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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Friday May 24th 2024

Losing our Assets: A Plea For Help!

By Robert Albee

I started out trying to tell a story about Ancient Traders, the East Franklin Avenue strip mall across the street from my house, but wise counsel prevailed and pointed out too many holes, inaccuracies and inflammatory language in that draft so it is better to start afresh. So this story is more of an editorial than a narrative, as it awaits a true storyteller with more time and access to facts than I possess.

This piece begins with a plea to our state elected officials””Senator Berglin and Representative Clark and our county and municipal officials, Peter McLaughlin, Robert Lilligren and Gary Schiff”” requesting that we begin a forensics investigation into the practice using one property to leverage another when public monies were originally used and were obtained to serve a given locality. In a shifting economy, this conduct has the makings to destabilize an area that was only recently stabilized, with investments of more than $130 million and crime rates dropping along the East Franklin Avenue corridor.

Great Neighborhoods, started out as the American Indian Business Development Corporation (AIBDC) and then renamed itself the American Indian Neighborhood Development Corporation (AINDC) before its final name change. This non-profit corporation received hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant funds from federal, state and local governments as well as private foundations to be invested in the Phillips Community on East Franklin Avenue. After a period of time, these assets were leveraged (put up as collateral) toward development efforts on Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis. When that project “went south” or failed to develop as intended, it put the Ancient Traders property on East Franklin in jeopardy. That”'s what was reported in the Strib a couple of weeks ago.

So who gives a corporation the right to endanger one of its projects (Ancient Traders) by leveraging it in order to capitalize another project in an area far removed from where original grant dollars were intended and provided to help a crippled community?

I can hardly remember what East Franklin Avenue was like before AIBDC originally began acquiring property and redeveloping it. I was living in Wisconsin building a public radio station on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. But in visits back to Minneapolis, I remember vividly members of the Indian community expressing the pride they felt in becoming major players in an urban Indian commercial development.

After construction of the Minneapolis American Indian Center just down the street, the beginnings of an Indian commercial corridor was in the making, to be followed up years later with Anishinabe Wakiagun and the Many Rivers buildings that I was a part of developing. Now the area is officially designated as an Indian cultural corridor If Ancient Traders is foreclosed upon, will it be alienated forever from the Indian community that gave it birth?

By the time I returned to Minneapolis and became a resident of the Phillips Community myself, the shopping center had already begun falling on harder times and was becoming a haven for crime and drug dealing””although the same could be said for many other parts of Phillips as well.

As elected neighborhood representatives, we strongly supported the redesign and redevelopment of the strip mall into becoming Ancient Traders with the addition of the Dovolis family business properties on 11th and Franklin. We also were happy that AIBDC stepped forward to purchase the property where the SuperAmerica station/store was located because it was a magnet for crime twenty-four hours a day! Almost every day I smell the fragrance of the Franklin Street Bakery from my deck or gazebo!

Perhaps we need a storyteller journalist from City Pages, The Circle or The Daily Planet to dig really deep and tell the whole story of our East Franklin shopping center the way it needs to be told. Regardless of who ends up wearing the black hats or the white hats, we need to keep public and private grant dollars invested in the location originally intended by the funders. What would it be like if the original funders had to give written consent before current property owners and asset managers could use these projects as leverage to get new dollars for other projects and potentially jeopardize the original programs and properties. Is this too much to ask? I think not!

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