For those of us who were in the Midway in 2020, we won’t ever forget the damage and destruction of buildings following the murder of George Floyd. And I certainly won’t forget the outpouring of support that instantly occurred as neighbors offered support in whatever way they could – bringing a broom to University Avenue the next morning or donating $10 to help the impacted businesses.
While many of those buildings were able to get back to normal soon – the windows got replaced, the doors fixed –we can still see many parcels without new buildings. The same can be said for other important commercial corridors in Minneapolis that saw damage. The business community, nonprofits, and residents all stepped up to help those in need in 2020. Now its time for the state of Minnesota to step in.
A coalition representing important corridors in Saint Paul and Minneapolis are working to get funding for our small businesses. The impact of the civil unrest three years ago resulted in more than $500 million in damage as more than 1,500 business and nonprofits were fully or partially destroyed. A proposal at the Minnesota Legislature would provide funding redevelopment and building projects within specific cultural business districts, including University Avenue.
Funding could go toward:
• Supporting redevelopment, including commercial and nonprofit property acquisition, financing, rent subsidies, construction and other related expenses
• Funds redistributed to eligible businesses and nonprofits in the form of loans, forgivable loans, and grants to support business improvement projects, including but not limited to physical renovations of rented or owned commercial space
• Providing technical assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs to successfully apply for and utilize early-in, flexible redevelopment funding
• Utilizing community review committees when awarding grants and loans, in cooperation with experienced nonprofit and local community development agencies
• Helping entrepreneurs close their project funding gaps, by leveraging additional financing from the private and public sources.
The coalition has been out meeting with legislators and testifying at hearings in the House and Senate. Reaction has been good, and we remain hopeful we can get meaningful support for our communities. If you like the idea of businesses along University Avenue getting support, as well as other properties a few blocks off University, I ask you to reach out to your legislators. At the time of this writing, versions of this legislation were in HF 3028 and SF 3035.
Personally, I view this legislation as two parts: the immediate need to support the small business owners who faced significant property damage during civil unrest; and setting up important corridors for long-term success. Unlike some proposals at the Legislature, this is a one-time request which can significantly help our important commercial corridors for decades to come. Hopefully as the Legislative Session ends in May, we can celebrate support which will help rebuild a stronger Midway.
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