NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Wednesday January 20th 2021

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Saving the Roof Depot

By EAST PHILLIPS NEIGHBORHOOD INSTITUTE 

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute — through investor Agro Fund One, Ltd. — has offered to purchase the historic former Roof Depot building. Agro Fund One hopes to participate in East Phillips residents’ own idea: turn the huge former Roof Depot warehouse building into the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm. This indoor farm would be a community-based aquaponic urban farm facility, with a farmer’s market, community kitchen, cafe and coffee shop, and other entrepreneurial spaces to be owned and operated by neighborhood residents. Jobs and job-training would help provide living wage and second-chance jobs with a priority for local community residents. However, if the City is allowed to go forward with its plan, the huge former warehouse building at the intersection of East 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, would be demolished and replaced with Minneapolis’ proposed Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project — a centralized storage and maintenance facility for their Public Works Department with all its equipment and vehicles. 

The City’s plan would add greatly to the environmental injustices faced historically and currently by the East Phillips neighborhood. This neighborhood is one of the most diverse areas in Minneapolis and is home to the Little Earth of United Tribes community — one of the only Native American-preference housing complexes in the country. The Roof Depot is located on an arsenic Superfund site, and its demolition would expose neighborhood residents to more highly toxic arsenic-contaminated materials. 

The Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project — in which the City of Minneapolis hopes to expand its storage for water and sewer maintenance facilities — would also bring two 12,000-gallon oil tanks and 102 pieces of diesel equipment into this neighborhood. An asphalt heating facility and a 400 car employee parking ramp has also been part of their revealed plan. The City’s project would dramatically increase toxic air pollution from more traffic congestion in the area and exacerbate existing pollution-related health issues in the community, including asthma and cardiovascular disease — additionally magnifying COVID’s disproportionate impact. 

EPNI has sued the City of Minneapolis in an attempt to stop the project, and is using other avenues to ensure the City’s project is halted.

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