MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A former NBA star has returned to his roots in North Minneapolis to make a difference.
Former LA Laker and Augsburg College standout Devean George is the driving force behind a new development in North Minneapolis.
He and a former classmate hope their affordable housing unit near Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road will be a catalyst for positive change.
A high-traffic area known for violence and crime is being converted into a place where people can live, shop and thrive in the heart of North Minneapolis.
The corner of Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road will soon be home to 47 affordable apartment homes.
"Housing, I believe, is the foundation to doing whatever you want to do," George said.
George is the force behind the movement to make positive change in a neighborhood where people deal constantly with life's challenges.
"If you don't have stable housing, you're not worried about education, you're not worried about eating healthy, you're not worried about anything else," George said.
George knows the plight of the people in this community because this is where he is from.
His father lives two blocks away from the project. He and his childhood friend, architect Jamil Ford, dreamed about and are now making reality.
"We grew up here," George said. "We grew up together. We grew up on these streets. We grew up on these corners. We grew up catching the bus right here. So this is kind of a special project to us."
People here have to travel miles to a grocery store. That's why the project includes a grocery co-op.
For George, this is all about creating a space where people can have the amenities needed to thrive.
"That's what people look for when they go live in a neighborhood," George said. "Where's my grocery store? Where is my movie theater? Where can we go eat? Where can our kids go play at a park? And this was just a place where there is just housing."
George says giving people space to live was important.
"Nice space, obviously," George said. "If I can't reach the ceiling, we got room."
The entire first floor is dedicated to after-school programs for children who live here.
"This is just the start," George said. "This is just the catalyst of everything that's going to go on."
George and Ford say they have plans to build more in this neighborhood.
They hope their vision is contagious and more effort goes into transforming North Minneapolis into a destination for families.
"We want all the people who are products of North Minneapolis to be able to come back and contribute to their community and make an impact," George said.
George said he has been contacted by other people who grew up in North Minneapolis, like Rashad Vaughn.
Vaughn went to Robbinsdale Cooper High School and was recently drafted in the NBA.
George says Vaughn wants to give back, and he expects big things from him.
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