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Hopkins Fights Back Against Southwest LRT Maintenance Facility

City leaders are upset about potential loss of tax base and redevelopment opportunities.

Hopkins leaders are mounting an effort to keep out the Southwest Light Rail Transit operation and maintenance facility that will service trains along the corridor.

On Wednesday, the Hopkins Business and Civic Association (HBCA) board sent out an e-mail reminding members about a public meeting on the controversial facility and encouraging them to attend. And last month, Mayor Gene Maxwell sent the Southwest LRT project office a letter criticizing the way the sites were selected.

“Hopkins is very interested in making this project a success, but fairness to our residents, property owners, and disadvantaged populations must be part of the discussion,” Maxwell wrote.

Click the PDF to the right of this article to read the full letter and see the rest of the information sent to HBCA members.

 

A fair process?

Hopkins was not originally a battleground for the operation and maintenance facility debate. The Southwest LRT project’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) identified just six possible sites where the facility could be located—five sites in Eden Prairie and one in Minneapolis.

However, planners decided that the start of preliminary engineering was a good time to take a look at more sites and they eventually identified 18 sites. Those sites were further winnowed down to seven sites.

Hopkins accounts for four of those seven sites:

  • K-Tel East: Fifth Street South and 15th Avenue South in Hopkins
  • 11th Avenue West: Fifth Street South and 11th Avenue South in Hopkins
  • Excelsior West: 8098 Excelsior Boulevard in Hopkins
  • Excelsior East: Excelsior Boulevard and Powell Road at the border of Hopkins and St. Louis Park

In his letter, Maxwell argued that the process used to select the sites was unfair. By only identifying the sites after the DEIS was completed, the process did not allow Hopkins to comment on the locations during the normal DEIS comment period.

He asked for a supplemental DEIS to be put together to “properly vet the new locations.”

 

Loss of tax base

But even if that happened, it’s unlikely Hopkins officials would welcome a facility onto the sites that remain because it would eliminate redevelopment opportunities and remove property from the city’s tax rolls. They argue that’s unjust when Hopkins is so much smaller than the other cities under consideration for the operations and maintenance facility.

According to an April “Briefing Paper” from the city, Hopkins’ four square miles is just over a third of the area of St. Louis Park, the next biggest city where the facility could go. Eden Prairie, the largest city, has nearly nine times the area of Hopkins.

It’s not just the area either. The value of property within Hopkins’ boundaries is less than 30 percent of St. Louis Park’s market valuation and about 18 percent of Eden Prairie’s, according to the briefing paper.

An operations and maintenance facility in Hopkins would remove about .43 percent of the city’s market valuation, Maxwell noted. By contrast, only one of the other sites climbs above .1 percent, according to the briefing paper.

“The larger communities along the corridor are much better able to absorb the loss of tax base than is our small city,” Maxwell wrote.

 

Quality of life

Finally, Maxwell worried that a facility on the two Excelsior sites, which are among four locations ranked as more preferable, would hurt residents in the Blake Road corridor, many of them low income. 

Redevelopment is a major focus along Blake Road. The city and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District have been working together to improve the Cottageville Park area. Closer to the sites, the 17-acre Cold Storage site offers a major opportunity for improvement.

Although one of the possible operation and maintenance facility sites is zoned industrial, planners envision turning the area into a business park in order to improve quality of life for nearby residents. The other is already zoned for a business park.

The Met Council has scheduled meetings to solicit feedback on the shortlisted sites. The Hopkins meeting takes place from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 22 in the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ Jaycees Studio.

Meetings are also taking place from:

  • 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 13 at the Eden Prairie City Center Heritage Rooms (8080 Mitchell Road)
  • 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Southwest Project Office (6465 Wayzata Blvd, Ste. 500, St. Louis Park)

The Metropolitan Council will use comments gathered at the meetings to choose the preferred site later this year.

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