E-DEMOCRACY | Livability issues related to Village Market and proposed expansion


From: Jim Graham Date: 9:11am, Apr 15

And the farce goes on…

Well I might as well put in what are my opinions of the present proposal for the Village Market; and what my opinions are of the past history of the Village Market. Just to bare my soul and for disclosure purposes I have to admit that initially I actually worked to get a “Farmers Market” for 30 Somali businesses at the present Village Market site. Even watched over the building and kept it from burning a couple of times in the early days when the developers seemed genuinely interested in the welfare of the small business people and the community. So I must freely admit that I was, through well meaning gullibility, partly at fault for the victimization of a community and many recent immigrants whose only wish was to have a better life for their community and their families.

When the Village Market was first brought to the Ventura Village Neighborhood organization it was to be a “Farmer’s Market” and have a maximum of 30 businesses. A parking variance was needed for that many businesses at that location. I urged the Neighborhood organization to support it; and they did. Unfortunately, the people supporting the “Market” were hoodwinked. Instead of 30 businesses it quickly became evident that the developer’s intent was to have almost a hundred businesses operating at the facility without ever applying for additional variances. It may well have been the initial intent but the avarice that came when they saw the overwhelming desire of the Somali community people for businesses may have been to tempting to resist. With over a hundred business where just 30 needed a variance and conditional use permit the parking and traffic around the Market became a nightmare.

Somali people especially Somali women were so eager to have their own business, and not knowing the laws, became in my opinion easy victims of the owners of the Market. The owners of what had now become an illegal shopping mall began to subject the people to such bad treatment that a large group of those business women who were renting shops at the Market came to me and asked for help. I arranged a meeting for about thirty of them to ask for relief from then Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. They were seeking her assistance. Klobuchar advised them to sue for relief in the civil courts and that her office would look into the discrimination against the women shop owners. Of course then Klobuchar moved on to become our United States Senator and that investigation feel by the wayside. Due to threats to many of the shop owners, and the use of a sitting Minneapolis City Council Member as a club over their heads to emphasis the support of Minneapolis politicians for the illegal activities of the property owners, most of the threatened people backed away.

Then the sitting Council Member came to the Neighborhood organization and asked for support of a plan to add additional parking adjacent to the “Market”. Since ANY additional parking would be a relief, the people attending the meeting voted to support that plan. Of course what happened was that the then Council Member slid through a retroactive approval to make legal the 100 of so small businesses that had been rented illegally to unknowing victims for the last two years. And supposedly with “Neighborhood support”. Thus depriving the victim tenants of the legal foundation when suing to have the courts redress that illegal activity.

So now we had even greater parking problems. In a space that needed a “Parking Variance” to have 30 businesses you had an illegal shopping mall instead of a “Farmer’s Market” with over a hundred businesses plus a “church” or Mosque masquerading as a prayer room. And the farce goes on…

And now we have this new request. And the Market owners now admit that it is a “Shopping Mall” that needs expansion without addressing ANY of the parking requirements that are legally required for such a “Mall” with the existing number of businesses as well as a “church”. Since the Village Market owners have “Opened the Door” and admitted that Village Market is now, and has been operated all along, as a “Shopping Mall” I think the Council and Minneapolis Inspections Department should take the opportunity to require that the Village Market operate legally as one within the legal requirements of being such a “Mall”. And especially with parking requirements enforced per business and per square foot as are required by any other “Shopping Mall”. To not do so simply adds to the discrimination against both the small business people working hard to make a living and the neighborhood residents around the Market who are working hard to have a quality life for their families.

Clearly, if this was not an “Impacted Neighborhood” and the shop owners were not a recent immigrant population, the City would never have allowed them to be victimized to the extent that has already existed. It is blatant discrimination at its worst.

For the City of Minneapolis to even consider these further Variances and “Conditional Uses” without addressing the past history of the Village Market is to have the City of Minneapolis further aid and abet the victimization of the homeowners and renters forced to live there as well as the present shop owners who are not being provided the same business protection that would be required if it were any other population and in any other community.

