09/30/2021 – The following image is from a document that surfaced late last week despite being dated June 8, 2021. It shows that by using the design already available, a two story building can provide the needed space and capacity for the Water Yard at its current East Hennepin site where it has been for over 100 years and enjoys a good relationship with the neighborhood. Recently vacated City owned space nearby can be used for operations during the renovation. This would save the City a lot of money! It would also save Roof Depot and provide an opportunity for Environmental Justice in the Green Zone in East Phillips. Would CM’s please discuss this proposal? (see the entire document by clicking here or click the photo below)
No Urban Farm! City Council votes to demolish Roof Depot for City’s own Hiawatha Expansion in East Phillips.
Press Release: 9/22/21 Contact: Joe Vital, vital.joe12@gmail.com or 952-846-8160

In a (7-6) vote at their POGO Committee on 9/22/21, the Minneapolis City Council reversed itself and approved a “Staff Directive” that continues the City’s own proposed Hiawatha Expansion Project at 1860 28th Street East and 2717 Longfellow Avenue South —two adjoining parcels also known as the “Roof Depot.” Council Member Reich moved to continue the City’s original proposed Hiawatha Expansion with the exception of the Outreach and Training Facility and new Central Stores building. This move kills the alternative community-based, community-led East Phillips Neighborhood’s proposed Urban Farm Project and allows the City to demolish the Roof Depot building. That would expose the East Phillips Community to more toxic pollution such as the arsenic underneath the building. Health experts agree that the best mitigating plan for this highly toxic  arsenic is to leave it undisturbed! Their plan also increases toxic traffic congestion—a major source of life threatening asthma and heart disease in Phillips.

The community feels blindsided by this unexpected  Council action. Before the vote we believed Council Member Ellison was committed to finding a middle ground that wouldn’t expose our community residents to more toxic pollution, and to provide a legitimate process for community ownership for the Roof Depot. We asked for two more weeks to realize this middle ground but instead the City Council took it upon themselves to decide what is best for the East Phillips community. Let’s be clear, East Phillips has been in meaningful conversation with the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council about incorporating a job training facility into our Urban Farm plans and they were open to a non-polluting “green” oriented facility on heavy duty electrical equipment training.  The East Phillips community has never been anti-worker but rather anti-pollution in an already toxically overburdened residential community. That’s why the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota’s state job training agency,  awarded us our first planning funds in 2017.

This is a horrible misstep by the Minneapolis City Council. The City’s Hiawatha Expansion Project received more than 1000 objecting citizen comments, the most in City history. The City’s Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for their proposed Hiawatha Expansion Project had been announced “voluntarily” the same afternoon EPNI and a Little Earth parent filed a lawsuit suing the City for environmental injustice for their proposed Roof Depot plan. “Environmental Justice” is never even addressed in the City’s EAW. Note that this site is located in the SouthSide Green Zone (SSGZ), only two miles from the corner where George Floyd was killed. The Hiawatha Expansion Project violates the city’s own Climate Emergency Declaration principles and their finding that “racism is a public health emergency” in Minneapolis. East Phillips residents assert that it’s irresponsible and environmental racism to only consider locating toxic polluters in our most low income, majority Native American and community of color neighborhoods, especially when these communities already suffer from toxic environmental health overburdens–as is well documented in East Phillips residents. 

East Phillips Neighborhood organizers have worked incredibly hard during the last six years to put together a plan to redevelop the former Roof Depot site into an indoor urban farm with affordable housing, cultural markets, and incubators for our small businesses (some destroyed during the 2020 uprising), all near accessible public transit. During this time EPNI has secured active support from our Minneapolis House & Senate State Legislators, Hennepin County Commissioners and U.S. Congressional Representatives. 

To demonstrate our accountability to community autonomy of the Urban Farm project EPNI helped develop an annual process for community input/review of the project. We also raised $18,000 for canvassers that door knocked 3,200 doors this summer to ask residents about what their needs of the Urban Farm Project are. Residents of East Phillips overwhelmingly supported the Urban Farm Project and agree with EPNI’s vision for the Roof Depot building. 

