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Central Avenue : Development News

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Minneapolis' C-TAP: Free Assistance for Co-Op Founders

The City of Minneapolis is launching a free technical assistance program for budding co-op founders, starting with a two-hour presentation on April 20th.
Dubbed C-TAP (Cooperative Technical Assistance Program), the initiative is an outgrowth of the city’s successful B-TAP (Business Technical Assistance Program) for aspiring small and midsize business owners. Like B-TAP, C-TAP is an immersive program designed to support co-op founders and supporters from ideation through opening—and, in some cases, beyond.
According to the City of Minneapolis, C-TAP will unfold over three years, in three steps.
Step one, happening this year, focuses on “co-op readiness planning” for “groups that are thinking of forming a Co-op…to get a clear picture of the legal, operational and organizational requirements.” It’s basically a crash course in what it means to start a co-op.
Step two, set for next year, will focus on “board member and organizational design.” That means training prospective board members in the basics (and nuances) of co-op governance, as well as “one-on-one technical assistance” for select co-ops that require guidance designing their organizational structures. Step two is available to not-yet-open co-ops and existing co-ops that want or need outside assistance.
Step three, set for 2018, will revolve around “sustainability [and] profitability.” In other words, setting and keeping newly opened co-ops on the path to stable, long-term profitability and prosperity.
C-TAP’s kickoff event, a two-hour presentation dubbed “The State of Co-ops in Minneapolis,” is scheduled for April 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Open Book in Downtown East. The presentation will discuss the city’s current “co-op inventory” and the industries supported by Minneapolis co-ops, introduce and explain C-TAP, and discuss next steps for co-op founders and principals interested in participating.
On May 11, Step one officially gets underway with an eight-week “co-op feasibility” course. Held at the City of Minneapolis Innovation Center in the Crown Roller Mill Building near City Hall, the course’s eight sessions will cover the basics of the co-op development process, co-op business plans, finances, cooperative governance, legalities and other topics. Registration is free and open to the public, but prospective co-op groups need to have at least two participants and have selected a product or service to offer prior to signing up.
The City of Minneapolis is no stranger to co-op support. According to city government, Minneapolis has plowed some $3.5 million into local co-ops through existing development and support initiatives, and has an additional $850,000 outstanding in loans to three in-development co-ops—including Wirth Cooperative Grocery, a first-of-its-kind grocery co-op in the city’s underserved Northside, slated to open later this year.

NEIC signs purchase agreement on property on Central Avenue Northeast

The Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) is making headway toward its goal of revitalizing properties on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis.

NEIC is a for-profit cooperative that lets community members “pool their resources and collectively buy, rehab and manage commercial and residential property in the neighborhood,” a prepared statement from NEIC reads. See the earlier story from The Line here.

On Dec. 14, the group announced it had signed a purchase agreement for a property that includes two buildings at 2504 and 2506 Central Avenue Northeast.

NEIC, which has over 90 members that have invested $1,000 apiece in the coop, hopes to raise $300,000 by February 28 to pursue the project.

One of the group’s partners, the Recovery Bike Shop, will go into the 2504 building, according to NEIC board member Chris Bubser.   

This is good news because “It’ll really give people who are thinking of joining or who are on the fence a real reason to take the next step,” he says.  

For the 2506 building, which NEIC will renovate and lease, the group is hoping to attract multiple tenants.

To that end, NEIC is looking for “proven business, aspiring entrepreneurs with a good plan, or a combination” of those to fill the space, according to NEIC information.

The projects will bring in more than a half million dollars in new investment to a highly visible intersection on Central, according to NEIC information.   

The goals are ambitious, but it seems doable. “Over the last few days, the response has been incredible,” Bubser says. “I think it’s going to work.”

If all goes as planned, construction could start as early as spring of 2013, he says.

As one of the first commercial real estate cooperatives in North America, “We’re pioneers in the area,” he says. “We’re excited to take one of the biggest properties and show how a committed group from the neighborhood can turn it around.”   

He hopes the project will help make Central Avenue a destination, not just a thoroughfare. In contrast to traditional real estate corporations, which are geared around profitability, “We’re about community building and support.”  

Source: Chris Bubser, NEIC board member
Writer: Anna Pratt

Hennepin County Library-Northeast is more energy-efficient following its $5.2 million renovation

Sustainability, community, and technology are a few of the key words to describe the $5.2 million renovation of the Hennepin County Library-Northeast at 22nd and Central avenues northeast.

Nearly 300 people showed up for the library's grand re-opening on April 2, according to Lois Lenroot-Ernt, a spokesperson from the library capital division.

The library's collection of books, CDs, and DVDs has been "refreshed," while the physical space has been modernized, with some features that pay homage to its roots, she says.

It's one of a number of libraries that are being improved throughout the county system.

A big part of the Northeast library's major renovation involved revamping the 1973 bricks-and-mortar building, she says. But a portion of the building was removed to make way for a 2,400-square-foot addition, for 16,900 square feet altogether, according to library information.

Sustainability was an underlying theme for many aspects of the project. For example, the addition's exterior is covered with long-lasting zinc panels. The material "naturally maintains a protective patina and will self-repair imperfections and scratches over time," a prepared statement reads. A new stormwater management system on the building's roof also helps out  environmentally, while the lot has been landscaped with native plants.

Inside, the building has automated daylighting controls, while windows and mechanical systems have been replaced to be more energy efficient, according to library information. 

Lenroot-Ernt says community gathering spaces were a priority. As such, the renovated library has more spaces for reading, studying, and meeting, equipped for laptops and wifi access. Twenty-four computers have been added.  

She says the children and teen section allows for better browsing, with books available in bins, and there are some interactive components. Additionally, customer service points have been streamlined, she says.

Other aspects of the project incorporate details from the building's history. For starters, the wooden plank ceiling was kept, and was extended into the addition.

Near one entrance a cleaned-up concrete medallion, a library artifact, is displayed along with a pen and ink drawing of the original Carnegie library building; historic photos line the walls. Among Lenroot-Ernt's favorite additions are the occasional tables that a local woodworker crafted from an aging oak tree that had to be removed during construction.

All in all, the library's profile has been raised, she says, adding, "People can see it from Central Avenue and I think it's going to be a great asset for community members."

Source: Lois Lenroot-Ernt, spokesperson for capital division of Hennepin County Library
Writer: Anna Pratt

As it reaches its 10-year anniversary, Nimbus Theatre finds a home of its own

The local Nimbus Theatre, which turned 10 this year, will soon settle into a permanent home.

A couple weeks ago, the theater, which strives to produce thought-provoking, artistically challenging contemporary work, signed a lease for a 4,100 square foot space at 15th and Central Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis.

Nearby are antiques and stained-glass shops, an empty space once belonging to the old Teeners Theatrical supply and the Diamonds Coffee Shoppe.  

The volunteer-run theater is planning a 75-seat black-box-style auditorium with a lobby and backstage area in the raw, industrial-looking space. All told, the project will cost $100,000, according to Josh Cragun, a cofounder and co-artistic director at Nimbus, who explains that the development will unfold in a couple phases.

This week, the company is kicking off a capital campaign. Already it's received a $10,000 grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council for lighting equipment while the build-out will begin pending approval of a city zoning change to allow for the theater use.  

Until now, Nimbus has relied on rental performance space at the Minneapolis Theater Garage in Uptown, with a separate office in Northeast.

But with steady growth through the years, it made economic sense for the theater to find a place of its own, says Cragun, adding that it's becoming a more permanent, rather than a production-oriented company.

When it started looking for a place a couple years ago, the company wanted to find a space that reflected its values, wherein "we could shape it and make it our own," says Cragun, adding, "It'll give us a sense of identity."

Additionally, Nimbus will have the flexibility to produce a variety of shows that are experimental or have limited runs, along with workshops, readings, and more. Outside companies will be able to rent the venue while in the future Nimbus may hire a staffer or two, Cragun says.

Nimbus's first shows in the space will be "The Balcony" by Jean Genet in February 2011 followed by "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion in the spring.   

Source: Josh Cragun, Nimbus Theatre 
Writer: Anna Pratt

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