I want to pass along an end-of-year update on the purchase of our former office at 911 West Broadway in Minneapolis.
As we all know the NOC office was burned to the ground on April 15th in an unsolved arson. We made a commitment to ourselves and the community to buy back the vacant lot and begin a process of rebuilding. The purchase process was long and convoluted, including fundraising the initial $25,000 asking price, consulting with agents and lawyers, negotiating a second and inflated verbal agreement of $50,000, preparing additional legal documents and investing hundreds of hours in collective staff, board and member time in the process.
Months of negotiations were nearing an end when suddenly and without warning the current owner backed out of the deal - just hours before signing the final and legally binding purchase agreement. He has refused further communication and is no longer willing to sell us the property.
We don't know why the owner has chosen to end conversation with us. We don't know why he's refusing to sell. But we do know that he has received at least one offer from a local developer. And we know that his refusal to communicate and/or offer an explanation for his refusal to sell has added another layer of insult to an already insufferable situation. His final quote to me: "I'm done with this. I don't owe you an explanation."
Sadly, this new development is actually a fundamental tenet of how our economy works: a wealthy few are allowed to profit from the pain and misfortune experienced in under-resourced communities and communities of color. While the arson that destroyed our office and much of the block remains unsolved, disaster capitalists are swarming the area with pre-packaged development deals. If history is any indication, the fate of our vibrant block on a prime commercial corridor will be decided by investors far removed from the benefit of local residents.
Access to wealth and ownership in communities of color have historically been the right of a very select few. Deliberately placed obstacles to stable and living wage employment coupled with denied access to credit are centuries-old barriers. Land theft and property seizure date back to the nation's founding. Leveraging natural and man-made disasters to lay claim to resources is not a new concept. Yet all of these factors are very alive in modern Minnesota.
Despite the incredible outpouring of support from the community, access to legal support and real estate agents, the goodwill and financial backing of hundreds of community members like yourself who chipped in, and the ability to deliver a cash transaction, we were still denied access to the title of our former office. The structural barriers to ownership were all too real, even for us.
Know this: Despite the current barriers, our dream has not been deferred. Our vision for a permanent space to grow, dream, build, and organize isn't about one decision or one piece of land. It's about creating an organizing home and community space that reimagines the future of NOC and West Broadway, a space that dares to make the impossible possible and anchor a radically progressive future rooted in the needs and aspirations of the people. We believe this setback will lead us to new opportunities and new beginnings.
Now we need your help to imagine what that path looks like. We'll be in touch in January about a community gathering to develop this vision together and create next steps. Stay tuned. We need your voice.
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank everyone who chipped in to help us raise the money to buy back the land. The resources are waiting to be invested in the spirit in which they were intended. We can't wait to work with you in 2016 to imagine our long-term organizing home and the future we all deserve.