Loppet in the Camden Community

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A new neighbor in the neighborhood

With so few businesses on the Dowling corridor, it is no surprise at the amount of community interest in the building and greenhouses located at 1420 Dowling. The Loppet Foundation purchased the building back in March from long-time store owner Phillip Murphy, who ran his family’s flower and orchid business for 25 years. Much of the interest around the property has been its unique elements. Zoned for agriculture, it has a storefront with windows and boasts two greenhouses. For years, many residents have been wondering who would finally purchase the property and curious as to what it would turn into for the community.

According to NorthNews, Loppet purchased the property because “the flower shop building, with its garage doors, offices, and workshop space, will work well for the Loppet Foundation programmatically.” (Sept. 2017 issue) When I spoke with John Munger, the Executive Director of the Loppet Foundation, he spoke of his excitement to see this space used in launching their programing from right in the heart of North Minneapolis. The greenhouses were not the element that drove the sale, however, they do arouse considerable interest from neighbors and community organizations.

A building with a plan and a dream

The building/store front will remain being used for programing with Loppet. The greenhouses, however, hold the potential for growing green on the Northside. With so many special features located in one area and on one property, it is easy for residents and growers to dream of breaking through glass ceilings in building a vision that could transform the Northside. The property is located across the street from Folwell Park, it is near a main exit from I-94, and sits along a bike path. John Munger spoke to “how the property’s agricultural assets pair nicely with what they do in this location.”

I reached out to the Cleveland Neighborhood Association’s (CNA) Executive Director, Kristel Porter to hear CNA’s ideas in regards to this vision of using the greenhouse. The CNA had discussed investing in the greenhouse as a community development model.

“Before Loppet bought the property, several neighborhood groups were working together to gather the funding to purchase the building. We couldn’t do it in time. When Loppet purchased it, some groups thought it would be a great idea to lease out the space to grow food in the greenhouse, while others wanted to purchase the property the greenhouse sits on. We currently don’t have anything set in stone. We are excited about partnering with the Loppet Foundation, if they will have us, to make this vision a reality.”

While neighborhood organizations would love to be a part of bringing this dream to a reality, there is no plan as of yet to make that happen. Cleveland and Folwell neighborhoods see their role as more supportive of the cause and less leading the charge.

Neighborhood organizations have long been a part of conversations around utilizing the greenhouses to grow seeds of change. Valuing community investment, food justice initiatives, and addressing economic and racial disparities is a focus of many community members and why this project is important to them. The gift of this situation with Loppet is that while the property has been purchased, Loppet is still seeking a partner to grow into the site’s potential. Loppet is currently not focused on the greenhouse but is working towards improving the space with a new awning and garage. This does not mean however that they wouldn’t have conversations with serious interested parties.

Project Sweetie Pie is still a potential partner if a plan is brought forward. I also learned that the Park Board is interested in extending their partnership to include this location. I reached out to Kale Severson, Park Board District 2 Commissioner who serves the Northside, on his position and ideas for the space.

Severson said, “I would love to partner with Loppet. We have a great opportunity with this space to help provide jobs for the youth, create an education opportunity in how to grow plants and plant annuals for the parks. We have already partnered with Loppet with the Trailhead project on Theo Wirth Parkway and have a great relationship with them. I think it’s important that we activate the space. It has been closed off to the community for a number of years and we should be spending this time dreaming of what it could be like for the community. I want folks to remember that park space is their space and this project could reflect that.”

A greenhouse that is growing a vision

According to John Munger, a third party has evaluated the greenhouses and has estimated that it will take roughly from $70,000-$100,000 to bring them up to code and make that space usable. This number doesn’t stop him from pursuing partnerships to see this space live up to its full potential; for Loppet, the community, and whoever their partner would be. “Whoever uses the greenhouses will need to have a great relationship with Loppet as the entrance to the greenhouse is through our building and changing that would require significant funding.”

In the end, Loppet is looking forward to increasing their programing here on the Northside, and looking for the right partner to build this neighborhood cornerstone into all it could be. There are ideas, values, dreams and potential partners. Time will tell how this rare gem of urban agricultural space in the middle of the city could be activated to bring new life to the area.