Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed a City Council resolution passed Thursday that would have given East Phillips environmental activists a chance to redevelop the vacant Roof Depot warehouse at Longfellow Avenue and East 27th Street into an urban farm.

But in his veto letter, the mayor stated that he would sign another version of the resolution that establishes more specific expectations for any community-led redevelopment proposal that seeks to compete against and replace city staff's preferred plans to build a new public works water distribution facility at the same site.

Frey wrote that any "formal proposal" should include:

  • A finance plan outlining a strategy to repay the $14 million dollars of Water Fund monies already spent on planning the public works water yard.
  • A description outlining community engagement, space programming, design, permitting, cost estimates, business plan, organizational structure, capital funding and operating financials.
  • A strategy for remediating the site, which sits atop an arsenic plume left over from prior industry.

He also asked for language clarifying that if community developers fail to submit by a June 30 deadline, the city would be able to revert back to a previous staff direction — passed last fall — to proceed with construction of the water yard.

Dean Dovolis, founder of DJR Architecture and board president of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI), the community group behind the urban farm concept, said he was only slightly disappointed that the mayor vetoed the resolution because it meant that neighborhood activists would not know for certain if they had a shot at Roof Depot for another two weeks at least.

Still, he views the veto letter's conditions as fair and attainable.

"Let's see if we can arrive at a resolution for all parties," Dovolis said. "We're comfortable with it. It's not dramatically different than the [Council Member Jason] Chavez resolution, so we have no heartburn over it."

EPNI board member Cassandra Holmes felt more skeptical after hearing news of the veto on Friday afternoon.

"You know when the mayor was running, he came to Little Earth and was like, 'I'm for the urban farm...' So it's just disappointing. I guess we'll have to wait and see," she said.

Council Member Andrew Johnson, who supports the urban farm concept, said he took the mayor's letter as indication that additional council members may be likely to support a more detailed resolution as well. Thursday's vote was split 8-5, one short of a veto-proof majority.

"[Frey] says he will support basically the intent. He just wanted some clarification," Johnson said. "It's more like a technical correction as far as I'm concerned."

The issue will return to City Council in two weeks. In the meantime, Johnson said he will work with Council Members Chavez and Emily Koski, the mayor's office and staff to update the language of the resolution.

An East Phillips community rally about next steps for the urban farm will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Cedar Field Park.