Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Historic Library to Become 21st-Century Jobs Center

When Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan's mother needed a break from her four spirited young boys, she would often send them to the North Branch Library near their North Minneapolis home.  She knew how to make sure they actually made it there.

"We had to bring back proof," Dolan said.  

One time Dolan brought back Homer's Odyssey.  A librarian had suggested he read it.  He did and he loved it. 

"This library was a very special thing for us," Dolan told community members in the fall of 2009.

It has been decades since the old North Branch Library served the community like it did when Dolan was a boy.  The community eventually outgrew the library, located near West Broadway, and it closed in 1977.  The rare Chateauesque-style building, built in 1893, retains its historical significance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, a non-profit called Emerge Community Development envisions new life for the oldest public library building in the Twin Cities.  With help from a $150,000 grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, Emerge is creating a Career and Technology Center where people of all ages will have much-needed computer access and training.

"(The Center) will bring jobs to an area where they are greatly needed, create pathways into technology careers of the 21st century and revitalize an important historic landmark," said Lance Knuckles, Emerge's Director of Community Strategies.

Emerge staff believe the Career and Technology Center will bring substantial economic benefits to the neighborhood.  A study commissioned by the city of Minneapolis found that 45 percent of households in North Minneapolis have no computer access in the home while almost 70 percent of jobs require technical skills. Staff predict the center will provide more than 1,000 neighborhood residents with computer access and training every year. 

Emerge also projects the Career and Technology Center will help place clients in more than 300 jobs in its first ten years of operation.

The ACHF grant is funding an architectural assessment of the building and development of a design for the building's renovation.

Meanwhile, Emerge has raised almost 70 percent of its $4.4 million goal and expects to begin construction on the old North Branch Library in early 2011. 

"(The center) will serve as a catalyst for further revitalization efforts along North Minneapolis' most important commercial corridor," Knuckles said.

Knuckles predicts the old library's new mission will have a profound social and economic impact in North Minneapolis, an area hit hard by the recession and an area where staff say greater access to technology is imperative.

"I'm glad to see this grand old building will again be something useful for the community," Dolan said.


See Project Details


This site is updated regularly with descriptions and data related to Legacy projects funded through the Minnesota Historical Society by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF).
Further information about the use and impact of all Legacy Funds can be found on the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission's Minnesota's Legacy site.