We had the Council Member who engineered this “Market” go to Federal Prison for corruption around this same situation and neighborhood. Do we really need the present sitting politicians to continue the injustice of it? Would they ever think of allowing such discrimination and ignoring of City ordinances and codes to go on next door to their houses? I think not. My community has been victimized by the lies, deceit, and discrimination of the owners of the Market for over ten years; will the present politicians allow this to continue? Or will they require the same consideration for our people that they would for their own?

Sorry for the long post, but I assure you it is a brief synopsis of the history of this injustice. Several of the people CC’ed here can attest to the facts I have offered as opinions. For example, Bob Albee who provided the room at AICDC for the 30 or so Somali women who met with Senator Klobuchar. I am sure the Senator also remembers that meeting. I hope the present Minneapolis Council Members will finally address the past wrongs done to this community by the developers of the Ventura Market.

Jim Graham,
Ventura Village

From: Jim Mork Date: 2:04pm, Apr 15

Did any peep of this appear in the Star Tribune? If not, it shows how little Star Tribune Media LLC cares about city news. On the other hand, it also shows the magnitude of small business in job creation. If you have 300 businesses, I aver that 300 is the minimum number of jobs created. Do the politicians bloviating about “job creators” even know of such people?

Jim Mork
Cooper Neighborhood.

“Knowledge is the oxygen of freedom”

From: Bill Kahn Date: 3:38pm, Apr 15

> Did any peep of this appear in the Star Tribune?

Would this article about the first hundred days of the Hodges administration count, Jim M.? (yes, weve all seen it before)

> Hodges’ 1st 100 days: Building relationships, slowly and steadily
> Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune Updated: April 7, 2014 – 9:45 AM

> On another day, hours after she lost the Southwest light-rail vote, she visited a Somali mall on E. 24th Street in a blue hijab, accompanied by her Somali liaison, Abdirahman Muse. Hodges office said she is fulfilling many of the promises she put forth in a 100-day plan for the Somali community, including asking the city attorney for a review of small business regulations.

Is this the address of the mall in question, Jim G.?

Ive visited this mall. It was back in 2009 while combining uncle-ing duties and bird watching:


Jim Graham had recently posted on Ventura Village crime, not long after posting about a peregrine falcon sighting there.

There were probably well over a 100 businesses in the mall then and I was approached by people concerned with my binoculars; I did my best to explain bird watching, but I think most were convinced that I was some sort of spy or city inspector, something this project must not ever have had until Mayor Hodges showed up in her dark blue hijab. I was the only one there aside from the business folks, so I think the parking must have been just a moderate problem; if they had any customers, it would be a different story. Do they have more, now? Is this what the 100-day plan is all about? Im curious what our reappointed city attorney will say about what goes on in this mall in light of Jims post, or perhaps she will just issue an opinion to enable a new publicly subsidized mall on E. 24th Street with adequate parking in place of the old one, like she did to pave the way for the new stadium of a local NFL franchisee.

From: Jim Graham Date: 11:09pm, Apr 16

To set the record straight the ORIGINAL application which the Neighborhood supported was for 35 businesses. The 2004 application was slid through by Dean Zimmerman who presented it as nothing more than adding the small parking lot. That proposal was intended to undermine the possible law suit by shopkeeping renters. It retro approved the hundred businesses tat had already been rented to them for two years. I believe I mentioned the meetings with Amy Klobuchar and in addition about 30 shopkeepers had more than one meeting with a lawyer. That simply ended with the action of Zimmerman. The poor shop keepers were cut off at the knees by Zimmerman.

Once I called Zimmerman about a Somali man who was having his shop confescated by the owners because he had complained. The gentleman had called me to plead for assistance. When Bob Albee and I arrived to take some pictures of the action. We were met by Basim Sabri who informed me that Dean Zimmerman had called him immediately after Zimmerman received my call.

