The year 2020 was challenging for the Longfellow business community, particularly in the main commercial intersection of Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue referred to as Downtown Longfellow. The COVID pandemic closed restaurants and other businesses. Before the first wave had passed, the murder of George Floyd sparked civil unrest focused on the Third Precinct headquarters at Lake and Minnehaha. In the ensuing days, 17 buildings within two blocks of the Precinct were burned beyond rehabilitation. Many more were heavily damaged. The destruction affected the national chains (Target, Cub, Aldi, Auto Zone, Wendy’s, Arby’s), but most of the destroyed buildings belonged to local residents who owned both the property and the business inside. These owners lost their property and their livelihood. Worse yet, they had to pay to demolish the ruins - demolition of the Odd Fellows building alone exceeded $400,000.
These owners and other stakeholders began to meet in June 2020 to look to the future. Soon after, they formed the nonprofit Longfellow Rising to coordinate a thoughtful approach to analyzing the status quo before May 2020 and plan for a brighter tomorrow.
The mission of Longfellow Rising is to rebuild Downtown Longfellow with equity, sustainability, and belonging. As our community rebuilds a commercial district, we seek to address and remedy past practices of structural inequality, unsustainable practices, and selective inclusiveness. The desired outcome is an improvement in both the physical structures and societal structures that make up our community.
With donations and grants, Longfellow Rising worked with consultants to study key properties on the south side of Lake Street, notably including the Odd Fellows, Gandhi Mahal, and Migizi buildings on 27th Avenue. This study addressed questions of ownership, usage, parking, design, sustainability, and a focus on community access. Through community engagement, Longfellow Rising is seizing this unanticipated opportunity to pursue a collective approach to recreating this central part of our community.
Connect with Longfellow Rising by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or liking the Facebook page.
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