Renovation could start in January


A mischievous Mike Wynne said Sept. 20, “we’re at the noise-making stages” of fundraising to restore the old North Branch Library at 1834 Emerson and renovate it as the Emerge Career and Technology Center. Now that major grants are in place, “residents can contribute by going to the website” ( “And there will be another announcement on that tomorrow.”

Tuesday’s announcement of a $1.1 million federal grant coincided with Congressman Keith Ellison’s schedule. Ellison resonated with the Obama administration’s current push for jobs. “This building has served before, to give sustenance” through information, especially for immigrants. “And now it will help with another kind of sustenance, to put food on the tables. We’re investing in people,” and that will return to us, he said.

The building, the only one in the West Broadway corridor designated historic, was the state’s first building erected as an open-stacks library. This historic status could close the funding gap. Read on:

Sept. 21, an email arrived, announcing that American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Emerge Community Development as one of only 25 local historic places selected to participate in Partners in Preservation and are eligible to receive preservation funding from American Express.

Emerge is competing in a Facebook voting contest, with a total of $1 million in grants going towards preservation projects. The public will be voting for the places they want receive funding at PartnersinPreservation. The historic place that receives most votes is guaranteed to receive funding, “which will put us very close to our capital campaign goal,” Jennifer Hanson of Emerge announced.

How to vote: First, “Like” Partners in Preservation on Facebook, then vote for Emerge. Through Oct. 12, one vote per day per person is allowed.

Wynne said they want the project to be debt-free and break ground after the first of January, to be ready in fall of 2012. The project includes moving the house to the south (which Emerge owns) to another location nearby, arrangements still pending; and using that land for a handicapped-accessible entrance. Six square windows at the top front of the building—they had been bricked in (see photo, rows of 2 and 4—will be brought back. Other sashes will be re-engineered or replicated.

Paul Gates is the architect, along with Bob Mack of MacDonald & Mack Architects, who is keeping the work aligned with historic preservation goals.

Ellison credited Hennepin County staff for connecting the project to the federal funding opportunity. County Commissioner Mark Stenglein spoke, as he has often, of libraries as “the great equalizer. And this will be re-born as a great equalizer. Thank you, Mike, for your leadership in bringing this grand old lady back.”

County staffer Patrick Connoy, who grew up in the area, said it’s a homecoming. “You used to deliver mail here, right?” Stenglein asked.