Mpls Downtown Council to Distribute $1.6M in Small Business Grants
An empty Nicollet Mall. Photo by David Bowman

Mpls Downtown Council to Distribute $1.6M in Small Business Grants

Target and other major downtown employers contributed funds that will support independent restaurants, retailers, and venues in the central business district.

Major downtown employers including Target, Thrivent, RBC Wealth Management, and the Xcel Energy Foundation contributed to a Minneapolis Downtown Council small business grant program that will provide $1.6 million to independently owned restaurants, bars, retailers and venues in the central business district.

“The Minneapolis Downtown Small business grant program will help us preserve the vibrant ecosystem of downtown,” said the council’s president and CEO Steve Cramer in a statement Thursday. “It’s been a challenging year. But we believe the trajectory of 2021 will be very different and positive with this grant program getting downtown off on the right foot. This is a tremendous moment for our community and we are thankful for Target and the business leaders who have come together to support our downtown now and into the future.”

Grants up to $25,000 will be awarded to cover up to 50 percent of eligible expenses including rent or mortgage, utilities, and insurance. Applicants must be locally owned or an independent franchise with a physical location within the central business district from Washington Avenue to the northeast, Park Avenue to the southeast, 12th Street to the southwest and First Avenue to the northwest. Businesses will be asked to sign a statement of intention to continue operating in downtown Minneapolis through next year.

“We had serious doubts about staying in the summer, but things have calmed a bit,” said Lina Goh, co-owner of Zen Box Izakaya on South Washington Avenue. The restaurant, currently offering takeout, is limping by at about a 30 percent of its typical revenue. Goh—speaking before having time to read the grant application—said $25,000 would help with rent and utilities now that the Payroll Protection Program funds have run out.

“Breaking even would be a blessing,” Goh said.

First Avenue CEO Danya Frank expressed appreciation for the grant program. “It is inspiring to see business leaders, and especially a local organization like Target, create such a generous grant program to help revitalize the Minneapolis downtown district for next year. We are grateful to the Minneapolis business community for supporting small, independent businesses. While this year has been an exceptionally trying time, 2021 offers immense potential. The opportunity to gather with friends and family at concerts, restaurants, sporting events, and cultural institutions will once again be available, and I can’t wait to do that in our wonderful city.”

Grant applications will be accepted today through Jan. 15. Decisions will be announced by the end of January with awards to be immediately distributed.