June 15, 2010
Fighting the Recession One Business, One Block at a Time
By Frank Altman
Lake Street, Minneapolis, the early 90's. Crumbling buildings owned by absentee landlords. A hotbed of crime, prostitution and drugs. The low point was in 1992 when two gang members shot and killed a police officer during his dinner break at Pizza Shack.
But starting with one business, one block at a time, this neighborhood has undergone a revitalization that has brought hundreds of jobs to the area. Wikipedia's entry: "East Lake Street continues to undergo massive refitting to help reduce crime, boost property values, and attract more shoppers. An example of renewed interest in the area is the refurbishment of the Midtown Exchange building...the largest building in Minneapolis in terms of leasable space."
The Midtown Exchange commons, which got off the ground in part because of $10 million in tax credits provided by CRF , is on the site of an old Sears building that lay vacant for 10 years. Allina Health Systems moved its corporate headquarters from the suburbs into this building, bringing hundreds of well-paying jobs. The building also features hundreds of mixed-income housing units, a new Sheraton hotel and the Midtown Global Market, which houses many CRF-funded restaurants and specialty grocers.
One example of how we can all make a difference - one entrepreneur at a time - is in the story of Primitivo Morales.
Morales wanted to open a grocery store, deli and tortilla factory in the same crumbling building on Lake Street where Pizza Shack was. Due to unreported code violations and unreliable contractors, the original rehab estimate of $60,000 escalated to $200,000. Conventional lenders were unwilling to finance all of the escalating cost.
So CRF and the City of Minneapolis teamed up to give Morales two loans that would finance approximately half his construction costs. He completed the renovations, creating a restaurant on the street level and an apartment for his family on the second floor.
La Poblanita was an immediate success, with sales exceeding projections by a wide margin. Morales now employs 30 members of the local Latino community and has expanded into the adjacent building.
The loan CRF gave to Morales to start his business is one of about 90 loans we've made to other small businesses up and down Lake Street and in the heart of South Minneapolis. Business by business, block by block, Lake Street and the surrounding areas are turning around.
Where banks were unwilling to tread, CRF partnered with other community leaders who, instead of focusing on the neighborhood's deficits, capitalized on their assets, creating jobs, opportunity and a better life for its residents.
Posted by: CRFUSA