What next for Mereen-Johnson site and Adult Rehabilitation Center plans?

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Fourth Ward Council Member Barb Johnson told NorthNews April 26 that Salvation Army officials told her that their quest to locate an Adult Rehabilitation Center at the former Mereen-Johnson site at 44th and Lyndale avenues N. is “on hold.” They are looking at another potential site as well as looking anew at doing something with their existing site at 900 N. Fourth St.

If the Mereen-Johnson proposal went ahead, it would consist of tearing down existing complex at 44th and Lyndale and replacing with a 95,700-square-foot facility that would house 120 residents in its rehabilitation program, office space for about 50 employees and a 60,000 square foot warehouse that would be the primary sorting facility for the Salvation Army’s thrift store operations.

Immediate neighbors and their families and friends throughout North Minneapolis objected to the proposal at an April 4 informational meeting held by the Lind-Bohanon Neighborhood Association. A woman who said she had been involved in the rehabilitation program and now lives in the neighborhood, said, “I can tell you, you do not want this in the neighborhood.” Others quoted statistics showing that the “graduation” rate from the program is about 25 percent. “Where do the other 410 men a year go?” asked Linda Chapple. “They’re used to the area, they’ll hang around.”

From the Salvation Army website: “The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers provide spiritual, social and emotional assistance for men and women who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves. Each center offers residential housing, work, and group and individual therapy, all in a clean, wholesome environment. The physical and spiritual care that program participants receive prepares them to re-enter society and return to gainful employment. Many of those who have been rehabilitated are reunited with their families and resume a normal life.”

A Facebook page called Camden Historic Lumber District (CHiLD) sprung up, which one of the organizers, Willie Lumpkins, said has a two-fold purpose, one to stop the Salvation Army from getting in to destroy the building and two, to put forth a proposal to repurpose the building.

Lumpkins, his mother (Chapple), Alicia Holder and 60-some others are in the open group on Facebook. Holder said they are developing a proposal to turn it into a seasonal open-air farmers market and bazaar that is a year-round small business incubator. The CHiLD group plans to attend the May 2 Lind-Bohanon meeting to discuss the idea.

Lumpkins said Lind-Bohanon’s small area plan from 10 years ago has some of the same ideas. “We want to bring businesses back to the Northside. Northside residents have to shop elsewhere for much of what they need. We should be a healthier alternative for specialty items. Other areas have their niche, we need a niche.” With the proximity to the highway, there’s potential that people from other areas can come to the Northside to shop.

Lumpkins said the CHiLD interested parties are simultaneously looking to build community support and looking for an experienced developer willing to take on the bazaar idea. Jonathan Healy posted a survey and there are some artist renderings of potential uses for the building on the Facebook page.

According to other published reports, the Salvation Army has been looking to move since 2008, tried South St. Paul in 2010 but got a cold shoulder from officials, and then Northeast Minneapolis last year where even though the area they targeted was industrial, residents from surrounding neighborhoods objected.