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The Roof Depot Site: Thursday, Nov. 30th Mtg. at EPCCC 6:30 PM

What do we want? A Change for the Better or More of the Same?

Come to a Community Meeting to express your thoughts and help us seek a positive and healthy future!

Thursday, November 30th at 6:30 PM at the East Phillips Park Cultural & Community Center.

By Carol Pass,

“Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.” (The first Core Principle of Community Engagement, endorsed by the Minneapolis City Council in 2007)

Four years ago, the East Phillips Community began again trying to rid ourselves of the major pollution in the industrial sites on the South side of E. 28th St. East of Cedar Ave. This led to a look across the street at the 7-acre Roof Depot site. We created a research team, engaged a developer and began inquiries and negotiations with the owners to purchase it. The vision was, and still is, to create an Indoor Urban Farm with a bicycle repair facility, a coffee shop, a small farm produce store to provide year-round organic produce and an outlet for local artisans along with a job training facility to provide quality jobs for the local community.

Then the City of Minneapolis stepped in and informed us that they been planning, for over a decade without informing us, to buy the site and move the City Water Works there with its many diesel trucks and huge additional traffic… intensifying, not reducing, the pollution problem…so much for the call to involve all of us in the decision-making stated in the City’s first Core Principle of Community Engagement!

Faced with the East Phillips community’s strong resolve to move ahead with our positive vision for the future of East Phillips, the city began talking the language of Eminent Domain to compel their own purchase of the 7-acre site. The Roof Depot owners caved to the threat and the City now owns all 7-acres.

In an after-the-fact attempt to appear fair to the community and not in denial of their own stated principles, the City Council passed a resolution requiring Public Works to involve the community in discussion regarding how to use possible excess land at the site, in the unlikely event that there would be any. The City chose a few community members to serve on the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project Guidelines Advisory Committee (GAC). They convened four meetings basically explaining why they could not accommodate our needs. This ended with their offering the community a tiny pocket of land, unsustainable for any project, and allowing the GAC members choices in a Survey Monkey and Dot-mocracy exercise of a few cute trimmings for the .8 acre piece of turf.

GAC members appropriately refused to participate and submitted their own well-developed plan for three of the 7-acres, the minimum necessary parcel size for a sustainable East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm Project. Representative Clark, who had been attending, stated again the community’s desire to heal the problems the site creates for the neighborhood. At which point the City’s frustration with our resolve to carry out the community’s long-held wishes broke into the open and the lead of the City’s GAC loudly and threateningly told Rep. Clark she could not speak and was not allowed to be there. She walked out as did most of the rest of the committee. So ended our effort to be involved in the decision-making process after the City’s decisions have already been made without us a decade ago…. Not a good recipe for success.

The community has continued its planning process in a collaboration of Tamales y Bicicletas, DJR Architecture, EPIC, Little Earth of United Tribes, Somali Family Chemical Awareness, Precision Green Houses, Women’s Environmental Institute and many neighbors. A comprehensive future-oriented plan has been formed. The collaborators on the Indoor Urban Farm project came together under the name East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) and sought and received a planning grant of $319,000 from the State of Minnesota because of its job creating potential for this challenged area and population.

The EPNI presented a position paper to Public Works and the City outlining its request of an “L” shaped three-acre parcel which includes saving a portion of the existing historic building which the City plans to demolish. Three acres is the minimum parcel size necessary to provide sustainability and deliver on the jobs potential supported by the State of Minnesota.

EPNI and Community Members are in communication with City Council members, the Mayor and other City Department heads for their support for this critical Environmental Justice and Jobs project.

Come to the Community Meeting and see the Community Plan and the City Plan. What do you think? Thursday, November 30th at 6:30 PM at the East Phillips Park Cultural & Community Center located at 2307 17th Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55404.

Carol Pass, EPIC Board President

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