Counterpoint: Progress is ongoing on W. Broadway in north Minneapolis

  • Article by: ERIN HEELAN
  • Updated: August 14, 2014 - 5:58 AM

There’s no holdup. Just a steady drumbeat of initiatives.

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The Minneapolis city skyline is visible at the intersection of W. Broadway and Penn Avenue N.

Photo: DAVID JOLES • Star Tribune file,

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West Broadway isn’t waiting for a “revival,” despite an Aug. 5 headline about the Minneapolis corridor. Revitalization is incremental, and while it may depend on who is defining “revival,” new developments and cutting-edge initiatives are taking hold.

This is happening with for-profit, nonprofit and public partners focused on improving places and people simultaneously. To cite a common refrain among community development leaders, “if you improve the place without improving the people, the people will be pushed out, and if you improve the people without improving the place, the people will move out.” We are revitalizing buildings, increasing businesses and employing youths. We are seeing results.

On just one block of Broadway, between Emerson and Fremont Avenues, millions of dollars have been invested by Cookie Cart, Emerge, Juxtaposition Arts and Urban Homeworks to redevelop eight blighted and dilapidated properties and to employ more than 300 young people annually, with the expectation of doubling that number by 2016. Each of these award-winning community development corporations is playing a key role in the revival of the corridor while advancing a unique brand of social entrepreneurship, combining job training with paid work experience in the production of highly marketable goods and services.

The Emerson block is also home to the Avenue Eatery, a bustling coffee and sandwich shop. The MOJA Artist Co-op, a project of Juxtaposition Arts, provides affordable private studio workspace dedicated to underserved emerging and established adult artists who demonstrate a connection to north Minneapolis.

At Broadway and Penn, there is ample evidence of business owner confidence in the corridor’s increasing vitality. The city of Minneapolis and property owners are replacing housing and retail space lost during the 2011 tornado. Anytime Fitness opened last year, the third W. Broadway business of Dr. Tara Watson. Plymouth Christian Youth Center completed the renovation of the 250-seat Capri Theater in 2009 and is working on a $5.8 million expansion. The completed complex will include a new, multipurpose “glass box” performance and rehearsal space and an outdoor plaza along W. Broadway.

Dean Rose expects to break ground on the Broadway Flats project in a few months. The former site of a fast-food restaurant will house a four-story development with 17,000 square feet of retail space and 103 units of housing. The Common Bond West Broadway Crescent rental apartment complex being built at Logan Avenue N. will have 54 units available this fall.

W. Broadway is seeing private-market investment east of Interstate 94. The DC Group is adding 25,000 square feet of office/warehouse in a $7.3 million redesign of its headquarters. Boom Island Brewing moved to its second north Minneapolis location last spring, intentionally choosing to stay in the community with the new brewery and taproom enhancing its unique neighbors, Cliff-n-Norm’s and Donny Dirk’s.

The $14 million of city investment the article suggests was “poured” into W. Broadway misses the context. That investment leveraged $60 million in other sources from the partnerships described above. Together that is $74 million of investment along a 2.2-mile business district. These investments translate into three multifamily housing developments (totaling 203 units), six commercial developments (17,000 square feet of new commercial space), 34 improved business facades, 34 small-business loans, ongoing business technical assistance, entrepreneurial development, retail recruitment, countless pop-up initiatives, storefront art and community events.

The implementation of the West Business Improvement District, the redevelopment of underutilized parcels, continued retail recruitment, investment in transit and the reconstruction of the streetscape from the Mississippi River to Girard Avenue are short-term goals defined by the community, and there is no doubt we will get there.

W. Broadway is not waiting. We seek out change, and we lean into the future.

 

Erin Heelan is executive director of the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. She wrote this article on behalf of the board of directors.

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