The previously vacant industrial building that once housed a print shop has been transformed into an attractive space with large windows and features an intricate bicycle rack designed by Juxtaposition Arts. The local artists are currently working on an additional sculpture planned for the site.
"It's a beautiful building," said Minneapolis City Councilman Blong Yang (Ward 5), who represents the area. "This is going to provide a wonderful opportunity for people who don't always have access to reliable transportation. This is a good start, and just the first of many steps (we'll be) working on to make the area more beautiful."
Hennepin County has entered into a long-term lease on the newly refurbished building with its owner, the Twin Cities-based Ackerberg Group. A community benefits agreement was made last year between the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, the county, and the building's owner as part of the planning process for the human services offices, which included hiring goals for women and minorities.
"This is an extraordinary thing to have right here in the neighborhood. It says a lot to the great things about the city and where we're going," said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
After a community engagement process earlier this year, Hennepin County decided on additional weekly service center hours, when residents can apply for a variety of licenses and permits and receive a full range of financial, social and public health services. County staff members have been working at the site since late June, acclimating to a new way of business that officials say allows clients to complete a broader needs assessment, apply for assistance, and get referrals to other services, including local community agencies and faith groups.
"We heard from residents that they would like more services to be offered," said Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins (Dist. 2). "I am so proud of all the people working at Hennepin County who had the vision to bring public service offices to the people, instead of making people come to the office."
The new location is only one piece of a larger plan to expand access to human services from a concentration of offices in downtown Minneapolis, to six sites across the county –closer to where residents live, work, and attend school. Hennepin County Human Services has two additional offices already in operation, one in Brooklyn Center and another in Bloomington. A west suburban office in Hopkins is expected to open later this year, and two more locations are currently being planned for northeast and south Minneapolis.
"This building is a great representation of the efforts made to decentralize public services and make them more available to people," said Minnesota State Senator Bobby Joe Champion (Dist. 59). "The services provided here will also give people a stepping stone to getting themselves out of poverty."
Hennepin County officials said the county will continue to partner with established north Minneapolis nonprofits and community resources to offer residents a full spectrum of services. Officials said rather than taking time from work and school to make the trip downtown, the transit-friendly site allows Hennepin County clients to integrate needed visits with their financial workers and other county staff into their everyday routines.
"Government, at the end of the day, is how we figure out how to live together and prosper together," said Rep. Keith Ellison (Dist. 5). "This is how we come together and demonstrate the compassion that we have for one another."