Phillips community struggles to save Peavey Park

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The Peavey Park Building and Staffing was closed in September of 2005 due to a cancelled “shared-use” agreement by the Minneapolis Public Schools at Phillips School. This discontinued access to the gym, restrooms and related spaces!

Community residents, organizations, and businesses once again banded together to bring immediate, short-term solutions to a problem, although disheartened from repeated abandonment by some public agencies, they continue in their efforts of long-term planning for the Park and the vacated school (formerly Mt. Sinai Hospital).   

The Peavey Park Building and Staffing opened on January 18, 2006 because many people in the Philips Community organized, advocated and raised money to reopen the building.

The Peavey Park Building and Staffing was closed for one week by the police on February 13, less than a month after Peavey opened, because of an “incident”.

The Peavey Park Building and Staffing is now opened with requirements that all park patrons leave their coats, bags and backpacks in a secure area outside the gym. Question remains as to whether park staff will be paid during the closing.

Factors leading to tenuous scenario
Peavey Park’s shared-use agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) was initiated by former mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. When the agreement was terminated, Park Officials stated limited budgets prevented funding for unexpected space and heating costs at Peavey. Successful community fundraising efforts within Phillips now subsidize the cost of keeping the gym and related spaces open and heated. And on January 10, 2006, the School Board approved a lease that allows the park to use the gym and related spaces at Peavey Park/Phillips School until the building is sold by the School Board. Then, when the school is sold it’s unknown what will happen to Peavey Park. Whether there will be access to the gym and other shared spaces is in question.

Another shared-use agreement involves a 1992 resolution passed by the city, which “vacated” (returned to the original owners) the street at Columbus Avenue and 22nd Street. This vacated property (a driveway) is shared by the Minneapolis Public Schools and Peavey Park. It is unknown whether there is a current shared-use agreement between the two and who has the right to use the driveway. If the schools are to sell the property for profit, will the city consider a proposal to recommit the public land donation to Peavey Park entirely?

Community investment
Peavey’s importance in the community was recognized in 2001, after a two-year planning process involving more than 200 people and officials from the city of Minneapolis, the Park Board, and Hope Community created a Peavey Park Master Plan—which was unanimously approved by the Park Board. Despite major support for the concept of Peavey as a central gathering place for community, Park Board budgets continue to reflect a lack of financial commitment to Peavey, in particular, and parks in general in Phillips. Justifying this trend by suggesting that East Phillips and Peavey are in contest for funds ignores the fact that in Minneapolis south of 42nd Street there are 13 ice rinks open for communities to enjoy. In Phillips there is only one.

Unlike communities in the outlying edges of Minneapolis, Phillips families cannot say they rely on their neighborhood parks as a place where they can take their toddlers to play in the gym, where young children enjoy programming like soccer, gymnastics, hockey, and softball, and where computers and job training/mentoring opportunities are available for teens. In the Phillips community, with the largest population of youth citywide, Peavey Park is only open from 4 to 8 p.m. and is closed on weekends. In order to keep Peavey open will community activists and organizations have to continue to raise funds?

According to the Minneapolis Public Schools Real Estate staff, a RFP (request for proposal) is underway to list the Phillips School with a real estate broker by April 2006. Fears that Phillips Community School will be sold to condo developers are not unfounded. Gas and electric utility costs last year at Phillips school were nearly $400,000. To relieve such a high cost burden (without innovative energy planning) suggests that sales priority will go to the highest bidder and not a local community organization.

Limited Park funding demonstrates a lack of commitment to communities where complications of low income and crime challenge public officials, agencies, and families to support kids in accessing open, safe and comprehensive park programming.

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