Judge dismisses last of Downtown East lawsuit, but Park Board must own park

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December 20, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Today a Hennepin County judge threw out the last remnants of a lawsuit filed against the city of Minneapolis attempting to temporarily halt the Ryan Cos. Downtown East development.

However, in an 11-page ruling Judge Mel Dickstein concluded that the city of Minneapolis does not have the authority to create new parks on its own; that is a power granted solely to the Park Board.

His ruling ensures that the city must work closely with the Park Board in developing 3.4-acre park – tentatively dubbed “The Yard” – that is part of the Downtown East development, and eventually the city will have to cede ownership of The Yard to the Park Board.

“While the City Council lacks the power to unilaterally obtain land for a park, or to design, build and maintain a park, there is nothing in the Charter that prevents the City Council and the Park Board from working together to advance the City’s interests,” wrote Dickstein.

Dickstein left the door open for a future lawsuit if Minneapolis does not cooperate with the Park Board, but wrote it is too early to rule definitively because the city will not technically own the land until 2016 under its agreement with Ryan Cos. The city is paying Ryan $65 million to purchase land for the park and an adjacent parking ramp.

Last week Dickstein dismissed the lawsuit’s other four claims made by plaintiffs Paul Ostrow, a former Minneapolis City Council president, and Stephanie Woodruff and Dan Cohen, who both ran for mayor this year. City Council approved final plans for the project on Dec. 13.

“The Park Board looks forward to working collaboratively with the Mayor, the City Council and the other parties involved in the Ryan project,” said Park Board President John Erwin in a statement released by the Park Board.