May 23rd Community discussion on the Snelling-Midway Redevelopment and Stadium brings Little Africa voices to the table
Plans for the Midway Stadium and redevelopment have been rolling out with little input from the Little Africa residents and business owners who will be most affected by them. With the recent push by Minnesota United Football Club owner William McGuire to put the Stadium plans into action, AEDS recognized the crucial need to bridge the knowledge gap between the City of St. Paul and African immigrants and create a space for Little Africa business owners and residents to both learn and to be heard.
On the evening of Monday, May 23, 2016, AEDS hosted a community discussion to bring together a range of voices on the stadium and redevelopment issue. The event drew 3 speakers and City of St. Paul representatives, 2 media networks (Oromia Media Network, Twin Cities Daily Planet), and around 20 Little Africa business owners, residents, and community organizers. Delicious sambusas from Star Market and tea from Snelling Cafe were enjoyed by attendees as they mingled before and after the meeting.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Adrian Perryman, an academic advisor at Concordia University, on the research of Concordia University’s Dr. Bruce Corrie; Corrie’s groundbreaking 2015 study revealed the high economic potential and contributions of African immigrants in Minnesota and laid the groundwork for AEDS’s Little Africa project. Next, Dai Thao, Ward 1 Councilmember, took the floor and discussed the available avenues people can use to get more information and pose their questions and concerns to the City. Donna Drummond, Director of Planning at the City of St. Paul, also spoke about the current state of the Snelling-Midway bus barn site and showed artist renderings of what the redevelopment might look like.
AEDS then opened the floor for questions. Little Africa business owners and St. Paul residents posed crucial questions about a range of issues, from concerns over how the Stadium and redevelopment will affect parking, traffic, noise, and the environment to how the City will protect community members from increased property taxes and being replaced or displaced by bigger corporate chains. Many Little Africa business owners and residents expressed hope that the changes would bring economic benefits to the area, but they also voiced frustration at feeling excluded from the process. One of these speakers was Mimi Letta, owner of Mimi’s Beauty Salon in the Midway Shopping Center and one of the business owners who will be displaced by the stadium.
While there seemed to be more questions than answers, the meeting helped fill the communication gap between Little Africa and the City of St. Paul and gave both groups a deeper understanding of the issues. City representatives acknowledged the gaps in communication and knowledge, and agreed to share what they learned from community members with their colleagues at City Hall. This discussion highlighted the need for African immigrants to be more involved in future decision-making, and for the City to take extra steps to make sure this happens. The fact that the vision and timeline for the redevelopment around the stadium is not set in stone might be frustrating, but it also means more opportunity for African immigrants to get involved.
Thank you to all of the city officials, community organizations, business owners, local residents, and media who participated in this event, and on such short notice!
Visit the City of St. Paul’s Snelling and Midway Redevelopment website (https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/snelling-midway-redevelopment-site) to read more about the redevelopment, see pictures of proposed plans, and learn about upcoming opportunities for public input. The next public meetings are:
Tuesday, June 7th (7:00-8:30pm): Community Meeting
Buenger Library, Concordia University, 275 Syndicate St. N., St. Paul MN 55104
Friday, June 10th (8:30am): Public Hearing hosted by the Planning Commission
City Hall, 15 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul MN 55102
Some things to read:
Thoughts on MN United Stadium Vary in Midway:http://www.twincities.com/2016/05/13/thoughts-on-minnesota-united-soccer-stadium-vary-in-midway/
Redevelopment Site Plans – City of St. Paul https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/snelling-midway-redevelopment-site
Community Advisory Committee Meeting summaries
Priced Out of My Childhood Home: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/realestate/priced-out-of-my-childhood-home.html