Neighborhood Transformation Advances Through Co-op Development

The Northeast neighborhood in Minneapolis had a number of high-profile derelict buildings along a commercial corridor that had once thrived in the 1950s, but experienced steady decline over the last few decades. Northeast wasn’t located on a major transportation artery in the city, and its prospects for development weren’t great.

A new food co-op, Eastside Food Co-op, opened in 2005 in the neighborhood, and over time became the hub of the neighborhood. Neighbors began to ask each other: could cooperation be the answer to transforming their whole neighborhood, not just one corner of it?

In 2012, the Northeast Investment Cooperative was incorporated to support purchasing and renovating properties in the neighborhood to support local entrepreneurs and jump-start revitalization. In 2014, with 175 members investing $1,000 each and some members purchasing additional C and D shares, the co-op bought and renovated two properties. Recovery Bike Shop (a partner in acquiring the properties), Fair State Brewing and Aki’s Breadhaus moved into 2504 and 2506 Central Ave. and opened for business. The dream of community ownership and neighborhood input in real estate development was realized. Three new flourishing locally-owned businesses and over 25 jobs were created through the project.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership of many people and organizations, including Cooperative Development Services, and their work with the McKnight Foundation to support the NEIC’s current project.

“CDS has been very helpful in the long run,” said Loren Schirber, marketing chair of the board of directors. “The grant allowed us to take a shared risk.”

With the McKnight Foundation grant and more member investment, the NEIC has recently purchased another building at the neighborhood’s border. “It’s helped us grow as an organization and tweak our models so we can work faster,” Schirber said.

That’s another aspect of the grant’s purpose, for CDS to study how other communities can replicate mutual real estate investment to assist local business development, and support the creation of more investment co-ops.

Because of the vision of NEIC, Central and Lowry Avenues have been transformed. “It’s real, positive change. These building used to be an eyesore and now they are in high demand,” Schirber said. “Anytime you can transform the worst to the nicest you can make a big difference.”