Residents of the diverse and highly polluted East Phillips neighborhood rallied in downtown Minneapolis Thursday to protest the city’s plan to demolish an aging warehouse that community members want to convert into an urban farm and community resource hub.

Attorneys for the proposed farm clashed with the city at a court hearing earlier that morning, where a city attorney asked that the farm pay a $4.5 million bond to cover the costs of delaying the demolition. 

“Urban farm, not toxic harm,” the group chanted outside the Hennepin County courthouse as they held up paper mache bumblebees. The group supports the nonprofit East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, the organization behind the proposed farm.

The nonprofit has fought with the city of Minneapolis for years over the future of the Roof Depot site, an old Sears warehouse located on top of a former federal superfund site that was contaminated with arsenic. Minneapolis bought the site near E. 28th St. and Longfellow Avenue in 2016 and plans to expand the existing public works facilities there. 

At the court hearing Thursday morning, lawyers for the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute argued that the city should be prohibited from demolishing the warehouse in February as planned. The city attorney’s office asked Hennepin County District Judge Edward Wahl to order the nonprofit to pay a bond fee of $4.5 million to cover the cost if the city’s plans are delayed. 

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