Downtown East plan clears council after final meeting

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minneapolis City Council sent a message when it approved Ryan Companies' Downtown East Project with a 12-0 vote.

The vote came after a very emotional hour that began the meeting. Six council members and the outgoing Mayor were forced to say goodbye.

"Folks, you know I'm kind of an emotional guy," outgoing Council Member Robert Lilligren told his colleagues fighting back tears.

"All of our department heads have been great," outgoing Council Member Meg Tuthill added.

Several of the "misty-eyed" members thanked staff and each other. Outgoing Mayor RT Rybak did too.

And then the council plowed through its last meeting together, approving a measure forgiving $1.5 million in debt at the Midtown Global Market, which the mayor hailed a long-shot turned into an economic success for dozens of small business owners. It was a project the city took on with Ryan Companies, who had a new development project on the docket.

The $400 million Downtown East Project was up for final approval on this final meeting of the council.

"I'm excited about growing the tax base," Council Member Cam Gordon said. "This is being financed right," outgoing member Gary Schiff said, before Tuthill added "I can't think of a better Christmas present."

The city is backing $65 million in bonds. In return, it gets a two-block downtown park plus parking revenue and property tax revenue from a new Wells Fargo Headquarters housing 5,000 workers in 1 million square foot of office space. It all sits next to a new Vikings stadium.

After a year of discussion, the plan passed the council unanimously, but it has one last hurdle to clear. A lawsuit filed over the financing and location and cost of the project will be ruled on by Hennepin County Judge Mel Dickstein next week. It's a crucial decision as the parties look to sign contracts on the development by Dec. 27.

"At that point, that is what we call our last contingency date," Rick Collins of Ryan said.

Rybak says he's not concerned and planned to have several meetings to add to the downtown development plan in his final days in office.

"If I curled up in the fetal position every time somebody filed a suit against the city of Minneapolis, we wouldn't have gotten much done. We're extremely confident in our position and this will get built," he concluded.


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