In 1953 the Donovan Construction Company completed Meadowbrook Manor, located at 6860 Excelsior Blvd. Construction started in 1947. It was first advertised as having 640 units in 89 buildings, although the count was revised to 556 units in 58 buildings on 25 acres. The complex was constructed at a cost of $6 million. At the time it was the largest apartment housing project in the Midwest.
The 1950 construction photos below are courtesy of Mr. Denn Evans, Manager of Meadowbrook Manor.
At opening, rent for an efficiency apartment was $62 a month. One bedrooms went for $85, and two bedrooms peaked at $95.
The following ad for Meadowbrook Manor appeared in the October 19, 1963, issue of TV Times.
In the beginning, Meadowbrook Manor was a stylish address, serving singles, young couples, and schoolteachers in a market with few apartments. There were two community garden spots, now taken over by parking. (Community gardening has been added back in 2009.) In an era before clothes dryers were common, clotheslines were provided.
THE GREAT AUTOMAT BROUHAHA
A controversy arose when an early version of a vending machine was installed at Meadowbrook in 1955. Concerns about the freshness of the food caused many to look askance at this idea. Eventually a “Country Boy” convenience store was installed at 6920 Meadowbrook Blvd. This was an apartment that had been given a separate entrance, but has since been reverted into an apartment.
In the 1960s and ’70s Meadowbrook Manor was attractive as an inexpensive place to live and became somewhat of a party destination. Here’s a photo from May 1988 of Jeff and Mike saluting Anarchy in front of 4111 Meadowbrook. “We were an infamous part of that history. We were getting busted for loud parties pretty much every weekend. Note the collection of liquor bottles in the window. Party on, dude!” Not that we condone that sort of thing…
One drawback (and one reason for the outside partying) is that the units did not initially come with air conditioning, which was installed in the late 1990s. It was at this time that many improvements were made to the units. One big job was to remove fuel oil tanks that first provided heat for the buildings.
For many years the complex has been owned by the Bigos family.
In 2016 the property was transferred to Ted Bigos, and plans are underway to upgrade the complex. In 2017 the property was rebranded as ERA on Excelsior.
THE MEADOWBROOK COLLABORATIVE
By the 1990s the complex had become “low-income housing,” with many units rented to low-income people holding Section 8 rent supplement vouchers. Conditions were described by Linda Trummer in 2006:
“Meadowbrook [was covered with] overgrown weeds and broken glass and discarded beer cans. This was a scary place to visit in the early ’90s and an even more frightening place for good people to live. I still remember one mother telling me that the day after she moved in, she looked out the window to see the police in their SWAT gear surrounding her corner townhouse, preparing to kick in a neighbor’s door. Felony drug arrests were common a dozen years ago.”
To address these problems, the Meadowbrook Collaborative was formed in 1993, led by Linda Trummer. The Meadowbrook Collaborative is a partnership among the City of St. Louis Park, St. Louis Park School District, Park Nicollet Health Services and the Ridgedale Branch of the YMCA. The collaborative works with the Meadowbrook property owner and residents to offer services and activities aimed at ensuring that residents’ health, education and safety needs are met.
The mission of the Meadowbrook Collaborative is to enhance the self-direction of Meadowbrook residents towards the betterment of their lives in the areas of health, education and safety. Meadowbrook Collaborative was established to address the quality of life issues such as crime, truancy, serious housing code violations and leverage resources to meet families’ needs in the Meadowbrook neighborhood of St. Louis Park. Programs have been developed with a focus on health, education and safety and a mission of enhancing the self-direction of the Meadowbrook residents toward the betterment of their lives.
Initially the program was run out of an apartment at 4115 Meadowbrook Lane. A police substation shared that space. In 1995-96, a former laundromat was briefly used for youth programming. (The laundromat had been shut down when it was discovered that the water was being pumped into Minnehaha Creek.)
“The ‘Kids’ Clubhouse’ was an abandoned space filled with garbage. The police had initially used it as their “COP Shop” until their windows were shot out, and we invited them to share space. It was a cold, dirty, musty building – but it was where we met every day to play games and have a snack. That ugly old room may have been cold, but there was always a lot of warmth and laughter and love.. We built a playground and basketball court, and created a community center with a computer lab and library and warm place for kids to come after school. Later the City added a sun shelter and shade trees so we could expand outdoors during the summer months.”
In about 2003 the program moved into two combined townhouses at 4072 Meadowbrook Lane.
SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAMS FOR KIDS
Kids at Work is an early childhood initiative that helps students prepare for kindergarten. Funded by TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, it is a one of a kind program that not only teaches its young learners the skills needed for school success, but also about family and community values. Student assessment done in SY 2013-14 showed remarkable growth, and compared to students the same age across the state of Minnesota, Kids at Work children tested better.
AmazingKids is instruction time outside of the student’s regular school day. Our teacher will lead students through academic support with engaging, fun, and structured activities, which promote youth development in a variety of real-world contexts.
SUMMER PROGRAMS FOR KIDS
A program run through the City of St. Louis Park, Meadowbrook’s Summer Playground offers kids something to do during the long summer months. With a structured and disciplined approach to summer fun, kids engage in arts and crafts, sports, and literacy. Lunches are served to Meadowbrook children. An extension of the Targeted Services program, Summer’s Cool is a mid-August, two week program that helps students in grades 1 – 6 prepare for returning to a new school year. The program has a fun lesson plan that engages children in real life experiences, with emphasis on reading and math.
The Meadowbrook Collaborative is a State and national success story, and has been visited by Governor Pawlenty and First Lady Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush recognized the Meadowbrook Collaborative as an example of the type of communities in her initiative, Helping America’s Youth. “The great example that Meadowbrook is for the rest of the country is it is a housing project that’s turned into a real community where a number of groups work together to make sure all the children and adults in the community have a chance to live in a real community,” Bush said.
One of the projects organized by the Collaborative was working with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District as they cleaned up and re-meandered the creek and built walkways so that people could enjoy the creek, so close to Meadowbrook Manor.
To put into perspective just how important the work of the Collaborative has been over the years, click on Our Stories to hear people who lived at Meadowbrook over the years talk about how important the support of community was to them as they made their path to success.
Linda Trummer went on medical leave in 2016, and with the plans for the upgrades in the buildings, it is likely that it will no longer be the home of low-income people and the Meadowbrook Collaborative will be less involved.