Land Economics Weekend (continued)

LAI Minnesota rolled out the red carpet and blue skies for LEW May 13-15, 2010. LAI members from Spain, UK, Ireland, Canada and the US joined us for an invigorating mobile workshop embracing the history, land use success stories and challenges of the Twin Cities Region.

The weekend began with a welcoming reception at Windows on Minnesota, 50 stories above Minneapolis in the landmark IDS Center. The first session on Friday was hosted at the new world-famous Guthrie lew_015Theater and began with a brief history of the region by Dr. David Lanegran. His presentation provided the segue for a distinguished panel moderated by attorney Jay Lindgren, former Chief Administrative Officer of the Metropolitan Council. Panelists included Curtis Johnson, who chaired the council in the mid-1990s, immediate past chair Ted Mondale, and current chair Peter Bell. Edina Mayor Jim Hovland gave an overview of building regional cooperation on jobs, transportation and housing. To wrap things up at the Nouvelle-designed Guthrie, John Pfeifer of McGough explained some of the unique features of the building and the highlights of the construction.

Ann Calvert and Linda Mack, led the group bus tour of the Minneapolis riverfront, from the Stone Arch Bridge to Nicollet Island. Our guests were surprised and pleased by the historic preservation and natural public spaces in close proximity to the bustling downtown.

Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, which opened in April, hosted a luncheon in the Metropolitan Club. Chuck Ballentine of the Hennepin County Ballpark Authority explained the funding, planning and construction of the “greenest ” ballpark in the major leagues. Barbara Sporlein, Minneapolis Planning Director, talked about the opportunities and challenges facing Minneapolis today.

Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joined in for a welcome and overview of Saint Paul. The ballpark visit was concluded with a “behind-the-scenes” tour that included the rare opportunity to step on to the field itself.

On Friday evening, the tour moved toward St. Paul, beginning with a bus ride from Minneapolis along the Central Corridor LRT, which will link the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Saint Paul Planning Director Donna Drummond and Principal Planner Lucy Thompson provided information on the corridor’s construction and the anticipated benefits and challenges of launching the line. The tour continued into downtown Saint Paul with Patrick Seeb, Executive Director of the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation joining Lucy to describe historic sites and recent redevelopment successes.

lew_015Saint Paul is famous for its connection to the Mississippi River. Therefore, a dinner cruise on the river seemed the appropriate venue to learn more about the city, its past and its future. The beautiful 70 degree evening proved both inspiring and relaxing as guests marveled at the panoramic view of the Saint Paul skyline, wrapped in the natural beauty of a National Wildlife area and a magnificent sunset, with commentary from Patrick.

The final day of LEW included a tour of the Minneapolis parkway system, given by our in-house historian, Charlene Roise, Minneapolis Planning Commissioner Ted Tucker, and Barb Sporlein. Edina Mayor Hovland, Planning Commission Chair Mike Fischer, Planning Director Cary Teague, and Arijs Pakalns of URS showcased the vibrant 50th and France redevelopment, and the award winning Centennial Lakes and Edinborough Park, both mixed use projects centered on a former gravel pit in this first ring suburb.

Mary Bujold of Maxfield Research and Peter Moe, Director of Operations for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, welcomed the group for a relaxing luncheon at the arboretum where Peter explained the history and purpose of the institution, highlighting the most recent success of the Honey Crisp Apple and the cold hardy grape breeding project. Lunch was followed by informal tours of the vibrant spring gardens.

Before returning to Minneapolis, Kevin Locke and Meg McMonigal of Saint Louis Park hosted a visit to Excelsior and Grand, the award-winning vertical mixed-use redevelopment project, referred to as the “granddaddy of New Urbanism in the Twin Cities.” Developers Stuart Ackerberg and Thatcher Imboden of the Ackerberg Group shared their vision for a project in the heart of Uptown along the Midtown Greenway. Rick Collins, Vice President of Development of Ryan Companies, and Charlene Roise led a walking tour of the Midtown Exchange/Global Market, formerly the Sears Building, a 1 million square foot behemoth structure renovated for mixed use.

LEW wound down with a reception at Bank in the Westin in Minneapolis. The Westin was the home base for the event. LAI MN members were honored to showcase our region. We thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of our congenial guests and thank them for visiting!

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