Developer after developer has had major parking variances approved in this same neighborhood by the City Council. Each treated as if it were the only one to impact the community. In a historic neighborhood that was built over 100 years ago there just is not adequate parking for the people who live in this community. Certainly the older duplexes offer what is true “Affordable Housing” for working people. Unfortunately, those duplexes now have two cars per unit because of more than one person working to be able to sustain the family. So duplexes that may have had one or even no off street parking now has perhaps four cars. Mothers with small children and groceries may sometimes already have to park a block or two away from their homes. I personally know of single mothers who had to sell their house and leave the community because of parking situation that made living here impossible for them.

Added to this situation are the high rises that were originally intended for senior citizens and NEVER were intended for general population occupancy. Those High rises simply never provided adequate parking due to not anticipating aging seniors to have cars. Now those Senior High Rises are used for family housing and many of those same units have occupants who also have two cars so two people could go to work each day.

Minneapolis needs to address this Village Market as the Shopping Center Mall that it is and require the same parking for it as would be required for any other shopping center and not continue the farce and the discrimination against both the residents of this community and discrimination against the shopkeepers in that Shopping Center. The neighborhood people need relief from the existing discrimination NOT to be additionally victimized. Hopefully the Council will do due diligence at last this time.

Jim Graham

From: Fred Markus Date: 1:06pm, Apr 18

We are blessed with new faces representing Wards 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 13 and as well a new incumbent in the mayor’s office. IMHO, the continuing incumbents in the remaining Wards have significant responsibilities regarding orderly supervision of development traffic in areas of the city experiencing substantial demographic change. Basim Sabri’s often cavalier behavior has disturbed many a public official over the years.

The intense antipathy between Basim and CM Lilligren was well understood by experienced voters in then Wards 6, 8, and 10. We got to watch that kabuki drama for more than a decade. Basim has many shortcomings – a bit of a pirate IMHO – but he correctly pointed out to me some time ago that he was accomplishing housing and commercial space for recent arrivals in our part of Minneapolis that weren’t being given the time of day in City Hall.

He built these accomplishments with great determination. I have a front cover of City Pages from May 16, 2001 that shows Basim in boxing gloves and a caption that reads “Street Fighting Man”.

Amen to that!

Now we are in 2014. Lilligren is gone, Basim is very much still with us, and there is yet to be any clue about CM Warsame’s thinking in reality, not just in the pablum of campaign rhetoric. There are savvy people on the city council representing south Minneapolis now and I was intrigued by Mayor Hodges’ rather pointed outreach that certainly trumped the vacuous and inconsistent messages and behaviors that emanated from her predecessor in the mayor’s office.

I can only hope that whatever happens next is on a sufficiently comprehensive scale with serious participation by those affected in the upcoming inevitable discussions about diversity in Minneapolis. Piracy is not a solution but scofflaws in high office – vide the latest sport palace rammed down our throats and the attempted usurpation of Park Board responsibilities – aren’t cut from any finer cloth than that which Basim wears.

Fred Markus
Phillips West

From: Bill Kahn Date: 7:40pm, Apr 18

Darn it, Fred. You’ve driven Jim from his thread and he is spreading his anti-Sabri content to every other.

Thanks to Fred, Jim G, et al. for their background on this mall, on the supposed Sabri perpetual income machine, or whatever else it might be.

I think that if Jim G is right that businesses can find cheaper digs elsewhere and if folks want the place and any problems generated by it gone, then they should find that space and convince these business folks to move to it and take any legal action indicated to protect their rights and interests. With no tenants, the place will soon be sold or go for taxes.

Emptying and wresting control of the property from the Sabris might lead to new problems, but I am sure Jim and his neighbors will handle it. Maybe they can get a variance for a livestock operation: urban goats fed on whatever Jim can get them to eat, sold live at farmers markets.

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