The John and Denise Graves Foundation is proposing 41 units of affordable housing for youth at 1930 Hennepin Ave., the site where Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse closed in May.
Bradstreet will open a new location in about 14 months at the InterContinental Hotel, currently under construction, which will be connected by skyway to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
In place of Bradstreet on Hennepin would stand Peris Housing, currently proposed at four stories.
The building would have 26 apartments to serve as affordable housing for youth, and 15 units to serve youth in extended foster care.
Denise Graves has worked as a Guardian Ad Litem, a position that aims to give abused and neglected children a strong voice in the court system, for more than 15 years.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of youth who end up aging out of foster care and literally going homeless,” she said.
The “first of its kind” program would educate students on independent living skills while they’re still in traditional foster care. Upon completion of the training, they would be eligible to live in Peris Housing. The youth could then transition into the building’s affordable housing units after age 21 if space is available. The building’s affordable housing would be open to people through age 29 making 50-60 percent of area median income, which Denise said is about $30,000-$35,000. She said she’s particularly interested in finding tenants willing to mentor youth exiting foster care.
A retail space would stand on the ground floor, which Denise said she hopes would provide jobs for the residents.
At a Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association board meeting early this month, several board members expressed “concerns and confusion about the program and building the facility at this location in Lowry Hill,” according to meeting minutes.
LHNA President Phil Hallaway said he expects to hold a community meeting in June to give neighbors a chance to learn about the development. He said the neighborhood group hasn’t taken a position yet.
“We want to examine the pros and cons of the project,” he said. “The neighborhood certainly has some questions about if this is the appropriate site for this kind of development.”
The current design includes 16 parking spaces. Denise said she doesn’t expect many residents to rely on cars. In all her years as a Guardian Ad Litem, she said she’s known one youth who secured a driver’s license. She said another new Hennepin Avenue restaurant, by contrast, would put a greater strain on parking.
The project would encompass the Bradstreet restaurant and parking lot footprint.
Denise said her husband John Graves is the brother of Jim Graves. Jim is the developer behind two area projects under construction: the Moxy Hotel at Lake & Emerson and condominiums at 31st & Holmes. Denise said the foundation approached Jim when he was looking to sell Bradstreet, because they thought the location would be ideal for youth without cars. Jim would develop the project, she said, but he is not part of the foundation.
“Hopefully we can inspire a little bit of compassion in some people,” she said. “These are kids that have had a really bad lot in life.”
Wilder Research reports that a 2015 survey of the homeless in Minnesota found 36 percent of youth age 24 or younger had spent time in foster care. Ten percent left a social service placement because they became too old to stay.
“These kids have no rental history, so trying to rent an apartment on their own is extremely difficult,” said Denise, adding that foster youth lack savings and family backing. “Some of these kids’ parents have used their social security numbers to do all kinds of things.”
A youth advisory panel is meeting regularly to help design the building, which would feature community spaces, 24-hour front desk security, case management, a fitness center and bike lounge.
“Peris” is the foundation’s internal acronym that stands for preparation, education, reparation, integration and separation.
The project is currently in the process of applying for city and state funding.
The Graves Foundation would commit funding to maintain the program for at least 10 years. C2i would provide the educational programming. The Link, based in North Minneapolis, would provide services in the building.