Minneapolis' West Bank businesses beginning to see resurgence

An immigrant community in the heart of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, also known as the West Bank, in Minneapolis is home to dozens of small businesses. 

More than two years since the start of the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, the boards are beginning to come down. 

"Some businesses were vandalized, some windows were broken, glass was broken," says Abdu Mahmoud with the West Bank Business Association. He has lived in the community for more than 10 years. "This is the lifeline of the neighborhood. All of these businesses generate resources, and generate taxes for the government. Also provides work opportunities to residents too."

The lifeline of the community is now undergoing a revitalization.

"So in this storefront, you’ll just see, the windows are nice and clean and we’ve put some really pretty magnolia decals on the glass," says local designer and architect, Joan Vorderbruggen. She is leading the storefront beautification project. 

"We have a mannequin here with some of the clothing you can purchase in the store, some of the artwork that is available," says Vorderbruggen.

The idea here she says is to preserve the neighborhood's character and heritage. The work began here in July.

"I think that this particular commercial corridor is very unique because it’s predominately Somali and it has such a pretty special historic background that I think is wonderfully unique," says Vorderbruggen.

Throughout the past few years, some storefronts are being cleaned up and redesigned. 

"We’ve been moving really quickly and having a really good time just building relationships with business and property owners and just finding out what they need," says Vorderbruggen.

Mahmoud says that his role is to connect businesses with artists. He believes that even the smallest change can have a big impact.

"Our hope is that this neighborhood revitalization, it will attract a lot of people to this neighborhood, support small business and do business with them that’s basically what we’re trying to do," says Mahmoud.

The West Bank Business Association commissioned the project. The source of funding is coming from a grant. Right now the focus is on three blocks on cedar avenue and there could be plans to expand.