Last-minute lawsuit could snag development near stadium

MINNEAPOLIS -- A last-minute lawsuit filed over the Downtown East Development could delay the highly visible project.

"The whole deal is at risk," said City Attorney Susan Segal, noting that a Ryan Company deal for the Star Tribune building has to be complete by Dec. 27.

The emergency hearing before Judge Mel Dickstein comes on the eve of the Minneapolis City Council's expected approval of the project.

"Bottom line, we just want to make sure this deal is done right and there's proper transparency and that the taxpayers are represented here," Stephanie Woodruff, one of three citizens who filed the suit.

Woodruff was also a candidate for mayor this fall.

The plaintiffs say the $65 million in bonds that they city will use for part of the $400 million Downtown East Plan is part of the stadium's infrastructure, since the money will fund a parking ramp connected to the stadium. That ramp is for the Wells Fargo headquarters, but will be used by Vikings fans on game days.

The city, under state rules, can only put $150 million into the project, and when you add in the $65 million, it will exceed that limit, plaintiff attorney Paul Ostrow argued.

Segal and staff attorney Peter Ginder say this development deal is not unlike most development projects that the city puts money into. They also argue it is a separate deal not connected to the stadium plan.

Plaintiff attorney Ostrow also argued to the court that the park board was ignored even though there is green space in the development, which he says violates a charter. Furthermore, he says, the city should not have used the Port Authority to finance the project.

"We're hoping the court decides to take a look at all that," Ostrow said.

Segal said the city is on solid ground and that while the city bonds $65 million for Downtown East, it will get $150 million in property taxes over the next 30 years.

"Money is flowing from the Stadium Authority into this project rather than reverse," she told reporters.

Dickstein is expected to make a ruling next week.


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