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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024

Curious about another threat to East Phillips Community Center?

Cockroaches may have been our “canary in the coal mine” at Cockroach Park, the neighbor”'s name for the East Phillips Park for the four decades since housing was demolished.

By Brad Pass, Chair East Phillips Park Community Design Team

Once again East Phillips Cultural and Community Center has uncovered a deeply dismaying setback. Serious hazardous pollution was discovered as excavation proceeded this spring as if the struggles to gain political support, funding, and an appropriate design were not enough,. Borings and beginning excavation last Fall did not find this problem.

Foundation rubble from houses demolished in the early 1970s left small quantities of numerous pollutants; asbestos, lead, ash and fuel oil, and others thoroughly intermixed with the excavated soil. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) require all excavated material be treated as hazardous waste and disposed and new soil brought substituted. The total cost of removing this and purchasing more clean fill and top soil far exceeds budgeted project funds.
The solution proposed by the Park Board was to reduce the building”'s size and function by:
Eliminating 1,000 Sq. Ft. at the south end of building designated as the Elder and Family Gathering Space;

Eliminating all commercial kitchen equipment: refrigerator, freezer, range, exhaust hood, fire suppression system, make-up air system, and all counters, cupboards and storage cabinets;
Eliminating the sound attenuating system in the gymnasium.
Eliminating many other building amenities.

Downgrading was a nightmare after the long struggle to deliver a wonderful multi-use building for the many needs of Phillips”' incredible diversity. The losses were too severe to accept without a fight. The Community Design Team and EPIC scrambled quickly and found two sources of money to help.

One is a Hennepin County Pollution Mitigation Grant. The second is a bill rushed through the legislature in the last days of the session by Representative Karen Clark.

Members of the Design Team worked frantically on May Day weekend to meet the Monday, May 3rd deadline for the Hennepin County grant.

Rep. Clark worked tirelessly at the Legislature to shepherd her bill through and to attain the Governor”'s signature.

These two options were minor miracles.

We will have most of the “solution,” if we are successful with Hennepin County and if we are able to use all of both grants. We are continuing to seek funding to avoid any losses to the building.
Stay tuned and curious.

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