There is a long history of environmental racism in North Minneapolis. The responsibility for change lies squarely on the shoulders of the City’s leadership inheriting this past and responsible for what comes next.
Quite literally built on part of the rubble of the adjacent neighborhood, torn down to make room for I-94, the Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT) captures much of this painful history and shows the work the City must do to right wrongs and build trust within North Minneapolis. From the perspective of many community members, how the City invests in this stretch of public-owned riverfront will signal the respect the City has for the future of current Northside residents.
The redevelopment of the UHT has a complicated history. Through it all, community voices have been pushing the City to act more in the interest of Northsiders. While an effort by the City in response to community demands shows some progress, and meaningful changes to the proposal have been included through the hard work of community representatives working with the City, core issues with what the UHT will become has left many in the Northside feeling ignored.
In 2020, MCEA began a partnership with Northside Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) to share expertise between each other in an effort to ensure that the redevelopment of this public land does not repeat a history of injustice. CMEJ is a coalition of Minneapolis residents advocating for clean air and water and fighting to eliminate the inequitable and disparate impact of toxic pollution and unsustainable development on the lives and health of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community members.
In early 2021, CMEJ and MCEA, along with the voices of hundreds of Minneapolis residents, successfully petitioned the City to delay the vote on the Coordinated Plan until the environmental review required by law is completed. The environmental study is expected to be completed in late-summer of 2021 and MCEA and CMEJ continue to follow the process closely.
The City needs to study alternatives during this environmental review and take seriously concerned community voices to make sure Upper Harbor Terminal does not become a repeat of the history of environmental and economic pain in the Northside. We do not want to see our community members displaced, left out of the economic benefits of large development projects, or continue to be separated from the mental health, recreational, and spiritual benefits of the Mississippi river.
Roxxanne O’Brien, organizer for Northside Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ)
Draft environmental review published
The draft environmental study (AUAR) is published. Written comments on the draft AUAR must be submitted within the 30-day comment period, which ends at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Scoping for environmental review is published
City agrees to delay formal vote on Coordinated Plan
The attorney for the City of Minneapolis delivered a letter to CMEJ and MCEA saying that the scheduled February vote on the Coordinated Plan would not take place and instead the City would give a presentation in the form of a status report or a “receive and file” report. This means that important information in the environmental study about noise, traffic and pollution will be in hand before any further decisions are made.
Hundreds of Minneapolis residents demand delay of formal vote on Coordinated Plan
A total of 617 emails were sent to the City’s project team, Council Members, and Mayor Frey demanding no Council action take place without environmental review
Northside Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) and MCEA submit letter to the City’s attorney demanding that no vote on the Coordinated Plan take place until environmental study is completed
City appears to change course and move to vote on the Coordinated Plan prior to the completion of the environmental study. CMEJ and MCEA submit a letter to the City demanding the vote on Coordinated Plan halted until environmental study is completed.
$15 million in state bonding allocated for redevelopment at the Upper Harbor Terminal site.
The City of Minneapolis asked the state legislature for $20 million in bonding for Phase 1 redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal, $15 million was allocated. The City agrees to match the state bonding. The total project cost is estimated at $49 million.
Vote delayed on concept plan
After community pressure caused the City to delay vote on the concept plan, the City amended the plan and established a 17-member Upper Harbor Terminal Collaborative Planning Committee (CPC) to guide the project.
City of Minneapolis says the redevelopment of Upper Harbor Terminal is, “the city’s top development priority”
United Properties issued exclusive rights agreement
After an RFQ process with only one submission, United Properties, the largest commercial property developer in Minnesota, is granted an exclusive rights agreement with the City.
Port of Minneapolis closes
Upper Harbor Terminal site operated as a barge terminal, the Port of Minneapolis, from the late 1960’s until it’s closure in 2014 when the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock was closed.
Redlining and racist housing and development policies set the course for a one-mile stretch of riverfront in North Minneapolis to be developed into the Upper Harbor Terminal.
1851 treaties at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota
The site of the Upper Harbor terminal, along with approximately 35 million acres of land, was taken from the Dakota people by the U.S. through the 1851 treaties at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota. Promised compensation for the ceded territory was never paid.