Effort to save Skyway Senior Center falls through

Updated: February 27, 2017 - 1:15 pm

Center is expected to close at the end of March

The Skyway Senior Center is expected to close by the end of March after the city’s negotiations with a potential new sponsor failed to produce an agreement.

Four months of exclusive talks with Ecumen, a Shoreview-based senior housing and services provider, were not enough to come up with a plan that would keep the downtown senior center’s doors open. First opened in 2001, the center has been struggling financially since a previous sponsor, UCare, ended their arrangement in 2015.

Ecumen informed the city of its decision in a letter dated Feb. 22. The center’s director, Sara Goodnough, was not in the office Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ecumen spokesman Ben Taylor said the company aimed to expand the center’s operations and impact, but doing that would require additional partnerships and more time.

“Going in, our intent was not to just keep going with the status quo,” Taylor said.

He said the company conducted a “deep-dive financial analysis” during a 120-day exclusive dealing period with the city and came to the conclusion it would take “at least double the budget, in the short run, just to get the center doing the kinds of things we thought were necessary and important.”

Patty Bowler, director of policy and program development for the Minneapolis Health Department, said the center has enough funding to remain open only through the end of March.

Bowler said the center’s budget included just one full-time employee, Goodnough. Ryan Companies donated the center’s rent, but the city paid fees for maintenance, security and cleaning, she added.

The 2,000-square-foot center is located on the skyway above LaSalle Avenue between 9th and 10th streets. It typically serves more than 70 visitors each day.