Opponents are mounting a last-minute effort to stop the city of Minneapolis’ expansion of a public works facility in the East Phillips neighborhood.
The City Council is planning to vote next week on its vision for the former Roof Depot site. The 7.5-acre property was purchased by the city in 2016 with plans to demolish a 230,000-square-foot building on it and consolidate the city’s water distribution operations from northeast Minneapolis and Fridley.
It’s adjacent to an existing public works facility along E. 26th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, and it was briefly considered earlier this year as a relocation center for the homeless tent camp nearby.
Neighborhood leaders are concerned that an expanded public works facility would spread pollution in the area. They organized as the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute and asked for 3 acres in the southwest section of the site to build affordable housing, a bicycle shop, markets and other community amenities.
“The facility itself is good. The site, currently, is not,” said Council Member Alondra Cano, whose ward encompasses the property. “We can do a better job of finding a better site, and that’s what we’re asking council members to consider.”
City staff developed four options for the site and recommended that the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday approve Option A, which is the cheapest and uses the site only for public works.
“Option A is the worst option of all four options for the community,” Cano said. “It provides no redevelopment opportunities for the neighbors to be able to create their vision.”
The other options at most offer 1.6 acres. Cassandra Holmes, vice chair of the neighborhood group, said it “was not enough to help us be sustainable for our dream.”
“What we want is something that will help our community,” she said.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, who sits on the committee, said he was interested in the possibility of bringing the facility to the North Side.
“There is an opportunity for not only jobs for Northsiders at that location, but for hundreds, if not thousands, of City jobs that can be held by Northsiders for generations in the 100-year lifespan on this new public works facility,” he wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “This is a local way to bring jobs that are stable, unionized, and provide pathways to a middle-class income.”
Council Member Andrew Johnson, who sits on the committee, also said Friday he supported looking at other sites for the facility.