Despite opposition, plans move ahead for Somali mall in Minneapolis

By Miguel Otárola

Some call Council Member Abdi Warsame’s efforts a political maneuver.

Abdi Warsame came to the community center to talk about his vision for Africa Village, his long-envisioned mall for Minneapolis’ East African hub. He never got the chance. Protesters shouted and hoisted signs the moment the two-term City Council member entered the crowded room that night in August. He stood above his supporters in an attempt to address them, but gave up within a few minutes.

A month later, at a coffee shop downtown, Warsame dismissed the opposition that night as “a little passionate discourse between the community.“No project has ever been done in the East African community in the city of Minneapolis, even though this community has now lived in the city for 30 years,” he said. “This is the first kind of project that is about this community. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of passion.”

That passion has enveloped the conversation surrounding Africa Village ever since Warsame announced plans for the market this summer with Mayor Jacob Frey, who was hustled out of the same public meeting. The mall would be built on a city-owned parking lot near the intersection of S. 4th Street and Cedar Avenue.

A vocal group of mothers, young leaders and business owners have decried the idea, saying the mall would threaten existing businesses and do nothing for the more serious need of curbing youth violence and drug use. Warsame has stood firm on his idea to build Africa Village, the focal point of his 2017 re-election campaign. He contends that virtually the entire Somali community supports him. Frey has also stood by his side.

Source: Star Tribune, Minnesota