NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday June 22nd 2017

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Persistence by Phillips Community: 3rd Opening in 2018!

BY HARVEY WINJE

Persistence often prevails when the community is “between a rock and a hard place.”  Here is one of those times and places.

Five other Junior High Schools had been built in Minneapolis between 1917 and 1926 when Phillips Jr. High School and Sanford Junior High School were built four years before the Great Depression.  The same blueprint was used for Phillips and Sanford except Sanford originally had less classrooms.  Sanford Junior High is still used today complete with a very large addition providing more space at 36th Street and 42nd Avenue.

Phillips Junior High School had a pool and gym added in 1972.  However, Phillips Jr. High  was closed in 1982 due to demographic shifts caused by highways and other societal factors. It was demolished in 1987 despite vehement neighborhood objections to not reusing it for housing, community space, offices, factory, school and/or combined multiple use.  In a contradictory decision, the Mpls. School Board bought Mt. Sinai Hospital four years later, 3 blocks away from Phillips School site and remodeled it with excessive costs into a special magnet school.

The neighborhood lobbied successfully to keep the Pool and Gym addition to the old Phillips Jr. High but its heat source boiler was in the primary school building now demolished!  With no heat, the newer addition  suffered damage, causing it to be closed until neighborhood pressure and fundraising produced a $1.5M renovation budget.  The Pool and Gym reopened under a 20- year contract with the Boys and Girls Club in exchange for programming and maintaining the building. Maintenance was deferred and the building was closed for extensive renovations in 2009.

Signage and public notice of the “extensive renovations” didn’t include announcing the plan to fill the pool with dirt and cap it with concrete for another use.  Ironically, the plan to eliminate the pool on April 1st, April Fool’s Day 2010, was “leaked” to the public.  This news spread like wild fire on the prairie via social media and word of mouth communications.  Ensuing public pressure mandated a moratorium allowing  further discussion, negotiating, decision-making and eventually, fundraising for the pools reopening.

Hundreds of people from Phillips, other neighborhoods, organizations, institutions, bureaucracies, and political offices have coalesced off and on over the 45-year life span of this Pool and Gym facility.

One more extensive renovation enhanced by substantial additions to the building, well described by Denny Bennett beginning on the front page of this issue of The Alley Newspaper, will lead to its third opening for public use in 2018.

Persistence enhanced with commitment, community building coalescing, and sincerity led to the many new partnerships that have together made this facility be able to serve again.  Persistence prevails!

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