More than three years after Minneapolis' Third Precinct police station was ransacked and set ablaze in response to the murder of George Floyd by one of its officers, a divided Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey have agreed on a location for a new station.

In an 8-5 vote Thursday, City Council members approved opening a new police station at 2633 Minnehaha Av., blocks away from the previous location, which remains cordoned by razor wire.

The decision appears to conclude a prolonged effort by Minneapolis leaders that moved in fits and starts, reflecting the city's struggle to heal after the turmoil of 2020.

"It's a big victory for our city, but also for the residents of the Third Precinct, who have been calling out for safety," Frey said after the vote, adding, "Obviously, we wanted it to be sooner."

The cost to buy the property — an existing building and parking lot — and turn it into a police station will be $14 million, and take a year to a year and a half to complete, city officials have estimated.

Beyond the police station, council members Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution committing the city to ultimately create a "community safety center" on the site in the Seward neighborhood. That facility is envisioned to offer a host of services beyond traditional policing, such as behavioral crisis units and mental health services — although no specific plans exist.

Those expanded services are estimated to cost an additional $7 million to $8.5 million.

That additional commitment played a role in tipping the balance in favor of the site. In a committee meeting Tuesday, the council had deadlocked 6-6 on the site, with Council Member Jamal Osman voting no. On Thursday, Osman, who co-sponsored the community safety center resolution with Council Member Emily Koski, voted in favor.

How they voted

Voting in favor were Council President Andrea Jenkins, Vice President Linea Palmisano and Council Members Andrew Johnson, Koski, Osman, Lisa Goodman, Michael Rainville and LaTrisha Vetaw.

Voting against were Council Members Elliott Payne, Robin Wonsley, Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai and Jeremiah Ellison.

That breakdown is a common one for the council, which has frequently found itself divided between a thin majority of relatively moderate members often aligned with Frey and a group of more progressive members at odds with them, especially over police matters. A small number of council members not always aligned with either bloc have been critical swing votes.

Proponents of the site saw it as the cheapest and fastest option of the more than two dozen locations considered.

Jenkins acknowledged the city's continuing struggle with policing and race.

"Certainly a building didn't cause the problems we have," Jenkins said. "It's the people inside the building. Consequently, this site can't be the healing. ... It will be a beginning step toward moving forward. Opposition is not progress. We have to move forward."

Opponents said the push for relative speed and thrift was the wrong approach, given the legacy of Floyd's murder by a Third Precinct police officer.

"I see why there's a divide," Ellison said. "It makes sense to me. We've got folks in our community who feel really conflicted about [police]. ... The divide is about whose humanity gets centered and at what pace do we go."

The option at 2633 Minnehaha Av. first emerged in summer 2020, when city officials scouted more than two dozen locations for a temporary solution. The city was prepared to sign a lease with the owners.

But word of the plan got out, and graffiti calling for the deaths of officers was scrawled on the building, according to police, who said a threat was made to burn it down. The leasing plans fell apart.

For the resolution committing to the community safety center, the vote was 12-0, with Wonsley abstaining.

Alternative site fails

Before the vote on 2633 Minnehaha, Chavez made a failed push for a different location: 3716 Cheatham Av., a site that Frey's administration looked at after the council specifically asked it to do so.

According to city documents, buying the Cheatham property and designing and building a new facility on the 2-acre site was estimated to cost $36.5 million to $41.5 million and take at least five years.

But Chavez said the site would allow a more community-centered process.

"We can build this from the ground up, start fresh," he said.

Johnson, a potential swing vote with Osman, said he respected Chavez' effort.

"If 2633 Minnehaha did not emerge as an option, I would be voting for this today," Johnson said. "The price differences and time differences are just too great."

Chavez' proposal failed on a 5-8 vote.