Development update :: Open Arms

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February 15, 2010 // UPDATED 8:26 am - February 15, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

A housewarming for new Open Arms building

It took about two and a half years, but Open Arms, a city nonprofit that delivers free nutritious meals to those with serious life-threatening illnesses, completed an $8.1 million capital campaign last December for the construction of its new facility at 2600 Bloomington Ave. S. Crews spent the month of January putting the finishing touches on the building and bringing it up to code, and now volunteers are busy setting up shelving and trying out the new kitchen equipment.

A housewarming party has been planned for Feb. 23, as a sort of soft opening and a thank-you to all the volunteers who helped bring the building to fruition. Guests can take a tour of the new facility and sample treats from the new kitchen. In true housewarming fashion, a gift registry has been posted on the nonprofit’s website, listing wish list items from retail partners Target, Lowe’s, Sur la Table, Kitchen Window and Staples.

Open Arms served about 310,000 meals in 2009. With the larger new facilities, the non-profit estimates that it will double that number in 2010. The building’s grand opening is planned for June 12.


Mill City Commons, Hoffman Parkin to share office space

A condo-based “virtual retirement community” now has offices in the neighborhood it serves. Mill City Commons, a membership-based organization that provides wellness support to Downtown residents who choose to stay in their homes as they age, has set up shop in the offices of Hoffman Parkin Urban Realty, at 17 4th St. SE. Since it started up in 2008, the nonprofit had been working out of the offices of Ecumen, a senior housing provider headquartered in Shoreview.

The move Downtown allows Mill City Commons staff to engage more intimately with its members, said executive director Emily Hutchinson, who live mainly in condos on either side of the river.

“We’re really excited to be physically located where our members are physically located,” she said. “We’ve worked out a great deal with Hoffman Parkin. Of course we know Scott [Parkin]. He’s sold a lot of condos to our members, and he is very active in the neighborhood.”

Mill City Commons will host an open house on Feb. 26 to introduce the new space to its members and to advertise its services to prospective ones. The Commons is part of a nationwide trend toward “age in place” programs, membership cooperatives that provide retirees home-based services like meals, transportation, technology assistance, cultural excursions and social events. By forming tight-knit communities, Downtown retirees are more likely to be able to stay in their condos as they age.

And by having a home base for these services in their own neighborhood, Hutchinson said, members can feel even more supported.

“We want people to feel comfortable being able to stop in whenever they want to,” she said.

The new office allows for more on-the-spot services, Hutchinson said, like the monthly technology help desk, which allows members to bring in cameras, phones and printers for consultations with a tech guru.


Downtown creative vies for $50,000 Pepsi Grant

Joseph Belk, the twenty-something arts entrepreneur who founded the Downtown idea and design company Overproof, could be one month away from securing a substantial grant from Pepsi that would fund art installations in vacant Minneapolis properties.

Belk, who left Overproof in the fall of 2009,  has partnered with South Minneapolis art gallery XyandZ to organize the Community Visual Restoration Project. The project would distribute 15 micro-grants of $1,500 each to local artists intending to mount an installation in a vacant property.

The CVRP has been chosen from a national pool of over 10,000 proposals to be a finalist for a community grant sponsored by Pepsi. The soft drink giant has diverted all of its funds usually allocated for Super Bowl advertisements into monthly grants awarded to grassroots projects. Winners are decided by popular vote. Voting concludes Feb. 28, and until then, voters can vote up to ten times a day.

Belk’s CVRP is one of 729 proposals still in the running for one of February’s $50,000 grants. To vote for his proposal, visit