Twin Cities

Roof Depot project faces new hurdle as state funding fails

Roof depot02
A chain link fence surrounds the Roof Depot site adjacent to the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis on May 1, 2023.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Amid Sunday’s frenzied end to the legislative session, several development projects around the state ended up without state funding they had anticipated. One of those was the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute’s Roof Depot development, making for a new hurdle in the years-in-the-making community project.

Last year, the state legislature committed $6.5 million to the south Minneapolis urban farm project, and pledged to give another $5.7 million this year. But legislators failed to finish voting on the bill including that funding before the midnight deadline on Sunday. 

“It was excruciating watching this occur,” said Dean Dovolis, board chair of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI).

Dovolis said legislators had reassured the organization that the measure had the votes to pass. In the end, it came down to time. 

But Dovolis said the funding hiccup won’t set the project back. Since Sunday, Dovolis said, government officials and community supporters have reached out to offer solutions to keep the project on track. 

“This is really a wide and far effort that people want to see happen,” Dovolis said. “That’s probably what the good news out of this situation is: the depth and strength and support for this project goes beyond just a building.”

EPNI acquired the former Roof Depot site in south Minneapolis after nearly a decade of push-and-pull with the city. The neighborhood organization wants to turn it into an urban farm and community center. For years, the city blocked the effort, favoring its plans to demolish the building and build a public works facility there.

The funding from the legislature last year secured EPNI’s ownership of the site, where it’s now moving ahead with the development of its community-owned urban farm.

EPNI is currently lining up tenants for the building. So far, Dovolis said they have commitments to build a bike shop, gardening workshops, a cafe and a futsal field.

Dovolis did not share the specifics of the new funding that EPNI is anticipating, but said the organization will share more information once the deals are finalized in the coming weeks. 

EPNI is planning to finalize ownership of the site in mid-July. After a community meeting scheduled in September, the organization will start development. Dovolis says they aim to open the building in the summer or fall of 2025. 

“A lot of people don’t want to see the dream delayed,” Dovolis said. “They want to see this thing really open and really start doing the mission that we’ve all talked about.”

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