A Minneapolis church wanted to do something about illegal activity in the parking lot of a nearby liquor store. So he’s going to buy the property.

The intersection of Lyndale Avenue and West Broadway in North Minneapolis is notorious for illicit activity.

The commercial intersection is lined with businesses that have parking lots along the street. These lots also serve as 24-hour open-air markets for drugs and sex, as well as gathering and meeting places that turn violent or deadly, according to neighbors and local organizations.

Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. was no different. The windy, overcast afternoon saw rows of cars in the parking lot of Merwin Liquors, located at 700 West Broadway Ave. At random intervals, a car pulled into the parking lot, its window opening just as a woman was waiting near the liquor store doors. rushes and enters his clenched fist into the car through a window, then the car drives off. A man in a sedan parked closest to the liquor store entrance would periodically roll down his window to call out to passers-by.

“Noisy. Loud for 25. Loud. Loud,” he said offhandedly, calling out a colloquial term for marijuana and its price, as if selling tickets outside the stadium.

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But the scene at Lyndale and West Broadway could be radically different if a local organization were successful. Love Minneapolis, a development company that is an offshoot of Sanctuary Covenant Church, which is on the same block as Merwin Liquors, is working on a deal to buy the troubled property. It’s a deal that has the blessing of the city of Minneapolis, which approved a loan to help the church purchase the building.

Love Minneapolis has yet to specify what it wants to build on the site; the organization will not comment on the project since the sale with merwin Liquors are not final. But, after acquiring the liquor store, Love Minneapolis will seek input from community members, according to city documents.

Nuisances for neighbors

“Yeah, I heard they were going to close,” the man shouted “loudly” in the Merwin Liquors saloon. He did not give his name. “I’m not really here, just here to hang up here,” he said, adding that he would find other places to sell as he moves around often.

merwin Liquors aren’t the region’s only hot spot. Across the street is Winner Gas, a gas station that neighbors say is also a hotspot for illegal activity. Theodore Erbin, a 28-year-old man who lived four blocks from the intersection for five years, walked out of the station.

“I will be here tearing up and running to the store and I see all sorts of bullshit in this area,” Erbin said, adding that he supports redevelopment in the hope that new buildings might scare off traffickers. drug. But whether there are new buildings or not, he said he just wanted to see some change.

“I see drug dealers hanging out in the (Merwin Liquors) parking lot, at the gas station. Also, there are arguments and fights,” Erbin said. “I try to step in and try to keep the peace if I know I’m not going to get hurt or anything and nobody’s going to pull out a gun. It makes no sense what I see.

Disturbing scenes at the commercial intersection spill over into the surrounding residential area. Abdullahi Ahmed and his family have lived in the block behind Merwin Liquors since 2019. The 40-year-old said he would “really welcome” a complete redevelopment of the intersection.

“Nothing bad happened to my house and nothing happened to my neighbours, but shots flew through this house,” Ahmed said, pointing to a house across from his, in reference to a shooting near the junction in June 2020. He said he heard gunshots and regularly heard loud noises coming from the junction at all times of the day and night.

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“Most of the people at the liquor store and the gas station aren’t even people from our neighborhood,” Ahmed said. “The problem is that people gather there and the violence starts.”

Not only nearby residents, but nearby organizations have also complained about the impact of the intersection on the livability of the area.

The complaints came from just about every tenant in the building at 800 West Broadway Ave., which was recently redeveloped and is now an Opportunity Center, which houses a Department of Jobs and Labor Career Center. Minnesota Economic Development, the Minneapolis Schools Adult Education North Campus, the Project for Pride and Living, as well as a NorthPoint dental clinic.

“They were saying their clientele had difficulty getting in because of the activity going on on Lyndale, on Broadway, on 21st Avenue, on Aldrich Avenue, enveloping the entire block,” the policy director said. Economic and Development of Minneapolis, Erik Hansen.

The city has started a conversation with these organizations as well as other community partners such as the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, Appetite for Change, individual community leaders as well as people from a number of city departments, Love Minneapolis and Sanctuary Covenant Church, Hansen said. “We had a conversation about what we should collectively do around this issue since we come back to the same table with the same issue every two years.”

Due to the added strain of the pandemic, Hansen noted that the Broadway-Lyndale intersection appears to be at its worst in the past 15 or 20 years.

The aim is to tackle the root causes this time around. In the meantime, the police department and the Office of Violence Prevention have been involved and are providing public safety resources, Hansen said.

The group has come up with five strategies so far, Hansen said. The first concerns immediate public safety issues related to drug trafficking, public intoxication, drug use, prostitution, shootings and assaults.

“Unfortunately, it’s all there,” Hansen said.

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Another strategy is to bring in city ambassadors and those who can connect people to resources for work.

“Maybe if you’re sitting on Lyndale and Broadway all day, there might be other things to do,” Hansen said. “And there’s the unfortunate irony that if they just walked into that building at 800 Broadway, that’s where all the resources are to find a job or raise your education to a point where you can get a job. There’s an intentional design of partnership in this building. It’s disappointing. But the reality of systemic change is that it’s so complicated it just takes a long time. You’re just going to have these ironies in plain sight.

The other three strategies provide comprehensive chemical addiction and mental health services, create family events to drive positive traffic, and improve property conditions, maintenance, and development.

Another ambition, Hansen said, is for the redevelopment to include the provision of parking lots along the street.

“It’s basically a suburban intersection,” Hansen said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the trend in urban design was for suburban-style strip mall retail buildings with parking lots in front of the building along the street. Although retail and grocery stores have been added to the area, which is “an addition,” Hansen said, “there is a lot of parking out front and construction and construction activity is very far away (from the street).

“It created this environment where it’s pretty easy to hang on the corner without control,” Hansen said.

One way to limit that would be to move a building to the front of the street and “recreate that urban fabric that we once had on West Broadway,” he said.

One example is the Walgreens at the corner of Lyndale and Broadway, Hansen said, a building that starts at the edge of the sidewalk.

Love Minneapolis traveled to the city to get help buying the liquor store. The city offered $700,000 Great Streets Gap Finance Loan.

As part of the loan agreement, Minneapolis asked Love Minneapolis to have development plans with buildings along the street because the city is not interested in the “suburbanized” building remaining there.

After Love Minneapolis purchases the liquor store site, it has five years to initiate development and seven years to complete it.

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