Good play by Devean George

Devean George, son of north Minneapolis and real estate developer who’s about to break ground on an $11 million-plus residential-retail complex at Penn Avenue N. and Golden Valley Road, has been quietly spreading a bit of his celebrity and a lot of his time with North Side partners.

The Augsburg College graduate, who retired from the NBA in 2011, has spent several years putting together his first big North Side project and uses his North Side-based nonprofit, Building Blocks, in partnership with existing agencies that encourage family self-sufficiency, school success, job training and employment.  

Last weekend George spoke at the annual fundraiser for the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, another North Side nonprofit that works with the city and financial institutions to help working-class families buy refurbished city housing lost to foreclosure. George talked about the “continuum of housing” and how he expects to see some families at his rental units, where they also will benefit from several on-site nonprofits, get their finances together, upgrade employment and move into neighborhood houses, said Jeff Washburne, executive director of the land trust (

Washburne, who has helped nearly 200 families buy quality housing over the last decade, expects to do up to 40 transactions this year. The average purchasing family of three earns about $33,000, about half the Twin Cities average household income. Owners are disproportionately minorities and immigrants. And there have been only seven foreclosures over the years. Prospective owners go through a rigorous homeownership training program. And the CLCLT foreclosure rate is less than Minneapolis’ as a whole.

Two other multifamily projects are under construction or planned within several blocks of George’s Commons at Penn Avenue,according to the city planning agency.

Meanwhile, business is picking up for North Side architects Jamil Ford and David Witt, whose Mobilize Design & Architecture ( is the designer for Commons, as well as the under-construction Hennepin County service center on Plymouth Avenue and several other planned projects.