The City of Minneapolis was awarded $21.5 million in the 2014 bonding bill to completely renovate Nicollet Mall, once a centerpiece of downtown shopping and entertainment. Now, according to the Star Tribune, the city is in a fix as only one bidder responded to the request for proposal. The bidder came in at $59 million for construction costs, bringing the total project cost to $74 million, a 50% increase from the original $50 million price tag sold to legislators.
The city wants to replace the roadway on Nicollet Avenue with 8 acres of concrete pavers for aesthetic reasons, which helped drive up the cost. Now, they may consider sticking with concrete and staining it. The project also includes public art, trees, and seating to read and linger on downtown street.
Like many government projects, the city went ahead and used taxpayer funds to commission the design and has been working on utility and street work, despite having no bids out for the cost of the project to ensure it can be completed within budget. The city hired a New York City architecture firm for the project back in 2013, before it had any committed state dollars in place.
The Star Tribune reports, “The $35 million construction budget is one component of the total project cost. Another $15 million covers other costs such as consulting fees, public art, city labor charges and traffic management.”
Legislators agreed two years ago to have Minnesota taxpayers borrow $21.5 million of the total project cost, city taxpayers foot another $3.5 million of the bill, and $25 million is generated by tax assessments on downtown businesses.
Governor Dayton has been a champion of the project calling Nicollett Mall “Minnesota’s Main Street.” The Dayton family’s wealth purchased Nicollet Avenue real estate back in the 1890’s, before the department store opened for business. Dayton’s uncle Donald was a key part of the redesign of the street in the 1960’s.
The project will go out to bid again.