Minneapolis to end Open Streets partnership after 2023

The city of Minneapolis plans to move away from an initiative that has worked to give local businesses, artists, and community groups more exposure while bringing residents together.

Open Streets Minneapolis started in 2011 and had dozens of events focused on community organizing and business development since then, including one in the city’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on Sunday.

The events have been put on by Our Streets Minneapolis in partnership with the city.

However, after this year, the city says it plans to go in a different direction.

“Public Works will continue to work with Our Streets Minneapolis through the 2023 Open Streets season, after which that current contract will end,” a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS from Sarah McKenzie, the city’s media relations coordinator, said in part on Monday. “The current contract is a $0 contract, and Our Streets Minneapolis has presented a budget request to the City Council for $841,000; by mutual agreement the city and Our Streets will not be extending the current $0 contract for the 2024 Open Streets season.”

Despite McKenzie’s statement saying it was a mutual agreement, Our Streets says that’s not true.

“There was no advance discussion of ending the partnership or the future of the event series,” a statement from the organization said in part.

According to Our Streets, Minneapolis Public Works first brought up the 2024 series on Aug. 4, asking the organization for a meeting on Aug. 21 to talk about next year. However, Our Streets says it asked to delay that meeting to Sept. 18, after its fourth of five Open Streets events finished.

As for the organization’s funding request, Our Streets says it raised concerns about the sustainability of the Open Streets event last year and requested funding, but nothing changed.

“The funding concerns were expressed to ensure the long-term sustainability of Open Streets Minneapolis, increase the number of routes, and eliminate some of the financial barriers that limit small businesses, vendors and artists from participating,” Our Streets said.

Instead, the city says its public works department plans to launch its own event series in 2024 “to expand awareness of the City’s mode-shift goal, educate people about safe active transportation options and showcase recent investments in making walking, rolling and bike safer and easier,” McKenzie said. That series will aim to build on the city’s “As You Go, MPLS” campaign and hopes to advance the city’s transportation action plan that seeks to have 60% of trips by walking, biking or transit by 2030.

“This new event series is not intended to replace the Open Streets Program,” McKenzie added, saying Open Streets events are “much loved” and the city hopes both events can exist.

Our Streets contends that the decision to end Open Streets Minneapolis “is in direct conflict with City policy goals,” as Open Streets is listed as a priority in the city’s transportation action plan.

“We are disappointed that Mayor Frey, Director of Public Works Margaret Anderson Kelliher and the Public Works Department chose to end the series during one of our most successful years, coinciding with three events in communities with the highest concentration of people with disabilities, immigrant people of color, and Black Americans (Near North, North Minneapolis, and Cedar Riverside),” the organization added.

However, Our Streets also says its Open Streets agreement with Minneapolis runs through 2024, with the possibility to extend that through 2026, and the organization says it intended to sign a professional services agreement for next year and seek an extension through 2026 as soon as a budget decision was made.

McKenzie said Minneapolis Public Works “is committed to supporting the Open Streets Program through this transition and looks forward to the future of the Open Streets Program as it continues to evolve. The City is committed to provide the same level of support for the Open Streets Program as it has in past years and welcomes an event organizer to advance the Open Streets Program in 2024, and beyond.”

The city plans to provide more information on the new series it plans to launch next year during the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

In the meantime, Our Streets is pushing to keep the partnership alive.

“We stand in solidarity with our community partners and the City of Minneapolis community members and ask the Minneapolis City Council, Mayor Jacob Frey and Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher to make sure the 2024 Event Series becomes a reality and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program,” Our Streets’ statement concludes.

The final two Open Streets events of the year are scheduled for Sept. 16 along West Broadway Avenue and on Oct. 8 along Lyndale Avenue.