The city of Minneapolis struck a deal to buy an industrial site in the East Phillips neighborhood to house its new water maintenance facility.
The City Council’s Ways and Means Committee will vote on the $6.8 million purchase of the Roof Depot site Monday. The move comes eight months after the council voted to negotiate the deal, over objections from residents worried about traffic and pollution in a neighborhood already burdened by the impacts of other industrial operations.
Negotiations between the city and the owner of the property on E. 28th Street had appeared to stall by late summer. But Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents the area and led the fight to block the city’s purchase, said the discussion picked up again after officials discussed eminent domain. The potential of eminent domain never made it to the council as a formal recommendation.
Now, the deal is scheduled to close July 1 if the proposal passes both the Ways and Means Committee and the full council later next week.
“I don’t have the votes to stop that,” Cano said. “So I’ve been focusing my energies on making sure the process we’re putting forward really engages the community.”
Cano and area residents previously told the council that East Phillips, a diverse neighborhood that’s home to the Bituminous Roadways blacktop plant and Smith Foundry, can’t bear anything that could cause more pollution.
The city plans to move its water maintenance operations from its current, 118-year-old, northeast Minneapolis location, along with water meter operations, which are currently based at the city’s treatment plant in Fridley. About 100 employees will work out of the new East Phillips facility.
The water maintenance site in northeast Minneapolis will eventually be used for a fire station, said Greg Goeke, the city’s director of property services. Goeke said it’s not yet clear if the city will tear down buildings on the Roof Depot site.
The 7.5-acre site, now occupied by a roofing supply company, is larger than the city needs. Goeke said officials are still deciding what to do with about one-quarter of the land, which could be used by the city or sold for private development.
Cano said the available space could be transformed for some of the uses neighbors had earlier envisioned for the entire site, which included environmentally friendly businesses, a fish-growing operation and a bike shop to complement the nearby Midtown Greenway. The council member said she’s also heard interest from someone looking to build a brewery.
“We would likely work with the community on a green vision for the area, taking advantage of the connections to the Greenway,” Cano said.
Meanwhile, some neighbors may turn out for Monday’s committee meeting to oppose the purchase, as they did at meetings last summer. Carol Pass, president of the East Phillips Improvement Coalition, said neighbors had been working on their own deal to purchase the site. Pass said she’s frustrated the city isn’t doing more to help get industrial pollution out of the area and build more sustainable developments.
“I think we need to have people there, we need to respond,” she said.