family with kids holding hands and walking down Lake Street during Open Streets. One child is waving

Last week, without notice, dialogue, or the opportunity to renew our contract, we were surprised to find out that Minneapolis Public Works was ending its partnership with our organization to host the Open Streets Minneapolis event series. 

Our organization, Our Streets Minneapolis—then Minneapolis Bicycle Association—founded the Open Streets Minneapolis event series in 2011. The events temporarily close major thoroughfares to car traffic, opening them to people biking, walking, rolling, and connecting with neighbors and local businesses. More than 600,000 people have experienced car-free streets in their neighborhoods. We released a public statement in response.

The Minneapolis Public Works and Infrastructure (PWI) Committee met Thursday, August 24, to discuss Open Streets Minneapolis 2024 and hear about the Minneapolis Public Works Department’s new “As You Go MPLS” events. There was much confusion before and during about whether these events were intended to replace Open Streets Minneapolis. Director of Public Works Margaret Anderson Kelliher assured City Council Members that the “beloved” event series was not going away.

While the commitment from the Minneapolis City Council PWI Committee to continue Open Streets Minneapolis in the future is encouraging, the path forward remains unclear. City Council Members and the Public Works Department mentioned a request-for-proposal (RFP) process through multiple departments outside of Public Works. 

We would be thrilled to partner with other departments to run the program in 2024.

“It’s gotten more and more popular, and it really seems like it matured,” said Council Member Andrew Johnson of Ward 12, in reference to the success of the Open Streets Minneapolis event series at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting. “It makes sense to me that it would now graduate to a more multi-departmental approach.”

While we agree that over twelve years, the event series has become more popular and ‘mature,’ we feel the best thing to do in order to ensure its sustainability is to fund it.

We are prepared to seek a partnership with another city department to run the program in 2024. We know how valuable these events are to community-building and are committed to fighting for Open Streets Minneapolis to continue in 2024 and beyond.

Since Open Streets Minneapolis became a City of Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan strategic priority and a Public Works program, the City of Minneapolis has entered a $0 contract with us to host this event series. The in-kind services they do provide, like the permits and actual street closures, are estimated in value at $34,000 per event. 

We cannot run Open Streets Minneapolis without these in-kind services, but the event series had already become financially unsustainable. We have been raising concerns about financial sustainability concerns and asking for funding because of the immense financial and time burden. The Public Works Department has not been responding to those concerns.

Our organization has relied on grants, sponsorships, and registration fees to either break even or at a loss, and the city of Minneapolis has declined years of requests to fund the program and make sure staff are compensated for the labor. Part of the reason we have been asking for funding is because of the sheer amount of staff hours we invest in making this community event series the success that you know and love. We work closely with neighborhood business associations, community organizations, and community leaders in the neighborhoods where we host.

Connecting marginalized communities to opportunities to engage in dialogue about walking, biking, and rolling has always been at the forefront of our mission and the core of the events we host. The proposal for Open Streets Minneapolis 2024 aims to fund payroll, equipment, communication, professional fees to feature local talent, insurance, software, supplies, and printing costs so that we can elevate the richness and diversity of these communities, and highlight the incredible potential for each of these communities to thrive. 

We take great care in choosing areas that have been most impacted by historically harmful transportation decisions. We prioritize communities that might not be able to afford to host an event like Open Streets Minneapolis, and we believe the City of Minneapolis should share this priority. 

It is not an overstatement to attribute the success of Open Streets Minneapolis directly to us, Our Streets MPLS, as the organizer. We founded this event and have fostered years of community engagement and relationships to make it the success that it is. We are steadfast in the belief that we remain the event series organizers to continue the level of engagement and success of Open Streets Minneapolis.

We submitted three budget scenarios to the city of Minneapolis. One for 5 events ($815k), one for 10 events ($1.36M), and one for 13 events ($1.61M), and included A list of potential corridors:

  • Ward 1: Central Ave. NE
  • Ward 2: UMN – Malcolm Yards
  • Ward 3: Washington Ave.
  • Ward 4: Lowry Ave. N
  • Ward 5: Glenwood Ave. or West Broadway Ave.
  • Ward 6: Cedar Riverside or Franklin Ave.
  • Ward 7: Hennepin Ave.
  • Ward 8: Nicollet Ave. or 38th St.
  • Ward 9: E. Lake St.
  • Ward 10: Lyndale Ave.
  • Ward 11: Chicago Ave.
  • Ward 12: Minnehaha Ave. or 38th St.
  • Ward 13: France Ave.

After 12 years of working on this program, we believe we can bring the best version of Open Streets Minneapolis to the City of Minneapolis and other cities in Minnesota, and we will be applying to become the organizer in 2024. Sign the petition to keep us as the organizer for the event series.