For decades, the primarily African American-owned businesses on the corners of Penn and Plymouth Avenues have not thrived as they did during and before the 1970s.
In a series called “Transforming the North Side,” MSR Staff Writer Charles Hallman has been speaking with leaders of organizations who are working to bring jobs and other resources to North Minneapolis, in some cases to this very intersection. This story continues that series.
Fourth in a series
North Minneapolis’ State Senator Bobby Champion and others can easily remember the corner building at 800 West Broadway where cars were once bought and sold; later, that building became a furniture store outlet before sitting vacant for over a decade. Now, 800 West Broadway — the building’s official name — is open again for business as a collaborative workforce, education and healthcare services center, signaling a significant reinvestment on Minneapolis’ North Side.
On April 28, prior to the center’s grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony, Champion told the MSR, “With the new center located on West Broadway, the area’s main business artery, it is not only needed but vital for a vibrant community. When you go to other communities, they can buy everything they need in their community.
“We need in North Minneapolis job opportunities, great restaurants, and great places for our kids to go, and great housing infrastructure,” Champion added. “These things are important for us to have a strong community.”
Champion was among several elected officials and other local dignities who took part in publicly recognizing the triangle partnership — Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), and NorthPoint Health and Wellness, all of which are now together under one roof.
The 800 West Broadway center will provide “high potential and significant access,” declared Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith.
MPS Superintendent Ed Graff called it “a full-service community model. The beneficiaries of this model are the students and also the community.”
Stella Whitney-West, NorthPoint CEO proclaimed, “This is what partnering looks like.”
Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins urged Minneapolis to “use this beautiful building and tell others to use it.”
The center was first proposed for the area in 2011, after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton participated in a Northside economic summit and pledged “a comprehensive response to the disparity issues facing residents there,” recalled a DEED press release.
The North Minneapolis WorkForce Center and MPS began operating at 800 West Broadway in late 2016; NorthPoint is scheduled to offer services there by mid-2017. It can also house retail and additional tenants.
“I am especially excited about the residents and businesses to be able to benefit from this investment,” said Shawntera Hardy, State employment and economic development commissioner. Hardy led the grand opening ceremonies prior to the public open house. “We have tremendous prosperity happening in Minnesota,” she said. “This space will allow us to share in that prosperity.”
Said Whitney-West, “I think the most important thing is to look at the momentum that we have right now.”
NorthPoint’s main clinic location is part of a major construction project on Penn and Plymouth Avenues; the clinic is scheduled to be complete in a couple of years. Whitney-West saw this as “…an opportunity for North Minneapolis, Minneapolis, [and] communities of color… We need to use the leverage of these developments to ensure that [they] result in economic prosperity and wellness and well-being for our community.”
Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates, a property development company, was awarded the project and began construction in December 2015. Sherman helped secure most of the funding and will manage 800 West Broadway, noted CEO George Sherman, who briefly explained the process to the MSR.
“The market tax credits is a program at the federal level that provides tax credits to companies who get into…construction in targeted neighborhoods,” said Sherman. “It is primarily used to help finance properties. In this particular case, it helped us to provide financing for this building — about 30-40 percent of the construction cost was paid for by tax credits. We had to borrow for the rest.
“It’s mostly meant for commercial buildings and buildings located in targeted areas, and it’s meant for projects like this, to help make an impact on the community,” Sherman added. “There’s been thousands of tax credit projects, but this is the first one which we’ve ever seen…that involves jobs, education and health care.”
Champion pointed out that besides providing economic opportunities, job training, educational programs and healthcare services, 800 West Broadway is another positive for the North Side. “Sometimes we get a bad rap. Whenever they talk about North Minneapolis, they always want to talk about the negative things about North Minneapolis. In every community there always will be unfortunately pockets where people are not always behaving the way we want, but they are not defined [by it]. It makes me cringe.”
Champion said there are doctors, lawyers, residents, students, and great families in North Minneapolis. “[But] if something happens in North Minneapolis, we’re all painted with a broad brush.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges said of 800 West Broadway, “This is a great thing for the people on the North Side. It’s a great thing for the people of Minneapolis.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com