Rondo Inc. buys little-used church next to historic plaza

Marvin Anderson woke up Saturday morning with an epiphany. He’s not entirely sure how the donors who have helped him acquire a small church in St. Paul’s Summit-University neighborhood will take it, but on Tuesday morning, he plans to spring the idea on them anyway.

Perhaps fittingly, he’ll offer an apology for the late notice.

“Why not have a place and a program where people can come and atone?” said Anderson, a co-founder of the neighborhood’s Rondo Days Festival. “If Rondo and the state and the city can make peace, why not other organizations vs. people, or people vs. people?”

Atonement is a reoccurring theme for Anderson, a former state law librarian and co-founder of the nonprofit Rondo Inc. As a community elder, he’s spent decades dedicated to capturing the history of the historically black St. Paul neighborhood that was uprooted by construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950s and ’60s.

He’ll make his pitch Tuesday morning to representatives of the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, as well as the Rotary Club of St. Paul and his personal friend Jim Gerlich, who runs the Cedarwoods Foundation.

Together, the three institutions raised $150,000 so that Anderson and the nonprofit he co-founded, Rondo Inc., could buy the New Jerusalem Baptist Church at 315 N. Fisk St., bordering the new Rondo Plaza.

Anderson hopes to convert the 1940s-era building into a community meeting space, and perhaps a museum dedicated to the history of the Rondo neighborhood. Church members said the elderly congregation had dwindled over the years to roughly 11 occasional attendees.

Now, he’d like to add a third angle: an official space for reconciliation and atonement. Whether or not that idea flies, the building sale closed last week, Anderson said.

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