Mixing civic buildings and private developments
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal - July 14, 2006
by Sam Black Staff Writer
email@example.com - (612) 288-2103
Back in 1998, when Ramsey city officials first considered a plan to build a 370-acre mixed-use project, no one even considered a public component, except for maybe a commuter rail train station.
But when the ribbon gets cut in October, the development will include a brand spanking new $16 million city hall and police station.
It wasn't until 2002 -- when the city was attempting to land a Metropolitan Council livable communities planning grant for the project headed by developer John Feges -- that City Administrator Jim Norman got the idea to move the growing suburb's cramped city hall into the development.
Over the past few years, Norman has become a huge advocate of putting civic buildings into mixed-use projects.
"I've come to believe it's critical," he said.
Well, okay, he was interviewed and defined his role and view of his own leadership in the Palace of Bureaucracy endeavor - where staff will soon be expanded to fill the space available - so don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out, Mr. Norman.
But really, it is a failure - a failed idea bad from the start to build a plastic imitation of an organically grown community - and should, like success, have all its "fathers" duly recognized.
Who engineered the Town Center Task Force's directions, and where are they now?
And how are people prospering off the land, and what part of the story does the answer to that question play in sixteen million being dropped into a building where the crystal-palace lobby seems as big or bigger than the former entire city hall? With such a good question, who will come forward with an answer?
And, "project headed by developer John Feges ..." the summer 2006 article says.
Did anyone really see John Feges as the deep pocket, taking this whole thing beyond a speculative posture and [apparently] spending real money for Kurak - Miless land, while a Kurak was on counsel and a Miless was on the charter commission? Bruce Nedegaard has been mentioned as key. Yet my recollection is hearing the Nedegaard name substantially before summer 2006, and yet the Feges name is still in the press - with the Norman name prominent in things.
Names such as Steffen, Kurak, Bauer, Elvig are not being reported.
Here is a question: Is Coburns happy being the only really substantial commercial venture in Town Center, or possibly feeling like a pioneer with an arrow in the back?
What promises may have been given Coburns, by whom? Is their liquor store prospering, and are the gas pumps drawing customers into the rest of the store, and vice versa? At least they have a nice paved convenient parking lot, there's that to be said. Miles from the costly ramp. Or it seems like miles, gazing at all that open space between the two, from the costly ramp across the area that could have been graveled for parking short term, toward the Coburn cluster; or from the cluster toward the Ramp -&- palace combine. And am I the only one to think that next to Coburns in the Coburn cluster the major tenant is, "For Lease?" It sure seems that "For Lease" has almost all the small shop spaces tied up, tidy and uncrowded inside with such things as merchandise or fixtures or working people.
But the paved parking lot IS convenient for the only real cause I've had to be going to Town Center, Coburns.
And who's profiting from the old city hall campus?
Would someone follow that money for me and give an answer? One of the consultants, or someone with insider knowledge?
Finally, go back to that opening Business Journal paragraph, "Back in 1998, when Ramsey city officials first considered a plan to build a 370-acre mixed-use project, no one even considered a public component, except for maybe a commuter rail train station."
Train station? What commuter rail train station? I suppose we do not need a station. Or we need a Port Authority to have a train station. Or there was a purpose from the start, where the station was a convient hat peg at the start. But things probably always stood to easily shift, but to always some way or another have a "place" to hang the hat.
As a wholly separate and unrelated observation; apart from any and all of the preceeding thoughts; I always liked the "badges" scene in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Bandits firing away, mockingly saying, "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges." It's sort of a twisted but romantic concept. We have suitable fire power and don't need legitimacy - presuming "badges" in the scene stood for a legitimate hold on authority. An authority having a responsibility going with it. And requiring a sagacity and behavioral decency - a responsibility to be more than simple bandits. The gold, in the film, drove a wedge between the partners in the mining venture - extracting wealth from the raw land then falling into dispute among themselves over the wealth. Quite a film.
Quite a commentary on the human condition.