Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC) is a community development agency that has served the Aurora St. Anthony, Rondo, Frogtown, and Summit University areas of St. Paul since the early 1980s. ASANDC provides a variety of services, including building and development of affordable housing and small businesses; economic development through an entrepreneurship training program; and social/human/political development with youth leadership, safety programs, a resident leadership training program, and advocacy. ASANDC envisions a community in which members support one another in addressing common challenges, building on common assets and sustaining a strong, proud neighborhood.
Affectionately known as “the block club” among long-time neighbors, ASANDC’s beginning was a crime watch group that worked together with community members to address their fundamental concerns, both large and small. “We wanted to encourage residents to fight crime to improve the quality of life,” said Nieeta Presley, Executive Director of ASANDC. “There was much disinvestment at that time, so we encouraged home ownership. We rehabbed property for new homeowners and facilitated the demolition of Category Three vacant properties.
“Since its founding, what we have really created are sustainable communities, not only home ownership for people of color and especially African Americans,” continued Nieeta. “Not everyone wants to own a home, so we also work to create multi-unit rentals and affordable community space. We want to make sure people are stable in their housing and in commercial space that is accessible.”
Besides rental property and homes, ASANDC wants to make sure people who want to own and operate a business are able to. ASANDC was the first community partner with Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), and continues to partner with this organization.
ASANDC has worked with Propel Nonprofits (formerly Nonprofits Assistance Fund) in a variety of ways for many years. “When I first arrived at ASANDC, I took some of Propel Nonprofits’ organizational trainings – budget class, legal structure, board development,” said Nieeta. “Kate Barr was on the board of NDC, so I heard about her from Mike Temali (NDC’s CEO). We met with Propel Nonprofits to explore social enterprise to expand our diversity in revenue-generating streams. I also have a good relationship with Lu (Hang) at Propel Nonprofits because we serve on the Hmong American Partnership Loan Committee together. I build relationships.”
“Nieeta is the kind of partner we enjoy getting to work with,” said Lu Hang, Loan Officer/Financial Specialist at Propel Nonprofits. “She is dedicated and passionate about the difference her organization can make in the community, and she is skillful at building relationships to bring more people into a project to generate a greater impact.”
These past interactions with Propel Nonprofits led to the most recent relationship between ASANDC and Propel Nonprofits: capital financing for a development project. ASANDC and the Sands Companies, a for-profit company, are partners on the Western U Plaza project, which is the redevelopment of the former historic Old Home Dairy site on the Central Corridor “Green Line.” Phase I contains 60 units of affordable workforce and family housing, and Phase II is a two-story mixed-use project fronting University Avenue on the northeast corner of the site.
“We had some budget constraints, and we needed some financing to build our capacity and equity,” Nieeta said. “Propel Nonprofits helped us carry our weight. They helped us come to the table with our own resources. I am glad Propel Nonprofits came with us.”
“This project is so critical for the Summit University and surrounding neighborhoods of St. Paul,” Lu said. “It offers housing and retail space on University Avenue just four blocks off Interstate 94. We are honored that ASANDC asked us to assist them in this project.”
ASANDC just received funding from DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) for capacity building, so they have talked about looking to Propel Nonprofits to help with that. “Propel Nonprofits offers a menu of services for stability and viability. We see Propel Nonprofits as a possible way to grow our own organizational capacity,” Nieeta said.
When thinking about what she would tell other nonprofits leaders about working with Propel Nonprofits, Nieeta said, “It is really wonderful to have this resource right at our fingertips. Propel Nonprofits has a menu of tools to tap into, and you don’t have to go outside of Minnesota to get them. I don’t think there are other organizations across the country offering services like NAF. You just need to connect with them.
“The leadership that founded Propel Nonprofits has a keen understanding of challenges nonprofits have. As leaders we think we know it, or we are ashamed that we don’t know it. Propel Nonprofits’ work is to help – no shame, no blame,” Nieeta said. “Thank goodness – and I might even say thank God – that Propel Nonprofits was there and was able to come in and help us.”
To learn more about Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development, click here.