Tag Archives: Shoreham Yards

Shoreham Yard Redux

Update to earlier post

Digging deeper is generally a good thing.  For a recent post about the Shoreham Yard Site, posted in order to draw attention to public meeting sponsored by the Eastside Food Co-op, I lacked the time to dig deeply enough.  The post deserves a follow-up, probably more than one, this one concerning cleanup activities.  Digging deeper unearths some facts that underscore the need for deeper research by federal, state and city agencies concerned about the health of Northeast residents.




The state’s primary involvement with the Shoreham Yard site is the responsibility of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  In 2007 MPCA issued a significant Cleanup Update.  The Update reports that “The (Shoreham) Site was used for a variety of railroad activities since the late 1880s and it is still an active railroad facility.  Past activities included fuel storage, waste storage and reclamation, and locomotive refueling.”


The Update separates the Yard into a number of identified sites, including the fueling area and a reclamation area. This significant study describes the site contamination and reports on cleanup plans and implementation status as of its publication in 2007. Individuals and community organizations concerned about the present status will find a lengthy listing of state, city, and railroad corporate resources.


I also tackled the Health Consultation prepared in 2007 by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services Public Health Service.  This report deals in great depth with the geology/hydrogeology of Shoreham Yard and with investigations of the soil and groundwater soil vapor.  The Health Consultation report concludes:

The Soo Line Shoreham Yard East Side site is contaminated with petroleum products and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) from over 100 years of railroad maintenance operations and releases from other businesses that handled petroleum and chemicals at the site.  Contaminated soil remains at the site and site-related contaminants exceed appropriate soil screening values in several areas, primarily at depth.  Groundwater is contaminated with petroleum products and VOC’s on and off the site.  Past exposures are difficult to quantify, and represent an indeterminate public health hazard.  Exposure to contamination from the site currently appears to be minimal, and active remediation at the site should further reduce the potential for exposure in the future.  Redevelopment at the site could lead to possible exposure in the future, although the extent of such exposure is difficult to predict.  The soil and groundwater contamination at the Soo Line Shoreham Yard East Side site therefore currently represents no apparent public health hazard.  (p. 18)


Still, a very recent assessment by the Minnesota Department of Health points to a host of significant issues still on the table.  Focus of the DOH study is that segment of the acreage identified as the McFarland and Dworsky site. (see map)  The highly technical but readable report is unequivocal in its conclusions.  The summary recommendations of the DOH study are these:

  1. MDH recommends that institutional controls defining appropriate current and future land use and limitations be developed for the site.  A more comprehensive approach to institution controls for all of Shoreham yard operations should also be considered.
  2. More site characterization is warranted if land use changes from industrial to another land use in the future.
    1. Any excavations outside remediated areas of the MF&D site and the Shoreham Yard warrant contaminant characterization and exposure mitigation
    2. The Canadian Pacific residential development proposal area should be characterized for site related PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), dioxins, furans, and PCBs before development proceeds.  These data will help determine what institutional controls and or remediation are needed for the land parcel.


As indicated in the earlier post, the Canadian Pacific has established a major repository of documents relating to Shoreham Yard.  This is an indispensable source of more current information about cleanup activities and plans.  The repository contains nearly 700 documents dating back to 1977.




The City of Minneapolis monitors Shoreham Yard cleanup activities and development plans through Community Planning and Economic Development.  Key contact person at CPED is Kevin Carroll 612 673 5181.  Responsibility for preservation of the Roundhouse remains with the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission.

The most important community player in the deliberations is the Shoreham Area Advisory Committee (SAAC) formed in 1998 as part of the court settlement between the city of Minneapolis and the Canadian Pacific Railway.  SAAC is an approachable, accessible resource that welcomes public participation in a process.  The SAAC website offers ready entry into the complexities of Shoreham Yard history and development essential to any concerned resident who wants to get involved.


Digging deeper into the massive paperwork, much of which is now available online, reveals serious contamination, conflicting agency responsibilities, and a serious challenge.  In this case at least, digging deeper into the information is well worth the effort – the stakes are real, imminent and essential to residents of Northeast Minneapolis.  Though the quantity of information seems overwhelming, the resources, including a host of involved agencies and informed citizen groups are accessible, informed and concerned.


