Northfield Crossing: still messy after all these years

Construction debris at Northfield Crossing Construction debris at Northfield Crossing Construction debris at Northfield Crossing
It’s been two and a half years since Highland Bank foreclosed on the Northfield Crossing development and a sizeable portion of the surrounding property is still a mess. I took these photos last week.

I first complained about the mess in 2007. In June, 2008, I blogged: Banks foreclose on The Crossing; now the City should clean up the surrounding property. A year later, June 2009, I added a comment containing the text of an email from Brian O’Connell, Northfield community development director, on the status of the clean-up.

The relationship is that the clean up items are essentially the same items. Piper wants to renegotiate the TIF note, Council is saying they would consider renegotiating the note if the site clean up issues are completed. Highland is now the owner of the residential condominium to which the clean up items are related. So Highland is now determining the cost to complete the items to see if they can complete in time which will assist in unit sales efforts. Everyone wants the same thing; the issue is determining cost and identifying sources of money to pay the expense.

WTF is taking so long to clean up this ‘gateway to downtown Northfield’

Demolition artists Ross Currier and Dan Bergeson Demolition artists Ross Currier and Dan Bergeson 2 Demolition artists Ross Currier and Dan Bergeson 3
This portion of the property doesn’t look that much better than it did in 2005 when NDDC‘s Dan Bergeson and Ross Currier took matters into their own hands and personally demolished seven buildings when it was known as the Riverfront Development Site. I think we need them again to take charge, this time to haul all the construction shit out of there.

Dan? Ross? How about it?

There is some good news, however. There have been some improvements to other (city-owned?) parts of the property in recent weeks: streetscape-style decorative fencing along Hwy. 3, with many new trees planted.

Streetscape improvements at Northfield Crossing

23 comments to  (Including 5 Discussion Threads) Northfield Crossing: still messy after all these years

  • 1
    Dianne Kyte says:

    Griff -- If you had asked me (or Brian O’Connell), I could have told you that the fencing (done earlier this fall)and the trees and landscaping material, including the traffic circle(done in the past 2 weeks) were done by Highland Bank. The Riverfront improvements were scheduled to start right as the flood hit in September and that work had to be delayed until next Spring as the City had other more pressing items to work with after the flood.

    Dianne Kyte, Resident of The Crossing Condos

    • 1.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Hey Diane, thanks for chiming in.

      When you say “riverfront improvements were scheduled,” can you point us to recent information (web address of the documents) on the City’s website where this is explained?

      My understanding is that “riverfront improvements” (trail- and park-like amenities) are distinctly different than construction debris and general site eyesore stuff that I’ve been complaining about, even though both were part of the negotiations between the City and Highland Bank.

      • 1.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        The responsibilities for the “clean up” were discussed in several council meetings/packets, Griff… but I know that won’t satisfy you if its not a specific item on the city website.

        It does seem to me as if the ‘city’ could either pick up the trash themselves or insist that at least that part of it be done expeditiously by Highland Bank, and personally, I think the back of the Crossing looks way worse with the trash lying around ,than the front ever looked.

        There is actually a deeper issue here: Every guiding document Northfield has emphasizes the importance of the river as an amenity and a focus, the Comp Plan, the Economic Development Comp Plan, the Natural Lands/ Parks Trails Master Plan … and yet when it comes right down to the practical implementation of those guiding documents, the ‘city’ can’t even send a crew out to pick up the trash that is clearly visible as you look north when driving over the 2nd street bridge.

        The Council doesn’t want to “micro-manage”; who is managing simple cleanups like this at all? If the City doesn’t want to use its manpower to do it, then enforce the agreement with the bank.
        Now the excuse will be that it’s winter; there was a lot of good weather before the flood on 9.24, and a lot of good weather in the two months afterward.

        Maybe this is a good neutral ( is it neutral?) discussion for the Council when they meet at the Tavern for their twice monthly breakfasts.

      • 1.1.2
        kiffi summa says:

        Actually, I was way too easy on the ‘city’ in my previous comment. :-)

        At ALL times , during and since the Crossing project development, it was incumbent on the ‘city’ to have the property maintained/cleaned up within the goals of the principles established in the City’s guiding policy documents.

        Right, Dan?

  • 2
    Dan Bergeson says:

    Griff,
    I’ve not been idle on this topic. See my Nov. 5 blog post at http://imjustcurious.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-left-over-bits/ I have commentary on other issues there as well, but photos similar to your re: the Crossing. What Highland Bank did on the Hwy 3 side of the property is great. For some reason, you and I are the only ones who seem to care what the property looks like from the 2nd St. side or the river bank. Diane is absolutely right that the flood interfered with the bank’s timetable, but how long and at what cost would it take to pick up the leftover tubing, hazard fence, and misc. concrete? I’m just sayin’.

  • 3
    David Ludescher says:

    For what it’s worth -- this isn’t public property.

    • 3.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Agreed, David, but for what it’s worth… there was a development agreement,and superseding agreements with the Financing/foreclosure holders.

    • 3.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi,

      Did those agreements permit the City to have control over the looks of the grounds?

      • 3.2.1
        kiffi summa says:

        My knowledge of “those documents” , other than their existence, comes from staff reports at council meetings. The condition of the property was often an issue that was discussed. “Control of the grounds” and the standards held to in each phase would be different, wouldn’t they?
        So ???

