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Council to vote on proposed parkland north of future stadium

Posted on 27 October 2017 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
St. Paul’s Major League Soccer stadium is taking shape as the St. Paul City Council is set to vote Nov. 15 on the parkland dedication agreement for the property. That follows a St. Paul Parks and Recreation Commission unanimous approval Sept. 14 of a parkland dedication agreement with Minnesota United for property north of Allianz Field.

The property is one of two green blocks planned between the stadium and University Ave. The agreement is touted as providing a green space for public use and Minnesota United events, while not adding park maintenance and operations cost to the city. But the advocacy group Friends of the Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County is raising questions.

Friends Director Shirley Erstad called the agreement “problematic” because the soccer team doesn’t own the Midway Center land. Lead team owner Bill McGuire has a master lease agreement with Midway Center ownership but doesn’t own the shopping center property where the park would be located.

The 18-page agreement dedicating the park space indicated that Minnesota United doesn’t yet own the property but that it is seeking title to the land.

The Midway Center master plan approved last year by the City Council shows two parks north of the stadium. The agreement moving to City Council is for the Great Lawn just north of the stadium. A similar park is planned further north, just south of University Ave. It will be covered by a separate agreement.

Green space and a plaza are also planned at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony. McGuire said the site will have amenities including sidewalks with trees and plantings.

St. Paul requires developers to either dedicate land for park space or pay a fee. When the preliminary plat for the Midway Center site redevelopment was approved last year, one condition called for no less than .63 acres be dedicated to the public for parks purposes. The plans approved Sept. 14 meet that agreement.

Minnesota United told city officials it would meet the parkland dedication requirement by entering into a separate agreement to develop and maintain private land for park purposes. This is only the second time in St. Paul that a parkland dedication requirement would be met this way. The first was at Beacon Bluff, a commercial development along Phalen Blvd.

St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm said the complex agreement provides benefits for the city. City officials believe the agreement protects both the city and soccer team’s interests. If the city had to acquire the land, it would cost as much as $2 million.

One condition of the 18-page agreement is that Minnesota United must provide a property covenant outlining the property’s park purpose. If the team fails to maintain the land for park purposes, the team would have to pay the city $500,000.

Parks commissioners asked that potential challenges to the land ownership issue be specifically addressed when the agreement is presented for a City Council vote. “This is an agreement wrapped in another agreement,” said Commissioner Dan Marckel.

Minnesota United will develop, maintain and operate the Great Lawn space. It will be tied into the stormwater drainage system for the area around it and will have amenities including sidewalks, trees, benches, planting, trash receptacles and public art. The team would pay for those features, at a cost that is likely to exceed $250,000.

The park could be used for active and passive recreation and public gatherings. Hahm said uses must be consistent with park uses spelled out by city ordinance. He said that it is a “given” that groups could exercise their free speech rights in the park space.

But park users would have to follow the rules used in city parks, such as operating hours and prohibitions on activities such as overnight camping.

Under the agreement, Minnesota United would have exclusive rights to use the park for its league events, home events, club events, tryouts, and practices. Food and beverages, including liquor, could be sold during those events if the appropriate licenses and insurance are in place.

The team would also have the exclusive right to determine park programming on the parcel. Minnesota United would work with the city on a permit process for park uses requiring a permit.

Minnesota United would also have park naming rights and would retain all revenues and benefits tied to those naming rights.

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