A coalition of business owners hoping to revitalize north Minneapolis' prime commercial street, W. Broadway, can tackle more ambitious beautification efforts after receiving a major arts grant Monday.
The $250,000 grant from ArtPlace, based in New York, will allow Broadway's new business improvement district to invest in more physical improvements like artist-designed benches, planters and bike racks, as well as the creation of new public space and neighborhood activities.
"This is going to give us some more money to do some things that really beautify the area, make it a lot more appealing, more welcoming, more user-friendly," said Ravie Singh, manager of the street's U.S. Bank outpost and vice president of the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition.
The West Broadway Improvement District, funded through assessments on business owners, began operations this year to make the corridor more attractive. That could garner more interest in the street, which has struggled economically despite years of city investment.
Their crews are now removing litter, posters and graffiti on the street three times a week, said Shaina Brassard, spokeswoman for the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. About 130 street banners heralding the business district are expected to be installed soon, followed by holiday decorations this winter.
"It's about business recruitment and retention … just for people to know that there's someone that's looking at the corridor as a whole, making sure it's clean, that's it's got greenery, that it's being cared for," Brassard said. "I think [that] really inspires confidence that there is a sustained vision."
Brassard described the 18-month ArtPlace grant as "huge," since the 2016 budget from assessments was just $105,000. They now expect the total project budget to be closer to $400,000, since they also intend to seek other public and private funds. The improvements will start to materialize next spring.
Hennepin County, for example, has awarded them a $10,000 grant to install recycling bins on the street. "We're going to be able to do three times as many as we would have" with the ArtPlace grant, Brassard said.
Other physical changes could include a redesign of the Interstate 94 freeway bridge, using greenery, sculpture or a mural to make it more inviting to walkers. The ArtPlace grant application says seasonally focused public space, such as a possible ice skating rink or winter market, will be another goal.
The application emphasized that W. Broadway suffers from historical disinvestment, lack of public space and "racial profiling that has criminalized pedestrian use of the street in this community of residents of color."
"The West Broadway BID will employ community artists to create public realm infrastructure: benches, planters, bridge mending, bike racks, seasonal displays as well as new plaza/s and parklets," the application said. "In addition, artist-led programming will activate the new infrastructure and public space, inviting the existing community to take ownership, participate in dialogue and inspire greater belonging."