Ahmed Muhumud, one of the owners of Midtown Eye Clinic, recently moved into space at the Midtown Global Market on E. Lake Street.
The clinic's former location, in a building a block away on Chicago Avenue, was destroyed during the riots in May following George Floyd's death. "The owner told us he plans to rebuild but not when," Muhumud said.
His decision to move into the Midtown Global Market is part of a $2.3 million recovery plan developed by the owners of the market. They are creating space for riot-displaced businesses and subsidizing rent for those with capital limitations.
"We've signed a long-term lease and there is no better place for us than the Global Market," Muhumud said. "This is a tough time for our businesses and others along E. Lake Street. But we want to be part of the Lake Street business community and we believe it will come back."
The Midtown Global Market is the retail face of the $190 million, 2006-renovation of the abandoned Sears Roebuck complex on E. Lake into Midtown Exchange, including headquarters for 1,800 Allina Health workers. As nearby buildings were looted and torched in the riots, a few security officers and neighbors ringed the two-block complex to protect it.
The market is owned by Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), the St. Paul-based entrepreneur-training and business-incubator; and the Cultural Wellness Center, which operates community health programs.
The recovery plan is backed by retired executives and other supporters.
"I said, 'Let's raise some money and provide relief for this wonderful market and immigrant tenants, some of whom were pretty successful,' " said Jim Campbell, the retired Wells Fargo Minnesota CEO. "This has been a rewarding exercise."
Campbell, also a former Allina board member, was a driver of the Allina-Midtown Exchange project that was the signature redevelopment in a reviving East Lake commercial corridor. Until the May violence.
Campbell is joined by funders Gordon Sprenger, a former Allina CEO; Bill Sands, the retired St. Paul banker; former mayor R.T. Rybak of the Minneapolis Foundation; U.S. Bank and others.
The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the market for months and cut tenant revenue by up to 75%.
"My goal in a year is that Global Market businesses are thriving, vaccinated against COVID and that the community is back inside," said Renay Dossman, a veteran financial and operating manager at Cargill and Target and also an entrepreneur who joined NDC as president in 2019. "For big cultural events. Black flea markets. Health fairs. I want it to vibrant and noisy in there again. And people waiting in line."
Volunteers from Target Corp. have helped businesses inside the market — Oasis Market, Eastlake Craft Brewery, Simba Craftware, Tibet Arts & Crafts, Moroccan Flavors and Pham's Rice Bowl — develop to-go meal kits, create an outdoor pickup space and develop other services.
"They've been helping us for six or seven months, including a Target volunteer who lives in a condo upstairs," Dossman said. "They far exceeded our expectations."
NDC, which needs about $1.5 million annually to maintain the market and pay its bills, cut rents in half for its ailing retailers last spring. And it will keep rent low until a hoped-for economic revival by summer 2021. Still, several retailers have shuttered over the tough months.
The second part of the sustainability plan for the Global Market provides grants to individual businesses who have demonstrated cost-cutting, innovation in keeping business alive and a growth plan when traffic returns. The "revenue replacement" grants fall far short of lost business but have helped.
Yildiz and Erdogan Akguc, longtime owners of Mapps Coffee & Tea, an original market tenant, said their business has been off by 75%, mainly because Allina Commons employees have been working at home for months.
"It's not just not making money," said Yildiz Akguc. "It's not being busy. But this is a beautiful market with good management. It will get better."
The third part of the revival plan has been an ongoing NDC effort to build e-commerce capacity for the market businesses and others that it serves around the region.
The Global Market is often considered the biggest "store" on E. Lake Street, which now faces several years of rebuilding.
Allison Sharkey, executive director of Lake Street Council, estimates that 350 small businesses out of 1,500 in the E. Lake corridor from Nicollet Avenue to the Mississippi River have closed. The council has raised $11 million in business recovery-grant funds. About half has been committed to 357 owners, an average of about $15,000. About 80% of the owners are minorities.
Insurance has been estimated to cover up to 50% of the losses. Not every business or building was insured. Most of the structures were 50-or-more years old and underinsured.
The city of Minneapolis has created a pool of several million dollars to help small businesses with demolition and preliminary redevelopment costs.
"Our insistence that the property owners clean up got insurers to pay some claims," said Erik Hansen, the Minneapolis economic-development director. "Once you burn a building built before 1978, its contaminated. You have to scoop it and put it in a certified landfill. That's expensive.
"We haven't set overall milestone goals yet. We're still reacting to disaster, on top of the pandemic."
Hansen expects to provide an assessment to the mayor and City Council in January.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.