Building a space for kids in North Loop

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April 25, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
NORTH LOOP — There is no shortage of coffee shops in Minneapolis. Their omnipresence is understandable — after all, who doesn’t love a good cup of java? But a coffee shop is much more than a place to grab an espresso. It’s also a place to gather, to meet with friends and to hang out.

A good coffee shop can become a beloved hub of a neighborhood, which is something Scott Woller has been working on for four years. Woller owns Corner Coffee, a North Loop coffee joint that’s much more than the name suggests. It’s also a church.

And now, there’s a playroom for neighborhood children as well.

Woller is the pastor of Corner Church, which began holding services in the Montana Coffeehouse in 2006. A year later, the church purchased the business and Corner Coffee was born. The church continues to hold services in the space every Sunday, but Woller wants the coffee shop to feel welcoming to everyone, regardless of religion.

“We want to be of value to our community,” says Woller. “We want to that sort of ‘third space’ for people — there’s home, there’s work, and there’s us, the third place to spend time. But you can’t just come in and say ‘we’re of value to the community.’ You actually have to be of value.”

Creating that value is a lot more than just offering community residents another place to spend time. It means pitching in, becoming part of the neighborhood and finding ways to make it better. “We love this place,” Woller says. “It doesn’t matter your level of religiosity, we all want where we live to be a better place.”

It’s from that mindset that events like the Corner Church’s Earth Day cleanup were born. It’s also the motivation behind the communal playroom, which has been dubbed the C.C. Kids Space.

“It was always in the place to develop a kids’ space,” says Woller. “But the neighborhood needs it now more than ever. This neighborhood is having babies like crazy.” The population boom is a natural evolution of the area. Young professionals bought into the upcoming North Loop neighborhood during the real estate boom, and now they’re having children. Whether it’s because of the economy or the amenities of the North Loop, they’re choosing to raise their kids in the condo-heavy area. And those kids need a place to play.

The C.C. Kids Space, which launched with an open house on April 16, feels like it was designed with both children and their parents in mind. In about 1,000 square feet, the basement space offers up multiple playrooms and two-floor miniature castle for kids to explore. There’s a sitting area with a leather couch and HDTV for supervising parents, and the exposed brick walls and welcoming lighting make the space feel less like a nursery and more like, well … a coffee shop. It feels friendly and safe, with just a touch of hipness.

Renovation began on the space only a little more than a month ago, with much of the hard work put in by volunteers from the church community. “This room had a lot of ragtag linoleum and wood paneling,” says Woller. “And we took out what we called the ‘interrogation lights’ to put in lighting that was much warmer and more welcoming. It was a lot of paint, a lot of cleaning, stuff like that.” And while basements aren’t typically the most friendly of locales, parents need not worry about safety. There is thickly padded carpet on the floor, four staircases leading up from the basement, and electrical that’s completely up to code.

The C.C. Kids Space is available by reservation Monday through Saturday during Corner Coffee’s regular business hours. On Sundays the space is reserved for Corner Church services, and Woller is considering running special events like children’s storytime in the space. The space is available to anyone who wants to use it, although parents must be along to supervise and Woller is considering a few different options to reserve it. And he’s very clear that you don’t have to be a member of Corner Church to take advantage of the space.

“The North Loop really started to take off about 15 years ago,” Woller says. “We’ve been here for a third of that and seen it develop a real neighborhood feel. It’s not just young professionals; there are families walking on the sidewalks. We’ve worked hard to become a part of this community, so we hope people will take advantage of that.”

Corner Coffee
514 N. 3rd St.
Twitter @CornerCoffee

Contact Jeremy Zoss at Stay tuned to the latest Journal news on Twitter @theJournalMPLS.