Before house keys were turned in, before moving trucks dispersed, before caution tape blocked the entrance to St. Anthony's only mobile home park, Lowry Grove rallied its appetite Friday night and shared one last meal.
Neighbors hugged. They thanked the cadre of volunteers. They checked the time.
Six hours until midnight, the move-out deadline for those affected by Minnesota's latest park closure.
In the fight to keep the park open after its sale to a developer last June, the tight-knit neighborhood has come to feel like family, residents said.
"The elderly are my parents; their kids are my brothers," said Antonia Alvarez, a Lowry Grove resident and organizer.
Some homes had already been moved, others torn down. Most, like Alvarez's, sat vacant, too old or costly to transport elsewhere.
Lowry Grove is the latest in a string of mobile home park closures in the metro, where no new parks have been built since 1991, according to the Metropolitan Council. It comes at a time when groups like the Met Council are focusing on the threats these parks face as well as potential strategies for their preservation.
The $6 million sale of the 15-acre site in St. Anthony to the Village, an affiliate of Wayzata-based Continental Property Group, prompted a lawsuit. Court rulings have upheld the sale of the park but left the door open to other forms of relief for former residents. The property that once had nearly 100 occupied lots now awaits redevelopment, but final plans have yet to be submitted to the city.
Traci Tomas, vice president of the Village, stressed in a statement Friday that the company intends to make good on "its promise to include affordable housing in the development."
In the meantime, some Lowry Grove homeowners say they are leaving St. Anthony.
Marisol Merino expected to move into a different park in New Brighton on Sunday, thanks to the help of volunteers. A single mother with four children, she said she will miss Lowry Grove's tranquillity as well as its proximity to bus stops and shops.
"It feels like we're leaving a little piece of ourselves here," Merino said in Spanish. "Wherever we go, we won't have the same surroundings."
Dario Ortiz, a construction worker from Ecuador, scrambled Friday evening to empty his bright blue home and drive his belongings to a rental house 15 minutes away in Minneapolis.
"I would've liked to stay here and be comfortable," said Ortiz, 31, who lived in Lowry Grove with his family for three years. "But if [God's] plans are for me to keep working and take me somewhere else, then that's fine. That's where I'll go."
Others have yet to find permanent living situations.
That's the case with Doreen Mitchell, 57, who loaded up her daughter and grandchildren into one minivan and drove away in another, each bound for a different destination.
"This family is split up now," she said. "We were all happy and together here. What's the price of happiness?"
After the last dinner outside Alvarez's home, Alvarez shared some final words, reminding neighbors to meet weekly until the court battle concludes. "Keep your hope alive, keep your faith alive, and stick together," she said.
As the sun set, Alvarez led a group door to door to check on remaining residents while kids played on. Several homeowners continued to pack deep into the night.
Jerry Wonsewicz, 80, flipped on his living room lights and took one last look around.
The walls were bare. His tabby cat, Purrl, already sat safely in his son's truck.
"It's a shame. A crying shame," he said. "We were a nice community."
Wonsewicz locked the front door and tucked his key under the welcome mat. Minutes before midnight, he and his son drove away — the porch light still left on.