U buys shopping center for outreach

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The University bought the Penn Plymouth center in north Minneapolis.

The University announced Friday its Feb. 6 purchase of the Penn Plymouth Shopping Center in north Minneapolis for $1.125 million.

The property was purchased from the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council.

The shopping center will be renovated and will house the University’s Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center.

Renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year and are expected to cost an additional $2.1 million.

The center is modeled after the University’s rural outreach programs, said Hawona Sullivan Janzen, University liaison to the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center.

Now that urban populations are growing, the University wants to develop relationships with more communities within the city, she said.

“The idea is that universities don’t just sit in communities; they’re actually a part of the community,” she said.

Janzen also has connections to the shopping center. Her family owned Lucille’s Kitchen, which went out of business in 2004 after being in the shopping center for several years.

She said the shopping center always had problems keeping businesses in the building, but is enthusiastic about the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center.

There are two businesses left in the shopping center, which can hold as many as eight retailers, Sherrie Pugh Sullivan, NRRC’s executive director, said.

The Dollar Store, whose lease expired in October, has been leasing on a month-to-month basis and is expected to be moved out by the end of February.

Snow Foods’ lease doesn’t expire until 2009. The business has been working on a relocation agreement with the University – one Pugh Sullivan called “more than generous.”

The business is expected to be moved out of the shopping center by the end of March.

The three loans that the NRRC owed on the property were paid off with money from the University purchase, Pugh Sullivan said.

The University used money from its general fund to pay for the property, Janzen said.

The NRRC received about $50,000 from the sale, but most of the money will be used to dissolve the for-profit corporation that the NRRC formed to run the shopping center.

“There seemed to be a lot of people who thought we were going to come out with a big windfall,” Pugh Sullivan said. “But we will probably come out even in the end.”

The north side community wants the University to bring four things to the neighborhood, Pugh Sullivan said: education, health, economic development and appropriate relationships between the University and the community during community research.

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