Bing tracking

Augsburg University to Sell East Franklin Avenue Property to Somali Museum of Minnesota

Augsburg University and the Somali Museum of Minnesota today announced an agreement for Augsburg to sell the former Bethany Lutheran Church property at 2511 East Franklin Avenue to the Somali Museum in order to develop a permanent museum facility and cultural center. 

Since 2020, the university has worked with community-based developer Redesign (formerly Seward Redesign) to identify a financially sustainable, community-serving use for the property that contributes to the vitality of the East Franklin Avenue corridor. The church building and property were donated to Augsburg in May 2020 before the Bethany Lutheran congregation dissolved in September 2021. 

“We are so pleased to partner with the Somali Museum to advance their compelling vision to invest in a new museum site in the Seward neighborhood,” said Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow. “This project represents a unique opportunity to create an enduring, transformational impact along East Franklin—one that aligns with Augsburg’s educational mission and honors Bethany Lutheran’s legacy of welcome and service to immigrant communities.”  

Founded in 2009, the Somali Museum of Minnesota currently houses a collection of more than 1,500 items in a gallery on East Lake Street. “Our mission is education and to build bridges that connect the community together,” said Osman Ali, the museum’s founder and director. “With a larger, permanent home for the museum, we hope to serve a wide variety of communities, whether young Somalis who have grown up in the United States or Minnesotans of other heritages who may not be familiar with Somali art and traditional culture. All are welcome.” 

Augsburg worked with Redesign on a feasibility assessment that evaluated the financial implications, neighborhood impacts, and partnership opportunities related to three options for the site: renovation, adaptive reuse of the existing structures, and ground-up redevelopment. When redevelopment emerged as the most financially sustainable scenario, given extensive deferred maintenance needs and a limited market for adaptive reuse, Redesign connected the museum and the university to explore a potential fit.  

“The prospect of locating the Somali Museum on the site was exciting to us from the start,” said Andy Hestness, executive director of Redesign. “The new museum will be an important community anchor and cultural destination, joining long-standing institutions like the Minneapolis American Indian Center, Norway House, and the American Swedish Institute along and near the Franklin corridor.” 

Augsburg remains committed to honoring current lease and license agreements with tenants of the former church building as the sale moves forward. Several former tenants have transitioned to new locations in recent months. Soup for You Café, which has operated at the site since 2015, will move operations to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on East Lake Street in June. 

The Somali Museum was approved for $3.9 million in state funding during the 2023 legislative session to advance the project, with Noor Companies, the largest certified woman and minority-owned general contractor in Minnesota, as sole developer. A closing date for the property sale is anticipated later this year.  

About Augsburg University

Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and 11 graduate degrees to more than 3,100 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities. Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. An Augsburg education is defined by excellence in the liberal arts and professional studies, guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran church, and shaped by its urban and global settings. Learn more at

About the Somali Museum of Minnesota

The Somali Museum is the home of traditional Somali arts in Minnesota. Displaying a collection of over 1,500 pieces, and offering educational programs about Somali traditional culture that are not offered anywhere else, the Somali Museum offers an unrivaled opportunity for Minnesotans of all backgrounds to encounter and learn about Somali traditional culture. The Somali Museum’s mission is to use this collection as a tool for education: making it possible for young Somalis who have grown up in the United States to connect with their culture, as well as Minnesotans of other ethnic heritage to encounter Somali art and traditional culture for the first time. The museum’s programs explore the changing role of traditional arts and culture as the Somali people move across borders and time. By promoting the highest forms of Somali creativity, the Somali Museum believes that it can also help to diminish harmful prejudice and misunderstanding. Learn more at


Share this: