Developer duo and the Graves Foundation team up to buy a property near George Floyd Square

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Inside a Chicago Avenue Building, across the street from George Floyd Square, developer P.J. Hill is thinking about new beginnings.

“This could be a place that is a beacon of hope,” he exclaims. “My partner Dan and I are super honored to be able to own a building within the community that we grew up in, and a chance to bring the values of the community and the aspirations of the community to fruition with the ownership of this building.”

For the first time, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew got an inside look at the property, formerly known as ‘The Chicago Avenue Shops,’ along the 3728-40 section of the block.

“T.J. and Dan were the right developers to turn this building and the neighborhood into a more thriving future,” says Bill Graves, the president of the Minneapolis-based Graves Foundation. “One that really respects the historic things that happened here.”

Graves says just this past week, the foundation purchased the building for just over $1 million.

Hill and his business partner Dan Coleman are to manage and refresh the property — with the idea they would gradually take ownership over the next few years.

We asked Coleman what he’d like to see happen with the building.

“Just that it’s healthy, that other businesses are doing well,” he said. “Hopefully, we can be a ticket in the right direction, add to the other community organizations that are already in place. Just help support them.”

The centerpiece of the project is a 15,000 square foot open area on the first floor.

Hill and Coleman envision it as an arts, entertainment, and teaching space — and an economic engine for a neighborhood that’s had difficult times since Floyd’s death.

“It’s going to take time,” Coleman explains. “Economic development’s probably going to be a big focus, support by the city, private partnerships, that kind of thing.”

“We went through a really tough time for all of us in this community,” Hill adds. “Not only physically, but mentally fatigued, coming off COVID as well. We would like to make this into an event space, certainly. We can host events here, whether it’s community events, foundation events, just to bring traffic to this area.”

Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins says the city is asking the state for $25 million to invest in and around George Floyd Square.

Meanwhile, this new project has brought hope.

“I think it’s awesome, we need a place like this,” exclaims Davenia Porter, who works at City Food Studio, a food prep co-op just down the street.

She says a community center or open space would be a great resource, especially for young people in the neighborhood.

“My hope for this neighborhood is for us to come together and just — we actually need community for people to come together, think of ideas,” Porter notes. “There are so many things we need in this neighborhood. An outlet for the children. Preteens and teens are one of them.”

Graves says beyond this project, there’s a plan to eventually invest $100 million for disadvantaged youth in the metro — and for economic development in diverse, low-income neighborhoods.

“Our hope is our dollars can continue to impact the lives of young people as they move into adulthood. Education is really important to us, housing is really important to us, community is really important to us,” he says. “That there are spaces where young people feel a sense of belonging and whether that be in school, whether that be a boxing gym, whether that be spaces like this.”

Hill and Coleman says the residential section of the building already has tenants, in apartments upstairs.

They have no specific timeline, but hope to have the big first floor space open within the next few years.

The duo says it will be more than an event space, and that it will be available for all.

“I feel like, in the next three years, we’ll have things figured out. Memorials, art spaces, garden spaces,” Coleman says. “I think we’ve always has hope, we were trying to do this project two years ago, which didn’t pan out, but same hope, same vision for the positive, same ideas.”

“A thriving eco-system, where everybody can survive, no matter if you’re black, white, rich, poor, man or woman,” Hill adds. “I want you to be able to come to this community, be yourself and feel at home.”