More than two years after vowing to build a new mall for East African businesses in Minneapolis, City Council Member Abdi Warsame announced a public market will be coming to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.
Warsame and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a meeting with East African business leaders Thursday night that the mall will be built near the intersection of S. Fourth Street and Cedar Avenue.
The neighborhood is in Warsame's Sixth Ward and is the heart of the city's Somali community.
"My hope is that the market makes Cedar-Riverside a destination place for people visiting Minneapolis. I believe it could be the cornerstone of an Africa Village, similar to a China Town or Little Italy," Warsame said in a statement Friday.
"This project has the ability to create [a] surge of economic vitality that is felt by and visible to many."
The city-owned site at 1500 S. Fourth St. is now a surface parking lot with more than 90 spots.
While scouting possible locations, city planners looked for a space that was large enough for a shopping center and close enough to the East African community, said Chuck Lutz, deputy director for Community Planning and Economic Development.
"We finally decided this probably was the best location that we could find," Lutz said.
The city will issue a request for proposals for the site this summer and select a developer by the end of the year.
It is also in talks with Hennepin County to buy land directly north of the parcel, Lutz said.
In January 2017, Warsame pledged to build a mall for East African businesses as an alternative to the ones owned by Sabri Properties, which were a hot spot for code violations and complaints from neighbors.
However, the idea made little progress after he was re-elected.
"The new African Market will allow the vendors to grow and thrive by reducing or eliminating many of the barriers they face from those landlords," Warsame said.
Basim Sabri, who owns two large shopping centers for Latino and Somali businesses, said Friday that the city shouldn't be opening a market just to "compete" with his own properties.
"If there is another mall in the Cedar-Riverside area, I think that's needed, but I encourage the city, if they are decisionmakers, to be very careful of defining the ownership-management role of the city," Sabri said.
Lutz said the city has yet to settle on an ownership model for the market.
The Fourth Street and Cedar Avenue intersection is home to several small businesses and attractions, including the nearby Cedar Cultural Center and housing at Riverside Plaza.
"The market's proposed location in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood has long been an economic entry point for immigrants and new Americans," Frey said in a statement. "This move will help create a pathway to economic success for new American communities for generations into the future."
Businesses in the area are excited about the prospect of a new market, but they are also concerned about losing the parking lot, said Jamie Schumacher, executive director of the West Bank Business Association. She wants to make sure the city considers parking needs as it reviews building proposals.
"I think a public market will be great for the area," Schumacher said.
"We want to work alongside the city to do this in a way that is helpful for the neighborhood."