The Cedar Riverside Partnership started a conversation about an opportunity center to integrate employment, education, and library resources in a new and accessible way that is open to all in Cedar Riverside but with a special focus on East African youth and young adults. After studying several potential locations, the new construction at 515 Fifteenth Avenue South presented an opportunity to design and build the center in a great new location. “EMERGE has a long history in Cedar Riverside,” explained Ali. “We were very pleased to be invited as one of the anchor partners.” The Cedar Riverside Partnership then led a successful fundraising campaign with key funding commitments from the McKnight Foundation, Pohlad Family Foundation, Otto Bremer Trust, Minneapolis Foundation, Pat and Tom Grossman Fund of the Minnesota Community Foundation, Mortenson Foundation, Hennepin County, and the City of Minneapolis.
Busch’s small business enterprise, located in downtown Minneapolis, won the project through the Hennepin County selection process. Busch Architects, Inc., started working on the design in June 2016. “Hennepin County kept everything organized and we began to meet with Mohamed, others from the county, EMERGE and MCTC,” said Busch. Busch and his team developed a schematic design by the end of July and started construction drawings in September and in October, project contractor Jaeger Construction was hired.
Initially, the Center had four design layouts. The open glass design was unanimously agreed upon. “East African culture is very visual,” Ali explained. “If we had walls, people would never know what's going on in here. But now they will know.” Busch added, “We wanted to expose what's happening here by having the transparency of the glass. That's why this room and the interview rooms have glass walls, so people can see what's happening in here and see that good things are happening, people are being served.”
From there, it was a quick turnaround. Construction began in November 2016 and the grand opening took place in March 2017. The overall process, including the discussion, design, and construction, took place over two and a half years. “The process was heavily influenced by community partners - Augsburg College, University of Minnesota, Hennepin County, City of Minneapolis, Busch and his team, and many others,” Ali said. “If you calculate the hours those people spent, this project is worth millions of dollars.”