New Walgreens, health clinic coming in Central Ave shakeup

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August 21, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
A rendering of the new Central Clinic at 2301 Central Ave NE
submitted rendering
Ben Johnson
A $3 million federal grant won by Neighborhood HealthSource started chain of events affecting three Central Ave businesses

The Walgreens and Neighborhood HealthSource clinic on Central Avenue are shifting down the street as part of a multifaceted land deal that will bring two new buildings to a booming section of the Northeast thoroughfare.

The deal was set in motion in May 2012, when Neighborhood HealthSource received a $3 million grant through the Affordable Care Act to replace its aging Central Clinic at 2610 Central.

Neighborhood HealthSource originally planned on using the money to renovate and expand its building. It had already begun acquiring adjacent properties for the project when Walgreens, located across the street at 2643 Central, called looking to buy its property.

“We were open to discussing terms with Walgreens, but of course then the question was ‘well, what happens to us?’” said Neighborhood HealthSource Executive Director Steve Knutson.

After a short search Knutson discovered Methven-Taylor Funeral Homes was willing to sell its funeral chapel three blocks south at 2301 Central. Methven-Taylor Funeral Homes had been looking to consolidate its operation to another one of its locations just two miles north off of Central in Columbia Heights.

With a new location in the neighborhood secured, Neighborhood HealthSource completed a complex land deal with Walgreens and Methven-Taylor earlier this year. Walgreens now owns the Neighborhood HealthSource building and rents it back to the clinic while both seek city approval for the new buildings, and Methven-Taylor has already moved out of its chapel at 2301 Central, which is now owned by Neighborhood HealthSource.

The former Methven-Taylor funeral chapel will be converted into a new health clinic -- photo by Ben Johnson

The funeral chapel will likely be torn down in September and Neighborhood HeathSource hopes to have its new two-story, 13,000-square-foot Central Clinic open by February.

Once Neighborhood HealthSource moves into its new Central Clinic, Walgreens will demolish the old Central Clinic and several surrounding buildings and begin building a new, 14,800-square-foot location taking up the northwest corner of 26th and Central.

A spokesperson for Walgreens said all prescriptions and employees will be automatically transferred to the new store with no interruption in service.

Booming Central

Ward 1 City Council Member Kevin Reich says the demolition of the Highland Market and neighboring vacant furniture store next to the Central Clinic will help clean up the problematic 26th and Central intersection. Highland Market has caused headaches for the neighborhood and city staff for years, with numerous complaints registered for loitering and allegations of criminal activity.

According to the city, there were 41 police calls to the property in 2012 and Jibrell Ibrahim Hassan, the Highland Market’s owner’s son, was arrested in 2011 possessing 10 EBT cards and a stolen credit card.

“People are getting psyched up for when Walgreens goes in, in part because of what’s getting knocked down,” said Reich. “It was a very problematic structure and we did a lot of work just to keep a lid on it.”

On the south side of 26th and Central, the Eastside Food Co-op is pursuing an expansion that will more than double the size of its sales floor, and across the street Aki’s Bread Haus opened in May. Aki’s neighbor, Fair State Brewing Co-op, is hoping to open before the end of summer.

“It seems like everyone is pushing from different angles to support the Main Street of Northeast,” said Reich.

Neighborhood reaction

There was some initial concern among neighborhood residents over Neighborhood HealthSource’s plan to demolish the stately brick funeral chapel and take out several of the mature trees on the property.

“We want to hold onto the good old buildings as much as we can. Why tear something down if it’s perfectly good?” asked Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association President Adelheid Koskie. “

Over the last month Knutson and his design team met with both Holland and Windom Park neighborhood groups to explain the funeral home’s staggered first floor was an awful fit for a health clinic, and after some discussion the plan earned unanimous support from both groups.

“It’s pretty clear that both Steve and his design team worked really hard to make it the best possible building within the parameters they have, and I think that’s the best thing we can ask for,” said Koskie.

A view of the new clinic from the south -- submitted rendering

Neighborhood HealthSource provides basic and preventative health care for patients who are typically uninsured or on Medicaid.

Knutson said the new Central Clinic will be the largest of Neighborhood HealthSource’s four locations, and it will add six jobs to the neighborhood.

Its oldest clinic is the Fremont Clinic, which opened in north Minneapolis in 1971. The organization was named Fremont Community Clinics until it rebranded as Neighborhood HealthSource in 2010.

Neighborhood HealthSource also operates a clinic in the Sheridan neighborhood, which opened in 1995, and a clinic in the Heritage Park Senior Services Center in north Minneapolis, which opened in 2011.