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January 31, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Plymouth Avenue Bridge repair could cost $7–$10 million

ST. ANTHONY WEST — The Plymouth Avenue bridge could cost $7–$10 million to repair, according to preliminary estimates.

Project Manager Jack Yuzna said he thinks the cable corrosion was aggravated by chloride salt that is added to the streets during the winter. The Plymouth bridge design is more susceptible to the chloride, and inspectors discovered that small amounts of water had seeped into the bridge from very early on, harming the concrete.

The bridge is Minneapolis’ only structure of this type, Yuzna said, and the technology came out of post-war Europe as an economical method of spanning bridges that were lost there.

To fix the bridge, city staff expect to redesign the water drainage system so it’s external to the bridge box.

Although the bridge is now open to pedestrians and cyclists, Yuzna cautioned that the sidewalk doesn’t have the proper fencing or width to allow bicyclists to ride across safely. Bikes normally use a traffic lane to cross the bridge, he said.

“From the very first day, that’s been a question from the public asking when they can get back on [the bridge],” Yuzna said at a city meeting in early January.  “When we were out there doing the inspections, there was quite a bit of trespassing going on.”

— Michelle Bruch


Metrodome roof may not be fixed until August

ELLIOT PARK — The entire roof of the Metrodome may need to be replaced, a repair job that could take six months to complete, according to Ted Mondale, newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Following a Jan. 20 commission meeting, Mondale said that frigid temperatures had delayed work on a damage assessment, which will determine if the roof needs to be wholly or only partially repaired. If the engineers determine that the Dome needs a whole new roof, the repairs would most likely not be completed in time for the Vikings preseason games in August.

In that case, the Vikings have floated the possibility of holding their preseason games in TCF Bank Stadium, where the University of Minnesota’s football team plays home games. The Vikings have already played on the college field once, hosting the Chicago Bears there on Dec. 20, just eight days after a record snowfall caused the Teflon-coated fiberglass roof to tear and cave in.

With their lease expiring at the end of next season, the Vikings are aggressively pushing to have a new stadium built, and the potential delay in repairs is expected to bring renewed urgency to their cause.

State lawmakers who support the team’s request are aiming by later in February to introduce a proposal that would include a location, type of stadium and a financing plan.

— Gregory J. Scott


Tim Lewike promises Target Center turn-around

DOWNTOWN CORE — With last year’s frothy excitement over Target Field and this year’s drama surrounding the Metrodome, it’s easy to forget about Downtown’s other professional sports venue: 18-year-old Target Center.

Tim Lewike, CEO and president of facilities management firm AEG, who took control of Target Center in mid-2009, is now pushing hard for an ambitious renovation that would drive down costs at the Timberwolves’ home and make it more competitive with St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

Lewike, whose impressive accomplishments include building a $2.5 billion entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles and operating the L.A. Kings hockey team, has yet to discuss specific proposals for modernizing Target Center. He says only that he’s exploring “long-term solutions.” Some ideas floated involve installing a green roof and making the building’s north façade, which faces Target Field, more available for advertising signage.

But just last October, Twins officials were upset when the Timberwolves cut a deal with South Dakota-based Sanford Health to allow the company to post a huge sign on the outside of Target Center, which was highly visible from the baseball stadium.

Lewike told reporters in mid-January that the Target Center refurbishment could cost upwards of $100 million. Where the money will come from is unclear.

The City of Minneapolis has already sunk $14 million in the facility over the last five years, improving sound, installing a new scoreboard and replacing seats. Target Center is one of the oldest NBA arenas in the league.

Lewike has promised to reveal his plan by the end of the year. AEG’s management contract for the facility runs through 2028.

In mid-2009, the city of Minneapolis hired facilities management firm AEG to help make Target Center more competitive with St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. AEG operates 50 arenas nationwide, including Staples Center in Los Angeles.

— Gregory J. Scott


NE firefighters museum hires historical consultants

HOLLAND — The Bill and Bonnie Daniels Firefighters Hall and Museum, at 664 22nd Ave. NE, has won a $7,000 grant and is using the money to hire expert museum consultants to help legitimize the facility as a historical institution.

“What we have with the fire museum is a group of enthusiasts or collectors who got together with a like passion, but they don’t know how to take it to the next level,” said Kidd Jean, a member trustee of the museum.

“So that’s what this is for. To take it from a group of enthusiasts and make it a professional organization.”

The Firefighters Hall has been in Holland for five years, but its history dates back at least to 1979, Jean said. In addition to its meeting hall and its many interactive displays, the museum also features historic fire rigs that are more than 100 years old.

With the grant money, which flows from Minnesota’s cultural heritage Legacy Amendment, the museum has hired the Bluestem Heritage Group as a consultant.

“We’ll do an attendance analysis, we’ll do an overview of how we’re maintaining our collection,” said Jean.

She added that this summer the museum plans to partner with neighboring Edison High School to have students paint a mural along the building’s 200-foot wall, which faces the Edison football field.

— Gregory J. Scott


Affordable housing comes to 7th & Hennepin

DOWNTOWN CORE — A mostly vacant building on Downtown’s main thoroughfare will soon be the site of affordable, workplace housing.

St. Paul-based developer Everwood Development wants to put 45 studio, one- and two- bedroom apartments in the upper floors of an office building at 7th & Hennepin.

The building, constructed in 1921, is the current home of the International Education Center, a school that provides English instruction and employment training for adults of foreign origin. If Everwood’s plans come to fruition, the school will retain its space on the building’s first three floors, and the rentals will occupy the higher levels.

And they won’t cost an arm and a leg. Bucking the trend of high luxury, amenities-packed rental developments, like the recently opened Mill District City Apartments, the Everwood Development would offer rents more in line with other areas of the city.

According to Project Partner Elizabeth Flannery, 550- to 800-square foot efficiencies would begin at around $600 per month. Two-bedrooms could rent as low as $900 per month.

The prices are kept low through the use of the low-income housing tax credit and the historic tax credit. Qualified tenants would need an annual income that does not exceed 50 percent of the area median. Flannery estimated this would be $35,000 or lower.

“We definitely think there’s a strong market for [workplace housing] Downtown,” she said. “The market-rate, luxury rentals, there’s a lot of those products Downtown. And there isn’t a lot at a rent level that is more affordable. We want people who work Downtown at all income levels to have quality.”

The $9.5 million development, to be called City Place Lofts, will boast 9-foot ceilings and original terrazzo floors. Flannery said that Everwood would close on the property soon and that construction could begin by June. If all goes accordingly, the Lofts could be open by this time next year.

“It’s an active corner. It’s in the heart of the theater district,” said Flannery. “It’s close to transit and other amenities Downtown. And employment opportunities.”

— Gregory J. Scott


Basilica spruces up leather doors

LORING PARK — The Basilica of Saint Mary, the 103-year-old church at the southwest edge of Downtown, has repaired the 28 leather panels covering the doors leading into its nave.

The doors’ leather, which most likely dates back to the early 1920s, according to Basilica staff, was cracked, and the metal push plate and hardware were also quite worn. The church’s facilities director Dave Laurent had resorted to making repairs with duct tape, said Diana Gulden, board president of The Basilica Landmark, the non-profit that oversaw the restoration. The basilica’s doors had never been refurbished.

Donations to the Basilica Landmark’s Fund-A-Need program covered the repairs.

— Gregory J. Scott