Doomed Cedar Ave. building stood for 127 years

MINNEAPOLIS -- The apartment building that became the scene of a three alarm fire, which injured 14 people on New Year's Day, had has stood for 127 years in the heart of the Cedar Riverside area.

It wood frame and red brick row house style structure was built in 1886 when Lucius Hubbard was the governor of Minnesota, Grover Cleveland was the President and Minneapolis firefighters used horse-drawn wagons.

It bore witness to a rich history of immigration along the West Bank of the Mississippi River, including an influx of Scandinavian mill workers in the 1880's and, more recently, a wave of East African refugees in the 1980's.

The three-story building stood in the shadows of the Riverside Plaza, the huge high rise apartment towers with their iconic colored panels that for decades have been a familiar sight to commuters on Interstate 94 in southeast Minneapolis.

Many will remember the spot on Cedar Avenue as the original home of the Electric Fetus record store in the 1960's, when the area was filled with businesses that catered to University of Minnesota students and counter culture intellectuals.

More recently the areas has become the nucleus of the Somali and East African immigrant community in Minneapolis.

The first floor has been home of the Otonga Grocery, which drew customers from across the Twin Cities for its traditional East African spices and Halal meats, which are approved for consumption under Islamic Shari'ah law.

And immediately behind the market is the Dar Al Hij-rah Islamic Civic Center, a popular mosque.

"This has been my mosque my entire life, This is one of the biggest mosques – the biggest mosque actually – in Cedar-Riverside," Fartun Ahmad told KARE.

"And then this grocery it's well attended by the people who live here in Riverside. I know people who come all the way from Minnetonka just for this grocery store."

According to Hennepin County property records the doomed building is owned by Wadani Properties of Minneapolis. The city rental permit allows 10 full-time residents. But recent fire department inspections raised no red flags.

"We've been in the building in both 2010 and 2012. There have been no outstanding issues with the structure at this time," Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told KARE.

The owner of the grocery store told reporters Wednesday that he had been felt an "electrical shock" early New Year's Day and called 911. Minneapolis police officers had arrived at the scene to investigate the electrical issue when the fire broke out on the second floor, in what the owner described as an explosion.

Wadani Properties issued a statement saying the owners of the building we are deeply troubled by this accident, and are committed to offering support to the victims.


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