On a Friday in May, drywall, bricks, steel beams, and cement floors formed the backdrop for a morning of interviews at the 927 Building on West Broadway Avenue. The building’s equity partners, TRI-Construction co-founders Calvin Littlejohn and Lester Royal and Dean Phillips, co-chair of the Phillips Foundation’s board, were nostalgic as they talked about what its redevelopment means to them—personally as well as professionally.
All three men came from families that emphasized the importance of hard work, community service, and a commitment to racial equity. These shared values helped bring them together in 2020 to invest in North Minneapolis by securing redevelopment rights to the city-owned 927 Building. Long vacant, the 130-year-old building will soon reopen as freshly renovated office and retail space.
With construction nearing completion, the partners anticipate moving in later this summer. The Phillips Foundation, which sparked the plan when it decided to relocate its offices to North Minneapolis, will invest $7 million in the project. TRI-Construction, which will also have its headquarters in the building, plans to buy out the Foundation’s equity interest over the next 10 years, ultimately taking sole ownership of the building.
The 19,000-square-foot building is a landmark in a neighborhood that holds great meaning for both the local Jewish community, which had a large Northside footprint a century ago, and for today’s African American community. Dean, Lester, and Calvin are among the Minnesotans whose families came to North Minneapolis in search of stability and prosperity.
The Phillips family’s roots in the community go back to Rose Phillips’ parents, Russian Jewish immigrants who lived there during the first decades of the 20th century. For Lester Royal, the Northside is where he came to join a sister and build his career after growing up in Los Angeles.
Calvin Littlejohn grew up in North Minneapolis, but his family is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Raised on stories about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which destroyed a predominantly African American commercial district once known as “Black Wall Street,” Calvin went on to build his own successful business in the community where his mother raised him and four siblings.
When the 927 Building reopens this year, the partners hope it will continue their families’ legacies by providing a space for local residents to pursue their dreams and, in doing so, strengthen their community. In addition to providing a home for the Foundation and TRI-Construction, the building will lease space to small businesses and serve as a venue for community meetings and events.
If all goes as planned, a building that was long vacant will be brought to life again by the cross-cultural dreams, work, and narratives of Northsiders.