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Massive project slated for Bloomington
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A portion of the 700-room hotel and resort that will feature a 60,000-square-foot water park. (Courtesy of Great Northern Resorts, LLC)
Developers have unveiled plans for a $600 million development project to be built along the Hiawatha Light Rail line near the Mall of America. Bloomington Central Station will include office space, residential housing and a 700-room hotel and resort that will feature a 60,000-square-foot water park. Planners say the 45-acre parcel of land will be transformed into the state's first transit-oriented development and a national model. However, some opponents of light rail, say the development would make sense even without its connection to the Hiawatha line.

Bloomington, Minn. — Developers say Bloomington Central Station's location near the Hiawatha Light Rail line will make it an ideal spot for businesses and families.

Don Gleason, the vice president of operations for Great Northern Resorts, one of the project's developers, says the development will make it easier for people to live without an automobile.

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Image Dave Anderson

"You can just live in this community but get to where ever you want. Whether it's somewhere else in the world, with this wonderful, world class airport... or over to shop or downtown. So your lifestyle is wrapped around this experience, so it's going to be a really pleasing place. Not only to live but also to work," he said.

The lead developer on the project is McGough Companies, based in the Twin Cities. When finished, Bloomington Central Station will contain more than one million square feet of office space and 1,000 units of housing in glass-enclosed high rises. Some of the units will have views of both downtown skylines and the Minnesota River valley. It will also include landscaped greenspaces and retail businesses. However, at the center of attention of the development is Majestic Springs.

"Majestic Springs resort is more than just a water park. It is really a cruise ship experience on land," according to barbecue entrepreneur David "Famous Dave" Anderson, the co-founder of Great Northern Resorts. He says the hotel will feature a high-end steak-and-seafood restaurant, spa and fitness center, convention and meeting facilities, and a high-tech arcade.

Anderson says they chose to build in the Twin Cities metro because more families are looking for urban destination resorts.

"This project was originally slated to be built in a tourist area of Wisconsin. But once we realized what we had created and began to understand the changing trends in the tourism industry, especially after 9/11, we realized that this project was the first fully integrated destination resort that needed to be built near a major, metropolitan city," Anderson said.

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Image The present site

The $600 million price tag doesn't include necessary infrastructure changes to accommodate the new development. That expense will be the responsibility of the city of Bloomington.

"It's going to involve, obviously, a considerable amount of road work, sewer, water, just the things cities, municipalities need to provide to any and all development. As well as with the density of development here, there probably going to be some parking considerations that we're going to need to deal with," says Gene Winstead, the mayor of Bloomington.

Winstead says it's too early to tell how much the updates in infrastructure will cost Bloomington taxpayers. However, he says the gains to the city's tax base from thousands of new jobs and residents will be a boost to the city.

The developers of Bloomington Central Station and other supporters of light-rail transit, say this LRT oriented development proves the value of light rail.

However, some critics of light rail say ridership will not support the cost of the line itself, much less any businesses that are built next to it.

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Image Housing

"The question isn't whether or not light rail will spur development; it's a question of whether or not it will spur enough development to justify the cost, which is just astronomical," says David Strom with the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota.

Strom says the fate of Bloomington Central Station lies in its proximity to the Mall of America, not to the Hiawatha Line.

Developers expect to break ground on Bloomington Central Station in summer of 2004. The rail line is scheduled to begin service in spring of 2004 and the first phase of construction of Bloomington Central Station is supposed to be completed in 2006.

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