Northside Business Spotlight
Paper Maker of the Northside
What does the future of your business look like, and how does this tie into the vision of North Minneapolis?
“We’re a real estate development company so we want to continue to acquire buildings and rehab them. There’s another 5 parcels up on Broadway that we were just awarded via the City’s RFP process. We’ve teamed up with the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation and Tri-Construction to develop these properties. And you know I would love to tell you today that I want to continue to develop properties in North Minneapolis, but the quite honest, God’s truth is that it’s impossible to make a deal financially pencil out. The building that we’re working on right now is tentatively a $5 million project. With the current market rates that are being charged in North Minneapolis we’re still only able to service a debt of $1.7 million. It’s like buying this building for $5 million but you know it’s worth $1.7 million. We’ve been presented a lot of debt options but arguably they don’t set us up for success. A lot of developers will buy buildings, sit on them for 10 years and pay taxes on them and not really do anything with them. I don’t know many Black people that can do that. It’s like no, I’ve got to generate income and service that debt. And you’re pretty much starting at negative to hopefully get back to breakeven to hopefully then make a profit. Our vision? We’re not leaving North. Any developments that we work on will be in North. However, we need to find better models and mechanisms for making these projects happen to set businesses up for success. Beyond that, you know we just want to continue to listen to what the community is looking for. We don’t really set plans that aren’t indicative of what the community’s willing to do: as their plans change our plans will change. Our goal as real estate developers isn’t to own every building in North. We’re at this crux where properties are being transitioned and we’re in a position to get those buildings but we want to get creative about how we transfer ownership back to the community. And so we’re thinking about how does this next building maybe form as a co-op to where you buy shares. Or does it go to a land bank to ensure that prices are always affordable? There aren’t too many Black and brown firms in that space to take advantage of that opportunity, and quite honestly we wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity had Jay & Rose not been at the table, had Tri not been at the table. As we get those opportunities as stewards of the community it’s imperative that we’re always community-centric. We don’t want to own and operate every space, we want to share space. We want other Black businesses and other like-minded people to be in the spaces, sharing the things that we have access to.”