The razor wire fencing wrapped around the former Third Precinct police station will start to come down by summer, as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's administration sets out to reopen the building for a new use more than four years after protesters torched it in retaliation for an officer's murder of George Floyd.

On Monday, City Operations Officer Margaret Anderson Kelliher will present the City Council with a plan that would split the precinct building for two uses: a new "democracy center" housing Elections and Voter Services, and a not-yet-programmed "community space" that will be defined after gathering input from the public. Officials hope it's a strategy the public can accept for a building that's been the subject of heated and emotional debates.

"I think we are going to be able to present something that could both have a really good partnership with community, but also provide this really important service of a democracy," said Anderson Kelliher. "This is going to be a very active site, almost year-round, which is good for East Lake Street and it's good for the neighborhood."

City staff members plan to show the council's Committee of the Whole a blueprint dividing the precinct into a 8,000-square-foot community space, a 4,000-square-foot early voting center and a 4,100-square-foot warehouse for storing voting machines and mail-in ballots. Council members won't be voting yes or no, but rather giving staff some open-ended direction on how to proceed.

This plan increases the space reserved for community substantially from a prior proposal of 4,800 square feet. It would also allow the city to move Elections and Voter Services out of its current home at 980 E. Hennepin Av., a location that costs $372,000 a year to rent, according to City Clerk Casey Carl, into a city-owned facility with greater access by public transit and the Midtown Greenway.

There is also the hope that moving the Early Voting Center into the more centrally located Ward 9 would boost voter turnout there. While the citywide registered voter turnout was 68.5% in the 2022 general election, voting precincts near the former police station had lower turnout rates of about 40% to 50%.

Relocating Elections and Voter Services to 3000 Minnehaha Av. would also bring jobs to Ward 9, Carl said. The office has 16 full-time positions, but hundreds more seasonal ones open up every election year from February to November. The typical presidential election will require approximately 2,000 paid election judges.

Other city services considered for the building included: Animal Care and Control, which is outgrowing its space in Near North; the Minneapolis Farmers Market; and a new Public Works water yard, for which the city continues to search for space after the Roof Depot site was relinquished to an East Phillips neighborhood group actively trying to develop an indoor urban farm. But none of those purposes was a good fit, Anderson Kelliher said.

As for the community space, the city is "leaving that canvas pretty wide open," said Alexander Kado, a project manager with the Office of Public Service. Last year members of the public said they wanted to see social services, memorials and gardening and commercial space incorporated into the design.

Additional engagement through this fall aims to sharpen those ideas. The city will also spend about $1.5 million this spring and summer to take down the barbed wire and temporary fencing, as well as remediate windows and elevators.

"Cosmetically, from the outside and inside, community will start to see improvements happening," Kado said. "The overall structure of the building is still pretty intact despite it being set on fire."

On days when the Early Voting Center is not needed, neighborhood groups could use it for meetings, Carl added. The city is required by law, every election, to host 46 days of early voting cushioned by a few weeks of set-up and takedown of elections equipment. In a presidential year like this one, with a presidential nominating primary, state primary and general election in November, the Early Voting Center would be in gear for much of the year. But in a municipal election year like 2025 (when all city offices including the mayor's are up for grabs) there could be more downtime for community groups to make use of the early voting space as well.

Third Precinct police officers have been based out of the City of Lakes building at 309 2nd Av. S. in downtown Minneapolis for three years. In the long run, officials intend to bring them back to a South Minneapolis Community Safety Center that will combine police and unarmed public safety services at 2633 Minnehaha Av.

A community meeting held at Powderhorn Park Recreation Center last month kicked off what will be a lengthy public engagement process for what services should be included, before the center is expected to open in 2025. The city is looking to close on 2633 Minnehaha Av. this June.