Judge rules 'Downtown East' project may proceed

MINNEAPOLIS - Opponents of the Ryan Companies' Downtown East development project in Minneapolis claimed a partial victory Friday in court, but failed to change the dynamics of the deal.

A Hennepin County judge agreed that the City of Minneapolis can't develop a park in the center of that $400 million project on its own, because only the Parks Board has the authority to acquire, develop and maintain park land.

But the project, which will be anchored by a Wells Fargo headquarters building and a large urban park, won't be derailed by the judge's order. The project will sit next door to the new Vikings stadium, contributing to a makeover of the eastern side of downtown Minneapolis.

Developers and the City Council will have work with the Park Board on acquiring the land, but Hennepin County District Judge Mel Dickstein said he fully expects the City will cooperate with the Parks board.

The case was filed by former city council members Dan Cohen and Paul Ostrow, as well as former mayoral candidate Stephanie Woodruff.

Dickstein rejected the City's argument that the council has its own authority to develop the parks, or that the Downtown East park will be a "square" instead of a city park. He pointed out that the City Council's own minutes refer to the green space as a "park" on several occasions.

But the judge ruled it's too early to grant a restraining order against the City of Minneapolis because the City hasn't technically tried to create a park yet.

The trio of plaintiffs -- Cohen, Ostrow and Woodruff -- also failed to persuade Judge Dickstein that a city-subsidized parking ramp in the Downtown East project will amount to an improper contribution to the Vikings. The judge said that, although the ramp will be used by Vikings fans at least 10 times each year, it will primarily serve residents and businesses in that area of the city.


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