St. Anthony: A Big Heart, Little Dollar Reconstruction Emerges Along Lake Street


Samir Patel was stunned by the destruction when he arrived at the small dry cleaning business he owns with his wife, Pinky, just south of East Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue.

The building had been vandalized, looted and set on fire in a riot in the days following the murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020.

“The business was destroyed,” said Pinky Patel. “The insurance company estimated the damage at over $ 500,000.”

Elite Cleaners was in the worst-hit segment along Lake Street, where a post office, the Odd Fellows and Coliseum buildings are also vacant. Now the Patels, along with other building owners in the neighborhood, such as restaurateur Gandhi Mahal, are finalizing reconstruction plans to hopefully revitalize the area.

“The riots were horrific and hampered everything,” Samir Patel said. “Then everyone came to help us. White, brown, black.”

The Patels, who had owned Elite for less than five years, quickly transferred the backroom cleanup operation from the devastated Minneapolis location to a dry cleaner they own in the village of St. Anthony. The Patels thought they could be kaput in Minneapolis after several years.

ZoeAna Martinez, a Lake Street Council official, was on hand during the day to make arrangements to ship the building and help secure a disaster grant.

The council and the Longfellow Neighborhood Association have opened a food and information center with neighboring Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for relief and disaster recovery efforts. And hundreds of people from the neighborhood and suburbs were arriving daily with shovels and brooms to help clean up the area.

The Samirs, who immigrated to Minnesota in 2007 to join family and friends, were able to reopen Elite’s counter service. But they couldn’t afford to rebuild on their own.

In November, construction will begin on a $ 1.1 million renovation and expansion of Elite that will include two other minority-owned businesses in the neighborhood. This is a relatively small deal in a city that suffered around $ 350 million in commercial destruction in the riots.

However, it is also a grassroots-led transaction that will benefit the three companies – and about 15 employees – and hundreds of neighbors who are hungry to see the recovery on Lake Street. It is also the first where a company owned by a minority will ultimately be the owner instead of an absent owner, according to the developer of the project.

Seward Redesign, a nonprofit community developer, acquires the Elite property with a loan of $ 827,250 from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which has put together a $ 30 million fund to help local business owners , who were tenants, to buy the properties where they are located. located. The funds were provided by foundations, companies, banks and others.

The redesign will eventually sell the dry cleaning property to the Patels for approximately $ 475,000. It will keep adjacent vacant land for sale to a real estate developer, said Taylor Smrikárova, the project manager. This is another priority for the neighborhood and the city.

Raven Construction, owned by seasoned contractor Nancy St. Germaine, will perform the overhaul and expansion. St. Germaine, a member of Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, and her team of 10 employees plan to join Elite in the expanded space Raven will be building.

“East Lake Street will be back,” said Pinky Samir. “We are hard working immigrants who need to work.”

Nearby, the owners of the burnt-out Coliseum and demolished buildings in Oddfellow, one block from Elite, are working on multi-million dollar redevelopment plans that have yet to be disclosed.

LISC Twin Cities, a local initiative support company that helps fund projects in disadvantaged neighborhoods, has committed around $ 8 million to its $ 30 million low-interest home loan fund that aims to help local owners to acquire properties from absent owners who do not want to reinvest there, said CEO Peter McLaughlin. LISC is funded by foundations, businesses and local governments.

Reconstruction will benefit businesses, the community and all those seeking widespread prosperity.

Erik Hansen, director of economic development for Minneapolis, said his office has tracked building permits worth up to $ 200 million since 2020 for the redevelopment and construction of damaged commercial properties. The city had estimated the damage at 350 million dollars.

The withdrawn permits do not include the more than $ 50 million residential-commercial complex planned in Lake and Nicollet by Wells Fargo and Project for Pride in Living, the developer and manager of affordable housing.

“Things are happening on Lake Street,” Hansen said.

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