Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

The state of Lake Street 4 years since George Floyd’s murder

Brick building on Lake Street
Renovations are underway on the Coliseum Building on E. Lake St. in Minneapolis. Built in 1917 as a department store, the building most recently housed restaurants and other businesses until a 2020 arson fire forced them out.
Matt Sepic | MPR News 2023

Saturday is the fourth anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The civil unrest that followed his death in 2020 left its mark on the Twin Cities, with fire and other damage along parts of University Avenue, West Broadway and Lake Street.

The damage, which the state estimated at $500 million, was an added challenge for business owners who were already muddling through the strangeness of a new global pandemic.

Each day this week on Minnesota Now, we’re looking at a different impact of Floyd’s murder on Minnesotans. We’re zooming in on Lake Street with Allison Sharkey, executive director of Lake Street Council and Alicia Belton, one of three long-term owners who are working to bring the Coliseum Building back to life after it burned in 2020. She’s also the architect on the project and owns the firm Urban Design Perspectives.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.  

We attempt to make transcripts for Minnesota Now available the next business day after a broadcast. When ready they will appear here.

Correction (May 24, 2024): An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Shanelle Montana in the interview transcript below.

Audio transcript

NINA MOINI: Well, Saturday is the fourth anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. And the civil unrest that followed his death in 2020 left its mark on the Twin Cities, with fire and other damage along parts of University Avenue, West Broadway, and Lake Street. The damage, which the state priced at about $500 million, was an added challenge for business owners who were already muddling through the strangeness of a global pandemic.

Each day this week on Minnesota Now, we're looking at a different impact of Floyd's murder on Minnesotans. Today, we're zooming in on Lake Street with Allison Sharkey, Executive Director of Lake Street Council, and Alicia Belton, one of three long-term owners who are working to bring the Coliseum Building back to life after it burned in 2020. She's also the architect on that project and owns the firm Urban Design Perspectives. Allison and Alicia, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.

ALLISON SHARKEY: Thank you for having us, Nina.

NINA MOINI: Absolutely. And, Allison, I'll start with you. I've been fortunate to interview you over the years. The Lake Street Council estimated that businesses along the corridor, just Lake Street, had about $250 million in damages. I remember when that number came out, it just felt so huge.

And I wonder, how much has gone into recovery so far? And so how much further do we have to go with that number? Do you know?

ALLISON SHARKEY: Yeah, that's a great question. So it's been a long road over the last four years.


ALLISON SHARKEY: But what I can tell you is that for businesses that did not lose their building-- so we're talking over 2,000 mostly mom and pop businesses-- most of them have reopened. So you can still come to Lake Street, enjoy some tacos, hear some live music. So for the most part, Lake Street feels like it's back.

There are a handful of buildings that were lost, and that's been a longer road. About half of those properties have been rebuilt. And then half of those are still recovering.

NINA MOINI: It is a long road. And I wondered if there were specific businesses that you can point to that have been creative in their recovery and have been most successful.

ALLISON SHARKEY: Well one that I have been thinking about is Du Nord Craft Spirits. So Du Nord is a spirit producer-- a Black-owned terrific business. And they lost their production space and their taproom because of smoke and water damage.

And while they haven't been able to reopen that particular space, they have retooled. They've really been increasing their wholesale production. They have a contract with Delta Airlines, so you can get their drinks on their planes. And now, they are looking at partnering up with Alicia, who's also on the call here, to open up a restaurant in her building over by Lake and Minnehaha.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. Alicia, let's go ahead and bring you in. Can you talk about the Coliseum Building on Lake and 27th Avenue? Can you sort of describe the significance of it, what it was like the first time you saw it?

ALICIA BELTON: Sure. Good afternoon. Thanks for having me.

NINA MOINI: Of course.

ALICIA BELTON: Yeah. The first time I walked in was, actually, the building had no power, no heat. The building suffered water and smoke damage from the fires that happened after the murder of George Floyd. And, really, it was in disarray.

So what we have done is made sure that as we are repurposing the building, that we are including voices from community and bringing businesses like Du Nord back into the space. The Du Nord family-- I'm sorry, the Montana family, Chris and Shanelle Montana, are one of our partners, our development partners and part owners of the building. So it's been wonderful to work as a group along with Redesign and my other business partner, Janice Downing, of Common Sense Consulting at work-- the four entities coming back together and really listening to community to identify what kinds of spaces and what kinds of amenities will be meaningful and how can we use the building as a tool of service.

NINA MOINI: Yeah, you make such a great point because I remember when all of this happened, people said, OK, so we have to rebuild. And it's unfortunate that this happened, but how can we rebuild better, and more intentionally, and listen to the people who live in these really just tremendous corridors that are so relevant to just the livelihood of the Cities at large? Alicia, what is your vision for the building and for kind of what it would look like to you moving forward?

