Civil Division attorneys key to new Target Field Station

Monday, May 19, 2014

Civil Division attorneys Rick Sheridan, Tom Barrett and Howard Orenstein spent the past two-and-a-half years negotiating on behalf of the county board and on May 17 the public was invited to celebrate their work.

Of course, that’s not exactly how they advertised it, calling it the grand opening of the Target Field Station, but the work of that trio is one of the reasons a new public plaza outside Target Field is taking shape. Over the next 26 years, those negotiations are expected to bring in $20 million in cash and in-kind value for the county.  Commissioners Mike Opat and Peter McLaughlin led the negotiations and various county staff provided crucial support for the legal efforts of the county attorney’s office.

Hennepin County officials had noticed that the Target Field light rail station outside of the left field entrance looked dangerous, especially with the huge crowds disgorging before the games and even larger crowds waiting in a confined space to load onto the trains at the end of the game. A second platform would relieve that problem.

But the county board wanted more than just a platform. It wanted the area to become a public space, and to enter into a partnership with private developers for retail and maybe a hotel on the site. The county put out a request for proposals and a joint venture of the Minnesota Twins and United Properties was selected.

"This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Orenstein said. “There were a lot of moving parties. It was like landing airplanes on 10 perpendicular runways simultaneously.”

The county’s partners in the agreement, besides the ball club and the developer included the county’s  Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Regional Railroad Authority, Metro Transit, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, two agencies of the state of Minnesota, the Federal Transit Administration, the City of Minneapolis, and other funders.

Oddly enough, the public-private partnership was approved by the county board just last month but much of the construction work is either done or well underway. Orenstein said the cooperative relationship developed with the Twins in putting together the land for construction of the ballpark made it possible to move forward even without a finished contract.

"This is a great piece of work by Rick, Tom, Howard and all of the people in the Civil Division who worked on these long and difficult negotiations,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “The public enjoys the fruits of our labors, but they have no idea how much work our office does to bring these visions to reality."

The Twins already have installed a $750,000 video board on the plaza. The board could show Twins away games, movies, anything that would attract the public. And the county gets to use that plaza 15 days a year for any event it wants.

There also will be a small retail shop by the station which might become a coffee shop. A 290-stall parking ramp under the upper plaza will provide parking that the Twins and United Properties can lease for their customers, including new businesses.

United is paying $1.5 million to the county for a three acre site at the far end of the Hennepin County incinerator property and is expected to build a hotel or office building there. According to the agreement, if they build anything over 100,000 square feet, United pays the county another $15 per square foot, which could result in another $2 million for the county.

"Target Field Station is a visionary project that unites transit and entertainment in the core of the region," Board Chairman Opat said recently. "Seeing these agreements through required hard work and a lot of trust between the negotiating parties. The result will be a breathtaking piece of architecture that provides essential improvements for transit riders and downtown visitors from all over."