Crime, Parking Concerns Overshadow Plan for African Market in Cedar-Riverside

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s plan for a new “African market” in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is being met with opposition from an unlikely group: Cedar-Riverside residents and business owners.

Cedar-Riverside- August Schwerdfeger

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s plan for a new “African market” in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is being met with opposition from an unlikely group: Cedar-Riverside residents and business owners.

On the heels of an Alpha News report about rampant gang violence and crime in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, a new plan supported by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Sixth-Ward City Council member Abdi Warsame to build a new East African market in the neighborhood is being roundly rejected by neighborhood residents and business owners because of crime and other concerns, according to a new report by the Star Tribune.

The new mall, being billed as “Africa Village,” is slated to be built on a city-owned lot near the intersection of South Fourth Street and Cedar Avenue. The lot contains about 90 parking spaces in a surface parking lot directly behind several businesses including the Red Sea restaurant, the site of a March homicide of a Somali teenager which has been attributed to gang violence.

The mall is being touted by Warsame as a “destination place” for people visiting Minneapolis, but residents and businesses expressed concern that the city didn’t seek their support for the project and should first address crime and other problems in the neighborhood. They also said the reduction in parking would hurt existing businesses, the Star Tribune report said.

One of the owners of the Red Sea, Yohannes Zemedhin, is against the concept of the mall and said all of his customers park in the lot, and that “[w]ithout parking, no one comes around at all.”

Other business owners in the neighborhood expressed concerns about crime. Fartune Del, owner of Sagal Restaurant and Coffee, and who is also a member of a Cedar-Riverside group of Somali mothers who oppose the project, worries that the market will add to the area’s crime problem, citing other markets in the city that she thinks are “dense and unsafe.”

Michelle Kwan of Keefer Court bakery said “[w]e have a lot of issues right now with crime, with young kids joining gangs,” and suggested that she would rather support a community center in the spot.

Rod Johnson, the founder and owner of Midwest Mountaineering, called the market a “half-baked, bad idea,” and said that he hasn’t met any anyone in the neighborhood that wants it. “I don’t think anything good will come out of it and I think the businesses are doing everything they can to stop it,” he said.

The Minnesota Daily reported that the Somali mothers group held a protest opposing the project on Sunday and condemned the lack of community engagement. Del was again quoted saying the lack of communication by planners brings the community “more suspicion and anger,” and indicated that energies should be spent on mitigating crime. A mall, she said, “is going to bring more people, more crime, more drug use.”

Yet another protester, Ladon Yusuf, a community organizer for the Defend Glendale and Public Housing Coalition, expressed concern that the project, which would likely include housing, could gentrify the neighborhood and said, “[w]e want to stop gentrification because this is going to be another luxurious apartment and with a very expensive mall that people cannot afford.”  

Frey insisted that the project would “prevent gentrification” and would be a “cultural commercial corridor… an actual destination place.”

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information offers citizen-powered news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.

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