Little Africa Plaza
As part of an urban revitalization effort and vision to enhance the budding African Cultural District in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) group purchased a vacant commercial building constructed in 1926 along the busy Snelling Avenue.
AEDS’s goal for this new space is to support ethnic retail entrepreneurs and to house their own growing team. Built within a neighborhood commercial center, the location proves its relevance as a prime space for a new ethnic grocery store with enclosed parking, two independent retail spaces, an art sales room/community room and office space for AEDS team members.
This [project] symbolizes how the city and state are supportive of economic development within the community. It highlights the city; it highlights the state. And making this as the center of cultural entrepreneurship will have a positive impact on the region.
President and CEO
African Economic Development Solutions
The building’s Art Deco-motif exterior is virtually unchanged from its 1926 beginning as a showroom for the first generation of mass-produced, affordable cars. The building is 24’4″ tall at its highest point, with a mezzanine toward the street front, retail space on the south half of the building, and interior parking in the north section of the building interior.
The street façade is defined by ornate arched parapets that create overall symmetry and segment the building façade into three parts. The red brick used to complete the exterior is set in a bond pattern with some soldier coursing at the base. A yellow, raked-face brick is integrated as an accent beneath the storefront and as banding approximately half-way up the façade. This same yellow brick is used to create ornate Art Deco motifs between the storefront bays, on top of the street façade, and around the mezzanine windows.
The exposed steel roof trusses and wood joists in the interior create an attractive industrial aesthetic. The simple, clean lines of the building motifs lend themselves well to complement the African cultural textile references (inspired by fabrics on display in the University of Minnesota’s Joanne B. Eicher African Textile Collection) woven into the planned interior finishes.