Keystone community services’ planned community food center got a $2.6 million boost from the 2023 Minnesota legislature. The funds were tucked into the bonding bill legislators passed before the session ended May 22.
Incoming Keystone President and CEO Adera Riser Cobb and operations director Julia McCarthy have been providing community groups with project updates. They met with Union Park District Council’s land use committee in May.
Demand for food and aging facilities mean Keystone needs more space. Work is underway to convert a former furniture store and transmission repair shop at University Avenue and Beacon Street into a new, 20,000-square-foot food center. Demolition is well underway and the goal is to open later this year.
The new facility would replace food shelves on University Avenue and Rice Street. It would allow for expanded and evening hours, more food storage, freezer and refrigerator space, and private space for meetings with clients.
The food shelf setup would be more like a grocery store than the typical food shelf model. “This site will be a game changer for us,” said McCarthy.
Keystone would expand its foodmobile fleet and would have secure parking for those vehicles. The theft of catalytic converters several months ago hampered the mobile food program. The fleet is two vehicles now; Keystone hopes to add a third.
Free farmers’ marks and food distribution would continue, as would home delivery of food.
The women noted the great increase in demand for food, especially from people ages 65 and older. Child hunger issues are also a big worry. Keystone has seen a 70 percent increase in demand for food over the past two years.
That demand continues. An example is March 2023, which saw 1,663 new clients. That compares to 863 new people in March 2022.
The buildings at 1790 University Ave. and 1800 University Ave. date from the early 20th century. They have off-street parking, which can be fenced and secured. Keystone is in the process of pulling needed city building permits.
Fundraising for the renovation is the focus of Keystone’s Opening Doors to Food Security campaign. The goal is to raise $8.5 million for the food center. Funding from the state provides a boost to the $4 million from individuals and foundation, and $2.7 million in city funds.
This was the second try for legislative bonding money. An attempt fell short in 2022.
Keystone is not the only area project that received legislative support. Plans for a new Playwrights Center in the University-Raymond area got a needed $4 million for its building renovation project. FilmNorth’s project in Vandalia Tower was awarded $2 million.
Reconnect Rondo’s work to study and build a land bridge over Interstate 94 got $1 million to help fund an innovation campus. The Irreducible Grace Foundation’s work toward a healing arts center for Black teens was awarded $1.5 million.
But there’s disappointing news for historic preservationists as more than $4.5 million was awarded to demolish the old Ford Motor Company building on University Avenue in Frogtown. The building, which is more than a century old, has been vacant for several years.
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