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Minneapolis Park Board and Graco make a win-win deal

October 2, 2018

It’s been a long time coming, but the Minneapolis Park Board and Graco Inc. finally had a meeting of the minds about developing land near and along the Mississippi River. As a result of the hard-won agreement, the company will get a plot it has long eyed for expansion, and the community will get additional park space that connects directly to the river.

In addition, the deal ends legal wrangling in which the Park Board might have condemned the property to acquire it.

Under the agreement, the Park Board agreed to sell 2.2 acres of a plot known as Parcel D to Graco for $1.1 million. Parcel D is a 3.55-acre site of undeveloped land on the east bank of the river, just upstream from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. The purchase affirmed Graco’s interest in keeping its 800-employee headquarters campus in Minneapolis.

In exchange, the company and Graco Foundation agreed to donate $5 million to develop a former lumberyard site into parkland and to give the city the contested “trail easement’’ on the river side of its plant. That will allow development of a beginning, essential piece to Above the Falls Regional Park, which would run from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge up the Mississippi River to the city limits. Graco Park is expected to open sometime in 2022. It will provide direct access to the river from northeast Minneapolis.

The proposed agreement is expected to be voted on by a Park Board committee on Wednesday and by the full board on Oct. 17. By the end of the year, the details are expected to finalized, and next year a final design for the park will be developed with input from the community.

Graco, a $1.5 billion global manufacturer of fluid-handling equipment, was founded in the 1920s. The total company contribution to the park is about $10.6 million, which includes the donation, flood protection, and release of the condemnation claim.

In 2015, the Star Tribune Editorial Board argued that it was critical for Graco and the Park Board to resolve the land dispute in a way that avoided a lengthy legal battle. The board encouraged city leaders to seek a compromise that would allow the company to fulfill its land needs and keeps its jobs in Minneapolis, as well as develop an important connection for the parks system.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who hosted a key June meeting of stakeholders, hailed the agreement as an opportunity to deliver the park years earlier than it would have taken without the Graco contribution.

“We saw an opportunity to take a tumultuous relationship and bring it into the sun a bit,” said Frey, who represented northeast Minneapolis on the City Council before he was elected mayor last year. “It will be a beautiful park, done a half-generation earlier because of the settlement of the easements and the Graco investment. Those funds would have had to come from somewhere else …”

To the credit of Frey, other city and parks leaders and Graco, the proposed deal is a win-win for the community, the company and public-private partnerships.

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