Survey says most neighbors want 38th and Chicago to reopen

    The memorial for George Floyd at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis in August 2020. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

    The city of Minneapolis conducted an unscientific online survey of people living near 38th Street and Chicago Avenue and found 65% of the 929 respondents support reopening the intersection “in some way.”

    About four blocks around the intersection where police killed George Floyd have been blocked off since late May, when the city put up barricades to protect people who flocked to the site to mourn, pray and protest.

    The area has since become an autonomous zone controlled by a group called Meet on the Street. In early August, city officials told the group they were planning to reopen the intersection in phases and gave them 24 hours to respond. The group responded with a long list of demands in a “justice resolution,” which includes $156 million in proposed investments into the neighborhood over a decade. 

    The city and group have been negotiating the street reopening since.

    Minneapolis Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson presented the results of an online survey Wednesday to the Minneapolis City Council Transportation & Public Works Committee.

    She acknowledged the survey posted Sept. 22 was not scientific and is intended to be another tool to engage the community, but said 929 responses in less than two weeks is “a lot in the world of public engagement.” The survey, it should be noted, allowed one submission per web browser IP address and responses were anonymous and didn’t include a method to verify respondents’ physical home address. 

    City documents indicate the population within a one-mile radius of the intersection is about 34,000 people, and the Black, Latino and people under 25 were “ significantly underrepresented” in responses. 

    About 65% of the responses supported an interim design option or generally requested that the street be reopened to vehicle traffic; 24% of respondents desired “justice first” (waiting until after the criminal trials of the officers involved in Floyd’s death) before reopening the streets. Nineteen percent want the intersection closed indefinitely and converted to a pedestrian-oriented space.

    The city has previously released two reopening options: The first option preserves the raised fist sculpture protesters erected in the intersection, converts traffic on Chicago Avenue to one way and preserves space on the northbound lane of Chicago Avenue.

    The second option moves the sculpture north, adjacent to the memorial outside Cup Foods where Floyd died, to allow two-way traffic on both streets and better bus access. Metro Transit plans to open a bus rapid transit line along Chicago Avenue by 2022. 

    Those who took the online survey preferred the second option by a small margin, Hutcheson said.

    The public works department also reached out to businesses in the area, and held a virtual open house. Business owners say they want better access to the area, have public safety and business concerns and support either design option, Hutcheson said.

    Either of these options would only be temporary changes as winter approaches. The city would continue to deliberate what the intersection should look like long-term, she said.

    Council member Andrea Jenkins, who represents the area, said it’s a “challenging situation occurring in the right-of-way.” She hopes to have an additional response to the Meet on the Street justice resolution that more succinctly outlines the steps the city has taken, such as declaring racism a public health crisis, renaming the intersection George Floyd Square, and creating a process for truth and reconciliation.

    Hutcheson said her department believes deeply in racial justice and equity, and intends to provide space for mourning and reflection.

    “We do not believe that the street should return to normal,” she said.

    This story has been updated with additional information provided by city officials about the survey methodology.