What’s new at Grace Center in Northeast?

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Neighbors know them as the home of volleyball games in summer, the Little Kitchen Food Shelf and some raised bed gardens on the parking lot, several churches having services, and the Fraser Academy school.

Soon, Grace Center for Community Life at 1500 6th St. NE could also be home to the Smiling Faces Child Development Center. And Yinghua Academy has already started kindergarten classes there as they’ve started to outgrow their location at Northeast Park.

And the sanctuary, for the combined Lutheran churches who got this whole thing started, is coming along in the heart of the former Holland School building.

This past month, Grace Center showed up at the City of Minneapolis for several actions.

Pastor Craig Pederson explained that the city every year allocates $10 million to back nonprofits who are doing site improvements, allowing them to get lower interest rates on bank loans. Grace Center got one of these loans enabling them to refinance their initial mortgage (which was down to $1 million) and then borrow more, yielding approximately $700,000 with which to make the remaining interior improvements such as the kitchen, heating and cooling systems, and exterior site renovations.

According to the church’s Northeast Community Scroll e-newsletter, “there are still stipulations to be met, but the hope is that the closing on the refinancing loan will take place by the end of November.”

The child development center is also in a waiting period, for possible appeals. Samantha Eubanks, who now operates a home-based day care center, said the Minneapolis City Council approved her application for a Conditional Use Permit at the building Friday, Oct. 19. Pederson said the center will probably serve about 24 children, and is likely to be running by December or January, for children from ages 16 months to school age.

The Minneapolis City Planning Commission had requirements to bring exterior site improvements in line with city codes, conditions of granting the child care and classroom use applications. They want rock mulch replaced by turf grass, and for parking areas to be screened at 60 percent opacity by shrubs a minimum of three feet high. Grace Center would have until Oct. 15, 2014 to complete these requirements.

“We will look for money to do the rest,” Pederson said. With all the classrooms, a lot of bike parking is required. “We have no racks now, we need to get some.” The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization funded exterior site planning, and it’s hoped that they will contribute to implementation.

This year’s NE Community Lutheran Sauerkraut Supper at Grace Center is set for Saturday, Nov. 3, with one open seating time, 5-6:30 p.m.