RICHFIELD, MN-Best Buy Co.’s efforts to build a new corporate campus in Richfield passed a key test this week as the Richfield City Council unanimously voted to approve a final environmental impact statement as well as zoning changes to the 42-acre site. While many neighborhood residents and businesses oppose the plan, 82 out of 83 homes and businesses that needed to be cleared from the site near the intersection of I-494 and Penn Ave. South have entered into purchase agreements with the project’s developer, Opus Northwest LLC.

The holdout, Walser Buick, has traded lawsuits with the City, which is pursuing condemnation proceedings. In fact, condemnation hearings began recently to raze Walser Buick’s car dealership to make way for a new corporate headquarters campus for Best Buy Co. Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson told the two sides to mediate their differences. He is expected to order the two sides to enter into mediation on the issue, says Wendy Burt, a spokeswoman for Best Buy. The city argues it long had plans to redevelop the area; Walser attorneys plan to demonstrate the land is not blighted and plans for redevelopment are quite recent.

Earlier this week, the city council issued a determination of adequacy for the environment impact statement, which studied the impact of the project on traffic, streets, land use, noise, air and water quality. Best Buy will spend $160 million to build the 1.5 million sf campus for an anticipated 7,500 employees. That’s $10 million more than initially expected due to higher property acquisition costs, Burt says. Four buildings will be constructed with a commons area containing Best Buy University, a fitness center, transit stop, parking facilities and employee cafeteria.

Next month, Best Buy expects to receive an indirect source permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which would allow Opus to close on its purchase agreements with the property owners. A ground breaking is not expected until April or May, Burt says. The project is expected to be completed in late 2002.

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