The Minneapolis Downtown Council will give away $1.6 million in grants to small and independently owned businesses hit by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, especially the hospitality sector.

Large downtown companies provided the money, led by a $1 million contribution from Target, the council said Thursday. The amount of total grant money could grow.

"The Minneapolis downtown small-business grant program will help us preserve the vibrant ecosystem of downtown," said Steve Cramer, chief executive of the Downtown Council. "It's been a challenging year. But we believe the trajectory of 2021 will be very different and positive with this grant program getting downtown off on the right foot."

The Downtown Council is the latest in a series of giving programs to pop up in the wake of the pandemic and since the civil unrest that flared following the May killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. During the unrest, buildings were damaged in large swaths of Lake Street, Hiawatha Avenue, Uptown, West Broadway and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis as well as University Avenue in St. Paul — incurring hundreds of millions in damage. That damage was on top of unprecedented economic damage from the pandemic.

On Thursday, the Lake Street Council announced two grants worth $1.5 million that are targeted for small business owners wishing to rebuild or invest in property on Lake Street. Applications will be reviewed starting Jan. 4.

The two grants are a part of the Lake Street Council's "We Love Lake Street Fund," which raised more than $11 million for Lake Street businesses following Floyd's death. More than 400 Lake Street businesses were damaged or impacted by the May riots.

The new grants would provide forgivable loans to encourage small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits to buy damaged properties.

"Small businesses are essential to the economic well-being and vitality of our region," said Allison Sharkey, executive director of the Lake Street Council. "We are determined to help business owners and members of the community rebuild, reopen and invest in Lake Street."

The Downtown Council grants are meant to provide money for rent, utilities and other costs that would keep restaurants, bars, retailers and entertainment venues afloat during the first half of 2021. Many downtown employers are not bringing workers back until the summer.

The council is taking applications at The deadline is Jan. 15 for funds to be awarded the week of Jan. 25.

In addition to Target, Thrivent, Xcel's foundation and RBC Wealth Management all provided funds.

"Small businesses throughout downtown Minneapolis — including those that surround Target's headquarters offices — contribute so much to the city and help make it such a vibrant and dynamic place to live and work," said Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell.

Catherine Roberts • 612-673-4292

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725