Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board


Resolution Authorizing a Cooperative Agreement with Hennepin County for the Land Transfer of the Cepro Site to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Accepting a Grant from Hennepin County in the Amount of $300,000 for the Implementation of Phase 2 Improvements of the Site, Amending the South Service Area Master Plan to Include the Cepro Site, and Initiating a Process Under the Land Acquisition Policy to Determine a Name for the Property


Department:Strategic PlanningSponsors:
Category:ContractProjects:Central River Front, No Project


  1. Printout
  2. Attachment A - CeproSite-CooperativeAgreement 11.29.18 (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)
  3. Attachment B - Environmental Covenant Doc No 5540461
  4. Attachment C - CeproSite-concept plan
  5. Attachment D - SSAMP-6-Implementation-Amendment

Item Discussion

Whereas, The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) was created by the Minnesota Legislature in April 1883 and has the authority to acquire parkland with six votes of the Board of Commissioners;


Whereas, The MPRB adopted the South Service Area Master Plan, which identifies a park search area in the Midtown Greenway corridor area, and in the Hiawatha Avenue corridor near Lake Street;


Whereas, Hennepin County owns a 1.65-acre property adjacent to the Midtown Greenway known as the Cepro Site, a property Hennepin County acquired as part of the implementation of the Midtown Greenway;


Whereas, Hennepin County improved the site with pathways, seating, and plantings, a project for which Hennpin County did extensive community engagement


Whereas, Hennepin County wishes to divest this land, as it does not wish to be in the position of managing a park-like space in the long term;


Whereas, The Hennepin County Board passed a resolution in July of 2017 agreeing to a free transfer of the Cepro Site to MPRB and authorizing a grant for additional capital improvements in the amount of $300,000;


Whereas, MPRB, Hennepin County, the Midtown Phillips neighborhood organization, and other community members have collaborated on a concept design for the site, a portion of which would be implemented with the Hennepin County grant;


Whereas, The Cepro Site, though not distant from Stewart and Powderhorn Parks, could offer amenities not available in the Midtown Phillips area, such as an urban agriculture area, performance and event space, and an accessible connection to the Midtown Greenway; and


Whereas, This resolution is supported by the MPRB 2007-2020 Comprehensive Plan, which envisions “Dynamic parks that shape city character and meet diverse community needs;”


RESOLVED, That the Board of Commissioners authorizes a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County for the land transfer of the Cepro Site to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board;


RESOLVED, That the Board of Commissioners accepts a grant from Hennepin County in the amount of $300,000 for the implementation of phase 2 improvements of the site;


RESOLVED, That the Board of Commissioners amends the South Service Area Master Plan to include the Cepro Site, its concept plan, and associated information;


RESOLVED, That the Board of Commissioners initiates a process under its land acquisition policy to determine a name for the property; and


RESOLVED, That the President of the Board and Secretary to the Board are authorized to take all necessary administrative actions to implement this resolution.





This resolution would authorize a series of activities to accomplish the acquisition and improvement of Hennepin County’s Cepro Site by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB).  Four activities are included in this resolution, as all four are necessary and inter-dependent.  The activities are:

·         Approval of a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County (Attachment A), which includes the transfer to MPRB of an environmental covenant (Attachment B).

·         Acceptance of a county-authorized grant of $300,000 to implement additional improvements at the site, based on a concept plan developed collaboratively by MPRB and Hennepin County.

·         Amendment of the South Service Area Master Plan to include the Cepro site, a public hearing for which is scheduled on the same date as this resolution.

·         Initiation of a naming process for the site.


Site Location and History


The Cepro Site is located in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis. The 1.65-acre green space is bounded by 10th and 11th Avenues South on the west and east, the Midtown Greenway on the south, and residential properties on the north.  It lies in very close proximity to the Midtown Global Market and the Allina Health Campus.  Hennepin County purchased the site in 2000 to support implementation of Phase 2 of the Midtown Greenway. It was the former home of the Stewart Cepro Grain Elevator, which was demolished in 2004.  The elevator was the last rail customer in the Greenway and the County needed to buy it out in order to acquire rights to the railway.  In all, the County spent $7.5 million on acquisition, demolition, and phase 1 construction of the Cepro Site.


In 2004 Hennepin County initiated a community input process to determine how to use the site.  The community overwhelmingly felt the site should be entirely used for open space, because the surrounding neighborhoods are highly dense and have lower percentages of green space than other neighborhoods.  The community vision for the site at that time included universal design and accessibility, bike and pedestrian safety, healthy foods, physical activity, and community and family programming.  To begin implementing this vision, in 2007 the County constructed paved pathways and stairs to establish an accessible route from neighborhood streets down to the Greenway. From 2011 through 2016, it continued improving the site with seating, sidewalks, plantings, and trees. 


In 2017, with the Midtown Greenway nearing 20 years old, Hennepin County decided to closeout the original Midtown Community Works program, which had provided management and funding to greenway-associated initiatives.  Along with this closure came the need to divest from properties being maintained by the program. It is this closure that initiated conversations between MPRB and the County about possible land transfer.