    • 3.3

      But it is by design a public space, even if not literally owned by a public authority. When it was City-sponsored gentrification redevelopment that made this thing happen, they do have a reasonable expectation (and duty to ensure) a basically pleasing space.

      As Diane mentioned a portion of the property is also City-owned. Here’s a map: http://i.imgur.com/rxXnh.png.

      • 3.3.1
        David Ludescher says:

        Sean,

        I understand that the project was a City-supported (TIF) project. Beyond that I don’t think the City or the public has an interest.

        Did you mean something else by “public space”?

      • 3.3.2

        It’s like church grounds, or that odd little park between Target and Cub, or the college campuses (esp. the Carleton Arb): they are not owned by a public authority. But they are public spaces. Despite not a legal claim to them, the public — we, here — still has an interest in them being well-kept. If St. John’s had large ugly construction debris lying around their property for five years, Griff would probably be posting pictures of that here too.

        And in this more than any of those examples, the City made it possible. It certainly perfectly reasonable for them to be working to clean it up — and it sounds like Highland Bank is basically cooperating.

  • 4
    Dianne Kyte says:

    The land along the river from 2nd Street to the north edge was retained by the City of Northfield as City Park when the redevelopment was done. You can go to the Rice County Property Search and see the exact lot lines for each parcel (including the parcel along the riverfront. The final landscaping was to be done when ALL of the building was done on the site -- something that isn’t going to happen in the near future right now. It is my understanding that an agreement was reached this summer with all parties involved, including the City, that this area was going to some of the work done now, including dead trees taken out, some final utility work done, some riverfront plantings done and then the rest seeded in Prairie Grass. The area was all staked out for work to begin when the flood came. Some of the debris that Griff has in his photos is the fencing that was pulled up when all of the extra soil left by the flood was taken away. As I said earlier, this is now on hold until Spring. I have seen a copy of the plan but do not have a copy.

  • 5
    kiffi summa says:

    As a related area of discourse… if “WTF” and construction “shit” (see Griff’s original post above) are acceptable dialogue/ commentary/ i.e.descriptive language here in this public venue…..well, how come?

    Too far a digression? What is common language about? is it just ‘common’?
    Random House says: “belonging equally to all”, but it also says, down a ways, definition #6: “coarse or vulgar”..

    Such widely divergent definitions give rise to a specifically culturally acceptable ‘norm’, which might then vary, community to community.
    Is it a different standard if applied to specific instances, such as here… or if used as an Expletive?

    • 5.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      You’re off-topic on this, Kiffi.  But do see our About Us page, which says:

      We may use profanity on occasion because some of us talk that way and think it can be done in an effective and entertaining way. We’ll be judicious, though, like Jon Stewart. If you don’t like it, tough shit, we apologize for your sensitivity.

       

  • 6

    I continue to find the lack of completed sidewalks more grating than the bits of trash. This is sold as downtown housing — it needs to have a proper connection to the downtown sidewalk network!

    Walking from the 101 Olaf “Edgewater,” here is the route one would have to take to get to Division while staying on the sidewalks: http://i.imgur.com/fvuGN.jpg.

    There’s no safety risk in just walking on the street there for a more direct route (except maybe tripping over the manhole covers that extend out of the unfinished asphalt). But that really takes a bit out of the aesthetic experience of walking between Edgewater and downtown.

    • 6.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Sean, I understand why the lack of completed sidewalks bug you but the “bits of trash” are not insignificant. It’s what people — prospective buyers-- notice the most when viewing the property from the south-facing condo windows, as a local realtor told me not long ago.

      • 6.1.1

        No, I totally agree — see my responses to David above. I just find also find the incomplete connection to downtown bothersome, and it hasn’t been addressed as much as the trash has.

  • 7
    Griff Wigley says:

    Another 6 months has gone by and the property around The Crossing is still a shit hole. June 1 photo:

    The Crossing, June 1, 2011

  • 8
    kiffi summa says:

    (Before the language police arrive, remember Griff always says it is HIS ‘sandbox’, and he may do as he pleases!)

    But Griff, you are correct about how the property looks; although the highway edge has been somewhat addressed, the river side just keeps getting worse and worse…

    Who has the responsibility to see that the agreements in place are enforced?

    Why were the trees along the river cut down? (Actually, I bet I know the answer to that one: someone said they were just “junk” trees… well any trees will hold the riverbank better than none)

    Is the city staff supposed to enforce the development agreement?

    Is the City Council supposed to direct the staff to do so if they are not taking the initiative to do it?

    Why don’t the residents ‘get after’ the City or the Bank that now owns the property?

    Frankly, from the Second street bridge, and in a B/W photo, it could pass for a fifties hi-rise on a plain outside a Russian city.

  • 9

    I would note that the Crossing is not the only failed development with a lot of junk around. I strongly recommend ya’ll go take a look at Bridgewater Heights. Undeveloped right of way of Highland Pkwy is largely impassable, filled with water in some places. Large stormsewer mains having been sitting sadly above ground for about five years now. The road to the ice rink — “Bridgewater Parkway” — is not even a proper gravel road. And more on issues that actually harm people, the lack of completion of Bridgewater Heights means that more traffic is pushed onto very-narrow, very-dangerous Roosevelt Ridge Rd (County Rd 1). (In the completed plan, 115th St would also have been paved, and Highland Pkwy would connect the two — the developer would have also paid for sidewalks/trails along County Rd 1).

    So, while the Crossing is a more visible mess, it is at the very least, not a daily hazard. And not as dangerous a mess.

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