St. Louis Park’s Meadowbrook Collaborative is undergoing a transition

A boy plays a racing game involving batting a balloon with a paper plate while running Aug. 1 at the Era on Excelsior in St. Louis Park. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A Meadowbrook Collaborative participant puts some effort into popping a balloon after a leader gave the kids permission to do so Aug. 1 at the Era on Excelsior. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A Meadowbrook Collaborative participant puts some effort into popping a balloon after a leader gave the kids permission to do so Aug. 1 at the Era on Excelsior. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A boy holds a balloon like a basketball while playing at an Aug. 1 lunch for Meadowbrook Collaborative students after the nonprofit’s townhouses closed July 31. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A girl keeps a balloon from hitting the ground while keeping it aloft with a paper plate. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A girl keeps a balloon from hitting the ground while keeping it aloft with a paper plate. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) Girls participating in a Meadowbrook Collaborative lunch enjoyed snacks. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) The Meadowbrook Collaborative will be able to use a new Era on Excelsior clubhouse twice a week. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) The Meadowbrook Collaborative will be able to use a new Era on Excelsior clubhouse twice a week. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A worker moves equipment Aug. 1 into a townhouse vacated by the Meadowbrook Collaborative the previous day. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe) A sign for the Meadowbrook Collaborative still hangs is still displayed inside a townhouse window Aug. 1, the day after the nonprofit had to move out. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)
<
>
A boy holds a balloon like a basketball while playing at an Aug. 1 lunch for Meadowbrook Collaborative students after the nonprofit’s townhouses closed July 31. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

The Meadowbrook Collaborative could not host a National Night Out party this year, but the nonprofit provided lunchtime games and a picnic for children it has served out of a pair of townhouses.

The collaborative has packed up until late September after Golden Valley-based Bigos Management decided to renovate and rent the two townhouses that the nonprofit has used for programming.

Although Debbie Wells, the collaborative coordinator, will relocate her office to Lenox Community Center, the nonprofit will continue to provide programming for children twice a week in a newly added clubhouse at the complex.

The property changed names from Meadowbrook Manor to Era on Excelsior Apartments and Townhomes. The development is completing an 18-month period of renovations on the 550 apartments and townhouses in the development, which dates back to 1947.

“We are proud to be able to give new life to this vibrant community, and are excited to be celebrating the beginning of this new Era with our residents, many of whom have endured this renovation from day one,” said David Keinert, director of marketing with Bigos Management, in a statement.

Of the nonprofit that will relocate, Keinert said, “The Meadowbrook Collaborative has done many great things for this community. We are thrilled to be sharing our new space with them, and to continue the school programming that the children here thrive on.”

The collaborative left its dedicated space at the end of July, but Wells and members of the Summer Stretch youth program with Wooddale Lutheran Church provided balloons and lunch to kids Aug. 1 at a picnic shelter behind the townhouses that have housed the collaborative. Renovation activities had already begun in the townhouses.

Wells said the collaborative did not host a National Night Out party for the first time in many years because of management concerns that Aug. 1 would be a prime day for moving in or out of the complex.

The lunch served to bookend the collaborative’s presence in the space it has long used, Wells said.

Some activities have continued despite the transition. The collaborative hosted the city’s Summer Playground program this summer, although Wells said she did not know if Bigos Management would host the program next summer. She said the management would allow the collaborative’s school-year program to continue in the clubhouse. Bigos will allow the collaborative to cook meals in the new space and provide homework help.

The Park Nicollet Foundation, city and school district still support the collaborative financially.

“The biggest different is there isn’t space here any more, and I won’t have dedicated space at the clubhouse,” Wells said outside a townhouse that still contained a sign for the collaborative.

Wells anticipates she would likely be at the clubhouse for the school-year programming Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Even though programming is in flux, Wells said she planned to bring kids on a field trip at the end of August to Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista. The goal is to provide the kids with a fun day trip and to remind them that the collaborative will be available to help them later.

“There’s been a lot of transition here with the residents,” Wells said. “There’s bound to be new kids. They’ll get to know me and the teachers.”

The collaborative provided summer programming this year amid a St. Louis Park School District three-week summer school period shortened by construction at district schools. The collaborative worked with district administrators to provide a program for children in the Meadowbrook Neighborhood as well as Courtyard Apartments and Park Glen Apartments.

“There’s a phenomenon called ‘summer slide’ with kids who don’t have as many economic advantages,” Wells said. “Research shows they do far less well in terms of retention than middle-class kids.”

With the help of grant funding, the collaborative used a bus to pick up kids from the three complexes and bring them to Susan Lindgren Elementary School. Three teachers from the school provided academic assistance for five weeks at the school’s media center. Nearly 40 students enrolled.

Going forward, Wells said the Era on Excelsior clubhouse will provide more room than the townhouses contained. The downside, Wells said, is that the townhouses had been designed “to be super, super kid-friendly.”

She said of the new location, “It’s a wonderful, big space, but it’s more like a party room, you know?”

The collaborative will have storage space in the new space, and Wells indicated she anticipates continuity.

“Kids are always great, right?” Wells said. “The kids are who we’ve already done this for, and the kids are always the same that they’ve always been.”

She said, “The work continues.”