By Anne Holzman
After months of negotiations, Falcon Heights was in the final phase of acquiring Community Park from the University of Minnesota in March.
The Falcon Heights City Council voted unanimously at its Feb. 22 meeting to proceed with buying the site for about $1.1 million. The University authorized the sale on Feb. 10, and a city Parks Commission public hearing on Feb. 28 ended with a strong recommendation to proceed with the purchase.
In March, doing a survey and drawing up a sale contract remained as the final tasks to complete a deal, with the city aiming to close the transaction by mid-April.
City Administrator Jack Linehan said staff would seek a consultant to guide the municipality in designing upgrades for the park, including replacing the main building on the site.
This park building was closed before the pandemic due to damaged pavement, lack of accessibility and other structural problems. The land purchase will allow the city to make a substantial investment in upgrading the park without fear of needing to vacate it when a lease might expire
Linehan said the consultant will hold public meetings about a plan for the new building and other improvements.
The city has leased the park, 2050 Roselawn Avenue, from the University of Minnesota for $1 per lease term since 1973.
The 15-acre park includes a building that has served as a warming house and rental space; and tennis courts, community gardens and playing fields. A trail circles the park and passes a small gazebo, a monarch butterfly planting and other landscape features.
The city has been slowly building up its capital budget for the park over the years, and Linehan told the Bugle in early February that they have “an extremely healthy fund balance.”
Linehan said he expects that after buying the park land, the city will still have about $400,000 left over for Community Park design and construction.
In addition, he said city staff was applying for a $300,000 grant from the state’s Department of Natural Resources to augment the project and that the city will likely issue bonds if further funds are needed.
In an interview, city Parks commission member Mike Bradbury said the commission’s tour of Roseville facilities several years ago gave his group a good start setting goals for the park renovation. He mentioned padded flooring to protect skate blades in a warming house area, for example, and the need for rentable space. He said most groups are now catering rather than cooking, so they’d be able to accommodate more meeting rooms in place of a full kitchen.
In addition, Bradbury said, “We’d like as green a building as possible.”
Anne Holzman is a Twin Cities freelance writer who covers Falcon Heights government news for the Bugle.