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Park and ride lot downtown gets go-ahead

With the council's approval Tuesday evening, the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with two final agreements that will allow the construction of a new park and ride lot in downtown Hastings.

The lot will be in the vacant gravel lot just south of Second Street and east of Tyler Street, but it won't take up the entire block.

"We're not going to be leasing the whole block over," Community Development Director John Hinzman told HEDRA at its Jan. 13 meeting.

HEDRA is signing a lease agreement that turns over owner authority to the Metropolitan Council for a term of 40 years. The lease to Met Council does restrict some uses on the lot, specifically disallowing any activities that would compromise its tax-exempt status such as income-generating events. However, the new lot will allow for some other public uses as long as they don't disrupt transit.

The northern third of the block will remain under HEDRAs authority so it can be used for future development. Discussions with the Red Rock Corridor Commission indicate that area could eventually be used for a new transit rail station and community plaza or farmer's market type use.

Instead of leaving that portion as gravel, however, while the rest of the lot is paved and landscaped, HEDRA commissioner Dennis Peine asked about landscaping the northern third while they wait for development.

"That would be a great spot for a temporary sculpture garden or something," he suggested.

Other commissioners agreed with the idea, especially considering the city-controlled portion will also be the most visible from Second Street.

Commissioner Danna Elling Schultz voiced her concerns over the city's and HEDRAs dealings with the Met Council. It seems weird to her, she said, that this lease agreement is one in which the tenant is telling the landlord what it can and cannot do. She's also less than satisfied with the process the Met Council is using to bring public transit to Hastings.

"I'm still not sure why we're getting the park before we're getting the ride," she said.

Still, HEDRA felt comfortable enough with the agreement to go ahead with it. Maintaining control of the northern third of the block eased many concerns.

"It sounds like a great idea, in light of all that," Peine said.