Signs festoon a fence at the Roof Depot site in south Minneapolis on February 21, 2023. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

The city of Minneapolis cannot proceed with plans to demolish the Roof Depot warehouse in the East Phillips neighborhood next week after a judge granted an injunction to a neighborhood group Friday morning. 

Hennepin County District Court Judge Edward Wahl granted an injunction to the nonprofit East Phillips Neighborhood Institute that will block the demolition of the Roof Depot scheduled for next week. The aim of the order is to ensure the building remains intact should the nonprofit win its case against demolition that is under review in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Wahl said. 

Wahl handed down his decision at a hearing in district court Friday.

Minneapolis intended to begin demolition of the building on Tuesday, February 28, assistant city attorney Mark Enslin said at the hearing. 

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute is attempting to preserve the building to maintain its vision for constructing an indoor urban farm and community hub. The group and East Phillips resident Cassie Holmes filed suit against the city arguing that demolition of the building, which sits on a former arsenic superfund site, will cause irreparable harm to the surrounding community. 

Wahl ruled in favor of the city on February 13, finding that the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute could not prove that demolition would cause irreparable harm. Lawyers for the group filed an appeal of Wahl’s decision. The appeals case is pending.

In his Friday ruling, Wahl ordered East Phillips Neighborhood Institute lawyers to request an expedited ruling from the Court of Appeals. He also ordered the group to pay at least a $10,000 bond to cover costs incurred by the city for delaying the demolition and continued maintenance of the building, a 230,000-square-foot former Sears warehouse. 

The city had previously requested a $4.5 million bond to cover costs of delays. 

Enslin argued Friday that the delays will harm city taxpayers. Wahl requested the group get the highest value of bond coverage it can leverage with $10.000. He gave the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute two weeks to raise the bond. 

East Phillips is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minnesota, and has a long history of industrial and transportation pollution that has resulted in elevated levels of asthma and heart disease, according to state and federal records. 

Protestors seeking to block the demolition occupied the site at E. 28th Street and Longfellow Avenue Tuesday before being ousted by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Minneapolis Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher hosted a meeting Friday afternoon with the city’s engineering consultant, Braun Intertec, and reporters to go over the city’s plans for the demolition. She cited Wahl’s previous ruling in the court case favoring Minneapolis, and reiterated confidence that the demolition could be done safely. 

The city emphasized that Wahl’s Friday ruling simply allows the court of appeals to review the activists’ case. City finance and public works staff will gather cost estimates for delaying the demolition and submit it to the district court, Kelliher said. 

Cassie Holmes, who is part of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute lawsuit, said she is trying to process the injunction ruling and case’s potential in the court of appeals. She is discouraged that city officials continue to say there will be no harm done by demolishing the building and moving forward with the public works expansion. 

Holmes, an East Phillips resident, lost her 16-year-old son in 2013 to a heart condition that he wasn’t born with, and says that injustice and environmental racism continues to affect others in the neighborhood. 

“I know it’s a victory and I am very thankful for it, but I have a lot of emotions because of the loss of my son and other community members,” she said.


Andrew Hazzard is a staff reporter with Sahan Journal who focuses on climate change and environmental justice issues. After starting his career in daily newspapers in Mississippi and North Dakota, Andrew...