South Minneapolis residents recently attended a community engagement learning table centered on the City’s ongoing efforts re-envision the 38th & Chicago intersection, also known as George Floyd Square (GFS).
Many were on hand to listen and share ideas surrounding the reconstruction of the popular intersection, memorialized following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The site could easily be classified as a national monument but the streets leading up to the intersection were paved decades ago and are not built to accommodate modern-day increases in traffic, especially the amount of new outside traffic, both pedestrian and automotive.
Currently, only one lane of traffic exists surrounding a community-made roundabout.
The learning table was created by the Public Policy Project in 2021 and has since conducted several on an array of topics central to the area’s redesign. According to marketing material, the sessions provide a place for community members to ask critical questions, learn together, create a shared approach, and develop relationships and create partnerships.
The discussion, held at Sabathani Community Center on Nov. 28, included special guest speakers from Metro Transit’s Sophia Ginis, director of Community Affairs, and Cody Olsen, community outreach coordinator, who spoke about city bus routes, including the #5 Route, which is surprisingly one of the more used of all Metro bus lines as it carves an 18-mile journey through the city.
“We’re here to share but also to listen,” began Olsen, as he explained the impact of key routes in the area as the city emerges from the pandemic. Ginis, meanwhile, expressed the importance of rider input: “Your input as riders means the world to us. We cherish opportunities for your direct feedback and input. A lot of what you will hear today is based upon this type of input. Questions like, ‘Who is this route serving and how will the detours impact our riders?” she explained. “That’s how we develop our paths forward.”
Community members listened intently and were eager to ask questions and share opinions. Their thoughts varied on the future design of the renowned and socially important site of Floyd’s murder by then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derrick Chauvin, now serving 22 years in prison.
One of the biggest challenges surrounds how transit will flow up to and through the GFS intersection. The opinions ranged from finding ways to slow traffic in hopes of more pedestrian safety, to changing the area to allow transit buses only.
Also, on hand was Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8, who has been instrumental in projects pertaining to 38th St. business development and redesign questions pertaining to GFS.
“[I’ve been a] strong proponent of the D Line, by lobbying at the State Capitol and Metro to ensure that our community has the amenities it needs. But admittedly, it has been a struggle to ensure that our community has what it needs transit-wise.
“As we’ve heard here, the 5 Route is the most used transit route in the entire state,” the council president explained. “More people ride this bus to jobs, doctor’s appointments, to school, the airport, and to shopping. It is a very important asset to Metro Transit and to this community.”
The 38th Street reconstruction project, according to the City’s website, will involve the entire public right-of-way and will include the identification and preservation of memorial space, new sidewalks, ADA pedestrian ramps, pavement, curb and gutter, lighting, and utility improvements.
Public Works and community stakeholders will evaluate a range of options that represent transportation, utility, and community-centered public realm needs. This work will also thoroughly consider and explore the integration of the D Line bus rapid transit and local bus service on routes 5 and 23.
The event also featured a light meal provided by West Indies Soul. The next session will take place in Jan. 2023.
Al Brown is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.