Walker Art Center will go it alone on road project after funding rejected by Minneapolis City Council

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Instead of putting money toward the Walker project, the council voted to shift the $400,000 to the concrete streets rehabilitation committee.

The Walker Art Center wanted the City of Minneapolis to go halfsies on the cost of remaking a stretch of road between the museum and the Sculpture Garden, Vineland Place. The purpose was to slow traffic and make it easier to walk and bike on the road once improvements to both the building and the garden are completed this year and next.

Mayor Betsy Hodges was all for it, making the city’s share of the work — $400,000 — a late addition to her 2016 capital projects budget. But in an equally last-minute action, the council, on a 10-3 vote, removed the money from the budget. The Walker will have to pick up the cost on its own.

The council’s rejection of a request from one of the city’s major art institutions was done with only a bit of comment at the Dec. 9 meeting; in fact, nobody mentioned the Walker.

And though it was the only amendment to the capital budget offered that night, even that brief action was lost in the drama that enveloped the meeting. Activists had just succeeded in heading off a proposed budget amendment to spend $605,000 on repairs and renovations to the 4th Precinct police station in north Minneapolis.

Council Member Kevin Reich, who voted to remove the money for the Walker project from the budget, explained that the council’s move wasn’t about “any demerit to the project proposed, but just an insistence that it go through our typical capital review process, particularly that part of the process that vets things with a lens to a need-based allocation and prioritization.”

That’s budget lingo for council members being unhappy that the item did not go through the normal process, including the citizen advisory panel known as the Capital Long-range Improvements Committee. In addition, road projects are put in priority order based on the condition of the surface, with the worst roads going to the top of the list.

Reich said last week that Vineland has a nearly perfect rating and there are nearby roads in bad condition. “In this case, even local leadership of the area had lists of much worse roads,” said Reich, who chairs the council’s transportation and public works committee.

Instead of putting money toward the Walker project, the council voted to shift the $400,000 to the concrete streets rehabilitation program.

Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose ward contains the Walker and the Sculpture Garden and who voted against funding the museum project, said she didn’t have much to say about it.

“I don’t think there is anything to comment on,” she wrote via email. “The mayor added a project to her capital proposal that didn’t go through the CLIC process.” She said the Walker is moving toward funding the entire paving project on its own, probably through a 20-year property tax assessment.

Voting to keep the Walker project money in the budget were council members Cam Gordon, Alondra Cano and Lisa Bender.

Kevin Reich
Council Member Kevin Reich

Ben Hecker, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the Walker’s request came to Hodges after the CLIC process had been completed. “We considered this more of an economic development infrastructure investment,” Hecker said. “It would have leveraged investments by the Walker and the state (which has money in the renovation). The Walker is a key driver of the arts economy of Minneapolis.”

Hecker said council budget amendments are “always expected.”

“We’d have prefered that it remain, but we’re optimistic there are other ways to get it funded,” Hecker said.

In an e-mail, the Walker’s deputy director and chief operating officer, David Galligan, said the purpose of the repaving is to improve the connection between the museum and the sculpture garden. (A major expansion of the sculpture garden was announced last week, with 16 new works to be added when it reopens in June 2017).

“The goal is to slow traffic to better ensure pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as create a campus-like feel” to the area, wrote Galligan. “While the city decided not to use capital funds for the project, the city, Walker, Minneapolis Park Board, affected neighborhoods and other interested parties are exploring alternative ways to fund the project …”

Galligan wrote that the hope is to complete the project this year at a lower cost “given that contractors are already deployed in the area.

“No conclusion has been reached at this time as to the project’s feasibility,” Galligan wrote.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Craig Johnson on 01/25/2016 - 11:26 am.

    Walker Should Threaten To Move

    Surely there is some community that would be thrilled to have the Walker Art Center in their locale. Certainly they would be willing to’s provide buildings and roads why doesn’t the Walker Art Center just simply say unless we get these facilities we’re going to move to Des Moines? It seem to work for the Vikings real well. Truly I believe the Walker Art Center is more important to the quality of life in Minnesota than the Vikings.

    Shame on you city council.

    • Submitted by Larry Moran on 01/25/2016 - 12:17 pm.

      Walker Road Project

      The city council could not see any reason to tear up a perfectly good road (whose condition is rated among the highest in the city) when so many other roads need significant work. Other streets in much worse condition are actually much less safe for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. If Vineland is unsafe at this point there must be another way to make it safer without spending $400,000.

      If they’re going to spend money on the streets I’d rather have them spend it where it’s actually needed.

    • Submitted by noah kurth on 01/25/2016 - 01:34 pm.

      Threaten to move? Do you really think the Walker Art Center could actually convincingly threaten to move? An institution intertwined with the history and people of the Twin Cities? Just abandon the buliding the landmark buliding by a famous architect (Edward Larabee Barnes) that they have been in since the 1970s? (Including the expansion they opened only 11 years ago) or The revolutionary public/private partnership that is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that is currently getting an approximately $11 Million remake?
      No one at the Walker would be so stupid to attempt such a completely ludicrous threat. Where as moving an NFL team to LA is a very plausible threat, just ask St. Louis. (For the record I wish the Vikings had moved, that stadium deal was terrible for the state of Minnesota)
      I would agree with Minneapolis city council that there are roads in Minneapolis in far far greater need of repairs and upgrades than Vineland Place.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hess on 01/25/2016 - 12:34 pm.

    Interesting Contrast

    I am surprised the Mayor would be so supportive of an investment like this touting the economic benefits of the improvement, but be so adamantly opposed to the slightest public funding for the soccer stadium.

  3. Submitted by Britter Ritter on 01/25/2016 - 05:39 pm.

    Not Nice

    The Council did the right thing. Roads are for moving traffic along, not slowing it down, especially for the convenience of a business that is already at the corner crosswalk. If they wanted to make a pedestrian bridge, fine if they pay for it. Drivers need access to drop off and pick up people, no? The area looked better when the Guthrie Theater was there. And had more class.

  4. Submitted by Riley Curran on 01/25/2016 - 07:50 pm.

    As a bonus…they could get crazy with it now

    Government money inevitably comes pragmatism, without those rules they could make the new street a piece of art that literally connects the indoor museum to the outdoor sculpture garden.

    • Submitted by noah kurth on 01/25/2016 - 09:11 pm.

      Sol LeWitt Crosswalk.

      There was a time where the crosswalk between the Walker and the Sculpture Garden was an art installation specifically commissioned for that space. It was removed after 7 winters worth of wear and tear as it was decided it was too expensive to maintain as a crosswalk, that’s why they are having it reinstalled on one of thier rooftop terraces where it won’t get damaged by the snowplows.

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