Council backs public assistance  

Burnsville City Council members voiced support Tuesday for financial help to build two large office-warehouse buildings in the industrial area west of Interstate 35W and north of Highway 13.

Developer Mike Faber is seeking $3.5 million in public money: $2.5 million for soils correction on the property, located between Ladybird Lane and Dupont Avenue, and $1 million to relocate a metro sewer line that cuts through it.

At a work session, council members said they support a package combining tax-increment financing and grant funding. The property is in the Minnesota River Quadrant area the city has targeted for redevelopment and is within a soils-correction TIF district.

Faber is proposing two 116,000-square-foot buildings with 32-foot ceiling heights — an improvement over the shorter heights found in much of Burnsville’s aging industrial building stock.

The assistance money “doesn’t flow to us” but offers a “level playing field,” Faber told the council.

The $3.5 million in extra costs are “extraordinary costs our competitors would not face on other normal sites, either in Burnsville or other communities,” he said. “We don’t view it as a profit center.”

A number of development proposals for the five vacant parcels, owned by Astleford Limited Family Partnership, have come and gone over the years — perhaps because of the costly soils correction and environmental cleanup, Assistant Community Development Director Regina Dean said.

The property was once the proposed site of a minor league baseball stadium, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz noted. A 2008 plan for a 7,300-seat ballpark to host a Northern League expansion team fizzled.

“They just couldn’t put the money together to do it, and also the soils down in that area,” Kautz said.

The buildings’ 32-foot ceilings are a benefit, Dean said. City officials have heard “time and time again that those clear heights just aren’t available at the ready in Burnsville,” she said. That has led some companies to neighboring cities, Dean said.

Grant programs that might be tapped include the Dakota County Environmental Legacy Fund, which provides county grants to cities with landfills, including Burnsville. The city has $1.15 million available that expires in September, and is eligible for another $1.1 million until at least fall 2020.

Grants may also be available through the Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account and state programs for contamination cleanup and redevelopment.

Council members urged city staff to not lean too heavily on the city’s allocation from the Environmental Legacy Fund. Other developers are also eying that money for projects in Burnsville, Dean said.

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