About two decades after establishing that they have the right to tear down Minneapolis’ last railroad roundhouse, July 30, CP Rail’s contractors started clearing Shoreham Yard of an era when trains were king.
Today, the operation at Shoreham, 2800 Central Ave. NE, is “intermodal,” transferring shipping containers full of goods between trains and trucks, trucks and trains. That requires paved surfaces, and paving requires stormwater management on site.
With much of the site’s past pollution cleaned up, there is still some monitoring and remediation going on. In March this year the rail company met with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to review their plans for eventual redevelopment on the East Side, resulting in approval June 17 of their Remedial Action Plan.
Though CP’s public relations rep Andy Cummings said CP first discussed the expansion plan with the city in October 2018 it apparently wasn’t obvious that “eventual” meant “roundhouse demolition July 2019.” Cummings said they “met with First Ward Council Member Reich and his staff on June 12 to discuss the proposal in detail.”
In what Reich described as a “sucker punch,” the railroad communicated with his office in late July that they were to start demolition shortly and stated all the legal reasons that they did not have to seek permission or permits. He sought legal advice and hoped to get a strong proposal together to keep the roundhouse. Reich said the Friday before the Tuesday, July 30 roundhouse teardown, CP basically said, “we’re not sending a request, we’re telling you.” (See related history article.)
Archival photographers documented the site July 31. Charlene Roise of Hess, Roise and Company said, “We worked from north to south, and after we had finished with the north section (the newest part of the roundhouse), they started demolishing that.”
Reich said he met with Veit, the contractor, on site to identify some artifacts to put aside for a possible interpretive site: bricks, doors, beams, plus fire hoses and other items indicating that people worked there.
This latest adaptation of the overall 230-acre Shoreham site will include re-grading 28.2 acres of the yards, excavating 79,000 cubic yards of dirt for the pond and from the areas to be paved. Some of the soil would go to landfills and some elsewhere on site. A building housing “pump and treat” groundwater cleanup equipment would be rebuilt at the southeast corner. The stormwater pond would be near the northwestern edge of St. Anthony cemetery.
Cummings emailed a statement: “In an effort to meet the needs of businesses in the region, CP is planning to expand capacity at its Minneapolis intermodal terminal…The facility is currently operating at capacity. The expansion will occur entirely on CP’s existing footprint, with no land acquisition. Shoreham has been a railroad facility for more than a century, and CP is performing this upgrade to meet the demands of the 21st century Upper Midwestern economy.
“The expansion includes the demolition of the roundhouse facility. While CP recognizes and appreciates the role the roundhouse and its workers played in the company’s history, the building is in a dilapidated, unsafe condition, making it unsuitable for preservation or reuse.…
“Railroad projects like the Shoreham expansion are subject to federal regulation, and local and state units of government cannot regulate rail transportation. CP is talking directly with the City of Minneapolis about this project.”
Reich said he believes the Remedial Action Plan is still in play, and the city does not agree with how CP proposes to cap the monitoring well sites.Cummings told the Northeaster “CP is working directly with the MPCA and the Minnesota Minnesota Department of Health to ensure the expansion doesn’t affect the functioning of the monitoring wells at the site.”
The application for waiver requests to cap the wells below ground in protected manholes raised just slightly above grade to shed water, instead of the standard about two feet above grade.
Though the courts, as Reich put it, “turbocharged” the railroad’s rights to ignore the city’s wishes in the late 1990s-early 2000s, he had consistently held out hope that at some point the rail company would let the roundhouse be used for some public-serving purpose, and continued to pitch the site to potential developers.
He cited Surly Brewing Company’s interest, before they chose their present location, which involved CP in some conversations, and most recently the apparent willingness in mid-2018 to sell some land to the park board to buffer a housing development at the northern end on existing park property. He alluded to conversation “a couple months ago” that involved one of the other CP buildings.
Of CP Rail, Reich said, “They always have the kill button and end up pushing it.”
Comments about the tear-down on Facebook ranged from not understanding (maybe not believing) the concept, “it is gone,” to “let’s move on” and fond memories.
Of overall political and societal will after a decades-long limbo, Reich said, “some have said the yards are just yards. Even some historical people had given up. But the roundhouse is a touchstone, it’s the last one in the city. It has curves. In a square society curves look cool. It’s interesting to see how divided people were.”
Below: Shoreham roundhouse, July 31, 2019. (Photos courtesy of Charlene Roise)