An idle 2-acre industrial property in north Minneapolis will be redeveloped into a regional operations hub for expanding school-bus company Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN) of Fridley.

MTN plans to spend $1.4 million to upgrade and expand the existing buildings and paved outdoor storage facility on the site at 4640 Lyndale Av. N. The largest portion of the investment will go toward exterior site improvements, including landscaping, resurfacing the asphalt parking lot and updating security systems.

“This is going to be a showcase development that will make the neighborhood proud, while meeting our company need for a smooth-functioning, high-intensity operating center,” said Tashitaa Tufaa, founder of MTN, who also has started to hire the first of up to 70 people who will work at the site. “We needed more space. And we’ve been using some of the space at that site for storage.”

Thor Cos., the Fridley-based real estate development and construction company that also is moving to a new headquarters building on the North Side, is handling the $2.7 million redevelopment of the MTN site, including design, renovation and build-out of the property.

Tufaa said he employs about 370 part-time and full-time employees, including drivers who make $16-to-$21 an hour plus benefits at sites in Fridley, Minnetonka and near St. Cloud.

MTN worked with Bill English, director of the Northside Jobs Creation Team, a project of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center (UROC) in north Minneapolis, to find a location and to navigate the neighborhood-and-city approvals process.

Tufaa said he wanted to shift some operations from his overcrowded Fridley location to the North Side, hire area residents and to better serve Minneapolis Public Schools and future growth.

The property was once a roofing company. It includes three low-rise industrial buildings that will be renovated to include an office-and-dispatch center, a vehicle-maintenance facility and a garage.

Tufaa, 50, who immigrated to Minnesota in 1992 from Ethiopia, was a schoolteacher and political activist.

He started his own company in 2003, after being laid off from another job. He also had driven buses and cabs on a part-time basis.

Tufaa was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) in 2012. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit trains and helps cash-flow small minority entrepreneurs through business consulting, financing and leadership development programs.