Chaos erupts at meeting about proposed Minneapolis development

Updated: August 30, 2019 10:37 PM

Tension boiled over at an open house for a Minneapolis development project Friday night.

The city wants to create an Africa Village Market in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood. The building, which could be 10 stories high, would replace a parking lot on Fourth Street S., according to city officials. Construction is anticipated to start in 2021 and the marketplace would open in 2022.

“So much of the vision is still to be created,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. “This could be everything from affordable housing, to small entrepreneur space to allow small and local businesses to scale a great idea faster.”

According to the city, it could also include sidewalk improvements, public plaza space and more greenery.

The city asked what the community wants to see in the space during an open house at the Brian Coyle Center on Friday.

“I think in theory it brings a lot of good things to the community," said Mohamed Salad, who lives in the neighborhood.

He said, however, many feel left out of the conversation and think this might not be the best use of the space.

“I just kind of think that it’s a lot easier and a lot simpler to invest in community centers like this, and to invest in businesses that are already here, we already have two malls,” he said.

“This whole community is already jammed up and clogged and it's right next to two train stations and downtown. It's just going to make everything more congested.”

Salad helped collect signatures for a petition opposing the project.

It’s been a concern for the owner of Red Sea Bar and Restaurant, located next to the parking lot.

“Without assurance of parking, we might not be in business,” said Russom Solomon, the co-owner. “We might be pushed out.”

Dozens of people packed into the community center to protest the plans, holding signs and yelling.

Africa Village Public Market Project

Council Member Abdi Warsame attempted to separate the group. He asked those who support the plan to stand on one side of the gym and those who oppose the project to stand on the other side.

The crowd didn't calm down, gathering around Mayor Frey when he arrived.

“We are here and we're not going to be dismissed,” said Fartune Del, co-president of the neighborhood group NRP. “We need our voice to be heard.”

Frey told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the idea for the market came from people who live there.

“We had heard from community, I mean tons and tons of people that were saying that they wanted the opportunity be entrepreneurs,” he said.

Despite other malls in the area, Frey said he believes this brings something new.

“We want a space that is ultimately managed, and run, and even potentially owned by the community itself and that's not something we have yet,” he said.

The project website said it would be “replacing a parking lot which has a history of crime and public safety issues.”

When asked about it, Frey said, “You’ve heard it before, this is not my saying, the best way to stop a bullet is a job. The best way to reduce crime is to have people on the streets, the best way to create safety is to have positive mechanisms to which whole communities can rally around entrepreneurship and economic growth.”

He said the project is still in the very early stages, and the city hasn't drafted the request for proposals yet.

According to Frey, there will be other opportunities for public comment before the RFP is issued, which is expected in October.

The project website said there will be “preference to proposals that include public parking.”

Meanwhile, the community is extending an invitation to elected officials.

“Come and have a one-on-one with all of us and I promise you, you'll have a certain outlook on what we want and what we need,” said Salad. “I think it's just really better for the city and us to just have that dialogue and understanding of each other.”

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Callan Gray

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