New light-rail street lamps to be lit from property owners’ pockets

Some business owners near campus opted out of the project.

Trevor Born

Construction on the Central Corridor light-rail project will include a lot of lighting work, and on two stretches near campus, property owners will be footing the bill.

Areas along Washington Avenue between Oak Street and Huron Boulevard and on University Avenue between 29th Avenue and Emerald Street in Prospect Park are among areas where street light costs arenâÄôt covered by the University of Minnesota or the Metropolitan Council.

It will cost $220,000 to install the new lights along Washington and $265,000 on University Avenue, and because Minneapolis policy classifies special lighting as “betterment” work, property owners will fund the entire project through special assessment fees proportional to their size. The fees come through property taxes with the option to pay over a span of up to 20 years.

Though theyâÄôre now obligated to pay for the lighting, property owners had a chance to opt out of funding the project. The city held meetings with owners this summer and briefed them on the proposed lighting installations, then mailed surveys to gauge approval in August.

Along Washington, only 10 percent of the ownership opted out, and all were from the block of buildings that includes Harvard Market and Palm, Tarot and Psychic Readings. Larry McGough, who owned those properties, said he only opted out because he was selling the properties.

University Avenue had a higher rate of opting out, 56 percent, despite a much lower assessment fee since that cost is split between 81 owners, compared to just 23 owners along Washington Avenue. Two of the largest properties, Prospect Park Properties LLC and Prospect Park Association LLC, opted out. But theyâÄôre still on the hook for more than a combined $40,000 in assessment fees.

Sue Nelson, chief operating officer at the audio visual design firm Tierney Brothers on University Avenue, said she chose to opt out solely for monetary reasons.

“Any time you have an unexpected expense like that, itâÄôs tough,” she said.

The Transit and Public Works Committee approved the plan Tuesday, and next up is a Project Approval and Assessment Public Hearing on March 22. Construction will likely begin in summer 2011.

If property owners making up 70 percent or more of the area opted out, the city would have simply reinstalled the old lighting fixtures after Central Corridor construction tears up the roads, Deputy Director of Public Works Heidi Hamilton said.

“ItâÄôs up to the city to pay for it however they want, and Minneapolis chooses to spread that cost among the property owners,” Hamilton said.

Dinnaken Properties âÄî which runs several buildings in Stadium Village including the Dinnaken House and the Argyle House âÄî owes the most of any property, $85,760, due to its size.

Dinnaken Properties Vice President Yvonne Grosulak said she was happy about the news, since Dinnaken had hoped to replace the wooden light posts since they opened in 1985 but couldnâÄôt get enough cooperation from neighboring businesses.

“TheyâÄôll spread light further and look nicer, so itâÄôll make it a better atmosphere to walk through,” she said. “I think itâÄôs worth it.”