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Summer Smells (of Rats)

July 6, 2007 12:20 AM

So, here we are, deep in our summer yawn. The days seem positively fluid -- made of a liquid that evaporates just as you start to get the flavor.

Have the boys really played 84 games? The All-Star Game is really next week? Only 171 shopping days until Christmas? Can it be?

Brief Update
(Updated on July 7 to add some links.)

I took some time tonight and drove down to the construction site. First Avenue was hopping (the street AND the club). In fact, the downtown side of Target Center was just crawling with tank tops and tattoos. It was really possible to imagine this life oozing around Footstool and over Freeway.

Life in the shadows

Life in the shadows

There was some life to be found on the back side of the arena, albeit not the type you really want to find. The dark alcoves on Target Center's west side held some surprises for the casual pedestrian. I'm sure the quickening of my step was easily perceptible to those who eyed me from the deep shadows. I stuck with the skyway for the return trip.

At the site, it looks like much dirt has been moved, though much of the activity has happened where the parking lot will be. The actual playing field area is still mostly asphalt. Third Avenue is pretty much gone, as is the hill which separated it from the parking lot.

Over on Fifth Street, a new abutment is about to be built which allows the railroad tracks to be relocated. Then work on splitting the rest of the bridge will get underway.

The elevators in the parking ramps have little updates on construction which are pretty succinct in summarizing what's going on. You can also read these online at ABC-Ramps.com.

Seventh Street

Looking up Seventh Street (click to see what it looked like from the same spot in 1950)

Land Value

If you've been following the coverage of the condemnation hearings, you know that there is a very interesting deal in place between Land Partners II and the developer Hines Interests that was struck just after the ink dried on the legislation which created this project.

News reports say that LPII is guaranteed $25 million from Hines, regardless of what amount the county actually pays. In other words, the county really isn't buying the land from LPII at all -- but from Hines. This explains a whole lot.

Just ask yourself a few questions:

1. Why would LPII enter such a deal?

Basically, it looks like they are going to be splitting the proceeds from the land sale with someone else. Why would they do that? Without Hines, all of the proceeds from the sale would go to LPII. With Hines, LPII gets $25 million plus 77.5% (corrected, per the Strib) of anything over that amount. They are sure to get less than the full amount if it comes in over $25 million, but more than the full amount if it comes in less than $25 million.

So, by entering this deal, they've created a safe floor for their investors, reducing their risk while also partially cashing in if the ceiling turns out to be in the stratosphere.

2. Why would Hines enter such a deal?

They have no interest in developing the land. In fact, they will never touch the land at all. But they will make money if the final amount is over that $25 million. And the farther over, the more they make. Ah, the pieces are starting to fall into place.

3. What does Hines have that LPII doesn't have?

Expertise at maximizing land value in condemnation proceedings, and a ton of expensive lawyers.

So, maybe I'm the last one in town to figure this out, but what's essentially going on here is that LPII has hired Hines Interests to shake down the county for as much money as they can get. It explains why the land deal couldn't happen earlier, and why the asking price is so high.

Hines Interests is speculating here, and they may be doing it with Hennepin County taxpayer money (the county is on the hook for Hines's legal fees if the final amount is more than 40% greater than the county's initial offer). LPII, for their part, can pretty much sit back and watch how it turns out -- which is exactly what they've done since signing with Hines.

Despite what LPII's mouth-pieces claim, the revelation of this deal explains -- and is darn near proof -- that LPII did no negotiating with the county and never intended to. They hired Hines for one reason and one reason only: to get the most money possible out of the condemnation proceedings. They may be a bunch of billionaires or little old ladies (or both), but that's pretty sleazy if you ask me.

Oh, I almost forgot, that's how you get to be a billionaire...

I've written here many times that you can't fault LPII for trying to get top dollar for their land -- and I truly believe this. It's the American way. But I'll be frank and tell you that I think this technique stinks. It's the very definition of "negotiating" in bad faith. And it's quite possible that the county had no idea something like this might be in the works -- or just chose not to believe it was a possibility -- because LPII played the part of eager sellers for so long. The county may have seemed hapless, but now I believe they probably were intentionally duped.

Well, you live and learn. Actually, this City Pages article from 2005 seems to indicate that this all could have been predicted. Clearly, government entities are nowhere near as nimble or savvy or cold as Big Money. This much, at least, is not a surprise.

A final question: Why should we care?

Well, it's pretty academic from a ballpark fan's perspective. The park will get built, and it'll probably be spectacular. The infrastructure limit in the law is a complication, and the Twins certainly have placed some sort of limit on how much they'll pay for the overage. But there will have to be sidewalks.

The plaza could be in jeopardy, as could the pedestrian bridge over I-394. Losing either of these would be a shame, but not fatal.

I did a little digging in the project budget, and discovered that the Ballpark Authority currently expects land acquisition to cost $23 million. I would love to see this amount stick -- and thereby stick it to Hines.

Comments


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It looks like Hines and LP II had this fiasco planned from the beginning. Signing a deal right after the ballpark was passed by the Legislature? Yet, they are looking like the "good guys" in the local media. If you want a good laugh, Google "Twinsville" and check out the web site that was created by LPII a few years back.

Posted on July 7, 2007 at 2:54 PM by Jeff T. Highlight this comment 1

the webcam is now up on the twins webpage

Posted on July 11, 2007 at 12:58 PM by MOJO Highlight this comment 2

It looks like you got your wish, pending appeals from today's decision.

Posted on August 20, 2007 at 11:21 AM by Chris Highlight this comment 3


This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.



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From the Downtown Council's 2025 Plan, a Metrodome "Revelopment" and a strong indication of where they think a new Vikings stadium should go.



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