Minneapolis Loan Program Helps Business Owners of Color Buy Property in Their Communities

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Minneapolis officials are celebrating the success of a two-year municipal fund that helps business owners, especially those of color, purchase commercial real estate in their communities.

The city’s commercial real estate development fund, launched in 2019, has already provided $ 4.5 million in loans to support nine projects in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey said at a press conference Sunday afternoon at the Breaking Bread Café on the north side of town. The interest-free repayable loans are intended to bridge gaps in wealth and ownership and promote development in the city’s cultural districts that have been identified as needing investment.

“What this commercial real estate development fund allows for this person is not just to own their own business, but to own the underlying real estate… than to be moved from the place they have made wonderful to. start, ”Frey said.

Loans typically range from $ 400,000 to $ 800,000, or up to one-third of the total cost of a project. The city’s initial investment helped business owners secure the private financing needed to cover the rest.

“That $ 4.5 million generated about $ 25 million in private investment,” Frey said.

One of the first loans went to Kenya McKnight Ahad, a North Side resident, founder and CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance. She used that money and private funds to purchase the building that houses the Breaking Bread Café at 1200 W. Broadway Avenue. Previously, she had rented space in the building for three years, but had to move in March 2020 because she could no longer afford it.

“A year and a half later I’m back and I’m the owner,” McKnight Ahad said.

North Side residents Calvin Littlejohn and Lester Royal, co-owners of TRI-Construction, said they used a loan from the city to buy a more than 100-year-old building at 927 W. Broadway, vacant for 20 years.

They are redeveloping it into an office space for several tenants and to house their head office.

“It’s about how do we make sure that those of us who live here, work here, raise families here have ownership of what’s going on in our community,” Littlejohn said.

“This is what it looks like to empower your community. “

City loans have also been made to commercial projects on Lake Street, Nicollet Avenue and other North Side neighborhoods, said Erik Hansen, director of economic policy and development for Minneapolis.

More than 85 new projects are seeking help from the goodwill.

Twenty-one of those projects could be considered by city council for approval this year or next, officials said.

“For generations our black community has been intentionally excluded from wealth-generating opportunities and especially from property,” said Frey. “That’s what we’re trying to push back at the moment.”

Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234


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