Wilf exploring development options in downtown Minneapolisby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf met with Minneapolis city officials Wednesday to discuss development possibilities in the city's downtown. The city has property to sell, and Wilf is reportedly taking a close look at different options.
Meeting participants say the subject of the Vikings' future in Minneapolis and in the Metrodome came up. However, they say the meeting was more about Wilf's real-estate business than about his search for a new Vikings stadium.
Minneapolis, Minn. — Zygi Wilf may be best known by Minnesota Vikings fans as the team's new owner. However, Wilf is also the head of Garden Commercial Properties, a New Jersey-based company which owns and manages 25 million square feet of commercial and retail space.
The Vikings are still pursuing a proposal to build a new $675 million stadium and development in Blaine, even though the funding plan didn't make it through the state Legislature last session.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says he told Wilf he would like to see the Minnesota Vikings stay downtown. However, he says if the team goes elsewhere, Wilf can still have a presence in the city.
"We spent some time talking to Mr. Wilf, not only as the owner of the Vikings but as a significant developer, about all the different options within the city of Minneapolis," Rybak said. "Some of those are around the Metrodome. Some of those are around the rest of the city. So we want to send the message to any developer that Minneapolis is for business."
In a few weeks the City of Minneapolis will release requests for proposals on nine city-owned parking ramps. Lee Sheehy, the director of the city's Community Planning and Economic Development department, says some of the sites that are up for sale are attached to commercial property, making them unlikely candidates for redevelopment.
But others are stand-alone properties, like the underground Downtown East ramp located across the street from the Metrodome. Sheehy says that site is promising.
"I think it's a very exciting opportunity, because it already has footings to put an up to eight-story building on it, and it's a rail stop," said Sheehy. "Should we be fortunate enough that the central line (light rail corridor) gets funded, that's actually where the central line comes in. So I think if you have patience as an investor, that's a highly desirable site."
Zygi Wilf declined to talk to reporters following his meeting with the mayor. He has said in the past that he is not interested in renovating the dome. However, team representative Lester Bagley says Wilf is interested in the area around the dome.
"The way the city is growing, and its connection to the riverfront development, and the Guthrie, and the infrastructure and the transit -- it's a solid, solid area, and it's really an attractive area from a developer's perspective," Bagley said.
The Metrodome will soon be losing two key tenants. The Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota Gopher football team are both building new places to play their home games.
When asked if the Vikings and the city talked about tearing down the Metrodome and building a new stadium in its place, Bagley says that option was not discussed in detail. However, he says Wilf is open to new proposals.
- Morning Edition, 07/20/2006, 7:35 a.m.