Black history museum misses its opening date for third time

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 17, 2012 - 8:12 PM

Saturday was the third missed opening-day deadline for the Minnesota African American Museum. The founder says negotiations with the bank continue.

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Wrangling with the bank is holding up a state grant that the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center is depending on. The building was locked on Monday.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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A new museum celebrating the history of blacks in Minnesota failed to open as scheduled last weekend, the third time in the past year it has missed its own deadline for opening to the public.

The doors were locked Monday at the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center at 1700 3rd Ave. S. in Minneapolis on Monday, and construction work had stopped. Inside, wires were hanging from wall outlets.

The adjacent carriage house, which housed the museum's office, was also locked.

Mahmoud El-Kati, professor emeritus at Macalester College and a member of the museum board, said he was aware the museum was not going to open last Saturday. But El-Kati said he was not privy to information about negotiations between the museum and the bank that holds the museum's mortgage.

Roxanne Givens, the museum founder, said in an interview earlier this month that it would open Sept. 15. But she also said that if differences with the bank were not resolved, construction might stop. In a text message Monday to the Star Tribune, Givens said only that negotiations with the bank continue.

The museum is depending on a $1 million grant, approved by the Legislature last year, to help with construction. But the state will not release the money until it is listed in first position on the museum mortgage. First position ensures that the state would recover some money if the museum fails.

The museum's mortgage lender, Franklin Bank, currently holds first position and has been unwilling to give it up without some other form of collateral.

"I am hoping this issue will be resolved so we can get on with the business of enlightening the community, city and state," El-Kati said. "It is a critical time for an African-American museum to come into being in Minnesota. It would be good for the social health of the entire state."

The museum is sponsoring a "salon discussion" Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St. in Minneapolis, to mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Speakers include Bill Green, former Minneapolis school superintendent; Prof. John Wright of the University of Minnesota; Prof. Peter Rachleff of Macalester College; and former Hennepin County District Judge Lajune Lange.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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  • On Aug. 31, workers were renovating the building housing the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center at 1700 3rd Av. S. in Minneapolis. Duane Kaup and Severo Alvarez worked in a hallway while Aubrey Ottley, carpentry foreman, walked up the stairs.

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