Target bad for Nicollet Mall

The city of Minneapolis and Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton have found a new way to waste taxpayer money by subsidizing a downtown Target store on Nicollet Mall using $62 million of public funds. This will cost area residents approximately $160 in property taxes and it will take at least 50 years to pay for just half of the project. Minneapolis uses subsidies, or financial aid, for residential or commercial areas it deems beneficial to the public. The real question is how the downtown Target, costing $62 million, can be justified by the city when the project will definitely lose money in the long run and leave taxpayers holding the bill.

In 1997 when the project was first pitched, the cost was estimated at $16 million, and over the next five years estimates climbed steadily. Financial assistance from the city was essential to the project; however, in the beginning the financial burden of the project was to be shouldered by the Target Corporation, not the city. This plan had the support of the current Minneapolis mayoral candidate R.T. Rybak, who liked the idea of Target’s charity-type venture for the purpose of improving the area. Over the years, the purpose of the plan – to benefit the community – is still touted as the main reason for the venture now destined for almost certain financial failure. The financial aspects of the plan however, have changed dramatically because now it is Minneapolis being “charitable” by loaning Target, a multi-billion-dollar corporation, a truckload of money in order to better the area. It is for this reason that Rybak, rightly so, now denounces the project.

This project is terrible at best for a number of reasons. Minneapolis should not be spending the limited amount of money it has on a corporation that could shoulder the financial burden themselves. If city officials really want to benefit the area and its constituents, they would use the money to help alleviate the housing crisis our city is facing. According to the 2000 census, the number of homeless people in Minnesota is three times the national average; far surpassing all other states. It is very disconcerting for citizens to see this happening in their state and watch Mayor Sayles Belton blowing $62 million in aid on a multi-billion-dollar corporation.

Additionally, the location for the Target is somewhat inappropriate. Anyone who has ever been to Target usually leaves with a full cartload, so the Nicollet Mall location would make it extremely difficult to get large purchases home. It is also unlikely people would battle downtown traffic to go to Target when there are other Targets in more convenient locations. Even with a parking ramp, parking would definitely be an issue.

This plan will also threaten the small businesses located in the area. It happens all the time; a large chain store moves in and people stop shopping at the small stores. Nicollet Mall cannot afford to lose small businesses that are essential to the diversity of the area. Many small businesses, such as the Africa Connection and Khazana, have already been nudged to the periphery of Nicollet Mall as a result of this project. Small, unique businesses are what make the downtown area so attractive. The more chain stores put in, the more the area becomes homogenous with every other commercial area. Nothing is unique, and you can travel thousands of miles away and still only have the same stores to chose from. This reality is bad for small business owners, consumers and tourists.

So after analyzing this bad deal, it is baffling why the mayor and City Council members, such as Jackie Cherryholmes, would continue to emphatically support the plan. It’s obviously a very bad deal; their support for it should raise questions regarding what it is that motivates them to support the plan.