Development update :: Twins move in early

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January 18, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Twins move in early

Kirby Puckett calendar? Check. Baseball shaped pencil holder? Check. Hang in there kitty poster? Check.

Employees of the Minnesota Twins have spent the last two weeks settling into their new cubicles and offices in Target Field, the much-anticipated stadium that will return outdoor baseball this spring to Minneapolis after an 18 year, dome-induced hiatus. Officials from ballpark contractor Mortenson Construction handed over the keys to the new facility on Jan. 4, hosting a ceremonious clubhouse press conference inside the $550 million Target Field.

Business-suited project officials arrived in yellow hard hats, which they traded for blue Twins caps once the keys changed hands.

Team officials weren’t expecting the stadium to be ready until March, one month before the start of the 2010 baseball season. Mortenson executives championed the project’s ahead-of-scheduled completion, which construction executive Dan Mehls called “absolutely unheard of.” Began in August 2007, total construction lasted only 28 months.

Another source of pride was the local sourcing of materials. The famed limestone exterior, expected to be the stadium’s most defining trademark, came via 100 semi-truck loads sent from a Mankato-area quarry. Target Field’s design also calls for the use of Minnesota native landscaping. And with over 96 percent of the laborers coming from the Twin Cities area, according to Mortenson senior vice president John Wood, the work force was hyper local, as well.

Target Field is the eighth American League stadium designed by Populous, a Kansas city-based firm that has created the looks of a half dozen American League ballparks, including the recently completed new Yankees stadium in New York City.

The Twins will be the only tenants of the facility — they had previously shared the Metrodome and its concession profits with the NFL Vikings. The sole occupancy is expected to boost team revenue, potentially making them more powerful in their pursuit of free agent players.

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Jeune Lune building will be auctioned in fire sale

In what could be the final act in a beloved local theater company’s demise, the building formerly occupied by Theatre de la Jeune Lune will go to a sheriff’s sale on Feb. 17. The clock will then start ticking on a six-month redemption period after which the property would officially enter foreclosure.

Before disbanding in 2008, Jeune Lune was influential in building the Twin Cities’ national reputation as a hot bed for forward-thinking theater. The company settled in Minneapolis in 1985, after being founded in Paris by graduates of the famed Ecole Jacques Le Coq school of theater, renowned for its highly physical style of production. Jeune Lune’s 30-year run included a 2005 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater.

The building at 105 1st St. N. — a 19th-century warehouse remodeled by Cass Gilbert — has been vacant since summer of 2008. Jeune Lune bought the property in the early 1990s for $620,000, as part of a $2.8 million capital campaign. It is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2007, four of the five original founding members left the theater, and the ensuing controversy revealed that the company had fallen into a disastrous financial crisis. By the time director Dominique Serrand announced plans to sell the theater building in 2008, the debt load had exceeded $1 million.

In October 2008, the theater announced that it had signed a purchase agreement to sell the building. The anticipated profits were expected to wipe out the whole of Jeune Lune’s debt. The potential buyer, a Minnesota LLC named Rea/Hall, pulled out that December. Club Nuevo expressed interest early in 2009 but ultimately passed on the deal allegedly because it couldn’t secure a liquor license.

Landmark Holdings, also interested in the space, missed a purchase agreement deadline on Sept. 1.

Broker Jim Kenney of CB Richard Ellis has stated that the property is still for sale.

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Nominations sought for most endangered historical places

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is now accepting nominations for its annual list of the state’s 10 Most Endangered Historical Places. Citizens can nominate sites through a form on the Alliance’s website, mnpreservation.org, through Jan 29. Sites that make the final list, which are selected by a jury of preservation professionals and advocates, will be announced at a National Preservation Month event in May.

New this year is a $2,500 seed grant that the Alliance will award to one of the top 10 sites. The winning site will be chosen by popular vote during the May event.

Of the new grant, Alliance executive director Bonnie McDonald said “one of the greatest ways we can help is to provide access to new financial tools.” And while she acknowledges the modesty of the sum, she noted that even smaller grants “can provide critical matching funds for grants from the Minnesota Historical Society or from the Virginia Sweatt Preservation Fund for Minnesota.”

The 10 Most Endangered Historical Places list has been in place for 17 years, and the Alliance claims that over 140 historic sites have been recognized over the list’s history, more than have of which have been saved.  

Reach Gregory J. Scott at gscott@mnpubs.com.