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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.

LISC awards creative placemaking grants for arts-related economic development

Three Twin Cities nonprofits have received Creative Placemaking grants from the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Part of a national LISC grantmaking program funded by The Kresge Foundation, the grants went to Juxtaposition Arts in North Minneapolis, and the Asian Economic Development Association and African Economic Development Solutions in St. Paul.

LISC's Creative Placemaking program focuses on five metro areas across the country, including the Twin Cities. It aims to drive dollars into arts-related businesses and cultural activities that will help transform some of America’s most distressed neighborhoods into safe, vibrant places of economic opportunity.

"We’re happy to be part of this national program that supports arts and culture in community and economic development," says Kathy Mouacheupao, creative placemaking program officer at Twin Cities LISC. "Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned a lot about the impact of the arts in addressing the physical and cultural displacement of communities and are excited to expand this work to support partners along the Green Line and North Minneapolis."

The grants will support strategies that create jobs, reduce blight, attract patrons and visitors, and build a strong sense of community among residents. In the Twin Cities, African Economic Development Solutions will use its $25,000 grant to hire an artist organizer and to fund an expanded Little Africa Festival in August 2016. The Asian Economic Development Association will use its $40,000 grant to develop retail space for local artisans to sell their products in Little Mekong and to train local fashion-based Asian artists in business development. Juxtaposition Arts will use its $40,000 grant to fund the predevelopment stage of its textile lab renovation and to further its Tactical Urbanism program, which uses arts and cultural events as interventions to address community challenges in North Minneapolis.

"This LISC support will help the Little Mekong District inspire, invigorate and celebrate the authenticity, diversity, and creativity of our Asian communities and local neighborhoods," says Oskar Ly, artist organizer at the Asian Economic Development Association. "We'll not only be elevating our unique art and cultural assets, but fostering long-term prosperity for our communities."

Broadway Flats: North Mpls' largest mixed-use, workforce housing project in a decade

Four years after a tornado damaged dozens of homes and businesses in the district’s heart, North Minneapolis is experiencing a development resurgence. At the intersection of Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road, the Commons at Penn mixed-use project is nearing completion; it’s slated for occupancy in early spring.
Less than a mile north on Penn, at the busy five-way intersection of Penn and Broadway, an even more ambitious mixed-use property is taking shape: Broadway Flats, North Minneapolis’ largest workforce housing project in more than a decade.
Rose Development, a North Minneapolis company owned by a prominent local family, is taking the lead on the project with help from a $1.4 million pay-as-you-go TIF grant. ESG Architects designed the building. Broadway Flats sits squarely in the track of the 2011 North Minneapolis tornado, which damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
“In the aftermath of the 2011 tornado, a vibrant future is taking shape on the corner of Penn and West Broadway avenues,” said Dean Rose, principal at Rose Development, in a recent post. “Broadway Flats...[is] bringing new vitality and opportunity to West Broadway.”
Broadway Flats’ plans call for 103 units of workforce housing and “a level of quality and amenities not previously available in the community.” Renderings show an oblong, four-story structure that fronts on Broadway and occupies most of an irregularly shaped block.
Broadway Flats will have nearly 20,000 square feet of first-floor retail. About half of that space will be occupied by an expanded and redesigned Broadway Liquor Outlet, which is also owned by the Rose family. The store was extensively damaged in the 2011 tornado and is currently located in a smaller structure across Broadway. Rose Development hasn’t announced tenants for the rest of the first-floor space, but has previously indicated an interest in attracting a high-end restaurant or locally owned retail.
According to Broadway Flats’ website, residents can look forward to a host of high-end amenities that wouldn’t look out of place in the North Loop or Uptown: a high-tech business center; a fully outfitted fitness center; conference, community and party rooms; and heated underground parking.
Plans also call for a partially covered, heated transit platform serving the popular 19 bus. If Metro Transit stays on track with plans for the bus rapid transit C Line, currently slated for a late-decade opening, the Penn Avenue platform will receive an upgrade and/or new signage.

