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Minneapolis panel rejects Hennepin County social services hub

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • January 17, 2012 - 10:55 PM

Hennepin County's plan to move social services closer to the people ran afoul of neighborhood groups, whose unified opposition persuaded a Minneapolis City Council committee to thwart the county's plan.

The council's development committee voted 5-0 Tuesday to reject a change in the city's plans for West Broadway that would have allowed the social services hub. Afterward, the private developer working with the county acknowledged the plan may be dead.

"We're not going to bang heads with the neighborhood," said Stuart Ackerberg, who heads the Ackerberg Group. "It's got to be a win-win situation."

Ackerberg had planned to build the hub at the intersection of West Broadway and Irving Avenue N. and lease it to the county for 10 years. It is part of a plan to decentralize the county's social service programs.

But neighborhood groups fiercely oppose it, saying it undermines the city's plan to turn West Broadway into a bustling street of retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops. Instead, they said, the project will draw thousands of poor people to the block, cementing West Broadway's image as a poverty-ridden area.

In addition, they cited the large number of vehicles that will fill neighborhood streets, adding to congestion expected from the nearly completed Minneapolis School District building across the street. They were also irked they had only recently been informed of the project.

The committee voted on one aspect of the hub, revising the council's redevelopment plan for West Broadway to allow the city to sell Ackerberg one parcel it owns on the block for retail development.

Council Member Lisa Goodman, the committee chair, noted that representatives of six of the neighborhood councils spoke against the West Broadway hub at the Tuesday committee meeting.

Council Member Don Samuels said, "I wish I could abstain or go to the bathroom" during the vote. "But it is what I am paid to do," he said, noting that the neighborhood councils were all against the project.

Some spoke out in favor of the hub at the site, including Al Flowers of the Minneapolis NAACP and George Garnett of the Northside Community Response Team.

The proposal was also supported by city planners. But afterward, Beth Grosen, senior project coordinator for the city's planning and economic development department, said, "I think the developer will have to work with the neighborhoods to find a different site entirely or make substantial revisions."

Lynn Riskedal, chair of the Jordan Area Community Council, said the committee vote "doesn't finish the deal. We can't walk away because there was a victory today. We still have work to do to defeat the building in this location."

County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, who backed the hub on West Broadway, said, "I hope the city development department will help us find an appropriate location. I am not going to say it's dead. Ackerberg certainly has experience on the North Side. I want him to work with the neighborhood."

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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