Hope at the end of the Rainbow?

rainbow1BY ED FELIEN

“When elephants fight, the grass suffers.”  Swahili proverb
The elephants have struggled.  Rainbow and Cub fought for years over market share at Lake and Minnehaha, but they remained competitive, and each had their share of loyal customers.  Then Target decided to open a fresh food section in their store, and that became too much.  One elephant fell down.  Rainbow lost the battle and is leaving the Twin Cities market, and South Minneapolis is left with an empty storefront.
Building the store, clearing the land, paving the parking lot, finishing the interior to meet Health Department codes represent a tremendous capital investment.  According to the city’s valuation the property is worth $1,365,000, and that’s probably low because they value the building at only $223,800.  It would probably cost well over a million dollars to replace the current building.
So, what’s going to happen to it?  Will the building just be torn down and replaced by yet another high rise?
Some of the neighbors have started to weigh in on the Longfellow List.
Leslie MacKenzie said, “My husband had a great idea. How about a community commercial kitchen (since it’s already there)? And one of those businesses where you can go in and create a week’s worth of frozen meals (like Let’s Dish). It could have a twist that most of the ingredients are locally grown. (It could tie in with Community Table, a local organization that helps minority farmers find a way to sell or use excess produce.)
HildaViktoria Mork said, “I’m with Leslie and her husband.  Drop in/evening daycare is a great need. Nearest full service office supply store is in Nicollet. One closer to home would be appreciated.  I would love to see a business in this community that supports crafters and home sewers, knitters, quilters—and offers classes, work-social groups, and maybe an exchange for surplus materials.  A retailer that sells and repairs good (foot-healthy) shoes and has knowledgeable staff would be much appreciated.  I think a drop-in commercial kitchen where one can obtain and prep nutritious meals would benefit many people—both working families prepping ahead as well as those who live without kitchen facilities. If there can be a tie-in with the Farmers’ Market, great—although I’m still hoping that the school site will work out for that.”
I put my two cents in: “My idea for the Sears tower, when Mayor Belton and Council Member Brian Herron were trying to tear it down and do a strip mall, was a very under-capitalized common market.  Rent out stalls to local businesses—like an indoor farmers’ market.  The city should purchase the building and create an indoor municipal marketplace for small growers and local businesses.”
Jennifer Schultz wants “An indoor public market similar to the Westside Market in Cleveland.”
Sheldon Mains thought that was a “nice creative idea—could be relatively cheap to buy and refurbish into an indoor market—pull out the shelving and display coolers, tear down some interior partitions and the rents could be pretty low! (rent out the walk-in refrigerator and freezer spaces, if it still has the meat prep area and the bakery, rent those as daily use commercial kitchens (those may have been torn out sometime in the last 15 years).”
These pipedreams suddenly became more possible when the city discovered that it was going to have a new pot of money dropping into its lap because the tax increment districts that had been funding neighborhood revitalization are now paying off better and faster than anyone thought they would.  There could be at least $15 million more for the city over the next six years. That money was originally earmarked for neighborhood organizations, but Mayor Rybak and then-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Betsy Hodges, decided to let the money go straight into the city treasury. That process of bankrupting the neighborhood organizations ended with the total elimination of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
I have written about this for years.  In October of 2012, writing about the Rybak-Hodges’ plan, I said, “Target Center is another drain on the taxpayer. The section of the mayor’s recommended budget that deals with the funding for the Target Center is the most convoluted and confusing description of how one fund dips into another fund that merges into a new fund, etc. But there are two statements about the Center that leap off the page: ‘Under the special legislation, tax increment from the new district could only be used to pay principal and interest on Target Center bonds or for “neighborhood revitalization purposes.”  The Consolidated TIF District will generate approximately $5 million in annual net tax increment revenue in 2012 and 2013, all of which will be used for Target Center debt service.’
“The total of $10 million could have been used for “neighborhood revitalization purposes” but instead is being used to renovate the home of Glen Taylor’s Timberwolves. According to the latest Forbes ranking, Glen Taylor is Number 242 on the list of the richest persons in America, with a net worth of $1.8 billion, and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program has been starved out of existence. Is that the best deal we could get with Glen Taylor? Is this the best investment in Minneapolis’ future?”
Council Member Cam Gordon, whose ward includes the vacant Rainbow, has said he will discuss the appropriate use of the new     funds in his Health, Environment  and Community Engagement Committee.

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