Commons at Penn: Workforce housing and food co-op to open in North Minneapolis

The Green Line corridor isn’t the only area of MSP experiencing a boom in community-driven development. Two miles northwest of the Green Line’s Target Field terminus, at the heavily trafficked Penn Avenue/Golden Valley Road intersection in North Minneapolis’ Willard-Hay neighborhood, an ambitious mixed-use project is taking shape: The Commons at Penn Avenue.  
A four-story, block-long structure, Commons at Penn will house 45 units of workforce housing, a host of community amenities and the 4,000 square foot Wirth Cooperative Grocery Store — MSP’s newest grocery co-op. Watson-Forsberg and LHB Corporation are co-developing the project.
Building Blocks, a North Minneapolis nonprofit founded and overseen by native son (and former NBA star) Devean George, designed and financed Commons at Penn. Wirth Co-op is financed independently, thanks in part to a $500,000 federal grant, and will lease space in Commons at Penn’s ground floor.
If the current schedule holds, Commons at Penn and Wirth Co-op should open in spring 2016 — well in advance of the planned Penn Avenue BRT (C Line)’s debut later this decade.
“We’re shooting for an Earth Day opening for the co-op,” says Miah Ulysse, Wirth’s general manager.
The development will join nearby Broadway Flats in providing affordable housing and locally run retail along North Minneapolis’ densely populated Penn Avenue corridor.
According to Building Blocks, Commons at Penn’s residential component will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with touches common in downtown lofts: hardwood floors and nine-foot ceilings. Amenities include community rooms, an onsite fitness center and three laundry rooms.
Commons at Penn’s first floor will include a Northpoint Health & Wellness office. Though the Northpoint office won’t be a full-service clinic — the focus is on “community outreach with space for events and health education classes,” according to Building Blocks — the design does include two “flexible-use exam rooms.” Building Blocks will office in an adjacent suite.
Wirth Co-op’s arrival is another boost for the area, often considered a food desert: The closest full-service grocery store is the Cub Foods at Broadway and I-94, well over a mile to the east. Corner convenience stores and gas stations stock essentials and plenty of snack foods, but rarely fresh fruits, veggies or non-processed foods. According to TCYIMBY, about 40 percent of Wirth’s fresh food will be certified organic or natural; that proportion could increase as the co-op establishes itself in the neighborhood.
“Locally sourced items will be a huge focus for us, in addition to organic and natural,” says Ulysse.
As of mid-October, the most recent reporting date, Wirth Co-op had about 460 committed members out of a 500-member goal. Membership is $100 (one-time) per household, payable in $25 installments, and $15 for those qualifying for public assistance.

Architect innovates design service for accessory dwellings

They’re known as granny flats, mother-in-law apartments, even Fonzie suites for those who remember the Fonz’s digs above the Cunninghams' garage in the tv show “Happy Days.” For years, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been popular throughout the U.S. for homeowners needing an additional, separate living space for a relative (or family friend) adjacent to main house—and as a flexible housing option in developed urban neighborhoods.
Now ADUs are legal in Minneapolis. On December 5, 2014, the Minneapolis City Council passed a zoning code text amendment allowing ADUs on lots with single or two-family homes. Shortly thereafter, architect Christopher Strom, who spent countless hours working with zoning administrators during discussions about the code change, launched his new initiative, Second Suite.
“I wanted to be the first to market my expertise with the zoning related to these small residential dwellings,” says Strom, who has a thriving business as a residential architect in Minneapolis, and has designed ADU-type cottages for clients in the suburbs and northern Minnesota.
He learned during informational meetings that “a lot of people didn’t want ADUs because they fear too many people would be added to the neighborhood, resulting in extra noise and traffic,” Strom says. “But the new law limits ADUs to a total of 1,000 square feet, including parking; they’re only feasible on certain lots, depending on the positioning of the primary house; and the primary house must be owner occupied. Only one accessory building is allowed per property, so most people will combine an ADU with a detached garage.”
As a result, Strom continues, “The majority of the new ADUs to be built in Minneapolis will be Fonzie suites. Remember how he lived above the Cunninhgams' garage? He had a cool bachelor pad totally separate from the main house, but was always at the Cunninghams'.”
ADUs are a viable option for creating more space, whether for additional storage, an art studio, home office or apartment for aging parents. With the new zoning, the units can also include a small kitchen and/or bath. “They’re wonderful for seniors, and a nice way to establish multi-generational living next to the primary house while giving the occupant an integral level of independence,” Strom explains.
St. Paul, particularly the neighborhood of St. Anthony Park, is currently looking at its building codes, as well, by studying the feasibility of allowing ADUs on single-family lots.  
Strom adds that ADUs are “a great entry point for people to start working with an architect.” A well-considered design might result in an ADU that blends in with the architectural style of the existing residence, or be entirely different.
Moreover, Strom adds, “Second Suite represents a lifestyle that I want to be able to deliver to my clients. This lifestyle is about families pooling resources and enjoying more quality time together through care-giving that enables grandparents to help with childcare and adult children to help with aging parents.”

