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Rybak, downtown leaders are on different pages on Vikes stadium site

That’s not a big problem at this point, boosters say in unveiling their “Downtown 2025” vision. Capitol observers, though, may not agree.

Plans unveiled by the Minneapolis Downtown Council involve new connections to the University of Minnesota, including a residential district on the Metrodome site.
Downtown Council
Plans unveiled by the Minneapolis Downtown Council involve new connections to the University of Minnesota, including a residential district on the Metrodome site.

The Minneapolis Downtown Council unveiled its 15-year plan this morning, one filled with hopes, dreams, green spaces, a re-done Nicollet Mall – and, most interestingly, a Vikings’ stadium located on the western edge of downtown, near the Twins’ Target Field.

For those paying attention, that’s far from the Metrodome site favored by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

The mayor was not at this major unveiling, presented by downtown business leaders and top Hennepin County officials. He was tied up in budget meetings at City Hall.

But the differences between the mayor’s stadium vision and the vision of those who put together the “Downtown 2025” plan certainly will not play well at the Capitol. In two hearings before a state Senate committee in recent weeks, legislators told Rybak that it’s important that the city settle on a single site.

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How significant is this split?

It was difficult to pin down anyone. But clearly, the split exists.

Stadium site ‘a work in progress’
For example, the chairman of the Hennepin County Board, Mike Opat, suggested that the whole issue of where to put a Vikings stadium is “still a work in progress.

“There’s a lot of work to be done on this project,” Opat said. “Without clear funding, it’s fair to evaluate all options.”

Leaders of the groups that put this plan together over the course of a year attempted to minimize the significance of differing sites for a Vikings’ stadium.

Sam Grabarski, Downtown Council president and CEO, among others, said the stadium isn’t the linchpin of the plan and that there’s room for more discussion about where the stadium should ultimately be located.

“The Metrodome site is still open to all options,” Grabarski said. “The important thing is to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.”

John Griffith, an executive vice president with Target and the man who led the planning committees, made the same point: Keeping the Vikings in Minnesota is more important than the final location of a stadium.

The Vikings, he said, “keeps us on the worldwide stage, and that’s important. … There is a great opportunity on the west side.”

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Although this plan has nothing specific aimed at the Metrodome site, Grabarski spoke of how that location would be ideal for creating a new and “unique” residential neighborhood.

Creating room for more housing is a centerpiece of the plan, which calls for doubling the number of downtown residents from the current 34,000 by 2025.

Overall costs of this massive plan, by the way, is estimated to be $2 billion. Those revenues, leaders of the planning process say, would come from both public and private resources.

It’s easy to wonder if these plans don’t simply end up in some closet gathering dust, after they’ve been unveiled.

“They will never be followed verbatim,” said Opat of these futuristic plans. “But they let you dream. Especially now, there’s not a lot of dreaming going on.” 

Grabarski pointed out that the Downtown Council has existed since the mid-1950s and came up with its first long-range plan in 1959. That initial plan, he said, led to the creation of the Nicollet Mall and the once wow-inducing skyway system.

The most recent 15-year plan, he said, included light rail, a new library and a new baseball park.

All of those things have come to pass.

Plan’s 10 key components
He noted that the turnout of leaders from businesses of all sizes shows the high level of civic spirit in Minneapolis.

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The plan’s 10 initiatives include:

1. Double the downtown residential population to 70,000.

2. Transform Nicollet Mall into a “must see” regional and even national destination.

3. Build Gateway Park, a “central park” that would create a “grand connection” between downtown and the Mississippi River.

4. Create a consistently compelling downtown experience of arts and entertainment.

5. Establish a downtown sports district that includes a new Vikings stadium and a renovated Target Center.

6. Lead the nation in entertainment options.

7. Create and sustain a green infrastructure.

8. Forge connections to the University of Minnesota, including a residential district on the Metrodome site.

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9. End street homelessness.

10. Launch a festival of ideas, apparently a festival concept that’s been used successful in other cities.

“This plan is not about ‘good enough,’ ” said Opat. “It’s about greatness.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.