38th and Chicago – Neighbors and businesses deserve more from their leaders

Minneapolis leadership has failed the citizens and business owners of South Minneapolis. Two years after the death of George Floyd the city continues to capitulate to activist groups over plans to fully open and govern the area around 38th and Chicago Ave S.

The city seems more interested in appeasing those who have hijacked the area for their own benefit. As a result, the neighborhood remains largely dysfunctional and is becoming increasingly more violent as evidenced by two murders occurring there in the past week. In the most recent murder police have indicated there is reason to believe someone took firearm evidence from the victim’s body before police arrived — a sign of brazen lawlessness. 

Citizens and business owners are tired, and they deserve a city that shows bold leadership and the willingness and ability to provide basic services and public safety for those who actually live and work in the area.

Small business owners in the area have been united and vocal in their call for a return to normal. Those that are open for business complain that the semi-autonomous atmosphere is unwelcoming and that few customers are willing to put up with it. 

The former Speedway gas station at 38th and Chicago has been abandoned and turned into an epicenter for lawlessness in the area. This past year a man was car jacked and brought to the vacant building where he was robbed of his possessions and cash. One of his assailants overdosed and died during the robbery — complete chaos.

This is the same Speedway gas station that US Representative Omar recently used as the backdrop for a campaign photo op, rather than doing anything legitimately useful for the area. 

During the Summer of 2021, the city contracted with the AGAPE group and Change Inc. for a reported $359,000 to assist with community engagement and the ultimate re-opening of the intersection. In June 2021, the city attempted to move forward with removing activist barricades after the AGAPE group conducted community outreach in the area and reported that most of the actual neighbors supported returning the area to a functioning intersection and business hub. 

Shortly after crews removed barricades, activists re-installed memorials, and other obstructions, and the area remains a semi-autonomous zone to this day — one that can be driven through, but one that fails to offer much in terms of the security and stability the area desperately needs.

 “The area morphed into a semiautonomous zone as city leaders debated how to respond to demands from protesters and residents who wanted action against spiking violence in the neighborhood.

The city public works department has now created a multi-year process to “re-envision” 38th and Chicago. It claims that the intersection, which was built between 1957-1963, has “exceeded its useful life.” The intent of the project is to “seek to balance traditional asset management needs with intersectionality of justice, healing, placemaking, and culture.” In a series of listening sessions and phases, the city plans to complete its “final concept” in the Spring of 2023. 

The city needs to show leadership by promptly and fully re-opening 38th and Chicago while providing robust public safety and other services to the businesses, residents, and those visiting the area. It is inexcusable for any serious city to muddle around for three years as a business hub and city neighborhood collapses in ruin.    

A bold plan would include rebuilding the 3rd Precinct Police Station at or near 38th and Chicago, but sadly Minneapolis doesn’t have it in her to be bold — at least not now.