Council authorizes negotiations to begin for East Phillips water facility

The City Council voted 10-3 on Friday to allow city staff to negotiate with the owner of the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood on a potential sale of the property to make way for a new home for the city’s water distribution and maintenance facilities.

The Council’s action also directs city property services staff to work with East Phillips residents to identify possible redevelopment options for portions of the property not needed for the city’s operations on the site — language offered to address concerns for community activists who have a different vision for the site. 

The vote came despite emotional pleas from City Council Member Alondra Cano (Ward 9), who represents the area, state Rep. Karen Clark and other community activists to vote no and support a plan for an urban agriculture project on the site instead. The Roof Depot site is a 7.5-acre parcel near Hiawatha Avenue and East 28th Street.

Supporters of that project said a private developer is willing to move ahead with the proposal at the Roof Depot site, which could create dozens of green jobs in a neighborhood with a history of being burdened with pollution and industrial uses.

Public Works wants to consolidate water distribution facilities in Southeast Minneapolis and Fridley at the East Phillips site. At a City Council meeting earlier this week, city staff said the proposed Water Yard would be a relatively light use compared to other industrial operations in the city.

Council Members Cano, Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) and Cam Gordon (Ward 2) were the three no votes on allowing negotiations to begin on a possible property acquisition.

Cano expressed frustration with some of her Council colleagues and said it was a “clear issue of racial equity” and the neighborhood deserves a chance to pursue redevelopment opportunities aligned with the community’s values.

Meanwhile, Council Member Blong Yang (Ward 5) said if any area is overburdened with city enterprise operations and industrial uses, it’s his ward in North Minneapolis. He said Public Works facilities have proven to be good neighbors.

“This facility would benefit every community in the city,” he said.