George Floyd will have been dead for more than half a decade before the city of Minneapolis decides what will ultimately become of the site of his murder.
And it will be at least another year after that — 2026 or beyond — before George Floyd Square and the area surrounding E. 38th Street and Chicago Avenue is actually developed into an as-yet-undetermined vision.
That’s according to a timeline presented to the City Council on Tuesday as part of what has become a delicate and deliberative process to maintain a functioning city thoroughfare and business district while still recognizing the weight of Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.
“I’m sitting here, and I’m heartbroken,” City Council President Andrea Jenkins said after the presentation. “We’re talking six years before we even think about redesigning this intersection. I’ve got to go tell my constituents, ‘No, we won’t have a Third Precinct (police station). No, we won’t have any action at George Floyd Square.’ “
Alexander Kado, senior project manager for the Office of Public Service, acknowledged the city has been soliciting public feedback for several years about the area, which was slated for a new intersection before Floyd’s killing. He summarized the dilemma: “We started out with an infrastructure project, and it’s very obvious that a broader vision is essential.”
The area became the epicenter for demonstrations, memorials and other forms of expression in the immediate aftermath, when it was closed to traffic and flooded with crowds.
Today, the streets are open, and the intersection functions as a traffic circle. Much of the artwork remains. The city has bought the former Speedway gas station at 3744 Chicago Av. and pledged to remove garbage, keep the buildings secure and ensure that no threats to public safety arise from the site, which has become known as “Peoples Way” and serves as a gathering place for visitors.
The city has announced plans to improve lighting in the area, but much of the location’s current layout has been the result of organic evolution and improvisation. Many questions remain, such as:
- What will become of the artwork and memorials? Who will ensure they’re protected, who will allow for future works, and who will determine what is an accepted display and what is graffiti or vandalism?
- What will become of Peoples Way, which is generally foreseen as a likely site for a center for racial healing — although specifics are unclear?
- What will the infrastructure — streets and sidewalks — look like and how will they be designed to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and crowds while not being an impediment to traffic, bus routes, snowplows and emergency vehicles?
Tuesday’s presentation by city officials sketched out a general timeline, which doesn’t actually answer those questions but describes several years of next steps as part of a “community engagement framework” for George Floyd Square, which is now referred to in many city documents as “GFS.”
Here are some of the highlights:
- Late 2023-early 2024 (Phase I): Hire a consultant for the next steps.
- 2024 (Phase II): “Develop GFS Community Priorities and Vision,” which solicit ideas and foster discussions from the questions above and begin a “process to identify future community-centered owner for the Peoples Way.”
- 2025 (Phase III/”Design”): Answer the questions listed above, including laying out how the infrastructure will work.
- 2026 and beyond (Phase IV/”Develop”): Build what’s been designed.