Grow North: Seeds of hope in North Minneapolis

This is the time of year when Northside gardens and boulevards overflow with elegant delphiniums, large blossomed hydrangeas and mounds of festive black eyed Susan’s, and now thanks to a new revitalizing initiative, appropriately titled Grow North, our landscape will soon be transformed with exciting new businesses.

The new program, approved by the Minneapolis City Council on June 28, promises to bring seeds of hope to residents who have experienced their own share of upheavals in recent years —from unprecedented home foreclosures in the wake of a deep recession to a devastating tornado that two years ago cut a destructive swath through the heart of North Minneapolis. But despite all the struggles signs of recovery can be seen everywhere.

It all began a few years ago with the impressive renovation of Lowry Avenue that culminated last year in the thrilling debut of the new Lowry Avenue Bridge that arcs gracefully over the Mississippi River connecting North and Northeast Minneapolis. Next, the recent restoration of the historic Victory Memorial Drive that preserves and honors our history for future generations to enjoy. And great restaurants all over the Northside, including Victory 44, have become popular havens for Twin City hamburger connoisseurs. But most importantly homes that were once foreclosed and boarded up are now coming back to life as a result of amazing renovations. And fitting right in with this new urban renaissance is Grow North. Over the next five years the program estimates that it will attract up to 1,000 new jobs to North Minneapolis. A much needed economic boost!

Working under the auspices of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED), Grow North is a multi-faceted plan designed to pique the interest of the business community and to motivate interested entrepreneurs to invest in North Minneapolis. To make their investment more attractive Minneapolis is offering a comprehensive financial incentive package. This includes forgivable loans of up to $200,000 that an investor can apply toward either building a new structure or to renovate and improve existing property, hiring and training employees. Also, the incentive package provides homebuyer assistance for their employees through the Minnesota Advantage program ($5,000 per employee while funding lasts). The $400,000 funded program is supported by resources from Federal Community Development Block Grant with an additional contribution of $50,000 from Wells Fargo Housing Development Foundation through the homebuyer assistance Minneapolis Advantage program.

To determine the type of business that would be a “good fit” for North Minneapolis, CPED partnered with Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC). UROC, an outreach of the University of Minnesota, is located at 2001 Plymouth Ave N. UROC was launched in 2005 by Mayor Rybak and former U of M President Bob Bruininks to confront complex issues that face North residents every day and to find concrete solutions to improve the quality of their life. The fact that UROC is located in the neighborhood illustrates how serious their commitment is to the community. CPED Business Development Manager Kristin Guild said a significant analysis was conducted by UROC and U of M business school graduate and undergraduate students to determine that “good fit.” The results of their research concluded food service, construction, and manufacturing industries would be most effective. She added that Grow North is taking a proactive role in seeking out new investors, and the response has been positive. They are impressed with what the city offers.

Grow North is a positive step forward that will provide exciting opportunities for North Minneapolis residents because each new business will have a threshold of 75 new jobs. People feel valued when they are productive and have a goal to work toward. Fourth Ward Councilmember Barbara Johnson said she would like to see Grow North bring enthusiasm and energy to the area and give tools to existing businesses that would help them expand. With Grow North and UROC working together Northside families will have a reason to feel hope for a brighter, more optimistic future from the seeds that are planted today.