JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank, which opened its first branch in the Twin Cities last year, is increasing its support of community building initiatives in the region.

On Monday, it announced a $4 million grant to help address racial disparities in homeownership in Minneapolis at the same time as it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new community-focused branch that recently opened just south of downtown.

That branch, located at 1100 E. Franklin Av., in the Ventura Village neighborhood, is the second of its kind in JPMorgan Chase's network of more than 4,900 branches. The first branch under this new model opened in Harlem a year ago.

It will provide residents with workshops on financial health and resume writing, a pop-up space that community groups can use for events and to showcase local businesses, and a community manager who will reach out to local businesses and community members to help connect them to programs and services.

"It's really fitting that we open what we call a community center close to where George Floyd was murdered because we do want to be part of the communities," Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO said via Zoom during Monday's event.

He said that the company is doubling down in areas such as affordable housing, financial education, supporting small businesses and in opening up new branches in underserved areas. He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how the Black community always suffers during downturns and recessions.

"When the Civil War ended, there was hope there might be parity with our Black brethren sometime in the next 150 years," he said. "And we're not even close."

The company already had plans for the Ventura Village branch, but then decided to pivot it to the new model this summer, said Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase's consumer banking division.

"After the tragic murder of George Floyd and really understanding what we felt the community would need in talking to our teams locally, we felt this would be a great opportunity to make this a community branch," she said in an interview.

Hodan Ahmed, the manager of the new branch, said she has already received several inquiries from small businesses that would like to use its space for events or take advantage of other programs. She added that her staff speaks nine languages and is deeply connected to the neighborhood in many ways.

This is the fourth branch JPMorgan Chase has opened in the Twin Cities since the first near the University of Minnesota last summer. The bank, which has also been expanding into new markets such as Boston and Nashville, plans to open 25 branches in the Twin Cities over the next three years.

On Monday, the company also announced that Minneapolis is the first of seven winners of its AdvancingCities Challenge. The $4 million philanthropic commitment over three years will go toward building and rehabbing 220 multifamily buildings and providing 310 prospective home buyers with landlord training. Its goal is to convert 110 residents into landlords.

The overall aim is to help Black, Latino, immigrant and Indigenous populations build wealth through home equity and rental income.

The winning proposal was a collaboration of five organizations — the Family Housing Fund, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Land Bank Twin Cities, Hope Community, and Minnesota Home Ownership Center. They estimate that the average resident in the program who purchases a two- to four-unit building will see their wealth increase by $300,000 over the next 15 years.

The AdvancingCities Challenge drew more than 150 proposals from 78 communities across the U.S.

Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113