Whither Shoreham Yards – blight or boon to Northeast Minneapolis

The ongoing saga of the future of Shoreham Yards is as complex and tangled as the map of the 230 acre railroad yard that has taken up a generous expanse of Northeast Minneapolis since 1888.  In recent years Canadian Pacific Railroad has operated the sprawling train, trucking and bulk distribution site that was once the major switch point for trains headed from the grain mills on the Mississippi to the East Coast. Since the mid-1990’s the Yards have been at the center of a host of controversies involving affected neighborhood residents, the entrenched  railroad, anxious developers, concerned environmentalists, health authorities, architectural preservationists and a parade of elected officials.  Though the Yards incorporate the land from Central to University and 27th Avenue Northeast to St. Anthony Parkway much of the discussion about disposition of the area focuses on an area known as “the teardrop” and on the historic Roundhouse.

For the driver speeding past en route to elsewhere, the Yards are a passing curiosity, a maze of interlocking tracks, parking lots, some outbuildings and a neighborhood eyesore.  In fact, the Shoreham Yards represent one of the last vestiges of the prominence of Minneapolis as a transit center.  The facility once served as the primary locomotive repair and maintenance facility for the Soo Line Railroad and its predecessor, the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie and Atlantic Railroad.

A unique feature of the Yards is the 48-stall Historic Roundhouse, constructed in 1887.  Preservationists are particularly concerned about the Roundhouse/ which was designated early in this century as a Minneapolis Historical Landmark. In 2003 Shoreham Yards and Roundhouse were named one of the state’s Ten Most Endangered Properties by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.  To this day the Roundhouse is closed to the public, visible only from a distance over a fence west of Central Avenue and 29th Avenue.  Dan Haugen, writing in the Northeaster (reprinted in the Twin Cities Daily Planet) in 2007, offers an excellent review of the history and current status of negotiations regarding the Roundhouse.

Preservation is but the tip of the controversies surrounding the future of the Yards.  A portion of Shoreham Yards is a designated Industrial Employment District in the Comprehensive Plan for Minneapolis. This designation means that the City will support redevelopment of the area for new light industrial business that provide high job density, good wages and low impact on the surrounding community The City of Minneapolis has outlined a number of potential redevelopment scenarios for the section of the 2008 Shoreham Yards, including the Roundhouse,  in the Shoreham Yards Roundhouse Reuse Study, a living document that is updated regularly on the Community Planning and Economic Development website.  An important recent development is posting of Request for Proposals for two parcels of Shoreham Yards, one including the Shoreham Roundhouse.

Much of the discussion relating to the disposition of Shoreham Yards focuses on pollution, particularly dust from activity in the Yards, as well as appearance and safety issues related to unlocked containers near public streets.  Arguments rage about the contamination of the major aquifer essential to long-term and emergency water access./ Neighbors have also complained about trash deposited on the grounds.. Health Consultation documents have been produced by the state and federal government/ These and hundreds of environment related documents are available on the Shoreham Depository document site which also provides an excellent list of state and corporate contacts.

An important player in the deliberations is the Shoreham Area Advisory Committee (SAAC) formed in 1998 as part of the court settlement between the city of Minneapolis and the Canadian Pacific Railway, an agreement that related generally to demolition of various Shoreham buildings.  The SAAC which meets monthly includes city, railroad, neighborhood organization, business and community members.  Notes of SAAC’s activities over the past dozen years present a vivid record of the work SAAC has done to explore economic, environmental, preservation and other issues.  A 2008 note reports that “Shoreham on Central and Roundhouse is listed as a ‘transformational, once-in-a-generation’ opportunity in the city’s Small Area Plan.”  \

One recent initiative of the SAAC is the Nine Lives Project.   Artist Foster Willey has created one of his “Made in Minnesota” posters featuring icons of the historic Shoreham Roundhouse.  Tax deductible purchases of the Nine Lives Project poster support the work of SAAC.


The Eastside Food Co-op is taking affirmative action by providing an open forum on Shoreham Yards for the community.  The Other Side of the Tracks is the topic of EFC’s December Network. It’s Thursday, December 9, 7:30 a.m. in the Granite Room at the Co-op,  2551 Central Avenue Northeast, just North of Lowry.  It’s free and open. Good Parking.  MTC #10.

Residents, policy-makers and others concerned about the process, proposed plans and potential problems may wish to consult some of the key online resources linked here or join the exchange on  E-Democracy* (http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls-ne).   Each presents a unique perspective on a complex issue that has profound long-term consequences for Northeast Minneapolis.