At the corner of 28th St and Longfellow Ave in East Phillips neighborhood, south Minneapolis, the Roof Depot building quietly awaits its unknown fate.
The city wants to demolish the Roof Depot to build a new Public Water Works facility, which will replace the existing one in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. In contrast, East Phillips residents want to renovate the Roof Depot building to be used for urban agriculture, low-income housing, a solar array to power 700 homes, and a small-business hub.
East Phillips residents are resisting the city’s plan for two main reasons: 1) the Roof Depot building sits on an unremediated section of a Superfund site and demolition would fill the air with unknown amounts of lead-arsenic dust; 2) the city’s proposal includes 888 parking spaces and a diesel fueling station which would drastically increase neighborhood pollution levels, and the likelihood that residents develop more, and harsher, health conditions. The East Phillips neighborhood is already burdened by a major share of the city’s pollution, resulting in some of the highest rates of asthma, heart conditions, lead exposure, and cancer levels in all of Minneapolis.
All of this information is publicly available through city-authored documentation, yet the city relentlessly pushes their plan into the unconsenting East Phillips community. Why?
In my search for an answer, I came across a city-authored document titled, “Minneapolis Water Yard: Proposal for New Two-Story Structure on Existing Site,” which offers an ostensibly-win-win solution.
The analysis concludes that it's in everyone's best interests to upgrade the Water facility that already exists in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. The report demonstrates that Marcy-Holmes residents desire the renovation in their neighborhood, whereas East Phillips residents are vehemently opposed. The document also states that renovation at the Roof Depot site will cost the city more money. The report also notes that carbon-free goals adopted by the city would be more easily obtained at the Marcy-Holmes site. Finally, the document shows that the same architectural plans already designed for the Roof Depot site can be re-used at the old site, saving the city millions of dollars.
Why isn’t this Marcy-Holmes option viewed favorably by the city? I tried to ask Mayor Jacob Frey, but I was told by his Director of Operations, “The Mayor will not meet with you now, nor ever, on this subject.” Faced by secrecy, I am left to imagine…
Mayor Frey lives three-quarters of a mile from the Marcy-Holmes Water Yard site. Is it possible that Frey is pushing the building into East Phillips because he doesn’t want so many diesel vehicles in his own neighborhood?
It is also possible that Mayor Frey has made a back-room deal for the Marcy-Holmes property which he hasn’t disclosed. It is astounding that Frey’s neighborhood boasts a 9.5% population of finance and insurance professionals. Is the mayor in cahoots with a developer who has their eyes on that property?
Or, maybe Frey picked East Phillips for his pollution project because he thinks we lack the financial and political power to prevent his injustice.
The point is, we don’t know. When you view both options side-by-side, the city’s relentless push for expansion into East Phillips raises questions which have not been answered.
Mayor Frey, what are you hiding?
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