Existing Conditions


Today the Cepro site is a mostly open green space with relatively steep grades descending from surrounding streets to the Midtown Greenway.  Hennepin Countys improvements (all of which are considered the “phase 1” improvement of the site) allow for both pass-through and stay-a-while use.  A Y-shaped trail occupies the center of the site and provides the only fully accessible ramp into the sunken portion of the Greenway.  On the eastern edge of the site are a variety of seating options—picnic tables, benches, and swing benches—located on several different terraced elevations.  Native landscaping and trees cover the eastern slopes, while a small grouping of fruit trees offer fresh snacks at the northern edge of the site.  Adjacent to the Greenway at the lowest edge of the site, a portion of the old elevator has been preserved as a seating wall.  Stairways descend into the site adjacent to both 10th and 11th Avenues. 


The Cepro site comes with an environmental covenant (Attachment B). Hennepin County, upon purchasing the site, did some environmental investigation and mitigation on the site. The covenant places restrictions on the property and requires careful consideration during site improvements.  Because MPRB would intend to operate the park as an open space and expects to perform limited grading and earthwork, the covenant is not a concern for staff.


Proposed Design


In 2016 Hennepin County and the neighborhood organization approached MPRB about the potential divestment of the Cepro Site. The three entities worked together to finalize the ultimate complete design of the site and a cost estimate for improvements (Attachment C).  Building on years of engagement organized by Hennepin County (in which the neighborhood organization and local community had been involved), the three entities convened a design charrette to create a concept level master plan for the site.  The charrette involved representatives of Hennepin County, MPRB, the Midtown Phillips neighborhood, and other area stakeholders.  After the charrette, MPRB assisted the process by finalizing drawings and preparing a cost estimate for the property. 


The proposed design retains the phase 1 improvements implemented by the County but adds several desired amenities and further improves accessibility.  The picnicking and seating area is enhanced with the addition of a small open air picnic shelter.  The small orchard forms the foundation for a larger designated urban agriculture zone occupying the northern edge of the property—an area that could see additional fruit trees or garden plots.  The stairways and Greenway trail access are unchanged, but a new accessible path connects a clear desire line between 10th Avenue and the northeastern corner of the site. 


The western half of the site is home to a new stage for performances, fitness classes, and /or group gatherings.  The stage utilizes the elevator footprint and is connected to the main trail by an accessible path.  Seating for the stage is on a slightly re-graded south-facing slope, with accessible seating at its base.  Atop the slope (and utilizing the significant grade change on the site) is a small adventure playground, which could feature bouldering, big slides, net climbers, and other play options focused on physical activity and challenge.  Water and electrical services provide additional functionality to the picnic shelter, urban agriculture area, and stage. 


Due to the environmental covenant referenced under existing conditions, careful design and consultation will be necessary for any re-grading for the amphitheater and play area. 


This concept builds on good community-engaged implementation work performed by Hennepin County over the years, but adds amenities not found nearby.  All additions respect the initial community desires for the site: accessibility, healthy foods, physical activity, and community and family programming. 


Operational Benefits and Impacts


During the conversations about site transfer, MPRB planning staff convened an internal staff group to discuss opportunities and challenges with acquisition of the Cepro site.  The meeting was attended by representatives of Planning, Asset Management, Public Safety, and Recreation Centers and Programs.  The group did feel that the site may not be currently well enough managed, due primarily to the fact that Hennepin County is not in the business of maintaining parks.  The primary opportunity, therefore, is to provide a higher level of service to the public at the site.  Should the site become MPRB property it would be maintained and patrolled by MPRB staff, which provides some economy of scale Hennepin County cannot achieve.  Additionally, the site would offer recreational options not available at Stewart Park in particular. The proposed stage, adventure play area, and urban agriculture zone would be unique in this dense urban neighborhood. Staff at the meeting suggested partnering with a community organization or Hennepin County’s Health and Human Services to program the site, thereby increasing use and safety.


The work team also identified several potential challenges with the site. There was concern about the somewhat secluded nature of the site and its proximity to the Greenway, which could create safety and jurisdictional challenges.  The site has been home to some homelessness, prostitution, and drug/alcohol use.  There was particular concern surrounding the proposed picnic shelter, which could attract illegal use in the evenings.  The primary issue for staff was the additional burden on field staff. Maintaining and patrolling another park property will require additional staff hours.  An annual operations estimate is included with the proposed concept plan (Attachment C), though admittedly this does not take public safety needs into account. 


After further conversation at the executive level, staff is recommending moving forward with the acquisition, due to the importance of continuing to provide this green space to the public and the acquisition’s alignment with existing MPRB policy.  It is likely that even a basic level of MPRB service to the site will exceed current practices and provide an enhanced recreation option for the public.  Furthermore, establishing the site as an MPRB park, with signs and posted rules, will eliminate the current no-man’s-land character of the property.  MPRB presence will signal that the site is watched and cared for, which will itself increase safety.



