I have served on the Economic Development Commission here in Burnsville and have been studying the Burnsville Center Area for a while now so let me try to get people up to speed:
The current plan proposed by the city is called the Center Village Initiative. This is an expansive plan to turn the mall area, including the part of town where Unique and Kmart currently sit, all the way down to Berean Baptist Church and Lund’s, into a mega retail/housing area with low-income-based housing options included.
To build this project there are major hurdles, for starters the investment firm Seritage that bought hundreds of Sears buildings nationwide not being willing to talk about selling their building here in Burnsville. This may be the case with the other cornerstone buildings as well. The second major hurdle is that we don’t have a developer that wants to take on the project, so the city has spent hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars on traffic studies, presentations, and traveling to mall conventions (yes, that’s a thing apparently) to lure in developers. To further sweeten the deal the city is offering to make that area a TiF (Tax Increment Finance) district which would mean the owners of this new development would be receiving a reduced tax rate or no tax rate for years to come. Of course, this tax burden will have to be carried by other business owners and residents of the city.
The estimated cost to the taxpayers without considering the debt the TiF zoning will bring us is already at 23-31 million dollars! That’s a lot of dough.
The city is saying that they will apply for grants to cover the costs, but a grant is not a sure thing and grants are funded by tax dollars so...
A cheaper, more economically viable plan with more vision of what the future will demand (and that is not more mall shopping and retail) is needed - but it’s not up for discussion because the designers of the Center Village plan are refusing to hear any other proposals for that area.