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Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Sears/Roof Depot Warehouse Site Up-Date The East Phillips Community Making Waves for Water Works

The curved east wall of the building built as the Sear Warehouse adjacent to railroad track for efficient unloading from railroad cars in the path now the Midtown Greenway with the Martin Sabo Bridge rise of the Greenway over Hiawatha Avenue/Highway #55.

BY CAROL PASS, GAC member and EPIC Board President

Ready or not: Here comes the City Water Yard, its numerous huge diesel trucks, its 100+ employees’ additional cars to one of the most polluted and dangerously traffic-congested areas of the City.

The Promise:

The City’s Core Principles of Community Engagement PROMISE ourRight to be involved”, namely that “… those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.” (Adopted by the Mpls. City Council, Dec. 2007)

The Reality:

Despite the promise, the City of Minneapolis, unbeknown to the “affected” East Phillips community, had been working on acquiring the Roof Depot site for the purpose of transferring the water yard there for at least ten years without informing us. This only came to light after the East Phillips Community began a major campaign to de-industrialize the very heavy industry area around Cedar Ave. and 28th St. City officials may have realized the outrage it would create in the middle of our campaign to de-industrialize were they to just begin this process without giving the community even an ounce of information before beginning. It was obvious that we would encounter this plan with its secrecy for moving this heavily polluted area in the opposite direction the neighborhood was moving. So the purpose of their acquisition, we came to know, is to provide a new site for the City’s Water Yard, in the Face of EPIC’s efforts to de-industrialize and reduce pollution in this dangerously polluted area and in opposition to our effort to do more to protect Phillips’ children from an increase in the dangerous forms of pollution they already face.

The City of Minneapolis immediately encountered protest and good alternative plans were offered to move the neighborhood in the direction we had hoped. Hopeful to avoid further protest and without consulting us, the City used the threat of taking the site by “Eminent Domain” to compel the Roof Depot owners to sell to them. The purchase has been made, placing the city in the drivers seat  and we are now trying to determine our response.

Most of you are aware that East Phillips had created a viable and strong plan to build the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm on this site to provide good jobs and a pollution free business producing good food for the neighborhood. Whether this happens is now in our hands and in the hands of the city. This is where this great project now sits.

So, What’s New?

Community members and organizations have met in many venues and are united in insisting on a neighborhood friendly use for a sizeable portion of the 7.63 acre Roof Depot site. We have made our demands clear at several City Council meetings and have elicited a commitment at the June 23rd 2015 City Council Meeting “… Directing Property Services to work with East Phillips residents and community members to identify potential redevelopment or leasing scenarios for the portion of the property not required for municipal operations …” (if any).

In February 2016 the Minneapolis City Council voted 9-4 to buy the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood, despite objections from the City Council representative from that district who said buying the site to use it for public works purposes is an example of “institutional racism.”
Ward 9 Council Member Alondra Cano spoke passionately against the $6.8 million purchase and got audience applause for her opposition to the city’s purchase of 1860 28th St. E. and 2717 Longfellow Ave.

The GAC is formed:

To accommodate this directive, the Guidelines Advisory Committee (GAC) was created by Mpls. Property Services. It consists of individuals from East Phillips & others.

The GAC was initially scheduled to meet 3 or 4 times for two hours each.

It was tasked to provide the City with “… up to three proposed site development concepts for the property …” which is now called the “Hiawatha Campus Expansion Site”.

The GAC’s Response:

The GAC chose to focus on one concept (not 3) that will meet the community’s needs.

Plans for the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Site must help to de-industrialize the area, offsetting the increased industrialization brought by the Water Yard’s fleet of trucks, too many of them diesel.

The community is also very concerned about severe traffic congestion and will focus on making the main access point to and from the site be on Hiawatha, Ave., keeping it off busy City Streets and children filled sidewalks.

The GAC members insist on additional time since there is no indication from the City of how much space or even if any space will be allocated to community needs.

Agreed Upon Community Needs:

Adequate space for the year-round Indoor Urban Farm including Aquaponics and Hydroponics.

A sustainable green site that will provide meaningful Jobs & Training for the Community.

A Bike Repair Shop, a Coffee/Sandwich Shop and a possible children’s play area.

EPIC Receives $319,000 from the State.

With help from State Representative Karen Clark, EPIC was awarded a State Grant.

The grant will fund an ethnically inclusive neighborhood collaborative to plan and help with start-up costs associated with meeting the community needs above.

The grant is “… to create the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) to expand culturally tailored resources that address small business growth and create sustainable and meaningful green jobs …” preferably in the form of the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm on a portion of the Roof Depot Site. Only in this way can East Phillips continue to march toward a less “heavy industry” future for this area so close and damaging to our children and their families.

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