What should be in George Floyd Square? Minneapolis says it will share a plan by the end of 2024

By | March 29, 2024

Almost four years after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer The city of Minneapolis says it is developing a plan for the future of the intersection in south Minneapolis now called George Floyd Square.

Construction work around the area around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue is not expected to occur until after 2026, but by December 2024 the city will release a vision document defining key unanswered questions about the site. They contain:

⋅Whether the city should play a future role in the square’s racial justice memorials, which are currently maintained by community volunteers.

⋅Who should own the People’s Way, a former Speedway gas station turned protest headquarters?

⋅How the street itself should be redesigned to better enable the delivery of basic services in an area that is occasionally closed to outside traffic.

Gathering community members around a shared vision for George Floyd Square has been a lengthy and often uncomfortable process for the city. Last year, numerous differing opinions about public safety, unresolved trauma and distrust of the city’s agenda permeated the public engagement meetings.

“There’s obviously a lot of sensitivity around the city’s level of involvement with a man they killed, right?” said Office of Public Service project manager Alexander Kado. “We want to understand how can the city support that process, how can we preserve spaces on the right-of-way, remembering that George Floyd was murdered on the right-of-way? How can we preserve those spaces with this design process so that they are protected?”

Early steps

The city’s community engagement efforts have unfolded slowly and deliberately, resulting in a bundle of community values ​​including “community safety,” “social justice,” “economic vitality” and “design that promotes healing.”

In 2023, the city purchased the People’s Way from a California real estate investment group after a man’s burned body was found in the building. While some people objected to the city taking ownership of an active protest site surrounded by community art, the city said purchasing the property was critical to ensuring accountability and eventual redevelopment into something that benefits the community.

What kind of establishment the People’s Way might be and who would own it remains up in the air. City officials want to gather input for a series of community conversations, including a dinner and dialogue attended by about 200 people Thursday evening at the Sabathani Community Center.

“It’s not all predetermined because we want to use the information we get from each session to actually dictate the next session,” says Anthony Taylor of the Cultural Wellness Center, which is leading the 2024 engagement. “We have a structure, but it will also be organic and informed by the people participating in the process. “This year, the city will ask the public to decide what kind of memorials to Floyd and racial justice should be permanently installed on the square, and whether the city of Minneapolis should play any role. Mayor Jacob Frey has committed to the premise that no only traffic will ever be allowed to cross the spot where Floyd breathed his last, but otherwise everything else regarding a future monument is open-ended.

Meanwhile, the actual streets of 38th and Chicago, built in the 1950s, are also in need of renovation. Protesters’ closure of the intersection to public transit in the wake of Floyd’s killing changed its function.

The city on Thursday proposed a series of options for a future redesign, including: open access for all modes of transportation, including cars; limited access only for pedestrians, bicycles, buses and emergency, maintenance and delivery vehicles; or a pedestrian area only accessible to critical vehicles. The latter option would require a bill giving cities across the state the ability to convert streets into pedestrian malls, which has also been proposed for a possible makeover of downtown’s Nicollet Mall.

Community feedback

The purpose of Thursday’s dinner was to gather more input on the community’s priorities for the plaza. But some attendees wanted to get to the point faster.

“It’s been years since it happened and I’ve been to other places where George Floyd was honored,” said business owner Audra Robinson. “I would challenge anyone to go to Freedom Park in Raleigh, NC to see a good example of what can happen. Who is responsible, where is the committee and what is the scheduled date for the creation of anything? “

Willie Frazier of Finish Touch Boutique, a longtime business owner based in George Floyd Square, also expressed frustrations with the length of the planning process. “Do something!” he screamed. ‘I pay rent! Enough is enough… You guys don’t know what’s going on there.’

Others were happy to participate.

Linda Butler attended the dinner Thursday with her granddaughter Renita Burrows and two teenage great-granddaughters. South Minneapolis was where Butler landed after she left Chicago 20 years ago, and although she now lives in north Minneapolis, 38th and Chicago and the Sabathani Community Center remain close to her heart.

Asked to think about what she sees first when she enters George Floyd Square, Burrows said it feels a bit messy. But when she turns the corner and catches a glimpse of Peyton Scott Russell’s iconic mural, she says she’s reminded of the beauty that coexists with the lingering trauma.

Butler said going to the square takes her right back to the nine minutes of Floyd’s death on camera, and the fear she felt in 2020 that her adopted diverse and progressive community in south Minneapolis wasn’t what she thought it would be. .

“When you stand in the square, you see a spirit of unity, a spirit of community, a spirit of solidarity,” said Prince Corbett, the city’s new director of Race Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. “There is also a spirit of despair and a spirit of sadness. There is a spirit of something… like the rose that grew from the concrete, and that spirit is there.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *