Downtown East clears first hurdle with unanimous city council vote

A rendering of the proposed new development and park.
A rendering of the proposed new development and park.

On Friday morning, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved the rough idea of a  $400 million project that will reshape the area around the new Vikings Stadium, a project being called "Downtown East." The green light means that now, the city can start hammering out specifics with the developer, Ryan Companies, and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

See Also:
- Mpls unveils $400 million plan to convert Star Tribune land into downtown's biggest park
- New Vikings stadium design revealed [IMAGES]

The project, revealed about two months ago, would re-make five blocks that are now largely surface parking lots, transforming them into more than one million square feet of office space, up to 350 housing units, and 40,000 square feet of retail (including, of course, new skyways, paid for by the MSFA). The plans also feature a new two-block park ("The Yard") and a 1,300-stall parking structure (the "McClellan Ramp").

For those last two items, the city itself is on the hook, to the tune of about $65 million: $15-20 million for the park, and the rest for the parking ramp.

The city's proposing bonds -- to be paid back over 30 years from parking revenues -- in order to finance those pieces. According to the proposal, Ryan will guarantee the bonds for the first ten years, and then, if parking doesn't perform, the MSFA will cover longer-term shortfalls. The city council will have a vote on the details after they come together, some time in the next few months.

Some are urging a cautious approach to the project. Among them is mayoral candidate Cam Winton, who held a press conference outside Block E on Thursday afternoon as a reminder of how city real estate investments can sour when the city commits before being sure of the financing.

Another sign that this giant stadium spaceship is really landing: The MSFA announced today that, after reviewing six proposals, it's negotiating food and drink for the stadium with the Philadelphia-based Aramark Hospitality, which provides concessions to 13 of the 32 NFL stadiums.

Check out more renderings of the new downtown here.

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