ALICIA BELTON: That's a great question. So my vision for the building is that community would know that they are welcomed here. We've all been in spaces where we don't feel welcome. The building will be professionally managed by Redesign.

We have spaces that are welcoming and diverse in terms of building amenities for event spaces and co-working space, in addition to the restaurant and retail areas. But the vision for the building is, really, how are we centering these BIPOC stories of these businesses that can come in to the building to work, to eat, to rent, to have their-- where they do life. And so, really, how can we create that kind of community centering where we're supporting each other, and, again, like I said before, being of service to community with the types of businesses that will eventually occupy the building.

NINA MOINI: And, Allison, I guess if you think back over the last four years, we mentioned the goals for recovery-- has Lake Street's recovery happened the way that you expected it would?

ALLISON SHARKEY: That's a good question. I think when George Floyd was murdered and so much damage occurred on our corridor, we really didn't know what was going to happen next. We didn't know if businesses would come back, and they did. There was also a lot of fear in the community that destroyed properties would be sold really quickly, and fall into the hands of folks from outside the community, and that, then, rents would go up, and that it would become unaffordable.

And Lake Street has always been kind of a great place to come and get your start as an entrepreneur for the first time, especially immigrant entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. And so it was really important to preserve that. And what we have found is that that selloff of property, luckily, hasn't happened at all. Any property that has transitioned has really stayed within local hands.

Nonprofits and entrepreneurs, often working together, have stepped in to purchase properties and figure out how to redevelop them. And so I think we've been really pleasantly surprised, in a lot of ways, that people have come back, that we have sort of these innovative models like the Coliseum Building that are getting tried out for rebuilding. And that's helping us keep our authenticity. I think we did not expect that it would take so long for the remaining vacant properties to rebuild.

NINA MOINI: Can you describe what some of the challenges there are?

ALLISON SHARKEY: Yeah. So there are maybe a dozen properties left to be rebuilt. And most of those were owned by folks that were entrepreneurs that maybe this was their first commercial building that they'd ever owned. And so there's a really steep learning curve to go from running a business to being able to rebuild a whole building, especially in the current environment where construction is expensive and a lot of folks don't have a ton of equity in their family to bring to the table to get all the financing that they need to build a whole new building.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. Alicia, that idea of building wealth and generational wealth has really been centered, it sounds like. What else is needed, from your perspective, as a business owner in that area-- what can people still do to contribute and help? It's been four years, and I'd hate to think that it's not at the forefront of people's minds as much anymore, but if they don't travel those areas, it might be way in the past for them, but it's still very much a part of people's everyday lives. So what else could be helpful?

ALICIA BELTON: Well, I think just the idea of having a community-centered building and creating an awareness of what is in the Coliseum Building, for instance, and just knowing that those spaces are available for renting, for leasing, but also for gathering, for celebrations. And I think what we want to be known for is we're creating these welcoming environments where you know that you are seen and valued and that the space is owned by BIPOC-owned businesses. And that's what we want to attract to the building. And so we're hoping that inspires others to do the same.

You're talking about learning curve-- it was a learning curve for us. And we had a great partnership in Redesign to help us understand what it meant to go from being owners of a building versus owners of just our businesses. And so I think if we can be a model and show other people how to do that, I think that's just going to even make the corridor even more rich.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. It's a whole other ballgame when you own the building. We just got about a minute left. Allison, how can people still help? Fundraising was a really big effort at the beginning. How can people still help with these rebuilding efforts?

ALLISON SHARKEY: Well, people can help, first of all, by donating to the Lake Street Council, to Redesign. Those are the two organizations here today that are nonprofits that are seeking to support entrepreneurs in this process. So donate directly.

Contact your representatives at the state and request additional investment to match what entrepreneurs are bringing to the table in terms of their own investments. And then finally, we need people to shop at our businesses. Come have some tacos, browse the used bookstore, see a show. So come and really think about every dollar that you spend, and spend it at a local business that you love.

NINA MOINI: Absolutely. Thank you both so much for your time, and best of luck in these ongoing efforts.


ALICIA BELTON: Thank you so much.

NINA MOINI: Alicia Belton is the founding principal architect of Urban Design Perspectives and one of the long-term owners of the redeveloped Coliseum Building, which is set to open on Juneteenth. That's June 19th. And Allison Sharkey is executive director of Lake Street Council. And tomorrow, we'll talk with MPR News reporter Jon Collins about the state of police reform four years after George Floyd was killed by officers.

Download transcript (PDF)

Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.

Volume Button
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News