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Dock Street developers frustrated with Hennepin County over ‘transit trench’

“It’s abundantly clear that the county does not know what it wants,” said a company spokesman.

The developers for the Dock Street apartments let it be known that they have no love for the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority during Thursday’s public hearing.

“It’s abundantly clear that the county does not know what it wants,” said Steve Luthman, speaking for the Hines Northstar Crossings Limited Partnership, the developer for the Dock Street site.

The proposed apartment building would abut Washington Avenue North and be bordered on one side by the Cedar Lake Bicycle Trail, which is part of a transit trench that also includes some rail lines and could include more at some point.

Hennepin County wants the developer to create a bike corridor under the building that would guarantee the future of the trail, should rail traffic in the trench expand.

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The matter has been delayed twice to allow more negotiations.

Hennepin County came to the table Thursday expecting another delay, but the developer was having none of it and wanted an immediate decision in its favor.

It is clear to Hines negotiators that Hennepin County does not know what trains might come to the trench, or when, Luthman told the Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee.

“It is not clear to us or clear to anyone that the Cedar Lake Bike Trail will be displaced,” he said, adding that Hennepin County is also unwilling to pay for any extra expense incurred by the developer because of the bike trail.

“Any resolution of the bike trail on private property will require compensation,” said Carol Lansing, an attorney for Hines, who asked the committee to decide immediately which side would prevail. “This project does not impact the Cedar Lake Bike Trail as it exists,” she added.

“This is their Kmart moment,” said Hennepin County Board Commissioner Peter McLaughlin of the council’s decision.

He was referring to an earlier City Council’s decision to block off Nicollet Avenue to accommodate a Kmart store — an action that now frustrates the current City Council. When the decision to block off Nicollet Avenue was made, the then-council members thought they were making a wise decision.

“We need to find a solution that will work for the next generation,” said McLaughlin after the meeting.

He is concerned that should the railroad lines in the trench expand in the years ahead that the bike trail would have no place to go and would stop short of reaching the Mississippi River as it now does.

This fight is not over. The committee decided to delay action for another two weeks to give both sides more time for negotiations. Assuming, of course, that anyone on either side is still on speaking terms.

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Two Cities blog, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul City Halls, is made possible in part by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation.