Business and community leaders Friday celebrated the opening of the new headquarters for contractor Thor Cos., a $36 million building they say is ushering in a revitalization of Minneapolis' North Side.
The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and block party for the Regional Acceleration Center (RAC), at the southeast corner of Plymouth and Penn avenues. Founder Richard Copeland and CEO Ravi Norman, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and others spoke at the event.
"We knew we needed to get back into the urban core, but to pull this off," said Copeland, staring up at the building from its fourth-floor deck, "it's unbelievable to me."
The RAC, a 92,000-square-foot building with three floors of parking, is part of a $100 million public-private redevelopment of the intersection. Thor, the largest minority-owned company in the state, moved its operations from its Fridley warehouse into the new building weeks ago.
Speakers called the building "transformational," a "historic moment," a "symbol of opportunity" and a "beacon of hope" for the North Side. Dayton called it "a fantastic day ... for north Minneapolis, for all of Minneapolis and really for the entire state of Minnesota."
North Minneapolis' image has been marred by years of elevated gun violence, relatively low household incomes and high unemployment.
Minneapolis police's Fourth Precinct, just blocks from the RAC, is the city's busiest. Ten people were shot in the city last weekend, four fatally, with most of the incidents taking place farther north.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a DFLer and candidate for state attorney general, said Plymouth and Penn used to be a corner "that folks even in north Minneapolis might avoid after a certain time of day." The RAC has the potential to change that perception, he said.
Hennepin County was a major investor in the RAC, spending about $22 million for a third of the space, including 420 spaces in the parking ramp. The county is expected to expand human services, community corrections and NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center offices in the building by March.
County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin called the building "transformational" for the North Side, and an example that it will take investment from the private sector to help improve the region's image.
"The kids that are walking around, they're going to see it every day," he said. "They're going to know that north Minneapolis matters, that it's real, that people are investing here and that they matter."
The concrete-and-steel building took six years of planning, two years of development and 14 months of construction, Norman said.
Accolades for Thor are framed in the wall in front of Copeland's office. Conference rooms are named after famous black leaders, including Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. The deck offers a picture-perfect view of downtown Minneapolis.
Along with Thor, the fourth floor is also the new home for MEDA, a nonprofit minority business counselor and financier, and Target, which is spending $2 million on a seven-year lease. The Minnesota African-American Heritage Museum and Gallery also opened a wing on the floor.
For Norman, the RAC has the potential to improve the social, economic and health conditions of people living on the North Side.
"We already think that there are a bunch of assets that oftentimes aren't covered here," he said. "Sometimes it takes big, major events like this ... to recognize the concealed value that's already here."
More than a hundred people showed up for a block party held outside the building after the ribbon cutting. Ella Mai, a British singer best known for her viral hit "Boo'd Up," performed along with other artists.