Former NBAer looks to net donations for Minneapolis housing development

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Former pro basketball player Devean George hopes the non-profit group he leads will break ground this summer on a housing development in his native Minneapolis.

But while those 45 units of affordable housing for low-income families are getting lined up, George's group also faces a deadline for raising a more modest sum to provide kids in his old north side neighborhood mentorship programs and summer activities.

The operations director of George's non-profit, Building Blocks, tells KSTP the goal is to raise $15,000 by Feb. 15. As of Sunday the group was a little over 60 percent of the way there, according to Building Blocks' running tally.

The cause is dear to George, who gained fame during an 11-year NBA career that included three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. His pro career followed success at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Benilde-St. Margaret's High School.

As Finance & Commerce reported in 2012, the housing development George is planning would replace five vacant lots at the corner of Penn Ave. and Golden Valley Rd.

That's just a few blocks from where George himself grew up. Building Blocks' director of development, Craig Slaughter told Finance & Commerce “The intersection itself needs a lot of development. The corner is very crime-ridden. It’s a corner that needs a lot of attention.”

In an interview with the Star Tribune last summer, George recounted seeing an apparently random drive-by shooting that left an 11-year-old boy dead. His former coach at Augsburg tells the newspaper the experience left George with a new determination to make the NBA and improve his family's situation.

His father told the Star Tribune he approached George about doing something to benefit the kids of the neighborhood. “A lot of kids around here need something to do. There should be more than just hearing gun shots,” Eddie George Sr. said. “There is still good around here. Devean came from the ghetto. Raised in the north side and stayed in the north side.”

Building Blocks has been working with the city, the Metropolitan Council, and a state housing agency to put together the $11.5 million to fund construction of The Commons on Penn Ave.

As for the money for youth activities, Building Blocks has until Saturday to reach its $15,000 goal.

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