Herbivorous Butcher plans first meatless �butcher� shop

Following a successful summer at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Herbivorous Butcher is moving ahead with plans to open a brick-and-mortar location to sell its “meatless meats.”
From ropes of “pepperoni” hanging from the ceiling to the black-and-white tile lining the walls, the new butcher shop envisioned by Aubry Walch and scheduled to open next year will have all the hallmarks of an old-time butcher—except the meat.
The Herbivorous Butcher cleared the coolers during its June opening weekend at the Market. Despite consistently upping production, Walch says she’s sold out her inventory every weekend since.
“We keep making more batches and we just can’t keep up with demand,” says Walch, who started the business with her business partner and brother Kale Walch.
To better feed the demand, the siblings plan to open the Twin Cities’ first meatless butcher shop in early 2015. They’re currently working with Studio M Architects, which designed the Wise Acre Eatery, to replicate the idyllic atmosphere of a traditional butcher shop. “We hope to take people back in time when they come in,” Walch says.
Aubry Walch’s been a strict vegetarian for 18 years. Her brother Kale is vegan. After wearying of available meatless options—which are often frozen, and contain loads of sodium and long lists of unrecognizable ingredients—they began concocting their own meat alternatives from locally sourced whole food ingredients.
They decided to put their culinary acumen to the test and enlisted 10 test groups that included vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters for an eight-week stint of food testing. The results, Walch says, were resoundingly positive.
It’s not just vegetarians and vegans gobbling up the inventory. Walch estimates that at least 60 percent of their customers are full-blooded carnivores discovering healthier meat alternatives for the first time.
The main ingredient in almost all of the products is vital wheat gluten sourced from Whole Grain Milling Co. in Welcome, MN.  Even though the product is 95 percent protein, it’s extremely low in carbohydrates and fat, and is cholesterol free.
“We have people who come to us because they have heart disease or diabetes…and they can’t eat meat anymore,” Walch says. “We’re the perfect alternative for them and they seek us out.”
There’s no shortage of meat-free protein alternatives on co-op shelves in the Twin Cities, but the Herbivorous Butcher has uncovered a serious hunger for handmade and locally sourced meatless meat. Every item sold at the Herbivorous Butcher is made fresh by hand in small batches from locally sourced whole food ingredients and is never frozen.
Thus far the meatless mainstays at the Herbivorous Butcher include pepperoni, Italian sausage, barbecue ribs, deli bologna and teriyaki jerky. Once the new shop is up and running, other market specials including Mexican chorizo, maple sage breakfast sausage and beer brats will be available.
Finding the right investors has been somewhat of a struggle, Walch says. The problem isn’t a lack of interest; it’s that many see a lucrative opportunity and want the meatless butchers to automate all their production, freeze their products and distribute nation-wide. Walch isn’t willing to sacrifice the artisanal approach and reliance on local ingredients that going so big would require.
Instead, the Herbivorous Butcher is taking the crowd funding approach, and will launch a campaign later this fall.

Open Streets debuts proposed greenway in North Minneapolis

The 2014 season of Open Streets Minneapolis kicked-off during the last weekend in May with festivities along a proposed three-and-a half-mile greenway in North Minneapolis. Roads were closed from West Broadway to North 42nd avenues along North Girard and Humboldt avenues for residents and cyclists to experience first-hand how a new bike/walk route would look and feel.

