Loop’s desire to be connected.
The Twins are expected to develop 2,400 square feet of retail space near the hub. The businesses will be chosen to serve both rail riders and to meet the desires of the neighborhood, St. Peter said.
United Properties has an option to develop the space on top of the transit police headquarters, but what happens next there will depend on market forces, St. Peter said.
The station and plaza will open at the same time as the Central Corridor — sometime before Target Field plays host to the All-Star game in July 2014.
© 2013 Star Tribune