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Soon-to-open Co-op at center of gentrification debate in south Minneapolis

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The arrival of a store selling fresh produce and groceries in south Minneapolis has proven more controversial than expected – because of concerns about gentrification.

The Seward Community Co-op will open its "Friendship" store on 38th St. and 3rd Ave. this Tuesday, its second outlet in south Minneapolis, having had a store in various sites on Franklin Avenue for more than 40 years, according to its website.

But CityPages reports that the co-op's arrival in its new location has not been welcomed by all, with an online petition of more than 1,000 signatures against the outlet being compiled as part of a campaign under the banner of the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CANDO) and the Bryant Neighborhood Organization.

Their concern? That the opening of the Co-op is a sign of "gentrification" in the area that would see many of the local neighborhoods' priced out from buying produce, while the staff at the Co-op would "not reflect the neighborhood's diversity," the magazine notes.

"We want them to succeed, but we also need to take in mind that the community needs to do well," Henry Jimenez, of CANDO, told CityPages. "We all need to do well together. I know that that’s an interest of the co-op and I do believe we can come to an agreement that benefits everybody."

Fortunately there appears to have been a breakthrough that could lead to a detente between the neighborhood groups and the Co-op, with KSTP reporting that a tentative framework agreement on how it will proceed has been reached.

One of the things requested by the campaigners was more diversity and localness among staff, which appears to have been achieved with 61 percent of staff being people of color, and half of staff living within a mile of the store.

Jimenez told KSTP he is also hoping that a discount for low-income community members can be higher than the 10 percent currently offered.

There was also talk of a higher minimum wage for staff being discussed, but store manager Sean Doyle expressed concerns that all the demands made by the groups would be enough to send the store under.

Now though, there are hopes an accord will be reached, with Doyle telling KSTP: "We can work together to look at cooperative and community based economic development to offset the risk of gentrification."

The Star Tribune reported last year that Minneapolis is one of the fastest gentrifying cities in the country, with income rising at a higher pace than any of the city's suburbs leading to a short toward higher-income neighborhoods.

But despite gentrification in other cities being notable for wealthy residents displacing low-income households, Macalester College geographer Daniel Trudeau said that isn't always the case in the Twin Cities, noting that the gentrification of the North Loop has "mostly happened without displacing anyone."

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