U.S. Bank to Donate Lake Street Land for Community Project
The drive to rebuild Lake Street to better serve the Minneapolis neighborhood took another step forward on Tuesday.
Pairing with 4RM+ULA, a BIPOC-led architectural firm, Seward Redesign envisions dividing up the property into four parcels that will be used for building affordable housing, commercial and outdoor retail spaces, nonprofit service offices, and arts and cultural destinations.
The bank branch property being donated was damaged in May 2020 during the civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd. U.S. Bank has been serving customers at 2800 E. Lake St. with a mobile banking unit in its parking lot. U.S. Bank is constructing a new branch at 919 E. Lake St. that will open in 2022. It also will inaugurate a new branch next year at 3600 E. Lake St.
Equitable development is a priority for Seward Redesign, which marked its 50-year anniversary in 2019. Taylor Smrikarova, Seward Redesign project leader, said the nonprofit would like to see the bank property “lifted up as a demonstration site for wealth creation for communities of color.”
The organization has focused its work in the south Minneapolis neighborhoods of Seward and Greater Longfellow. Its service area is bounded by Hiawatha Avenue on the west, I-94 on the north, the Mississippi River on the east, and Minnehaha Creek on the south.
The partners involved in this project plan to include considerable community input. “When this shared vision is achieved, the result will be that each parcel will be owned by BIPOC-led businesses or community organizations,” Smrikarova said in a written statement.
U.S. Bank conducted an extensive request-for-proposal process before it decided to donate the property to Seward Redesign.
Commitment to racial equity
“We were looking for a community-focused developer who was aligned with our commitment to racial equity throughout the entire property donation process—in the interim and after the redevelopment of the location,” said Reba Dominski, U.S. Bank’s chief responsibility officer, in a written statement. “Seward Redesign knows and understands the Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods deeply and will bring strong relationships, credibility to navigate community engagement, and technical capacity to the project.”
In August 2020, U.S. Bank announced that it was awarding $2 million in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that could assist small businesses with rebuilding in areas hurt by civil unrest. Three development centers received funding to help businesses along the Lake Street corridor.
In the fall of 2020, Dorothy Bridges, a prominent Black community leader who serves on the U.S. Bancorp board, said it was important that U.S. Bank make a commitment to continue providing branch services along Lake Street and in north Minneapolis.
Listening to community stakeholders
“The most important piece of all this is being at the table and listening to what the needs are, listening to the people from the community and really figuring out where you can help in this space,” Bridges said in an interview with Twin Cities Business.
Dominski said that the Lake Street redevelopment proposal submitted by Seward Redesign and 4RM+ULA was chosen “after listening and learning alongside community partners.” She noted the importance of project involvement by Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS).
Both organizations have been invited to own and co-develop specific site parcels.
“Our goal is to create a new model for equitable development and demonstrate new ways in which architects can engage and partner with community,” said James Garrett, Jr., a partner at 4RM+ULA.
For the Lake Street redevelopment, preliminary concepts include: interim pop-up retail facilities and public art installations, affordable housing, CLUES client services and an arts and technology center, a NABS center for truth and healing, and permanent commercial and retail spaces.