MINNEAPOLIS - Mayor RT is seeking a cash infusion for the Midtown Global Market, a multi-cultural bazaar that occupies part of the old Sears Building on East Lake Street.
Rybak's final city budget, which goes before the full City Council December 11, includes $185,000 to support the market's operation. That would go principally for marketing events at the Midtown Global Market.
The mayor is also seeking $85,000 to help the market continue to provide two hours worth of free parking. He'll also ask the Council to forgive the remaining $1.5 million the market already owes the city from previous loans.
"This is not about a rescue or a bailout," Earlsworth "Baba" Letang, the market's manager, told KARE.
"I mean this is a project that is very good for the city. It is a project that's creating opportunities for people. People's lives are being changed in this place."
Letang pointed out that the Midtown Global Market can't be compared to a regular shopping center. It's a tourist attraction and public gathering place. It's also an incubator, of sorts, for small business startups.
Some of those 40-plus business are people who are new to the business sector. The mall's management, the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Center, provides technical assistance to those new business operators.
"In order to provide the traffic for all these businesses whose life depends on this, we need to do a lot of marketing and technical assistance," LeTang explained.
"These are what we call mission-related costs. The help we're talking getting from the City of Minneapolis is to fill in that cost."
The market was created in 2006 as part of the Midtown Exchange Project, a public-private venture that revived the abandoned Sears building. The complex is also home to Allina Medical's corporate offices, a hotel, private restaurants and Minn. Driver and Vehicle Services bureau.
The market was one of the few city-subsidized private developments that Rybak endorsed during his three terms as Minneapolis mayor. He was so happy with the turnaround of the old Sears property that he picked that spot to announce he wouldn't be seeking a fourth term, and reflect on his accomplishments.
The market portion of the project has never broken even financially, but that gap has been narrowing in recent years. LeTang said that at one point the operating deficit was $600,000 per year, but that has dropped to $200,000.
Much of the difference has been made up through private donations, and the goal is to make the market self-supporting eventually.
LeTang said that, overall, the Midtown Global Market has made a positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
"We've seen the crime rates have gone down by 25 percent since we arrived seven years ago,, so just through the establishment of this project, this community's becoming a safer place."
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