Children and families living in poverty who are on waiting lists for services from a venerable Minneapolis nonprofit could soon get the help they need in an expanded state-of-the-art space.

With its new $22 million location at E. Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue, the Family Partnership, which has been serving neighborhoods in south Minneapolis for 143 years, now has a centralized hub for its many programs. That makes it easier for families to take advantage of the services, and the larger facility will offer three times as much space as previous locations.

"This is really making a statement about our commitment to working with the neighborhood on behalf of children and families, and to make a better community for everybody," said Molly Greenman, the nonprofit's CEO.

Anyone who walks into the new building, known as the Building for Better Futures resource center, is likely to feel more relaxed amid the interior's muted and calming colors and the abundance of natural light.

The first floor houses the Four Directions preschool and early childhood learning center, as well as speech, occupational and physical therapy services. The school, which moved from the Little Earth Neighborhood Early Learning Center on S. 18th Avenue, was the first program to open in the new space. Children filled the halls and classrooms beginning last Friday.

Upstairs includes space for mental health care and the anti-sex-trafficking program PRIDE (Promoting Recovery, Independence, Dignity and Equality).

PRIDE has already welcomed its first program participant into the building, said program director Mikki Mariotti. The new location on Lake Street, a street that has long been a hub for sex work in Minneapolis, makes PRIDE resources more accessible to those who need them. In addition to providing participants with advocates, PRIDE offers spaces for trafficked people to shower, change clothes, do laundry, eat a meal and rest safely.

"Walk around outside and you can see that people have been wearing the same clothes for a week, a month," Mariotti said. "A lot of times, the pimps won't let them clean either."

Greenman says the rest of the programs are slowly making their way into the building with the hope of becoming fully operational in July.

Back in 2019 when the project broke ground, the nonprofit didn't know E. Lake Street would become the flash point for violent protests after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. At least 1,500 businesses along Lake Street were damaged, and some were destroyed. Luckily for the Family Partnership, construction on the new building was only in its earliest stages.

Its neighbors, however, weren't so fortunate. Many of the surrounding businesses had some degree of damage, according to a 2020 Star Tribune story. Even though its own building escaped harm, the Family Partnership and construction partner Mortenson stepped up to help neighbors board up windows.

"We are part of this community and have been for a very long time," said Sydney Witt­mier, project manager with Mortenson. "There was no hesitation. How could we not help? We're right here, we have the resources, we're going to do it."

Mortenson and the Family Partnership also worked with local artists to transform the site's plywood construction fence into a mural that represented the surrounding community. Now that construction is finished, the Family Partnership has commissioned City Mischief, a collective of artists of color, to paint a mural on the building's east-facing wall. They've planned two community input meetings for Saturday and Monday via Zoom.

"The vision for the mural is to reflect and celebrate the diversity and strengths of Minneapolis families," according to the nonprofit's website.

As much as the Family Partnership will influence the neighborhood, Greenman said the opposite is even more true.

"One of our principles is we don't do for people, and we don't do to people, we do with people," she said. "We will be working with community, businesses, neighbors, residents, leaders and faith institutions to continue to evolve how we can be a resource for children and families."

Maya Miller • 612-673-7086