“The proposed greenway could provide a recreational and community route for bicyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorized travelers,” said Sarah Stewart, senior public health specialist with the City of Minneapolis, who is working on the project. “The route would serve as a north-south connection for bicyclists who are more comfortable on bikeways” than on the streets.

Sponsored by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, the event hosted vendors, performances and bike advocates from across the Twin Cities, giving riders a festive environment to roam the streets sans vehicles.

Turf was laid down on either side of the street at one point in the route to show a full linear park greenway. At another point, half the road was partitioned off, turning the current two-way street into a one-way road with a protected bike lane.

These are two of several models being considered for the new route. A third would keep two-way traffic, but designate the streets as bike boulevards—adding signage and other traffic calming measures friendly to bicyclists.

The City of Minneapolis, which became an official partner of the Open Streets initiative last year, is currently gathering public input about the new route, which has yet to be finalized or funded.

In addition to providing a centrally located route for commuters, connecting them to the northern suburbs via the Cedar Lake Trail and the downtown area via the Plymouth Avenue and 7th Street North bike routes, Stewart says the project would also create a space for people to be physically active.

“This is important because statistics show North Minneapolis residents are more likely to have chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and they are less likely to be physically active…People who live closer to parks and green spaces are more physically active,” Stewart says.

The proposed route would also connect several destinations that serve area youth like parks, schools, a YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and a library, Stewart added.

Most of the roads along the proposed route are relatively low-traffic, residential streets that see between 400 and 900 cars daily, according to Stewart.

Several residents along the route expressed concern about losing street access to their homes should the streets be converted to a full linear park greenway. Stewart says alley access to residences along the route would be maintained. Input via an online survey indicated the proposed greenway is a potential draw for new residents, visitors and investment in North Minneapolis.

People can provide input on the proposed project through June 15 by filling out an online survey. The City will analyze the input and report the results in early fall. Feasibility studies are also underway.

This Open Streets event was the first of six planned for this summer in Minneapolis. The next will take place June 8 along Lyndale Avenue South.

An uplifting short film about North Minneapolis

"Welcome to North," a three-minute video created by Josh Chitwood and Morgan Jensen, highlights the positive aspects of life on the North Side of Minneapolis. 

Chitwood, who is studying media and communications at North Central University in the city’s Elliot Park neighborhood, set out to produce a film for the fourth annual RE/MAX Results City & Neighborhood Film Festival. The festival will take place on Nov. 14 at the Riverview Theater, according to the contest’s website. That day, the four top films along with an “audience choice”-award winner will receive cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, the website states. 

At the same time, Chitwood would like to see the film get more exposure, even beyond the film festival. 
Chitwood recently moved to the North Side, while Jensen, his girlfriend, was born and raised in this area of the city. That has given them an appreciation for an area they describe as “the most stereotyped side of the city.” “It gets so much of a bad rap but both of us just love North,” he says. As such, “We wanted to get something else out there that would show the good here. A lot of the news doesn’t do that. We wanted to show people the true side of North that people don’t normally see--give them a new perspective on it,” he adds. 

As they were putting together the short film last month, the couple roamed around the North Side, chatting up random strangers. They found a number of willing interviewees who had lots of good things to say about the area. All of the interviews featured in the mini-documentary came out of their meanderings. “The film is supposed to be what we love about North. Well, we know what we love but we wanted to use other people’s voices,” he says. 

Chitwood, who’s been making videos since he was a young child, has been surprised by the response so far. The film festival hasn’t happened yet, but already in just a handful of days, “Welcome to North,” which is posted online, has gotten over 4,000 views. The number of clicks has been increasing daily. “It’s cool to watch it grow,” he says. 

Chitwood plans to show the film around town in the coming weeks. “We’ve gotten a lot of amazing feedback. A lot of people have been saying that this is just what they’ve always tried to tell people about North,” he says. 

Ultimately, “I hope it just gets people to be really curious about coming and experiencing North,” he says. For those who live here, he adds, it affirms what they already know about North Minneapolis. “There’s so much community and so many families that live here. It’s a beautiful place. It’s beautifully diverse." 