South Service Area Master Plan Amendment


Approved in September 2016, and amended for the first time in July 2017, the South Service Area Master Plan (SSAMP) is the governing policy document for neighborhood park implementation south of downtown and east of I-35W.  SSAMP calls for additional parkland in the Midtown greenway corridor (Action 12).  For the purposes of ongoing implementation of the Cepro Site, the SSAMP must be amended to include the master plan for the site.  In effect, an approval to amend the SSAMP will be an approval of the concept plan as described above, which was created through a collaborative effort and extensive community engagement both prior to and during MPRB’s involvement in the site. Should the board approve this resolution, a series of items would be added to the current SSAMP document and would become the official policy guidance for ongoing implementation of improvements at the site.  In essence, these pieces would become a new “park packet” in the SSAMP document, similar to the amendment procedures called for on page 275 of the SSAMP document (Attachment D).


This background memo has been written to generally follow the established SSAMP document format, so it can become the park packet if approved.  Upon passage of this resolution, the following items will become the master plan for the Cepro Site:

·         The Site Location and History section of this resolution background

·         The Existing Conditions section of this resolution background

·         The Proposed Design section of this resolution background

·         The illustrative “Cepro Green Space Concept Plan” (Attachment C)

·         The cost and operation estimates for the Cepro Site (Attachment C)


Per standard practice, a public hearing is being held at the same meeting as this resolution is considered, to provide the opportunity for public input on the concept plan and the amendment of the SSAMP.


Phase 2 Implementation


As a condition of land transfer, MPRB originally asked Hennepin County for a maintenance and operations endowment to assist with management of the site.  This, however, is not possible because Hennepin County’s primary goal is to closeout the Midtown Community Works project and it cannot continue to spend funds after that time.  Hennepin County, however, has offered to fund a phase 2 implementation of the site, which could happen immediately after transfer.  Phase 2 funding will come to MPRB in the form of a grant. MPRB will be solely in charge of the improvement project.  The County has authorized a grant of $300,000 for this purpose, which is described in the cooperative agreement (Attachment A). 


This funding amount was determined after a cost estimate was prepared for the site. The design charrette also suggested some priorities for phase 2 implementation: continued enhancement of naturalized areas, the outdoor stage (including grading), additional accessible pathways, and water and electrical utilities.  Based on the cost estimate, these items would cost $271,378 (including design and administrative fees). Should the Board adopt this resolution, MPRB would initiate the design and construction effort, pending available staff time. 


Because the cooperative agreement sets a deadline for expenditure of June 2019, and the County cannot change this date, the County has agreed to place the grant funds in an escrow account, so MPRB can have more time to implement phase 2. 




“Cepro” may not be the ideal name for this site, if it becomes a park.  Should the Board adopt this resolution, Planning staff will initiate a naming process under the Land Acquisition Policy.  Though that policy does not set forth a formal process for determining and selecting a name, it does state that sites may have a geographic, historic, or functional name, or that they may be named for an individual, once a 2-year waiting period has elapsed.  Planning staff will work with Community Outreach staff to solicit nominations from the community for the naming of the site, then will present possibilities to the Board for consideration.


The cooperative agreement has been reviewed and approved by legal counsel for form and content.




Staff recommends authorizing a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County for the land transfer of the Cepro Site to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and accepting a grant from Hennepin County in the amount of $300,000 for the implementation of phase 2 improvements of the site.


Staff also recommends amending the South Service Area Master Plan to include the Cepro Site, its concept plan, and associated information; and initiating a process under the land acquisition policy to determine a name for the property.


This action is supported by the following vision and goal statements in the MPRB 2007-2020 Comprehensive Plan:


Vision Theme 3:              Dynamic parks that shape city character and meet diverse community needs

Goal:                                          Focused land management supports current and future generations


This action is further supported by the South Service Area Master Plan:


Action 12:              Seek additional parkland or private land available for public use in the Midtown Greenway Corridor west of Hiawatha Avenue and in the Hiawatha Avenue Corridor in the vicinity of Lake Street.


Action 19:              Designate urban agriculture sites within the service area, as an aspect of implementation of the MPRB-adopted Urban Agriculture Plan.


Action 23a:              Increase diversity of play opportunities to include adventure and nature play.


Action 26:              Provide some natural areas (pollinator gardens, rain gardens, forested areas) in most parks.



Meeting History

Dec 19, 2018 5:10 PM  Planning Committee Committee Meeting
MOVER:Chris Meyer, Commissioner District 1
AYES:Meg Forney, Jono Cowgill, Chris Meyer, Kale Severson, Londel French
Jan 2, 2019 5:10 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

Approved on a Roll Call Vote.

MOVER:Meg Forney, Commissioner At Large
SECONDER:Londel French, Commissioner At Large
AYES:Brad Bourn, AK Hassan, Meg Forney, Londel French, LaTrisha Vetaw, Chris Meyer, Kale Severson, Jono Cowgill, Steffanie Musich