The project is key to a revitalized North Side
In North Minneapolis, the corners of Penn and Plymouth Avenue for decades have not lived up to their thriving business history during and before the 1970s, businesses owned and/or operated primarily by African Americans. Currently on the northwest corner sits Estes Funeral Chapel next to NorthPoint Health and Wellness. Across the street on its northeast corner is the Minneapolis Urban League, housed in the Glover Sudduth Center. Not far from the southeast corner, where King’s grocery store and Lucille’s Kitchen were previously housed in a small strip mall, now sits UROC, the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center. Decades ago, a McDonald’s franchise was located on that same block on the corner lot, a spot that has been vacant since the restaurant closed. Last is the southwest corner, which has been a vacant parking lot for over 40 years.
Over the next few weeks, in a series called “Transforming the North Side,” MSR Staff Writer Charles Hallman will be speaking with leaders of organizations who are working to bring jobs and other resources to North Minneapolis, in some cases to this very intersection.
Second in a series
NorthPoint Health and Wellness in 2017 will launch its “catalyst for development” for the intersections of Penn and Plymouth Avenues North. The $67 million campus expansion is part of its “Community Board Development Concept” with its final design expected to be completed sometime this year, with construction beginning in 2018, according to its website.
More importantly, the entire project, which is expected to be completely finished by 2020, is being touted as a key component in the Northside economic revitalization.
“[The] expansion is really three stages,” explained NorthPoint CEO Stella Whitney-West in a recent MSR phone interview: a new Thor Construction headquarters and parking garage to be built across the street from the Minneapolis Urban League on a lot vacant since the late 1990s; relocating Estes Funeral Home across the street from its present location next to NorthPoint; and expanding NorthPoint itself. “Because of our growth in patients and demand for our services, NorthPoint requested some years ago…to increase our square footage. We have been working on this expansion for a number of years, almost 12 years.”
As a result, Whitney-West said, the new redevelopment project will support overall Northside economic development. “NorthPoint and Hennepin County is committed to…the [community’s] overall economic well-being. The residents of North Minneapolis…and all the residents [will] benefit from any economic development. We want to make sure that this doesn’t become a project that ends up benefiting other people and not the folk that live in North Minneapolis.”
Formerly Pilot City, NorthPoint currently serves over 25,000 patients with over 98,000 visits per year, as well as 15,000 residents receiving social services. After its completion, there will be an additional 50-60,000 square feet added to the present 26,000 square-foot location, said Whitney-West.
Also, she noted, with the proposed ground floor of Thor’s headquarters designed for retail space, this will be an economic boom for the area as well. “We have close to 400 employees at NorthPoint, and there is no place in walking distance where my employees can grab a quick bite to eat, a cup of coffee. It’s a prime location. We are really excited about it.”
Furthermore, Whitney-West pointed out that other than the noise normally associated with construction, “We don’t think there will be [any] major disruptions because the [overall] development is being done in phases. The first development [Thor headquarters] is going to be on a vacant lot,” and Estes will be built on the existing parking lot. NorthPoint’s expansion will only involve tearing down the funeral home’s current structure,” she explained.
“The reason why we are doing it in phases is because — number one — we have to stay open during construction. Number two, we need the parking [ramp] so we can vacate the [current] parking lot” and clear the way for Estes to build its new chapel and offices on the site, said Whitney-West.
The new parking ramp, along with Thor’s new corporate offices, also will help alleviate current parking needs around NorthPoint, explained the CEO. She said they often get complaints from neighboring residents about cars parked in front of their residences during business hours. “The impact we think will be a favorable one because it will allow cars now being parked on the residential streets [to be] parked in the parking ramp.
“We think the development is a game changer,” she continued. “NorthPoint in 2015 had an economic analysis and [found] it was estimated that NorthPoint’s economic impact annually is over $50 million. By NorthPoint expanding, we are also able to expand our economic impact to the community.”
Because of its location on one of the North Side’s main arteries, “NorthPoint is committed to preserving the integrity of the community in North Minneapolis,” said Whitney-West of the clinic founded at least a half-century ago. “We want to make sure the story is told, the history of Plymouth and Penn and how it developed over the years. NorthPoint is a part of that history.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.