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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Wednesday June 12th 2024

City Moves Forward with Public Works Expansion in Phillips; Neighbors Continue Fight for Environmental Justice


The Minneapolis City Council voted to continue the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility expansion at the Roof Depot site at 1860 E 28th St on a narrow 7-6 vote. The approved plan, put forward by Ward 1 CM Kevin Reich, is a reversal of the previous Council directive to halt the Public Works expansion project in East Phillips. Community members, led by the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI), have protested for years against this project, putting forward an alternative vision for an Indoor Urban Farm at the 7-acre Roof Depot site.

Reich’s proposal came as a surprise to Urban Farm supporters, including Ward 9 CM Cano. The passed proposal, which was “Option B” of four potential plans presented to the City Council over the summer, moves the City Water Yard facility from it’s crumbing building in Northeast to East Phillips, demolishes the Roof Depot building that community activists had wanted to use as an indoor urban farm, removes a proposed training facility for Public Works from the expansion plans, and sells 2.8 acres of the site for “community use.” 

The vote to continue the public works expansion in East Phillips came despite a Racial Equity Impact Analysis (REIA) presentation that showed that neighbors near the project already “experience much higher levels of cumulative pollution than residents from majority white city neighborhoods and the average metro area resident leading to hiring levels of asthma and hospitalization for children and adults living in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The Public Works expansion is expected to bring an increase of car and truck traffic into the neighborhood, which will further increase already high levels of air pollution in East Phillips. 

Council members Bender, Cunningham, Ellison, Fletcher, Goodman, Reich, and Ward 6 CM Jamal Osman voted in favor of the Public Works expansion in East Phillips. CMs Jenkins, Johnson, Gordon, Schroeder, Palmisano, and Ward 9 CM Cano voted against the Public Works expansion into East Phillips.

In an email to constituents, Ward 6 CM Jamal Osman, who represents Ventura Village and Phillips West, gave multiple reasons for his vote against the Urban Farm, citing concerns about the legal and financial impact of finding another location for the needed Public Works Expansion, and not having enough concrete details on the community plan for development.

Ward 9 CM Cano, who is not seeking reelection, said that the proposed Urban Farm project had the potential to “make right” decades of harmful city planning and environmental racism in East Phillips. 

“This is going to continue. And it’ll continue until the community has felt like they are heard, like they are truly at the table, that they are truly being engaged.”

Ward 9 CM Cano

Because of the close Council vote, Urban Farm supporters had been pressuring Mayor Jacob Frey to veto the City Council decision, but he did not. 

Community members and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute are continuing their fight against the Public Works expansion, with an ongoing lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis, growing support for the Urban Farm among council and mayoral candidates, and if it comes down to it, physically occupying the Roof Depot building so it cannot be demolished.

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