In the summer of 2020, Herkimer, a well loved brewery in Lynlake, closed its doors after 20 years. The building at 2922 Lyndale Ave. S has sat empty since, sans a family-run business on the second floor that makes miniatures for board games. In the meantime, the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association, otherwise known as LHENA, has been working to secure enough funding to buy the building and turn it into affordable housing. The first floor would be a commercial/retail space.

Yes, it’s unprecedented for a neighborhood organization to do this.

“I can see why,” Peter Schmitt, a LHENA board member and a main driver behind this project. “It’s very challenging.”

The project has had a few successes so far that is getting LHENA’s vision closer to a reality.

The first came in February when the City of Minneapolis approved LHENA to move $500,000 of its Neighbor Revitalization Program funds to this project fund, nominally called “Lynlake V2.” The City of Minneapolis gave neighborhood organizations Neighborhood Revitalization Funds in the late 1980s to counter "neighborhood decline." LHENA has been able to make these funds stretch over the last 30 years.

The second success is establishing a partnership with CommonBond Communities to run the affordable housing development on the site. On March 16, LHENA President Jason Garcia signed a Memorandum of Agreement with CommonBond Communities.

An informational flyer for "Lynlake V2" courtesy of Peter Schmitt.

All that is missing is more funding.

The building is for sale for $2.5 million, and no, the owners aren’t giving LHENA a deal, according to Schmitt. The building has been for sale since Herkimer closed. Schmitt didn’t express any anxiety over a buyer swooping in.

“It’s overpriced at the moment,” he said.

Schmitt said this project has received neighborhood, city and state-level support and wants to see that support turn into funding. Ward 10 Councilmember Aisha Chughtai even suggested that Schmitt apply for federal grants for this project.

At a time when Minneapolis is struggling with unsheltered people living together in encampments, finding shelter in vacant buildings and in transit stations, affordable housing projects are of great need in the city.

LHENA is also looking for a commercial partner to operate the commercial space that will be on the first floor where Herkimer used to operate.

The development plan would also build on top of the parking lot just north of the building. Schmitt said the Uptown VFW is part of the discussions around that property building built on. Uptown VFW has its own parking lot for customers in the rear of its building.