Roof Depot sale ‘done deal,’ neighborhood organizers say

Funds secured for Roof Depot urban farm conversion

Funds secured for Roof Depot urban farm conversion

Leaders in the East Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis say their long-fought-for plan to buy the former Roof Depot site to turn it into a community-run urban farm and affordable housing complex is a “done deal.”

Millions of dollars still need to be paid to the City of Minneapolis before the property sale can go through, but the remaining transactions are largely a formality, according to Chairman and Executive Director Dean Dovolis of organizing group East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) and former Minnesota Representative and long-time East Phillips resident Karen Clark.

Clark — who represented the neighborhood from the Minnesota Capitol when the debate over the future of the site began about a decade ago — was “thrilled” and “grateful too” for the completion of a grassroots community fundraiser. EPNI pulled together $3.7 million to put toward buying the property.

“It just shows, I think, that democracy can work, that people can organize and stand up, and win in some cases,” she said on Sunday.

“This really is a big deal,” agreed Dovolis.

“The community is going to determine the future of this, and they’re going to own it. And that’s so much different than all previous developments that have occurred.”

Making the deadline to raise $3.7 million marked a big hurdle cleared for EPNI on Thursday, but it’s not the finish line.

Organizers need another $7.7 million from the Minnesota Legislature, $2 million of which the City of Minneapolis said was due in July. The remaining $5.7 million is expected to get approval during the 2024 legislative session.

“It’s a promise from the Legislature, they appropriated it. They’re good for their word,” Clark said.

Asked ‘how much of a done deal the remaining funds are,’ Dovolis added, “That’s done.”

“Now, obviously it has to get approved by the Legislature,” he continued. “But I met with [Rep.] Jamie Long (DFL – Minneapolis). He said, ‘You’ll have this reserved. You have the promise’… They wanted to make sure we made our allocation, or came up with our money, and then the state will finish their promise in the next session.”

While they wait for funding to be finalized, Dovolis said it’s still “full steam ahead” for EPNI.

Site planning and more fundraising are underway to turn the old depot into an urban farm and affordable housing complex, a roughly $100 million project, according to Dovolis.

“And it’s going to serve the neighborhood,” Clark added. “There’s going to be good jobs created, in addition to cleaning up and preventing more environmental pollution.”

“This is really set to become a national model,” Dovolis concluded. “So we’re here to help. We’re here to really get it built and really change the future of this neighborhood.”

Dovolis said EPNI plans to have everything in place to begin construction as soon as the sale is finalized, which is expected in June 2024.