Gabriel Corbesia works as a security guard and recently graduated from Summit Academy near the top of his carpentry class.

Corbesia, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who grew up in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, has wrestled with alcoholism and homelessness.

Today, he is a thankful, productive citizen who also volunteers with the Alcoholics Anonymous classes at the American Indian Center on E. Franklin, and is looking for a new apartment after a fruitful stay at 20-year-old Anishinabe Wakiagun, which has 45 efficiency apartments and support services for American Indians who are struggling with homelessness, chemical and mental health issues.

Corbesia, 35, looks forward to a carpentry job and productive future. He participated in the grand opening of the second stage of the affordable housing project. It’s called Anishinabe Bii Gii Wiin, an additional 32 efficiency apartments, dining and meeting rooms.

The $11.4 million project, including a refresh of the original development, provides 77 small units in a beautifully landscaped setting that 25 years ago was a wasteland, littered with booze bottles at E. Franklin, east of Bloomington Avenue. Today, American Indian art galleries, coffee shops and small businesses largely have replaced gin joints and vagrancy.

Anishinabe II was spearheaded by the American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC), also the complex manager and human-services provider, and Project for Pride in Living, the Twin Cities developer-housing manager.

“That neighborhood is the heart of the largest urban Native American community in our state and, probably, in the country,” said PPL CEO Paul Williams. “This is an important continuation of the work done over the years to make that end of E. Franklin a Native American cultural corridor.

“A vibrant Native American presence matters, including the nearby Many Rivers Native American housing. The residents support local businesses.”

The slow refurbishment of E. Franklin from Interstate 35W to Hiawatha Avenue has brought hundreds of new and refurbished housing units, more business and street-level civility. The Anishinabe development was financed partly by $6.5 million in private investment that is eligible for federal tax credits that encourage redevelopment of blighted areas. Hennepin County, the city of Minneapolis, and other agencies and foundations also participated.

The new-construction rental housing market since the Great Recession has been driven by luxury complexes. Owners are cashing in on low vacancy rates to upgrade used properties and hike rents. The Minnesota Housing Partnership reported last week that between 2010 and 2015, the per-unit sales price for apartment buildings has increased 56 percent to $87,700. Many working class renters can’t afford the new rents.

The good news for affordable-housing advocates is projects such as the Brownstone on vacant land along the light-rail Green Line on University Avenue and PPL’s Hamline Station. They take longer because they usually require private, public and foundation partners to restrain overall cost and rents.

A 2016 report by Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) said the effort to diversify housing along the booming Green Line from Minneapolis to St. Paul is having some success. Of 6,388 new housing units built along the line since 2011, about 20 percent are for households that earn up to 60 percent of Twin Cities-area median household income. That’s about $52,000 for a family of four.

Meanwhile, the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, an affordable housing lender, is raising a pool of about $25 million to help buyers who want to preserve affordable housing buy apartment complexes when they come up for sale. And CommonBond, the Twin Cities’ largest manager of affordable housing, is trying to raise millions in “patient capital” from private investors willing to take less than market rates for housing development.


Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at