Built for Conflict

Steve Minn's gotta fight for his right to develop

Minn and his partners have the money all lined up--a $3.2 million loan from the city, another $23 million from bonds approved by Hennepin County, plus $6.45 million of their own. They're still in negotiations with owner John Drummond over the two final parcels of land. Securing eminent domain on a rail line owned by Minnesota Commercial Railroad and used by Archer Daniels Midland Co.--the topic of the April 8 hearing--might prove a taller hurdle. Minn says ADM has agreed to stop using the line, and that getting the city's permission to condemn is simply precautionary.

That's precisely the sort of behavior that irks Paul Zerby. "It's just a bargaining chip for him, to say the city might condemn," Zerby asserts. "It may have been a commonly accepted way of doing business in the past. But I say negotiate with the landowner now and let the neighborhood be in the planning."

He'd be more than happy to negotiate in good faith, Minn counters, if Zerby would stop trying to scuttle his dream of "industrial-style" lofts on the riverfront. At one point, Minn notes, Zerby, along with fellow city council newcomers Dan Niziolek and Natalie Johnson Lee, attempted (albeit unsuccessfully) to derail a $750,000 check the city received from the State of Minnesota to clean up pollution on the site. "You never send money back to the state," Minn says incredulously. (Zerby says he was concerned because the money was directly tied to the development.)

See what develops: Steve Minn stakes his claim to apartments on the riverfront
Diana Watters
See what develops: Steve Minn stakes his claim to apartments on the riverfront

While acknowledging that he has a financial stake in the outcome, Minn insists he's trying to do something to benefit the city. Besides, he says, the development is a fait accompli. "I've had the approval of the city council, the Met Council, and the Minneapolis Community Development Agency," he says. "It's not a question of whether we want to date, or even get married, or have a baby. The question is: Do we buy pink or blue, because the baby's coming."

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