FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saving the Roof Depot
Minneapolis neighborhood group offers to purchase building, halt City project, while indie rock band Bon Iver matches $10,000 in fundraising until Christmas Day
MINNEAPOLIS (December 22, 2020) — An East Phillips neighborhood group has expanded its efforts to save a building slated for demolition by the City of Minneapolis,. They have received support from a leading member of the Minneapolis City Council to repurpose it for a year-round indoor urban farm with affordable low-income housing.
And indie folk band, Bon Iver, has weighed in on social media, expressing its support and committing to match donations to the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute’s fundraising campaign for legal expenses. The band will match donations up to $10,000 through December 25.
“East Phillips Neighborhood Institute – EPNI and a collective led by BIPOC unhoused folks are doing important work to provide shelter, safety, and a sustainable future for unhoused people in Minneapolis,” the band wrote on its Facebook page.
The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute — through investor Agro Fund One, Ltd. — has offered to purchase the historic former Roof Depot building. Agro Fund One hopes to participate in East Phillips residents’ own idea: turn the huge former Roof Depot warehouse building into the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm. This indoor farm would be a community-based aquaponic urban farm facility, with a farmer’s market, community kitchen, cafe and coffee shop, and other entrepreneurial spaces to be owned and operated by neighborhood residents. Jobs and job-training would help provide living wage and second-chance jobs with a priority for local community residents. At least 28 very low-income affordable housing units would be constructed on-site and, until the project is complete, short-term temporary housing with programming inside the warehouse could provide safe shelter for unhoused neighbors along with much needed treatment services. A solar array atop the roof will be one of the largest in MInnesota.
“Agro Fund One is ready to get involved, highly interested, and believes that this project will bring economic, social, and environmental justice for the East Phillips neighborhood,” wrote Agro Fund One Chairman Mark Erjavec.
However, if the City is allowed to go forward with its plan, the huge former warehouse building at the intersection of East 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, would be demolished and replaced with Minneapolis’ proposed Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project — a centralized storage and maintenance facility for their Public Works Department with all its equipment and vehicles.
The City’s plan would add greatly to the environmental injustices faced historically and currently by the East Phillips neighborhood. This neighborhood is one of the most diverse areas in Minneapolis and is home to the Little Earth of United Tribes community — one of the only Native American-preference housing complexes in the country. The Roof Depot is located on an arsenic Superfund site, and its demolition would expose neighborhood residents to more highly toxic arsenic-contaminated materials.
The Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project — in which the City of Minneapolis hopes to expand its storage for water and sewer maintenance facilities — would also bring two 12,000-gallon oil tanks and 102 pieces of diesel equipment into this neighborhood. An asphalt heating facility and a 400 car employee parking ramp has also been part of their revealed plan. The City’s project would dramatically increase toxic air pollution from more traffic congestion in the area and exacerbate existing pollution-related health issues in the community, including asthma and cardiovascular disease — additionally magnifying COVID’s disproportionate impact.
EPNI has sued the City of Minneapolis in an attempt to stop the project, and is using other avenues to ensure the City’s project is halted.
For more information about the East Phillips Urban Farm, EPNI, and the efforts to stop the city, visit eastphillipsneighborhoodinstitute.org, or contact Karen Clark at 612-237-7156 or Dean Dovolis at 612-817-0313.