FMR board member writes in Star Trib: Revamp the Upper Harbor project

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman
Bicyclists ride among abandoned industrial structures at the Upper Harbor Terminal site.

North Minneapolis residents explored the Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment site by bike during a community event in 2019.

FMR board member and Northside urban designer Paul Bauknight, alongside Reverend Robin Bell, wrote a recent commentary published in the Star Tribune.

The commentary urges Minneapolis leaders to stop the current Upper Harbor Terminal development process and start fresh with a process designed "from the bottom up with economic strategies that will develop wealth with the north Minneapolis community."

Bell and Bauknight connect the Upper Harbor project, in which nearly 20 acres of the city-owned riverfront site is being turned over for private development by a wealthy developer and a white-led development team, to Minneapolis's long legacy of structural racism and economic exclusion for people of color.

They write, "The proposed use of $20 million in state bonds to construct a 10,000-seat performance venue would be a continuation of public funding for white-owned business wrapped in the holy cloth of equitable development."

"As currently structured, this project would create generational wealth predominantly for majority-owned businesses outside of the north Minneapolis community. The bulk of the jobs created by the performance venue would be part-time, minimum wage and seasonal."

We agree with Paul and Reverend Bell: Minneapolis can and should do better. It's long past time for the city to abandon its request for state bond funds for a First-Avenue operated concert venue, and to start a new development process truly rooted in Northside community leadership and equity for Northsiders.

Take action

Please share your concerns about First Avenue's bonding request with your state leaders. Let them know that is not the time for state funds to support a private concert venue on a mile-long stretch of public riverfront without a clear path to partial community ownership.

Lawmakers tell us that the more personal a message is, the more influence it has. So we've provided this mostly blank form for a quick, personalized message.