Two new downtown school buildings and a new parking facility – collectively named the Minneapolis Education Center – will be dedicated at a ceremony that will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23. The center is located on 10th Street between Hennepin and LaSalle avenues.

Located directly across 10th from St. Thomas’ original downtown campus, the Minneapolis Education Center consists of:

  • The Interdistrict Downtown School, located on the northeast corner of 10th and Hennepin, is a K-12 school built by the West Metro Education Program, a consortium of nine Minneapolis area school districts. It is the first elementary or high school built in the downtown area in more than 70 years.
  • Opus Hall, located on the northwest corner of 10th and LaSalle, is the new home of the University of St. Thomas School of Education.
  • The Hennepin at 10th Municipal Parking Ramp is a three-level, 640-car public parking ramp that the city of Minneapolis built and now operates beneath the two school buildings.

The dedication is free and open to the public. The ceremony will be followed by a light lunch and tours. Reservations are not required, but those with questions are invited to call (651) 962-4000.

The dedication’s keynote speaker will be Dr. James Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University of Medicine’s Child Study Center. Described by the New York Times last year as “one of the most celebrated school innovators of his time,” Comer is an African American whose thinking is central to the development of the Interdistrict Downtown School. He founded in 1968 a School Development Program that brings together parents, educators and the community to improve social, emotional and academic success.

Comer is the author of six books; the most recent, published in 1997, is Waiting for a Miracle – Why Schools Can’t Solve Our Problems – And How We Can.

Also speaking at the ceremony will be

  • Dr. Barbara Shin, principal of the Interdistrict Downtown School,
  • Dr. Richard Podemski, dean of the St. Thomas School of Education,
  • Dr. Robert Brown, longtime professor and member of St. Thomas’ Educational Leadership Department,
  • Margo Lloyd, a doctoral student in St. Thomas’ critical pedagogy program and an associate professor of education at North Central University.

The Minneapolis Education Center can trace its origins to a metro desegregation agreement that was reached 10 years ago by the boards of the Minneapolis Public Schools and several suburban school districts. That agreement led to the creation, by Minneapolis and its eight contiguous suburban school districts, of the West Metro Education Program and a proposal to create three interdistrict magnet schools.

In 1996 St. Thomas and WMEP began exploring possibilities for a joint downtown project proposed for a site north of St. Thomas’ downtown campus. In March 1997 plans were announced for the Interdistrict Downtown School, Opus Hall and the city parking ramp following Minneapolis City Council approval of a proposal to purchase the land and build and operate the ramp.

A joint groundbreaking ceremony for the three-part project was held in October 1997.

The school districts received a $10 million state appropriation for its 85,000-square-foot Interdistrict Downtown School. It was designed by the Cuningham Group and built by Knutson Construction Services.

The $14.5 million, 98,000-square-foot St. Thomas building was named Opus Hall in recognition of a $2 million gift toward the project from the Opus Corporation. Opus built the St. Thomas building and parking ramp, with Opus Architects and Engineers designing those projects.