Our opponents would prefer us to believe that this fight is over. That East Phillips will always remain in industrial purgatory,  but we know there is a different future for the community. One that involves fresh food for our youth, green jobs for our people and renewable energy to help our planet. We continue this environmental justice struggle with joy and humility because this fight is worth fighting. East Phillips deserves a chance and we urge you to join us at 5 pm, Thursday evening, September 23rd for a Community Rally at Cedar Field Park, E.25th St. and 18th Ave S. next to Little Earth. We will discuss our next strategy steps and hear from local speakers.

We also invite you to call and thank Minneapolis City Council members Cano, Gordon, Jenkins, Johnson, Schroeder, and Palmisano who supported our years of work with their strong and courageous vote yesterday. 

For additional questions about EPNI, contact Dean Dovolis at 612-817-0313 and deandovolis@gmail.com, Cassandra Holmes at 612-296-9499 and cassandra_tridani29@yahoo.com, or Steve Sandberg at 612-483-2941 and steve@stevesandberg.com.

For more information about the City’s flawed environmental study (EAW): 

https://www.mncenter.org/ensuring-community-voices-are-heard-east-phillips

To donate to EPNI and help fund our legal battle against the City of Minneapolis, visit: https://gofund.me/4402214e

Staff Directive (7-6) Vote Tally 

Name

Vote

Reich

Yes

Gordon

No

Fletcher

Yes

Cunningham

Yes

Ellison

Yes

Osman

Yes

Goodman

Yes

Jenkins

No

Cano

No

Bender

Yes

Schroeder

No

Johnson

No

Palmisano

No

Why the East Phillips Urban Farm Matters

The City of Minneapolis plans to relocate and expand their Public Works maintenance yard into our East Phillips neighborhood–a plan that  will bring more  pollution to our already overburdened community. Additionally, they refuse to have good faith discussions about our alternative community-based development project that would ensure environmental justice for our neighborhood. East Phillip neighborhood residents are predominantly low-income Native American, Latinx, African American, East African and other historically marginalized residents.

We can’t say it enough! We need your help raising funds for legal expenses: to post bond to stop the City’s proposed demolition of the Roof Depot, to have our case heard, and to continue the fight for our environmental rights in court. Toxic environmental pollution impacts our health, and we have some of the worst racial health disparities in Minneapolis. It’s imperative for our future and our children’s future that we stop the City’s project and have our day in court.

Check out this interactive map to see how YOU or your neighborhood parks, schools, and businesses might be affected.
  • Click the icon on the top left of the map to read descriptions of any item you click on the map.
  • Click the icon on the top right of the map to see the map full screen.

Sign up for our Newsletter




What Can You Do?

VIEW Information Flyer HERE. Print and share with neighbors and friends!

SIGN our Chang.org petition supporting the East Phillips Urban Farm at http://chng.it/nmKXM5Vkfx

PRINT and send postcards to Minneapolis City Council:  click here.

VOLUNTEER! We host meetings every Wednesday evening open to all! Contact chr.dovolis@gmail.com to get involved and visit epnifarm.org for more information.

DONATE to our legal fund stopping environmental racism in East Phillips at gf.me/u/y65d87 

FOLLOW US on Instagram: @eastphillipsurbanfarm, Facebook: @eastphillipsneighborhood, our website: epnifarm.org, and our mailing list to stay informed!

POST on social media to raise awareness! Tag your local officials and tag #EPNIUrbanFarm .

Our Supporters

The East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm Project is unanimously supported by the EPIC Board of Directors, the EPIC membership at numerous membership meetings and unanimously at two large community meetings (250+ attendees). The project is also supported by the Sierra Club, the Green Team, the Seward Co-op, over 400 individual signers on support petitions and many other organizations & individuals throughout the city. The project also meets every goal of the South Side Green Zone and is in the South Minneapolis Opportunity Zone.