Tired of swatting away businesses and land-use proposals they regard as noxious, some residents of the East Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis began organizing Saturday around the idea of a “green zone” they regard as a healthier goal for their community.
About 70 people gathered at East Philips Community Center to discuss that initiative against the backdrop of a proposal by the city to buy land currently occupied by Roof Depot to move in maintenance operations for the city’s water system. They’ll meet again on March 14.
The proposal would bring 90 workers and about 75 vehicles to that site. But residents viewed it in the context of a community sensitized by repeated fights over other unwanted land uses over the past 20 years.
There was the Hennepin County proposal for a station where garbage would be shifted from garbage trucks to semitrailer trucks that was finally killed in 1991. A proposal to burn biomass for energy at the same spot was killed only when Xcel Energy Inc. broke off talks to buy its power. Residents also rallied support to make sure Xcel’s added power lines were buried underground in 2012.
The area’s City Council member is firmly opposed to shifting water maintenance to the proposed new site at 1860 E. 28th St., at the west end of the Midtown Greenway’s Sabo bridge. Alondra Cano said no last September, she told the crowd, and she said no a month ago when city staffers sought her backing for them to negotiate with the owner of the site.
“Sometimes we women of color have to say no multiple times until we’re taken seriously,” she told a crowd from a neighborhood that’s dominantly minority and in poverty.
Two youth members of an area nonprofit, Edwin Gonzalez and Carlos Parra Olivera, listed a half-dozen potential uses for the site’s large building or the greater area to help transform it to a more sustainable future. They included a green jobs re-employment center, an urban agricultural initiative, a youth-led bike shop, an aquaponics operation to raise fish and vegetables, a farm processing center and a sustainable entrepreneur incubator.
City officials said they want to move water maintenance out of the city’s East Yard site on E. Hennepin Avenue to continue a 24-year-old plan for centralizing Department of Public Works operations, and to allow a fire station to use the Hennepin site for better access to an industrial area.
But water operations would occupy only about half the site. The city’s revamped energy-efficient public works yard nearby doesn’t have room.
The city’s Climate Action Plan supports the idea of “green zones” for neighborhoods in which they’d be eligible for funds for targeted pollution abatement and on-site renewable energy.
In addition, state Rep. Karen Clark supported a 2008 law that requires an analysis of cumulative pollution impacts in the East Phillips area when businesses move in or expand.