At Home in Harrison

Redeemer Center for Life

Funding Received: 2017
Minneapolis, MN
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
February 2, 2018

Redeemer Center for Life, founded by Redeemer Lutheran Church in 1998, will leverage its ArtPlace award to set up a housing security pipeline to support Harrison neighborhood residents interested in transitioning to home ownership or a more secure lease in North Minneapolis. In collaboration with local artist organizers and neighbors, Redeemer will deploy theatre arts interventions to erode neighborhood stratification and establish new relationships. 


Over the last two decades, Redeemer Center for Life and Redeemer Lutheran Church have acquired and rehabilitated or developed the properties comprising the Redeemer campus in the heart of the Harrison neighborhood of North Minneapolis.


In the 2000s, Redeemer purchased a building with sixteen studio apartments along with a single-family house, developed the three-story Milda’s Corner with seven family-sized apartments, offices, Milda’s Café and a chiropractic clinic and found buyers for two homes developed by Project for Pride in Living. Redeemer also acquired a street-facing retail space called the Peace Palace and outfitted the building with a dance floor and recording studio to host break dance sessions, Capoeira Angola practice and youth development through hip hop arts. Towards the end of the decade, Redeemer introduced The Living Room as a community-animated space and an Urban Farm in a side yard.


Since 2010, Redeemer purchased two properties on Glenwood Avenue and developed the Glenwood House, a duplex now housing six young adults as part of Redeemer’s Northside Leadership Project, on one of the lots. Redeemer converted the Peace Palace into Venture North Bike Walk & Coffee, a community commons and workforce training HQ, and built a bread oven with church partners and the Harrison Neighborhood Association.


Redeemer assembled this four-block campus building by building, often assuming new debt, to anchor recent high school and college graduates without rental history, people exiting incarceration, families unable to afford a market-rate 2- or 3-bedroom apartment and elders living with limited income who find their way into relationships and roles within the community.


In 2013, we recognized the Redeemer campus could eventually become an island of affordability as housing values and rents rise due to private development & public park and transit investments in Harrison, proximity to downtown Minneapolis & the high-wealth neighborhood of Bryn Mawr and city-wide housing pressures. As real estate values continued to rise, we assessed we would likely not be able to fundraise towards or finance the acquisition of enough multifamily units or single-family properties to keep pace with increasing demand for affordable rental housing.


We started to wonder whether, instead of securing funding to buy or build a single property to lease affordably, we could supply down payment assistance to position residents for homeownership – possibly through the City of Lakes Community Land Trust’s Homebuyer Initiated Program to ensure the property will be affordable in perpetuity. If this approach could work, neighbors would achieve their own site control and Redeemer could “recycle” its existing units of affordable housing as residents left behind vacancies.


Through community conversations, we sketched out three interrelated processes to realize three principle outcomes –



THE WORK / Five-member artist organizer cohorts from North Minneapolis – two over two years – will engage in serial one-to-one conversations with neighbors each month and stage theatre events at a resident’s home every other month.

THE OUTCOME / This creative organizing process will surface and illuminate neighborhood histories & resident stories, introduce neighbors to each other via serial, non-superficial encounters, inspire investment in Harrison’s social fabric & invite residents to imagine living in a neighborhood known nationally as a model for other communities aspiring to both diversity & cohesion.



THE WORK / Artist organizers and interested residents will identify and work towards their housing goals through support from relationships and resources introduced by Redeemer to facilitate their transitions and down payment assistance for the artist organizers.

THE OUTCOME / The two artist organizer cohorts – along with any interested Harrison residents who interact with the housing transition process – will transition to a lease for a next stage of life (e.g., a 2-bedroom instead of a studio) or homeownership to maintain their tenures in North Minneapolis – possibly through a City of Lakes Community Land Trust program to set up perpetual affordability.



THE WORK / We will start organizing our own supply of homes for sale, setting up community leaders / organizers / neighbors / church members to invite their networks to join a roster of current Northside homeowners committed to selling to a Northside resident. Concurrently, we will continue to position interested buyers for homeownership, fundraise to supply down payment assistance and connect committed sellers with ready buyers.

THE OUTCOME / Tenants exiting Redeemer housing to secure a next lease or homeownership will leave vacancies on Redeemer’s campus for renters seeking highly-affordable and -accessible leases. We will have a list of Northside homeowners committed to selling their homes to Northside residents positioned for home ownership to mitigate displacement.


We look forward to funding this work through our 2017 National Creative Placemaking Award from ArtPlace America and partnering with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, City of Lakes Community Land Trust, Harrison Neighborhood Association, Urban Homeworks and artist organizer Denetrick Powers through June 2020.


-by Karis Thompson, strategist, community development, Redeemer Center for Life + Redeemer Lutheran Church


Check out a 3-minute video introducing Redeemer Center for Life’s ArtPlace project.

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