Bremer Bank to Open Second Branch in South Minneapolis
Bremer Bank is ramping up its presence in south Minneapolis. On Tuesday, the bank announced plans to open a new branch at the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in the city’s Phillips neighborhood.
The site is just a few blocks away from an affordable housing project that was destroyed during civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Bremer leaders say that the new branch is part of the bank’s pledge to boost racial equity in the Twin Cities.
“As we have worked to fulfill and expand the commitments outlined in our racial equity action plan, we have heard loud and clear that additional physical presence is critical in the Twin Cities community to build a more equitable path forward,” said Bremer Bank president and CEO Jeanne Crain in a news release. “The Phillips neighborhood is vibrant, filled with small businesses and entrepreneurs, and we are thrilled to take the first concrete step to establish this new branch.”
Phillips branch won’t look like a typical bank. Per the release, Bremer is swapping out the “traditional teller line” for an open floor plan with a set of “partner tables.” The branch will also include a community room that can be used outside of normal business hours. Residents will be able to book time in the room at no cost. Due to Minneapolis’s restrictions on new drive-thrus, the branch won’t include a drive-thru. Aside from that, the branch will be a full-service location for Bremer’s customers.
St. Paul-based Bremer operates two skyway locations in downtown Minneapolis: One in the U.S. Bank Plaza, and another in the IDS Center. The bank’s only other Minneapolis branch is in the Linden Hills neighborhood. The bank has 53 total branches in Minnesota, 20 of which are in the Twin Cities metro.
In an era when many routine bank functions can be handled online, why even bother with a new physical location? In an email, bank spokeswoman Clarise Tushie acknowledged “that there are certainly areas where foot traffic has significantly decreased to the point that having physical locations no longer makes sense.” But that’s not always the case. “The need for physical presence unquestionably remains, and is needed more in some communities than others,” Tushie said. “It has been made clear that having a physical presence in the Lake Street community is critical to serving that community, and we are committed to doing so.”
Like scores of other businesses, Bremer has made a pledge to better serve Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). In June 2020, the bank announced an action plan to improve racial equity. That included a pledge to expand services for BIPOC-owned businesses, alongside another pledge to help boost home ownership among mid- and low-income residents.
“The uncomfortable truth is that banks historically played a crucial role in furthering and enforcing the racist structures that systematically disadvantaged people of color for decades,” Crain said when the bank first announced its action plan in 2020. “Redlining, racial covenants and bias in lending are real, undeniable truths in the history of banking, with repercussions lasting generations. And that means that banks have a critical responsibility to help build a path forward.”
In the coming months, Bremer senior VP of Twin Cities community banking Stephen Spears will work with the community to ensure that bank is “bringing in staff with the right kind of expertise for the Phillips neighborhood,” Tushie said.
The Phillips branch is slated to open in the third quarter of this year. Bremer finalized the lease for the space last week.