Source: Josh Chitwood, filmmaker  
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Travail to open pop-up restaurant on West Broadway

Travail Kitchen and Amusements, a Robbinsdale restaurant, is experimenting with a pop-up eatery called Umami in North Minneapolis. 

Umami, which is themed around Asian-style "comfort food," will occupy the space on West Broadway Avenue North for up to eight weeks, according to a prepared statement. The 45-seat restaurant is “the first tasting menu and takeout-driven pop-up restaurant in Minnesota,” the prepared statement reads. 

Travail collaborated with the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition (WBC) to open the place. 

The project fits in with the WBC’s ongoing effort to shine a light on assets in the West Broadway business district, according to Shaina Brassard, a spokesperson from the WBC. “We’re looking for ways to draw attention to vacant spaces on West Broadway,” she says. That includes pop-up galleries and retail shops in various spaces along the corridor. 

It helps that Travail, which is in the process of opening a couple of other local restaurants, has also been hosting pop-up events all over town this summer, she says. 

The space, which has sat vacant for a couple of years, features floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen, a mural, and other art, plus long, community-style tables and more. Brassard is hopeful that Umami’s “presence there, which is beautiful and vibrant, will make people see the potential that the space has as a restaurant.” 

Although the WBC has long supported pop-up art events as a part of FLOW Northside Arts Crawl and other community initiatives, “It’s a strategy we’re working on this year in particular, as a part of our retail recruitment and business district revitalization,” she says. The pop-up idea encourages people to “think about space in a different way,” she adds.  

To help pull off the pop-up restaurant, the WBC negotiated a short-term lease for the space and it took advantage of grant money from the city’s Great Streets initiative.  

The place has already generated buzz. “The neighborhood is excited about having such a great sit-down restaurant in the area,” Brassard says. 

Source: Shaina Brassard, West Broadway Coalition
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Photos wrap around vacant North Side building as a part of FLOW Art Crawl

Last weekend, a vacant building at 1001 West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis was turned into a large-scale work of art. 

A bold vinyl wrap featuring photographic images from the neighborhood wraps around two sides of the three-story building. 
The project kicks off the FLOW Art Crawl, an annual event since 2006 that’s running this weekend with more offerings than in previous years. 

Many different galleries, studios, theaters, and other spaces are a part of the art crawl, which stretches down West Broadway, from the Mississippi River to Penn Avenue North, according to art crawl materials. This includes a Caribbean cultural "masquerade parade" and a mini-Open Streets event in partnership with the Minneapolis Bike Coalition. Open Streets allows for bicyclists and pedestrians to freely wander North 2nd Street.  

Dudley Voigt, FLOW’s artistic director, says that each year during the event, “We have made a piece of public art that lasted beyond the event.”   

The three-story building can’t be occupied at this time, “but that doesn’t mean it can’t be showcased,” she says.  

FLOW, along with the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, collaborated with the city, which owns the building, to “figure out a way to wrap it, to use art on a larger scale and amplify what we’ve been doing for a long time,” she says. 

The project expands on the city’s façade improvement efforts and the coalition’s work around business recruitment, corridor marketing and creative placemaking, a prepared statement from the city reads.  

The guerilla-style photos that characterize the vinyl wrap, which Armour Photography, owned by Jake Armour, shot in June, feature area business owners, organization leaders, artists, architectural elements of the corridor and more. 

“What’s great about this is that you can drive by it and see it anytime. It’s a celebration of the great things happening on the North Side everyday,” she says.

A number of other North Side buildings have also gotten an artistic makeover. “Public art makes any space look good,” on both the inside and outside, Voigt says. At times, this type of public artwork has even led to a building or another space being rented or purchased. “We see that story playing out over and over again, the intersection of art and commerce,” she says. 

Meanwhile, the vinyl wrap is expected to last several years. “The city and the community want to see the building occupied before the banner fades,” says Voigt.  

Source: Dudley Voigt, artistic director, FLOW 
Writer: Anna Pratt

A state-of-the-art gym for the North Side

Local chiropractor Tara Watson is making space for an Anytime Fitness gym at West Broadway and Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis, in the same building where she runs her practice.

The gym will be open 24 hours a day, with cutting-edge "zero gravity" machines, a shower and locker area, and room for classes, she says.

Watson, the franchise owner, hopes the place will appeal to a range of people, from the elite athlete to weekend warriors. “It’ll have something for everyone,” she says.  

Usually, people who want to work out have to go outside of the community, she points out.

She chose Anytime Fitness in part because it has so many health and wellness initiatives in the works.  Looking at the big picture, she hopes the gym will help lower obesity rates in the community while also providing a healthy outlet for adults.

The space will require an extensive build-out inside and out, with equipment that needs to be built on site. The project comes with a price tag of a couple hundred thousand dollars. Adding new flooring accounts for much of the work that has to be done, according to Watson.

With over 5,000 square feet, “It’ll be one of the larger clubs” like this, she says. “It should be able to accommodate the community.”   

It means that she’ll be able to provide group fitness classes, which is especially important to her, along with personal trainers and massage and tanning services. “I can put a lot in there and do a lot,” including “things not found in the community,” she says.   

She aims to open the gym in early 2013.

“The community deserves something state-of-the-art,” she says. “People are interested and want to see it happen.”  

Source: Dr. Tara Watson, franchise owner, Anytime Fitness
Writer: Anna Pratt    

For $300,000 City of Lakes Community Land Trust finds new home on North Side

For the City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT), the North Side is beginning to feel like home.
Over the years, the organization, which provides affordable homeownership opportunities, had been looking to expand beyond its 400-square-foot space at the similarly housing-focused PRG, Inc. in South Minneapolis, according to Jeff Washburne, who leads CLCLT.
From the outset, the trust sought a North Side presence “based on recent historical challenges that have confronted North Minneapolis, and ability to locate close as possible to the majority of the population identified within the CLCLT mission,” according to trust materials.
The Minnesota Nonprofits Assistance Fund offered a vacant, boarded-up two-story building on Glenwood Avenue, which the trust jumped at. In the past, the building had housed a barber shop, a travel agency, and social services and apartment units, he says.
The organization acquired the 2,000-square-foot building in August 2010. It moved in earlier this summer. “We felt it was a great fit, a good location, and a good neighborhood,” he says, adding that work is still ongoing in the building.
Washburne sees it as an up-and-coming area. “It’s one of those corridors a lot of people don’t know about but if you drive down it you can see the potential of it,” he says, adding that International Market Square and a number of design firms are nearby.  
To make way for the trust the building was gutted, while the mechanical systems and roof were replaced.

It's unique for a land trust to own a commercial building, according to trust information. 
Much of the $300,000 project was done pro bono; the assistance fund and the city chipped in $160,000 combined, while, besides $90,000 in capital funding, the trust received $50,000 in pro bono commitments, according to trust materials.  
Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd., a local architecture firm, donated services to rehab and build out the building. Oppenheimer, Wolff, and Donnelly provided legal services, while the Andersen Corporation Foundation donated windows and the Valspar Foundation gave paint, according to the trust.   
Plant donations are still needed for the landscaping.
Today, the building includes a number of offices and conference rooms and a community meeting space, along with a kitchen. In the future, another small nonprofit organization could rent space in the building, he says.   
Already the trust has partnered with the Harrison neighborhood on several initiatives. “By locating there, it creates opportunities to connect with people and let people know we want to invest in the community,” Washburne says.    
The trust is in a good position to the plant the seed of homeownership in an area where this can be a challenge. “We’re a resource for residents to buy homes here and across the city,” he says. “It’ll spur more opportunities locally than there otherwise would be.”
Source: Jeff Washburne, Executive Director, City of Lakes Community Land Trust
Writer: Anna Pratt

Project Sweetie Pie involves local youth in urban farming in North Minneapolis

It was a conversation about the possible closure last year of North High School in North Minneapolis that inspired Project Sweetie Pie. 

The soon-to-be-nonprofit organization is all about getting local youth into urban farming, close to home, while also developing their business know-how, according to one of its founders, Michael Chaney.   

Initially, some of his friends and colleagues had been brainstorming ways to boost the high school and its community. The city's various recent efforts to encourage local food production came up, he says.

As it happens, North High is home to a greenhouse, which, at the time, it wasn’t using, he explains.

“Project Sweetie Pie is an urban farm movement designed to promote healthy food and physical activity in urban areas and to promote economic opportunity in the food distribution system,” its website reads.

Project Sweetie Pie takes it name from the sweet potatoes it first began growing and selling for commercial pie making at the nearby Kindred Kitchen, which is a business incubator for food-related ventures.

The project helps youth and others to assume ownership over pieces of land and become stewards, Chaney says.

Chaney belongs to a group called Afro-Eco, which looks for opportunities to connect people to the land through sustainable practices. Afro-Eco is also the fiscal agent for Project Sweetie Pie, which started last year.

He’s been approaching schools, churches, and individuals to build up the project, including adding new growing plots and market locations. So far, more than 130 youth have participated in the project, growing well over 1,000 vegetables and fruits.

“We want youth to be part of the solution instead of labeled as the problem,” he says. “We’re planting the seeds of change." 

Source: Michael Chaney, founder, Project Sweetie Pie
Writer: Anna Pratt

$30,000 McKnight grant helps Wirth Cooperative Grocery flesh out more of the details

The Wirth Cooperative Grocery, which has been in progress for nearly four years, is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Although a site for the coop hasn’t been finalized, the plan is to locate it in North Minneapolis’s Harrison neighborhood, according to coop board member Jenny Warner. The North Side is “an area that really needs this amenity,” she says. “It could use a business that creates that kind of communal space.”  

But instant results aren't to be expected. “For any organic process it takes time to build those relationships,” she says.

Right now, the coop is working on a business plan and trying to increase membership--efforts that a $30,000 McKnight Foundation grant helped fund, she says.

The coop has nearly 100 members, with new people signing up all the time, thanks to word-of-mouth, she adds. 

The coop is also carrying out focus groups with community members to figure out what it will offer. The products, which will include fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, need to be affordable.

“We have a culturally and economically diverse neighborhood, so we really are trying to do our best to meet its needs for fresh, healthy food,” she says.  
She expects that the coop won't look like others in the community. “We hope it looks like something that nobody has seen before,” she says. “We hope it reflects the community’s needs and we want everyone to shop there, not just people who are used to going to coops.”

The board, which draws volunteers from all over the city, aims to open the coop on Earth Day in 2013.

Source: Jenny Warner, Wirth Cooperative Grocery
Writer: Anna Pratt

Treecovery effort to help North Minneapolis

This month, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is working to raise funds to plant 400 trees throughout four neighborhoods of North Minneapolis, trees that were lost when a tornado hit last year.

The tornado took out a huge portion of urban forest when it “tore across several miles of Minneapolis, tearing roofs off homes, tumbling cars down the streets, and ripping 40-foot trees from the earth like weeds from a flowerbed,” foundation materials read.

Mary deLaittre, who leads the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, explains that the urban forest is important for many reasons. “Not only is it beautiful, but it does things like lower blood pressure, clean the air and water, provide shade in the summer,” she says, adding, “It’s critical that we replace the urban forest as quickly as possible so we can get these wonderful workhorses back to doing their job.”  

Most of the trees the foundation funds will probably go into the city’s Jordan neighborhood, she says.

The foundation’s effort is part of the larger “Northside Treecovery Program,” which the city’s park and recreation board is spearheading along with several other partners.

The park system also has a forestry department that pays attention to the urban forest on an ongoing basis, she explains.

So far, the foundation has raised money to plant 100 trees. Each one costs $120. “We’d like to raise money for the others between now and the one-year anniversary of the tornado near the end of May,” she says.  

The effort coincides with the state’s Arbor Month activities, as well, according to foundation information.

All in all, “We’re really looking at this program as creating the next generation of urban forest, deLaittre says.

Source: Mary deLaittre, Minneapolis Parks Foundation executive director
Writer: Anna Pratt

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