November was a good month for Wendy Puckett, owner of Wendy’s House of Soul on W. Broadway on the North Side, topped by a good run of Black Friday-Saturday sales last weekend.
“Sales are better than expected” this year, Puckett said recently. “We’re busy.”
The “Soul in a Roll” of greens, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese in a bun is a customer hit and a meal in itself for $4.99.
Down the street, the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) moved the furniture in its bustling business incubator at Broadway and Dupont to host a pop-up shop of 30 North Side retailers, also hosted by West Broadway Business Coalition and Blexit.
Another 20 stores in the area also opened their doors into the night Friday and Saturday.
“There was more than $10,000 in sales just at the NEON pop-up shop,” said NEON’s Anisha Murphy. “Traffic along Broadway was amazing.
“Our mission is to build economic development and wealth in our neighborhoods. Some people are afraid of north Minneapolis … because of what typically is shown in the media … but people kept saying the atmosphere was great and welcoming. We’re building.”
The West Broadway corridor, albeit far from the glitzy Mall of America or Southdale, is rebounding as the North Side’s principal commercial artery.
From food markets and bistros to drugstores, specialty retailers, entertainment and health facilities, the several-year comeback is getting traction as frayed-edge buildings get painted and empty storefronts continue to fill. The decline started amid the 1960s racial disturbances and flight of the middle class to northern and western suburbs. Now, housing occupancy and valuations are rising. And more North Siders are starting to shop local.
“Overall, we are seeing a steady increase in business activity and investment along the Broadway corridor,” said Marcus Owens, a veteran banker and Target manager who signed on as CEO of business-developer NEON a few years ago. “We are seeing increases in consumer spending.
“We are seeing both small business growth and franchised businesses moving in,” added Owens, a North High School graduate. “Our incubator has grown … and we will be providing private offices for at least seven new businesses [soon].”
The North Side now boasts at least two full-service supermarkets, a bustling Cub on W. Broadway and the just-opened North Market a couple miles farther north, as well as a couple of food co-ops. There’s no longer a need to go to Robbinsdale or New Hope for groceries.
There are several hundred rental units planned, built or under construction in near-North Side neighborhoods.
That includes a proposal at City Hall by veteran developer Tim Baylor to replace a dilapidated, 120-year-old commercial building with a 54-unit residential development on that site at 825 W. Broadway and several adjacent lots near the Cub store on lower Broadway.
Within a few blocks of that proposed development, Rob Hanson, CEO of the West Broadway Business Coalition, said plans are proceeding for:
• Expansion of the Capri Theater. This is a popular venue, a once-vacant movie theater, that now serves as home to plays, concerts, community events and more. The owner, Plymouth Christian Youth Center, has raised about half the capital required for the project, which could exceed $10 million.
• Wellington Management’s development of a 35,000-square-foot medical center next to the Capri, including a two-level parking ramp that would serve it and adjacent businesses. St. Paul-based Wellington has plans for retail and a restaurant in a second phase.
• Juxtaposition Arts, the generation-old space for students and professionals.
It plans a multimillion-dollar project to demolish its sagging main building on Emerson and Broadway, which also houses a nail shop. Juxta principal Roger Cummings, who started out 22 years ago running an after-school arts program at nearby North High, said in November that Juxta plans a new cornerstone hub for its four-building operation that would house artists and a retail shop.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at email@example.com.