The Sabathani Senior Housing Apartments in the Bryant-Central neighborhood hosted its grand opening on the morning of Wednesday, June 8. The event, organized by the Arradondo Planning Group Inc., an African American female-owned company, was attended by leaders from Sabathani Community Center, City officials including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council President Andrea Jenkins, other community members, and residents of the facility.
Planning for the senior housing project, which accepts residents 55 years or older, began in 2016, with construction starting last fall. The apartments are owned by the Sabathani Community Center, a neighborhood nonprofit that has been operating since 1966. The new apartments are on the lot north of the building that formerly housed Bryant Junior High School, where Sabathani Community Center has been operating since it purchased the building for $1 from the City in 1979. The center also runs a food shelf and has free clothing available.
The Sabanthi Community Center was established by the Sabathani Baptist Church, of which Bill English was a member. English, now 88 years old, serves as chairman of the board for Sabathani Community Center.
“It’s one of the first senior housing programs that has been built in the urban core for 20 years,” English said. “But in this neighborhood what it does, it allows our seniors and others who would typically have to leave the community to find affordable housing to stay in the community where their churches, their beauty shops, and their friends and grandkids are.”
English said that seniors previously would have to leave the area, usually to the suburbs, to find senior apartments. He emphasized that the new apartments, which are a block north of East 38th Street, will allow the community members who helped build up the local Black community to stay in the area.
“We’re a welcoming community, so we recognize the demographics in the community changed, but [Sabathani Community Center] started off unapologetically as an African American organization,” English said.
“But we served everybody, and we continue to do that now. But it is steeped in our history and our culture, and that’s why this is so important.”
After an opening prayer and speeches, festivities at the grand opening celebration included a ribbon cutting, a performance by the Sabanthi Vintage Voices choir, snacks, and a DJ.
Lewis Johnson, who is a resident of the new senior apartments, attended the celebration. Johnson grew up in the neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s working at his mother’s restaurant in St. Paul, and later for the board of education and local government. He moved out of the area in 1985, but says he is happy to be back.
“This is a good location,” Johnson said. “I don’t see no negatives. I like the building the way it’s set up. I think it’s a good place for seniors. It’s quiet.”
Johnson says the area has changed “a lot” since he moved out almost 40 years ago, recalling that the land the apartments now sit on hosted a community garden up until construction on the apartment began.
“I’m getting used to it,” Johnson added. “It takes a while once you get home and come back. It takes a while to get refamiliarized with your own area.”
Scott Redd, the CEO of Sabathani Community Center, said there were some “bumps and bruises” during development, but that he believed support from the community and the city government got them through.
The project was fully funded through Mental Health First Aid grants through the city and county. Redd said local seniors were brought in to inspect the units before the final sign off, to make sure the building met their expectations.
“Anything we do we always want to do with the community and not to the community, and that’s what this building represents,” Redd said. “Sabathani is on its way to being back and better.”
For more information on Sabathani Community Center, visit sabathani.org/about-us. For more information about the Sabathani Senior Housing Apartments, call 612-821-2300 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.