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MINNEAPOLIS-Development issues are key in the upcoming Minneapolis mayoral race in which R.T. Rybak is challenging incumbent Sharon Sayles-Belton. Rybak has been critical of Sayles-Belton’s downtown economic development policies, including a large subsidy to build a Target store downtown, and has been proposing his own solutions to the affordable housing crisis that faces the city.

Rybak argues that Target could have built a store in downtown Minneapolis without the “massive public investment” that the city put into the project — an estimated $60 million for a parking ramp, site development and other purposes. “As development director of the Downtown Council and later in the private sector, I played a large role in convincing Target to make an investment in a downtown Minneapolis store,” Rybak says. “I know from first hand experience that this store could have been built for many, many millions less than the city is spending, at the current site or other locations.”

Rybak proposes backing off of subsidies for retail development in downtown Minneapolis given the problems the retail sector has had there. Developers should be required to add a retail component to office projects on Nicollet Mall as the city’s master plan requires (several recent projects have not had street-level retail), help independent retailers rather than the large chains and invest in infrastructure, not subsidies for large developers and corporations.

Rybak is also critical of the “patchwork solutions” for affordable housing that he says has been a pattern of the current administration. He recommends allocating $16 million to fund affordable housing the first year, and then work on spurring private investment with city and state tax incentives. Affordable housing is “our most important civic goal,” Rybak says. He proposes establishing a $10-million-per-year continuous dedicated revenue stream for affordable housing to be funded with a coalition of city, county and foundation monies, as well as creating a central access point for entrepreneurs looking to build and renovate housing.

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