City, State, nonprofits partner to give Northsiders economic boost

MSP Interim Superintendent Michael Goar and MPS Adult Education Manager Caryle Peterson
MSP Interim Superintendent Michael Goar and MPS Adult Education Manager Caryle Peterson

Proposed N. Mpls center is one-stop shop for health, education, employment

Construction on the 47,000-square-foot former auto dealership building at 800 West Broadway, the site of a new education and career center, is expected to begin this summer and be ready to open by the fall of 2016. Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and other officials presented their plans Tuesday at the Capri Theatre in North Minneapolis.

The district was “approached [and] asked to be a major tenant” in the proposed unnamed center, explains MPS Interim Superintendent Michael Goar. “The level of collaboration that we are talking [about] is unprecedented with so many different major stakeholders, between state, city, Minneapolis Public Schools and a few nonprofits. We were very much interested” in MPS becoming one of the center’s “critical pieces,” says Goar.

Along with MPS, the partners on the $7.3 million project include NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, who will open a health clinic on site, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Community and Technical Center (MCTC), Minneapolis Urban League, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council and West Broadway Business and Area Coalition among others. Retail space is also planned, along with community meeting rooms.

“We are going to lease space on the second floor,” notes Goar. He and MPS Adult Education Manager Caryle Peterson both spoke to the MSR at Davis Center. A “comprehensive wrap-around” service center on West Broadway, North Minneapolis’ main business artery, that combines employment and education opportunities “goes to the heart of the matter that we are struggling in this community,” states Goar on the area’s existing jobless gap.

“This allows our community members to engage in their educational process or to re-engage and get their GED, or people who want to pursue [education] beyond that GED,” Goar continued. “The whole point of this project is a collaborative, working together with stakeholders for our re-engagement activities.”

It’s a “community on campus,” notes Peterson. “We can’t find any place in the country that put these four entities — schools, higher education, health care and the workforce center” — together at one conveniently located site. It “is unprecedented,” she says.

The center’s flexible hours on evenings and weekends will allow “real people” to take advantage of it, adds district spokeswoman Rachel Hicks.

“We are not going to duplicate” other existing programs in the area as well,” Peterson points out. “This is an exciting opportunity for all partners to connect at a level we have not done before…all focused on student achievement.”

MPS also, according to Goar, “had extensive conversations with MnSCU — MCTC, Metro State and Mankato State University” to be involved in the 800 West Broadway project. “We were pretty clear from day one that we wanted MnSCU to be part of it,” he points out, adding that with students being able to get dual-credit classes through MPS and MCTC, it fits into the district’s “comprehensive vision. It is critical that we have a strong relationship with MnSCU in helping our community.”

As a result Peterson’s department hopes to target “those who have left school (without a diploma), those who are at risk, but also that adult population” who might want to further their education to improve their job prospects through the new partnership with MCTC. “We don’t want people to just get a job, but something more sustainable,” she explains.

Anyone is welcome to attend the monthly morning community meetings held on the second Tuesday of each month (8-9 am) at the current North Workforce Center on Plymouth. It’s important to have community involvement “in bringing ideas forward and questions they have” through such regularly scheduled meetings, Peterson notes. “What’s nice about this project is that it is connecting with the community.”

“It is a future model that’s possible in our community when people have their minds to it,” concludes Goar.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.