Stimulus funds flow into Minneapolis

The city stands to receive about $7.5 million in stimulus money.

Thanks to an aggressive pursuit of federal stimulus funds, the city of Minneapolis is expecting more than $7 million to flow into area projects, and is already divvying up the cash to specific local ventures. The Minneapolis City Council voted 9-1 on June 2 to apply a large chunk of the money âÄî $2 million âÄî to the Shubert Theater project in downtown Minneapolis, which supporters say is the last piece of funding needed to start construction on the project. Other big money-drawing projects include $275,000 to finance construction costs for the renovation and constructing of an art space on Chicago Avenue and $260,000 to complete an extension of Van White Memorial Boulevard. The stimulus funds were awarded to Minneapolis under two separate categories: $3.9 million in funding for energy conservation projects and about $3.6 million toward community development, from which projects like the Shubert are drawing funding. City officials estimate the Shubert Theater project will create 48 permanent, full-time jobs and about 100 construction jobs, while the less expensive Van White Memorial Boulevard project will create about 300 construction jobs. The vision for the Shubert is to transform the theater, which was moved from Block E to Hennepin and 5th Street in 1999, into The Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center âÄî which advocates say will be the first flagship center for dance in the state. The Center will include a new, glass atrium linking the Hennepin Center for the Arts Building to the historic 1910-built theater. Colin Hamilton, executive director of the project, said he was âÄúthrilledâÄù to have the funds that will push the project from âÄúthe discussion phase to the construction phase,âÄù adding that the city of Minneapolis has always been a strong supporter of the arts. âÄúPeople here understand that supporting the arts also means supporting the economy,âÄù he said. Construction on the project could begin as soon as this summer. In a previous interview with the Daily, Hamilton said that he has been in discussion with the University of MinnesotaâÄôs dance program about collaborations that could include apprenticeship opportunities for students. The dissenting voice on the council came from 1st Ward councilman Paul Ostrow , who said he didnâÄôt see the Shubert Theater as a âÄújobsâÄù project. âÄúWhile itâÄôs a great project, itâÄôs not a priority for the city right now,âÄù Ostrow said. Ostrow said he would have preferred to see more cash flow into projects like the TenKSolar manufacturing facility, which received about $284,000 in stimulus dollars to assist in the creation of a full-scale solar panel production facility in Minneapolis. The project originally requested $1.2 million. Once running, the city estimates the project will create 100 jobs by mid-2010 and a total of 360 jobs by 2011. âÄúThat is what we should be investing in,âÄù Ostrow said. Other funded projects include $200,000 for making homes safer from lead hazards, another $200,000 for winterizing condemned properties and $190,000 to reroof Fire Station 20. The rest of the funds âÄî $3.9 million âÄî will be dedicated to environmental causes, 2nd Ward councilman Cam Gordon said. Gordon said about 20 percent of the money will go to a revolving loan fund for businesses, $705,000 for a residential energy and efficiency program, about $75,000 for climate change grants and $1.9 million to improve energy efficiency in local government buildings, such as the Hennepin County Government Center and City Hall. The council had an early deadline to distribute the community development funds, but the placement of the rest of the environmental funds will be voted on by the City Council Friday.