Parks update // Park Board set to buy land along Northeast riverfront for $1.37 million

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board plans to purchase a 1.75-acre parcel of land along the upper riverfront in Northeast Minneapolis that would help with the expansion of bicycle and pedestrian trails along the river. 

The land is a couple parcels north of the Scherer Bros. lumber site, which is just north of the Broadway Bridge. Some may know the space as the valet parking lot for Psycho Suzi’s. 

The Park Board on May 2 approved a purchase agreement for the land — at 1720 Marshall St. NE — for $1.37 million. The land is currently owned by Marshall Street Properties. It includes 354 feet of riverfront.  

The land has a market value of $1.3 million, according to a Park Board memo. It was purchased in 1988 for $700,000. 

Funding for the project is expected to come from the Park Board’s Riverfront Development fund, which has a $1.25 million balance, and from the Metropolitan Council. Additional funding could also come from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. 

There is currently a 37,780-square-foot building on the property, which is used for storage. Previously, it was a manufacturing facility. Park Board Superintendent of Planning Bruce Chamberlain said the Park Board would use the facility for storage and operations for the short-term, but the land would be primarily open when parks are developed. 

The Park Board in March passed a design plan and framework for the upper riverfront called RiverFirst. This property, according to the resolution, would be a “critical acquisition” for that plan. 

The thinking at the Park Board has been that trails along the east side of the river would be the first step in implementing the RiverFirst plan, which also includes developing a park at the Scherer Bros. site, connecting North Minneapolis to the river via a greenway, and adding bike bridges to existing bridges. 

The Park Board is in line for a federal transportation grant that is administered by the Met Council. Staff, as of last month, still hadn’t found out if funding was made available. That grant would fund trails along the east side of the river. 

Report of poor morale leads to pay hikes for Park Board workers 

Three months after an employee survey revealed poor morale at the Park Board, commissioners approved the reinstatement of $300,000 in performance-based step increases for employees. 

The pay increases, if approved, would be retroactive to 2011, when step increases were frozen. Payments to employees would come on June 1. 

“A contributing factor to low employee morale is the MPRB’s current budget restrictions on cost-of-living and step increases,” a Park Board memo states. The pay increases were recommended by Superintendent Jayne Miller. 

A consultant report released on Jan. 25 said “virtually everyone” with whom consultants spoke said there is a climate of fear, vindictiveness, racial distrust and anger in the organization. 

“Retroactively granting step increases to the date employees were eligible for a step in 2011, and granting steps in 2012, is viewed as a necessary and positive step towards demonstrating that the MPRB values employees and provides recognition for good performance,” the memo states. 

As of February, employment at the Park Board totaled 463 positions. If the $300,000 in pay increases were spread among all employees, each employee would get about $650. The step increases, however, are performance-based, so it’s unclear how many workers will get them. 

According to the memo, the $300,000 will be covered through savings in vacant positions within the Park Board. 

Reach Nick Halter at 

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