Each had something the other wanted. After years of wrangling, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Graco Inc. have reached an agreement that will create a new park in Northeast Minneapolis.
Officials from both entities made the announcement Friday, Sept. 28 on the flat, windswept acreage next to the Mississippi River that will become Graco Park. The new park, which overlooks recently-reconstructed Hall’s Island, will become part of the Above the Falls Regional Park, which includes parkland on both sides of the river and extends from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge to the city limits.
Brad Bourne, MPRB president, said the agency has a commitment to bringing parkland to all Minneapolis neighborhoods, regardless of ZIP Code. “You have only to look at the Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Falls, to the river behind us, to see that there’s a large disparity in the quality of the amenities in Northeast Minneapolis along the river.” He said representatives from both sides have met for the last six months to develop “clear and common understanding for the goals for the land we’re standing on today.”
When MPRB acquired the 11-acre Scherer Bros. Lumber Company site in 2010, according to a joint press release, MPRB, the City of Minneapolis and Metropolitan Council agreed that a 3.55-acre piece of land next to the Graco facility would not be used as parkland. MPRB bought the land to have access to the river. It’s known as Parcel D.
MPRB and Graco had tussled over a trail easement through Graco’s property for years, and at one time the park board offered the entire parcel up for private development in a complex lease formula that would support parkland, but got no takers. In one of the agreements reached between the two, Graco will give the easement to MPRB, which will sell 2.2 acres of Parcel D to Graco for its fair market value of $1.1 million. In addition, the Graco Foundation will donate more than $3 million for the park, receiving 30-year naming rights to the park.
“Effective private-public partnerships take time and careful negotiations,” noted Christian Rothe, president of Graco’s, Worldwide Applied Fluid Technologies Division. “This is a win for everyone.” He said Graco had deep roots in Minneapolis; it was founded 90 years ago in a downtown parking lot. “Northeast has been our home for 64 years.” He said the Graco acquisition would provide a smooth transition between industrial use and the park and would give the company flexibility to grow its business.
Graco has no immediate plans to build on its part of Parcel D, but spokesperson Charlotte Boyd said it may be used for offices or a training center, “Something that takes advantage of the view of the park, the river and downtown.” MPRB will most likely use the remaining portion of Parcel D on Sibley Street for a concessions stand for the new park.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was on hand to hail the agreement; he brought the parties to the bargaining table when he served as Third Ward council member. “It’s going to be a world-class park with a beach and an island. Within a few years, you will see this space jam-packed with people enjoying the view of the Minneapolis skyline, the sun overhead and the beautiful Mississippi River. This is a great step forward for the Park Board, the neighborhoods around the park and for Graco. It’s something that will last generations.”
All told, Graco’s financial commitment comes to around $10.6 million when release of its condemnation claim, prepayment of park dedication fees, payment for flood protection measures on Parcel D, and the donation from the Graco Foundation are taken into account.
MPRB’s Administration and Finance Committee will vote Oct. 3 on a resolution regarding the agreements, and the full board will vote on Oct. 17. If approved, the agreements could be finalized by the end of the year. Public input sessions would take place in 2019. Construction could begin in 2020-21, and the new park could open to the public as soon as 2022, “possibly a generation earlier than anyone had anticipated,” said Bourne.
Below: Parks chief Mary Merrill, Graco’s division president Christian Rothe, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. The Hall’s island beach under construction, the new park land. (Photos by Cynthia Sowden) The map showing how the land would be divided. (Graphic courtesy Graco)