Shubert tops city’s state bonding request

Park funding also top priority

A draft of the city's 2006 state legislative agenda has a familiar ring to it.

The key priorities for state funding have been on the city's wish list for some time: increases in local government aid (LGA) and significant investments in affordable housing, transit, public safety and the environment.

The top priority on the city's request for state bonding, the Shubert Theater, also has been in line for state money for many years. The historic Hennepin Avenue theater has stood empty since 1983.

If approved, the $15 million request would allow the city to construct, furnish and equip the theater complex.

Councilmember Betsy Hodges (13th Ward), chair of the Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee, said the city's agenda has several important bonding requests and policy initiatives. The call for an increase in LGA is a particularly pressing need, she said.

The 2005 state tax bill included a $48 million increase in LGA, which will be allocated to cities this year. The 2005 tax bill increased LGA by 11 percent from the previous year.

Still, the current level of LGA is about $100 million less than the funding level in 2003.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced an $897 million bonding package earlier this month, including $289.3 million set aside for capital improvement projects at schools across the state.

Besides investments in educational institutions, the bonding proposal calls for $209.3 million to protect the state's natural resources; $203.8 million for transportation and housing projects; $150.7 million for public safety projects; and $41.3 million for capital improvements at military and government buildings.

Projects with a regional or statewide significance are considered for inclusion in the bonding bill. The projects must have local support with at least half of their financing coming from sources other than the state.

City's bonding request

Typically, the State Legislature passes a bonding bill every two years to fund capital-improvement projects.

Shubert project developer, Artspace Projects Inc. has proposed a $37 million makeover. A new atrium would link the existing Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave. S., and the Shubert Theater, a 1,000-seat venue next door.

The atrium would serve as the main lobby and house a box office, caf and third-floor event center. Artspace is pushing for a 2007 grand opening.

Infrastructure improvements for the Grand Rounds Parkway, a National Scenic Byway, ranks second on the city's bonding request. The parkway loops around the city, featuring bike trails and parks along the riverfront, Chain of Lakes and Theodore Wirth Park.

The city's request calls for $8 million in 2006 and 2008 for lighting and roadway improvements.

Mayor R.T. Rybak is the key backer of the Grand Rounds bonding request, said his spokesman, Jeremy Hanson.

&#8220He raised the issues and worked it through the Council process,” Hanson said.

Other items on the city's bonding request include:

– $6.45 million for a biosciences development fund to make infrastructure improvements to the University Research Park;

– $6 million for the proposed Van White Memorial Boulevard as part of the Heritage Park redevelopment project in North Minneapolis;

– $1.8 million to complete the Cedar Lake Trail, a bike path that connects Southwest neighborhoods with Downtown; and

– State bonding to make capital improvements to the Target Center and help the city reduce debt on the sports and entertainment venue.

Last year, city officials submitted the preliminary project list to state officials for the 2006 session.

The city also is pushing for several other capital improvement projects (see accompanying sidebar).

Besides the bonding request and a push for increases in LGA, the city's proposed legislative agenda calls for a significant level in state bonding for homeless shelters, supportive housing and homelessness-prevention programs.

Transportation also tops the list. By 2020, city leaders are hoping for eight new transit corridors and a bus system with twice the capacity as today's system.