Minneapolis officials discuss possible next use for former 3rd Precinct site

Exterior view of the 3rd precinct
Exterior view of the 3rd precinct destroyed by fire on June 16, in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News 2023

The former Minneapolis 3rd Precinct police station was set on fire nearly four years ago amid the unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. Now it could become a new site for early voting and other elections services.

However, some members of the city council say community residents should have more control over what is done with a site which they say has been a source of trauma for many people.

City officials presented a plan to members of the City Council Monday that would use the bulk of the building for elections and a smaller portion — about 8,000 sq. ft. — for “community use.”

According to city staff, the lease on the current voter center located on E. Hennepin Ave. expires in five years and will become more expensive to renew.

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Director of Elections and Voter Services Katie Smith said the building, which is located at 3000 Minnehaha Ave., would be highly accessible for residents.

“It’s centrally located. It’s located on the Lake Street and Midtown transit [corridor],” she said. “It’s walkable, it’s bicycle friendly, and motor vehicle access and on-site parking that would be ideal for elections and voter services.”   

However, council member Jason Chavez, who represents the ward where the burned former police station sits, said residents of his ward want to see the site be for community use.

“And yet today we’re being asked to approve this draft concept plan without prior engagement on it — without a reconciliation process or taking into consideration the effort of engagement that community members have taken into their own hands because we as a city have not done it.”

The Longfellow Community Council has conducted its own listening sessions, during which a majority of participants said 3000 Minnehaha Ave. should be reserved for “community determined use.”

Council members say some residents have proposed other ideas for the site that would acknowledge the history of police brutality or honor the legacy of African Americans in the city.

 3rd precinct building is seen
Last fall, the Minneapolis City Council voted to authorize staff to purchase a building to house the city's 3rd Precinct and a community safety center. It's located at 2633 Minnehaha Avenue South, just a few blocks away from the former precinct building. The new 3rd precinct building is pictured on Nov. 2, in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News 2023

However, some council members said dedicating most of the former police station as a place where people can exercise their right to vote is “community use.”

Council member Andrea Jenkins represents the ward where Floyd was murdered by then-police officer Derek Chauvin.

“It is a function of our responsibility to ensure that our residents of this city have an opportunity to engage in the democracy of this city,” she said. “I don't even understand why we're separating out community use versus city use. This would all be community use.”

Last fall the city approved a plan to buy a building to house the new 3rd Precinct that is several blocks from the former site. 

The council committee voted to push back further action on the Elections and Voter Services site proposal until later this month.