Location once viewed as a temporary precinct site will be permanent
On November 2, the Minneapolis City Council voted to purchase and relocate the Third Precinct headquarters to 2633 Minnehaha Avenue, an industrial park in the southern part of the Seward neighborhood that could potentially include tenants and a community safety center.
In an October 27 letter to council members, the site was touted by Mayor Jacob Frey as “cheaper to purchase, quicker to occupy, and has the space to accommodate the future community safety center.” The vote, which went along political lines, had the blessing of council members Michael Rainville, Latrisha Vetaw, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman, Andrea Jenkins, Emily Koski, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano. The five dissenting council members were Elliot Payne, Robin Wonsley, Jeremiah Ellison, Jason Chavez and Aisha Chughtai.
The approval came just days before all city council members face the polls, with some in tight races. It culminates two months of back-and-forth over potential sites that could house the Third Precinct, including a lot earmarked for a Somali mall, a former vocational school, as well as an existing bowling alley and grain silos.
Some council members at the meeting were concerned about the lack of engagement around selecting and programming for the site. “It’s clear the new name is nothing more than a rebrand and the administration has zero intention of doing anything differently from the status quo of policing that brought us Derek Chauvin and many more,” said Wonsley before voting against the proposal at the November 2 meeting.
The community safety center concept came about as a result of community distrust of police officers and the desire to see other services that provide a holistic approach to public safety. In an October 13 memorandum written by City Coordinator Heather Johnston and Interim Community Safety Commissioner Lee Sheehy, the community safety center could include “violence interrupters,” social workers, and community attorneys.
Today, the 2633 Minnehaha site has a 78,000-square-foot warehouse building that was built in 1994. The site was last sold in 2014, for $4 million. The city believes the site is the best for co-locating the precinct headquarters and a community safety center because of the large amount of space that’s available, even after the Third precinct headquarters opens.
The city estimates it would cost $10 million to acquire and $4 million to renovate the facility to turn it into the Third Precinct headquarters. The city says the precinct will be ready to move into its new headquarters sometime next year. They also believe it would cost an additional $4 million to renovate the remaining space in the building for a community safety center.
This is not the first time the city has considered locating the Third Precinct headquarters at the 2633 Minnehaha site. The city considered leasing the site as a temporary precinct in 2020. The owner ultimately backed out because protestors vandalized the site, as well as the owner’s Lake Minnetonka home.
The site is located next to an Ethiopian Church called Re’ese Adbarat Tserha Aryam Kidist Selassie Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Cathedral. A representative from the church did not respond to requests for comment on the proposal.
However, there are no specifics about the community safety center. That’s by design, insisted Community Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette at a Committee of the Whole meeting on October 31. “The reason why I haven’t been specific about the services is because I think it’d be important to engage the community on that,” said Barnette. “A partnership with Second Harvest could be there. We can look at whether there should be some health services there, you know. What is it that the community really needs?”
Councilmember Chughtai wants to see the community safety center’s services available the same day as the Third Precinct headquarters opens, but is skeptical because of the lack of engagement. “I don’t have a ton of hope for that,” said Chughtai at the November 2 meeting. “We are more concerned right now with having some sort of finality to this issue than with making smart and right and thoughtful decisions that we are going to have to live with for decades.”
Wonsley said the city’s Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC) has criticized the city for not having a public safety plan and making investments without strategic direction and engagement. “Former and current members of the city’s Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee have emphasized that the city should have a public safety plan in place before making multimillion-dollar investments into building infrastructure,” said Wonsley.
Other council members want to move forward with building out a Third Precinct headquarters, with some citing the conditions they are working in now. “I can’t imagine waking up, going to work knowing that I might be entering into a full workday of trauma, and not having somewhere to go and decompress after,” said Councilmember Vetaw. “Our officers deserve a shower. Our officers deserve somewhere to go. Our community deserves for our officers to be well when they show up every day to serve.”
The city also considered other sites, but they were ruled out for different reasons. The site at 2600 Minnehaha is no longer being considered because moving forward with the site would be more expensive compared to moving forward with the 2633 Minnehaha site. The site was also once earmarked as a site for a Somali community center.
A motion by Councilmember Jason Chavez to direct the city to study purchasing and building a Third Precinct headquarters at 3716 Cheatham Avenue, the grain silos at the corner of 38th and Hiawatha, did not pass at the November 2 council meeting. The site is also earmarked for 98 units of housing, with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority awarding 32 affordable housing vouchers to the site in August of this year.
The site was supported by Councilmember Andrew Johnson because it is centrally located and accessible by transit. But he voted against it because the 2633 Minnehaha site was a more attractive option.
Another site the city considered was 2520 26th Avenue South, which is the home of the Memory Lanes bowling alley. The managers of the bowling alley and the owners of the building were unaware of the proposals when contacted by the MSR in mid-October and said they opposed the plan. “There is no interest in selling Memory Lanes to the city,” said general manager Greg Peterson.