NIEBNA meeting has candidates, controversies

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July 25, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

The July 13 Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association (NIEBNA) annual meeting featured a full agenda, included stumping by mayoral candidates, neighborhood development updates and much discussion about recent and potential privatization of parkland, mainly over a possible De LaSalle athletic field on Nicollet Island.

De LaSalle athletic field

In a preview of a July 20 Park Board forum, De LaSalle representatives touted an expanded athletic complex's benefits for students' extracurricular activities and highlighted the school's century-long history on the island.

Nicollet Island resident and NIEBNA board member Barry Clegg said his neighborhood joined three other communities and 1,200 petitioners in rejecting what he says is a privatization of the Park Board land, onto which the school's fields would expand.

Those in opposition were concerned about the closing of a section of Grove Street and the impact of increased parking during football games; they suggested Webster Open School, 425 SE 5th St., as a viable alternative site. NIEBNA Board Chair Victor Grambsch noted that Webster had not yet been approached about the possibility.

Meeting attendees also talked about the Park Board's 15-20-year exclusive rights contract with Minthoe Hospitality Group for the Nicollet Island Pavilion. "It costs $7,000-$10,000 to walk into a public building," NIEBNA board member Jan Deming said.

At-large Park Board Commissioner Annie Young agreed and was sympathetic.

"It's an indication of why we have to be so cautious about privatization," Young said. "It doesn't seem fair that the public doesn't have use of the building," which she added "should have been part of the lease agreement."

Young did note that Minthoe does a good job and had made improvements on the building, which she said, "looks gorgeous."

Candidate addresses

Young, who is running for re-election, told the crowd that Downtown needs another park, as well as more trees near Mill Ruins Park. She reported that the University of Minnesota has a developed a new Dutch Elm disease-resistant tree.

Three mayoral candidates addressed the assembled crowd. Mayor R.T Rybak called public safety his "number one goal" and said that a budget deal at the Legislature - finished later that evening - would hopefully restore some of the $37 million in city funding cuts, which he hoped could be put towards police, the Park Board and libraries. Rybak also hoped that a "pared-down" transportation bill would restore transit.

Mayoral challenger Peter McLaughlin agreed that the Legislature had done a good job in getting additional aid to public safety, which he said has been his top priority all along but has only recently topped the mayor's list after Rybak accused him earlier of "fear-mongering" with the issue.

Green Party-endorsed candidate Farheen Hakeem said that she had backed off of her support for the De LaSalle athletic field after reviewing the details with Commissioner Young. After the meeting, Hakeem said she had heard from communities of color that Nicollet Island residents were opposed because they wanted to exclude others - including people of color - from enjoying the park. However, Hakeem said that more information about the issue had convinced her that the private field would restrict more people from using the green space.

Hakeem said that Minneapolis needs someone in office who will listen and is not afraid to change her mind, based on the evidence.

Neighborhood development

Construction is set to begin in August for the Cobalt/Lunds development at Central & University avenues.

The NIEBNA task force on the Mathwig development of 110 NE 6th St. has completed its work. For more, see story, page 5. The project goes before the Minneapolis Planning Commission Aug. 1.

Grambsch reported that Superior Plating, 315 1st Ave. NE, will relocate its operation, and that a task force will begin discussing a proposed housing and commercial development on the site, a "brown field," which will require pollution remediation. Grambsch said the project itself is two to three years from completion.

A joint task force with Marcy-Holmes neighborhood (to NIEBNA's east across Central Avenue) will hold its first meeting Wednesday, July 27 to discuss developer Schafer Richardson's proposed 1,095-unit condo and commercial renovation of the three-block Pillsbury "A" Mill site.