Minneapolis: Public hearing on future of former Waite House building scheduled for January 16


The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) will hold a public hearing on Jan. 16 to decide whether to sell the Waite House building and lands to Banyan Community, a Christian community development corporation, or to In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater.

There was a community meeting Dec. 11 that was attended by about 75 people, according to Brandi Olson, a participant. The vote was 56 in favor of Banyan and 12 for HOTB. On the Minneapolis Issues List she said, “Both organizations presented and answered questions. Banyan had several staff members contribute to the presentation and the HOTB presentation was done by the executive director. I think that the reality is that most people in attendance were there because they already knew who they were voting for. However, what stood out to me was that Banyan has a clearly articulate plan for how they would use the property, they had drawings of the new building and have already begun their capital campaign. It seemed like HOTB is still in the initial planning stages of what their use of the property would be. Also it seemed like HOTB might have other possible options (based on what they shared at a previous neighborhood meeting), while Banyan’s landlords are selling the building that Banyan currently uses. Due to Banyan’s geographic service boundaries, there are no other properties suitable for the organization to purchase. The Banyan staff said that if they were not able to purchase the Waite House property that they were in danger of having to shrink their programs due to lack of space to operate. I think the overwhelming vote for Banyan reflects that Banyan has a concentrated presence in Midtown Phillips, while HOTB has a broader network of support throughout South Minneapolis.”

Patrick Hansel pointed out that the meeting was scheduled on the same night as the dress rehearsal for HOTB’s “La Natividad,” which was produced in collaboration with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

The vote at the community meeting is not binding but the MPRB does take community recommendations seriously.

Waite House became available when Pillsbury United Communities moved out of that facility and into the Phillips Community Center at 2323 11th Ave. On May 4 Kristoffer Tigue wrote in the TC Daily Planet: “On April 30, Waite House Neighborhood Center, part of Pillsbury United Communities, opened the doors to their new home inside the Phillips Community Center (2323 11th Ave. S.), just two blocks from their old location. The nonprofit organization, which has been providing the Phillips neighborhood with human services and community building activities since 1969, is expanding outreach by joining a co-op of new partners, including Minneapolis Parks & Recreation, A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD), Running Wolf Fitness Center, Somali American Community and Ventura Village Neighborhood Association.

“With the new partnerships, Waite House can expand its already impressive list of services and activities. Minneapolis Parks & Recreation will run a teen center and daily programming for youth. A-POD will provide self-help and advocacy for neighborhood residents with diabetes. The Running Wolf will provide their fitness center and partner with Waite for health programming. The Somali American Community will provide after-school tutoring and soccer programs, and Ventura Village Neighborhood Association will work as a neighborhood information hub, disseminating information that affects the community.”

Another more controversial partner in Waite’s new building is Minneapolis Swims. The MPRB got a grant of $2.1 million from the state legislature for the renovation of the Phillips pool but was reluctant to accept it because operating costs could bankrupt other programs. Minneapolis Swims was committed at the time to raising $4 million to cover long-term operating costs to maintain the pool. It was supposed to raise $1 million by Dec. 31. It’s not clear from its website that the organization has reached that goal.