Large-scale redevelopment in the works for Cedar-Riverside community center

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For 17-year-old Mohamed Adan, the Brian Coyle Community Center is much more than just a place to play basketball. It’s an enclave of safety and friendship.

“It’s amazing to be around your friends and stuff,” he said. “It really keeps the kids busy, and that’s what I like the most, keeping the kids off the street.”

Many consider the three-decades-old center the lifeblood of the densely populated Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. About 10,000 people live in the area.

“It is really sort of a central focus, a heart of the community,” said Dan Elias, a project manager with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “We hope a new rec center could perpetuate that to the future.”

Now, Park and Rec managers are considering a plan to double the size of the center, modernize it, perhaps move it to a new location and build a second facility near Augsburg University. It's an ambitious proposal that could cost tens of millions of dollars.

“Are you excited about the potential new building?” Center Development Director Amano Dube was asked.

“Yes, extremely,” he smiled. “People from all walks of life come for our programming, for our services, from learning English to accessing food in our food shelter.”

Dube said the change is overdue.

He said as many as 600 people use the facility every day for recreation, language classes, financial training and after-school activities. It's a place that welcomes generations of immigrants and newcomers to the Twin Cities.

“It is the lifeblood,” he said quietly. “It’s where everybody, you know, a lot of immigrants start their life here and move on to be integrated into the American system.”

For young people, it’s a place to hang out in safety.

“It really helps kids not join in gangs, in any other places,” said Hamdi Mohamed, who grew up in Cedar-Riverside but now lives in St. Paul. “It just helps them with their homework. They have a technical center, they have school in there, just to play music.”

Hamdi, 16, a junior at Gordon Parks High School, said her mother emigrated from Somalia but wanted her to be able to successfully integrate into American society without sight of her heritage. She hopes the renewed center will help others, both old and young.

“My mom was like, 'I need my kids to grow up with people like them so they can understand each other and learn how to speak with others,'” she said.

Right now, the project is very much in the planning stage. There will be a public review process and a search for funding, but a possible opening for these two new centers could happen as early as 2024.

“There’s an opportunity to build a large gym space, more health and wellness spaces, potentially fitness,” Elias said. “People have their home, they often have their work, they often have a third place, and this represents a third place for many people."