Equity Matters project takes root with predevelopment assistance
Emerging developer transforms vacant lot down the street
A new community resource for local entrepreneurs and creatives is taking root on a vacant lot in North Minneapolis. Ahmad Eltawely, who lives one block west of the site, wanted to bring a sense of place and community pride to a site where violence has deeply impacted the surrounding community.
Thanks to support from Hennepin County’s TOD Predevelopment program, Eltawely is now moving forward with a two-story mixed-use building that will include six live/work units and is anticipated to include a business incubator space and bakery. He’s named the project “Equity Matters” – a reflection of his values and goals behind the project.
With a background in single-family home development, Eltawely was looking to branch out to fulfill his vision for the vacant site, but recognized this project required new skills and knowledge.
“The Hennepin County TOD predevelopment grant allowed us to jumpstart our North Minneapolis development project,” Eltawely said. “We were paired with experienced and dedicated professionals that offered much needed support and expertise.”
Hennepin County’s TOD predevelopment program matches emerging developers with third-party design and financial consultants under contract with Hennepin County, who provide specialized services at no cost to selected developers. As part of the program, Eltawely worked closely with local teams from NEOO Partners and Van Meter Williams Pollack (VMWP) on financial feasibility and design, including zoning analysis, site feasibility, and help with the city review process.
“[Eltawely] had a deep desire to take on something more ambitious and make a meaningful impact in his neighborhood,” said Laura Shagalov with VMWP. “Mentorship by an experienced team of professionals has given him a unique opportunity to build his knowledge and capacity as an emerging developer.”
The Equity Matters project has been approved by the Minneapolis Planning Commission, and Eltawely is now pursuing final funding commitments and construction estimates to get the project underway.
Hennepin County launched TOD Predevelopment Assistance in 2022, serving 10 emerging developers in its first year. The program provides no-cost, predevelopment assistance to qualified, emerging developers actively pursuing one of their first development projects.
The program is intended to:
- Expand and diversify the pool of local real estate developers in Hennepin County
- Support emerging developers, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, to overcome barriers to accessing financial and knowledge capital to succeed in the development industry
- Build capacity of community-based developers pursuing projects in transit-oriented communities with a history of disinvestment
- Advance the goals of the TOD program in alignment with the County’s disparity reduction efforts
A second cohort of emerging developers is set to begin this spring.