A few weeks ago, Roger Beck closed the flower shop he had operated for 14 years on E. Franklin Avenue.
Beck, who had owned the business for 26 years and previously operated downtown, said last week that he was grateful for great clients and four employees who have now moved to other jobs. He said it was time for the next, unspecified chapter in his career.
Beck sold his building, once home to Mr. Arthur’s bar at an intersection once best known for vacant storefronts and police calls. Beck sold the property for $618,000, about $100,000 more than he said he had paid and invested in improvements.
“Our business was doing well,” Beck said. “But I didn’t get rich.”
The new owner plans to open an office or perhaps a medical clinic, said his real estate agent, Marshall Nguyen.
Beck was part of a slow, sometimes-halting commercial and housing redevelopment of E. Franklin between Portland and Cedar Avenues.
Wayne Kostroski opened Franklin Street Bakery at Franklin and 11th Avenue in 2003. It has grown to 115 line employees who make $13 to $17 an hour, plus benefits, in addition to 20 managers. The business, including the cost of tearing down a condemned house next door and buying equipment, represents an investment of more than $5 million.
Kostroski, who also has sparred with the city over parking and other issues, has said for several years that he would consider moving the business if he got a good offer to expand elsewhere. He’s at capacity at his operation.
“We don’t have anything on the horizon, but we have to keep our eyes open,” Kostroski said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done with the business and that we [positively] impacted the neighborhood. We’re challenged to keep up with our growth.”
Franklin Street Bakery may move eventually, but the long-term prognosis of this once-seedy stretch is good.
Things have improved in years since neighbors pressured the city to not renew several bar and liquor store licenses.
Developers of affordable housing, such as Aeon, Hope Community, the American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC) and Project for Pride In Living (PPL) have added hundreds of housing units, including four projects alone at the intersection of Portland and Franklin, with names such as Many Rivers, the Rose and Anishinabe Wakiagun. Some offer support services to those recovering from chemical dependency, skills training, job-placement services and more. Businesses have renovated old buildings.
More housing, commerce, art and culture at what were vacant corners and boarded storefronts serve to trump vagrancy and street crime.
Robert Lilligren, the former City Council member, leads the decade-old Native American Community Development Institute on Franklin Avenue, a keeper of the community’s vision of an American Indian Cultural Corridor reflective of thousands of local Indians. Lilligren is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and also has Scandinavian roots.
Lilligren, whose organization also hosts an art gallery and coffee shop, listed a host of Indian-owned and operated Franklin enterprises, including the American Indian Center, which is about to undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation.
“It was built as more of a service center and it will become more of a destination,” Lilligren said, including the expanding Gatherings Café, Two Rivers Gallery, retail space and health programs “consistent with the community vision.”
“We have a design study underway for the area,” Lilligren said. “We already have a lot of art and culture [in the neighborhood] and the tribes are coming into the area and we’re going to scale it.”
Tribal resources are also helping to address another challenge in the area: the growing Minneapolis homeless tent camp along Hiawatha and Franklin. Earlier this week, the Minneapolis City Council approved a site for an interim site on land owned by the Red Lake Nation on Cedar, just off Franklin.
Meanwhile, PPL, the affordable housing and job-skills trainer based at 11th and Franklin, is investing a few million to refurbish the once-vacant Franklin Theater next door as an expanded training center. That’s a double-down on its track record of training and certifying hundreds of diverse, low-income clients for jobs paying $15 an hour or more.
And PPL plans more housing.
A busy ALDI grocery store at 13th and Franklin anchors a neighborhood mall on the east that is anchored on the west by the renovated Ancient Traders Market, including venerable Maria’s Columbian café and several other ethnic enterprises.
A couple blocks to the west on Franklin, backers of Norway House, which opened in 2015 in a refurbished commercial building, are planning a $10 million expansion and event center on the once-dilapidated block that also includes one of the city’s oldest Norwegian-Lutheran churches.
The Norwegians, the “immigrant” workers and entrepreneurs of a century ago, are still active in the old neighborhood. Norway House also boasts a branch of Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian food and gift store.
“I view this as a startup business and I’m excited for this is and what it will bring to Franklin Avenue and our community,” Christina Carleton, Norway House’s executive director and a Norwegian immigrant, told me last winter.
I’m betting on continued growth of commerce and culture on E. Franklin.