Opinion
Take A Walk With Me Through North Minneapolis
Front Lines

Take A Walk With Me Through North Minneapolis

There’s a land of opportunity within a stone’s throw away.

I recently had the privilege of presenting with pride the development progress of East Town, Downtown Minneapolis and the North Loop: Select Comfort, Amazon, Xcel Energy, Wells Fargo, Ryan Companies, KA, HCMC, CBRE, The Armory, and more are all relocating or expanding in those areas.

However, there’s a land of opportunity within a stone’s throw of the some of the hottest redevelopment occurring in the Twin Cities, and I invite you to explore it with me. We’ll start by walking up Glenwood Avenue—that’s right, we’re leaving downtown and heading into North Minneapolis!

We journey just past International Market Square and first stop in at two great places to stay healthy and fit. First, there’s the Firm, at 1010 Second Ave., and a couple blocks north, Henry Crosby’s YMCA at 1015 N. Fourth.  While there, we run upstairs to chat with Tawanna Black to learn about neighborhood philanthropy and workforce development models via Northside Funders Group, North at Work and the Itasca initiative.

From there, we walk back south a block to check in with Steve Lepinski and Frank Bennett about the great work they’re doing with children at the Washburn Center for kids, 1100 Glenwood Ave. Wow!

Next, we go about five blocks west to stop in at Milda’s Café, 1720 Glenwood Ave. It’s one of the few places in the Twin Cities where you can still eat grits—with cheese, butter or jelly depending on your preference.  Or we could instead go a block west to grab some soul food and listen to great story telling from Eddie and James at Corner Stone Café (previously Sunnyside), 1825 Glenwood Ave. This also is the home operational base of Lola’s Café, known for its incredible Louis King chicken wings (watch for them on Medtronic Plaza during football season).

With a full stomach, let’s walk about a block east to Knox Avenue, then a block north and through Harrison Park on our way to the education and training corridor anchored by Eric Mahmoud’s Harvest Prep & SEED Academy at 1300 Elwood Ave., and Louis King’s Summit Academy, 1101 Olson Memorial Highway. Summit is doing great work with training programs in construction-related areas, but also in health care and manufacturing, and has a 1,000-student GED program.

Now we’ll head up North Humboldt Avenue about four blocks alongside Heritage Park to see Gloria Freeman and the fabulous work she’s doing helping people with housing needs, including situations that exist within their homes. She’s doing this through her non-profit called Olu’s Home Inc., located at 1315 N. 12th Ave.

After this, we venture six blocks west to stop in at the University Research and Outreach Center, 2001 Plymouth Ave. N., where Heidi Bajaras, Bill English and James DeSota provide us with all the data anyone would ever need to understand how to best create 1,000 new living-wage jobs in North Minneapolis. From there, we stop in and see Steve Belton and the Minneapolis Urban League at Plymouth and Penn avenues to learn all about the United Black Legislative Agenda and other community-based initiatives. And if D.C. doesn’t require his attendance, maybe catch up with Congressman Keith Ellison to see how his new role as deputy DNC chairman is going.

We then head a block north to the NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, where you’ll see the significant investment Hennepin County is making in our community and its campus expansion plans, and see successful entrepreneurship in action at the Estes family funeral home immediately south.

Oh, I almost forgot that a development, design, construction and consulting company (THOR, which I work for) will be calling the southeast corner of this intersection home in 2018. (Thank you, to all our partners in this venture. We couldn’t have done it without you.)

I know your legs may be getting weary, but we have to visit Devean George while here and learn about the Commons on Penn development, and then go farther north on Penn to Broadway for a shout-out on KMOJ and talk with Sondra Samuels about how her Northside Achievement Zone is changing the lives of the families in our community.

Broadway has so many possibilities, with the entrepreneurship of the West Broadway coalition, Minneapolis Public Schools’ headquarters, opportunities for startups with the support of Marcus Owens of NEON, and redevelopment opportunities. Those include one from Tim Baylor, a successful McDonald’s franchisee, and someone with a big vision for three blocks of the street.

As we stop to shop at Cub Foods, we bump into Alfred Babington Johnson of the Stairstep Foundation, the Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Baptist Church, and Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple, who provide valuable spiritual and earthly guidance. They and their houses of worship help us understand the trauma that causes violence, as well as models for restoration and forgiveness, belief bowls for education, employment opportunities, residential contracting and, depending on the day, great soul food courtesy of Breaking Bread—and home recipes (available to those who attend Elders Council).

We’ll end our tour here for now, but I bet you didn’t know about all of these people and the really cool things that are going on, did you?  Yet they, and so many other great people and opportunities, exist in North Minneapolis.

So the next time you go downtown or to the North Loop, keep heading northwest to the place where value is concealed, prices are discounted and the returns on investment can be huge.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and each other!

Ravi Norman (RNorman@ThorCon.net) is the CEO of Thor Cos., a holding company for development, design, construction and consulting businesses. He holds degrees in economics, business management and finance from the University of Minnesota.

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