The new owner of a troubled north Minneapolis property has promised to make changes, starting with shuttering an illegal after-hours club that has been the scene of several homicides, including one on New Year’s Day.
Lisa Spicer confirmed that she had taken over 1109 W. Broadway from its previous owner, with an eye toward future development of a location that has created headaches for local residents, businesses and city officials.
In an interview last week, Spicer said that as a lifelong North Sider she wanted to help ease a lingering stigma associated with the property, which has become known for its late-night gatherings that occasionally ended in gunfire. Despite its bad reputation and narrow footprint, she said she would eventually like to redevelop the site, possibly into apartments.
“North Side is a place of many beautiful, hardworking, creative families that add good things to the community,” said Spicer, who also owns nearby Dimensions In Hair Salon. “My parents left a legacy here in the building I work in and own, and I plan to leave the same positive impact.”
Spicer said she was given possession of the location earlier this month by way of a quitclaim deed, which allows grantors to transfer interest in property to another person. The building’s previous owner and Spicer’s ex-husband, Leshoin Kimbrough, could not be reached for comment.
Spicer said she wasn’t told by police about the building’s troubled history.
The property was added to the area’s list of nuisance properties in November 2016 after complaints that an off-the-books nightclub was being run out of the building’s basement, county officials previously said. On at least one occasion, officers arrived to find “evidence of illegal alcohol sales at the property,” officials said.
On New Year’s Day, a 25-year-old man, Jabir Ahmed Ali, was found fatally stabbed in a car at Broadway and Fremont avenues, along with another person with noncritical stab wounds, police say. Responding officers were told by witnesses that the attack had occurred “in that underground club,” according to emergency dispatch audio. A suspect, Kevin Christians, 38, was charged with second-degree murder in the case and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.
There have been at least three other homicides in the past four years that police suspect are connected to gatherings there. Samale Ahmed Barkhadle, 29, was gunned down in the early morning hours of Sept. 22, a crime for which no arrests have been announced. In August 2017, 25-year-old Shane Webb was killed during a shootout between members of the rival 1-9 Dipset and Tre Tre Crips gangs, according to police. The previous summer, gunfire erupted during another large party, leaving Andre Riley, 24, dead and two other people wounded.
Police records show that officers have been called to or checked on the address at least 45 times over the past two years.
“This is an area where we have substantial challenges in the past and we look forward to the revitalization of the area and improving the quality of life,” said department spokesman John Elder. “The city is working with all the different stakeholders to help bring that to fruition.”
City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, in whose ward the building is located, said some locations get lost in the city’s “complaint-based” system for cleaning up blighted and unkempt properties.
“We shut them down temporarily and the practice continues or re-emerges, or people get clever about being more discreet or subverting rules,” he said.
Such was apparently the case with the underground club, whose operators made repeated promises to the city to clean up their act.
The 3,300-square-foot building was built in 1925; officials say that for the past several years a late-night club had been run out of its 1,200-square-foot basement, where gatherings sometimes drew dozens of people and often spilled into an adjacent parking lot.
Alcohol was sold, although the club’s operators did not have a liquor license, officials say.
Ellison said he was looking forward to speaking with Spicer “to get a sense of how can I be supportive and how can we activate that site in some way that feels like more of an asset to the community.”
Farrington Llewellyn, a local artist and organizer, said the illegal club sprang up, in part, because of the lack of late-night options in the area.
“That after-hours spot was a reaction to there not being many things open late at night,” he said. “So, if nobody’s activating the community, then other people are going to activate the community in a different way — and it might not always be in a positive way.”
And yet, for all of the neighborhood’s continued challenges, he said he sees plenty of reason for optimism.
“It just seems like there’s more resources and more people who are trying to make a difference over there, and that’s as simple as having a coffee shop like Sammy’s [Avenue Eatery] in the area, a place where you can go and have a lot more people who are community-oriented and having a space for them,” he said.