After reports of homeless people sleeping in the park and finding a mess, police closed the downtown landmark for maintenance work.
With impending plans to demolish and rebuild Peavey Plaza, the city of Minneapolis shut down the downtown park temporarily Tuesday to clean up what had become a large encampment of homeless people.
The Minneapolis Police Department "temporarily closed" the plaza for "cleaning and maintenance" after observing that homeless people had replaced the Occupy protesters who were living there. By about 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, the plaza had reopened to pedestrians.
The plaza had a quiet vibe on Tuesday afternoon. Several office workers sat on steps around the perimeter, relaxing and eating lunch, while Downtown Improvement District workers power-washed the concrete. No signs or barriers were erected to signal the plaza's temporary closing.
Standing beside the plaza Tuesday afternoon, Sgt. Gary Nelson swiped through several photos on his smartphone of the mess police encountered Tuesday morning.
They showed people sleeping amid piles of trash and blankets. A shelter has been arranged at First Covenant Church on S. 7th Street to accommodate those who had slept in the plaza.
The department says that service calls to Peavey Plaza have risen by 260 percent over last year; arrests have climbed by 300 percent. Most were for low-level crimes, though some involved criminal sexual conduct, assault and robberies.
The temporary closing follows an unsuccessful push this spring to close the plaza altogether at night. After tabling her resolution, council President Barb Johnson said the problems in Peavey appeared to be on the decline.
"It seems to me that at this point we are dealing with a relatively diminishing problem," Johnson said in May. "And I remain extremely concerned, however, about the use of police resources when I represent a community that is challenged with public safety issues."
The city is simultaneously dealing with preservationists who have sued to stop the demolition of the 1970s-era plaza.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 • Twitter: @StribRoper