Drum circles, concerts, barbecues, yoga and dance parties will all have a home in the commercial heart of north Minneapolis at a new “Freedom Square” plaza unveiled Friday.

The plaza at W. Broadway and Logan Avenue N. is landscaped with grass and pavers and features a kiosk that doubles as a stage. It eventually will have a tent-like cover. The community gathering space and an accompanying mural were inaugurated in conjunction with the annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl, which continues Saturday.

“This is your space,” said Rob Hanson, executive director of the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. “Please feel free to use it any way you see fit.”

The plaza, on land leased from the city, was made possible by a $250,000 grant from New York-based ArtPlace to beautify W. Broadway. The grant also paid for 42 artist-designed benches and bike racks just installed along the corridor.

The public plaza will become home to “pop-up” temporary events, which are difficult to stage in private areas like parking lots, said Dudley Voigt, artistic director of FLOW, a program of the coalition. Some programming is already planned, but ideas are welcome. The events will provide economic opportunities for artists and people who want an audience, Voigt said.

“We also see it as an amazing crime deterrent, activating otherwise inactive spaces,” Voigt said.

Chango Cummings, an artist and designer at Juxtaposition Arts, said it is unique to have a community-led event space for people to “heal and … just talk to each other.”

“Especially in this time, in this summer where there’s been so much pain and trauma throughout the community, it’s amazing to see that,” Cummings said.

City officials said the plaza is part of a larger revitalization of W. Broadway. The Capri Theater across the street is planning to expand, and a restaurant, clinic and medical office facility is expected to rise alongside it. Other nearby projects include Broadway Flats, which will soon open with 100 units of housing and ground-level retail at Penn Avenue N.

City Council Member Blong Yang, in a statement read at Friday’s event, said the plaza would be a place to gather and “celebrate the North Side.”

“This square will be a piece of the puzzle that creates a vibrant, peaceful and sustainable West Broadway,” Yang said.

 

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