Dorm expansion encroaches on city land

by Erin Madsen

University students on the West Bank could soon have more than 3,000 square feet of open land on which to lounge, study and play Frisbee due to a University oversight.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved a motion Wednesday night allowing negotiations to take place between the board and the University. The talks will involve the University’s acquisition of land surrounding the Middlebrook Hall expansion.
MPRB’s assistant superintendent of planning Judd Rietkerk said University officials contacted the board about the purchase after they discovered the encroachment of Middlebrook’s expansion onto park land.
The current construction plans for Middlebrook infringe on more than 600 square feet of the 4,200-square-foot area, Rietkerk said.
“The University has sent the board an initial letter on purchasing terms,” he said.
He described the land as “almost a land-locked area, above any access points. It’s a real piece of excess property for us.”
After Riefkerk’s recommendation of the land sale to the University, board members as well as a University official voiced their opinions and concerns.
Board member Rochelle Berry-Graves opened the discussion saying, “I know students would enjoy the open space — it’s tight space over there.”
But she added, “I thought the park board did not sell land.”
The board agreed on obtaining two appraisals for the land before negotiations begin so the talks can include the market value of the land.
The board also implemented internship program for University students with Minneapolis parks as an amendment to the initial negotiation motion.
“Trade the land to the University for 20 years of interns for certain parks,” proposed board member Walter Dziedzic.
Dziedzic’s suggestion of University student interns was supported by other board members, but they disagreed whether the land should be traded or sold while creating the internship program.
University senior planner of Facilities Management, Orlyn Miller, said conversations about an internship program with the park board are underway.
He said University officials would like to see the program separated from the exchange of land.
“The University’s preference would be not to combine the two,” he said.
Despite Miller’s argument on behalf of the University, board members passed an amendment to their original motion to conduct negotiations with the University.
The amendment, according to board member Ernie Belton, will tie the board and the University by “an exchange of land and completion of an internship program.”

Erin Madsen covers community and welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3233