Rebuilding Minneapolis: Pillsbury United invests in properties damaged after murder of George Floyd

From Lake Street in south Minneapolis to West Broadway on the north side of the city, hundreds of buildings were damaged or destroyed in the days following the murder of George Floyd. A local nonprofit is now working to buy some of those properties in a push to revitalize underinvested communities.

Near the 1500 block of West Broadway in north Minneapolis, a gas station and restaurant are among the few buildings open for business, but among the vacant storefronts and empty lots, there are signs of change.

"We’ll have to make sure that whatever we put here is sustainable and can truly serve the community for decades to come," said Adair Mosley, CEO of Pillsbury United.

Following the murder of George Floyd and the unrest that ensued, the north Minneapolis-based nonprofit Pillsbury United launched the Justice Built Communities, an initiative giving purpose to blighted properties.

"Our plans really are as the signage says… is really an invitation for the community to be able to offer their input," Mosley said.

In May, Pillsbury United acquired its first property on the 1600 block of West Broadway. The lot was home to O'Reilly Auto Parts, a business destroyed during the unrest.

The non-profit's most recent acquisition, just across the street, where a decaying car wash has sat idle for years.

"We really, really want these properties to be driven from community’s aspirations so deep community engagement happening around what happens here," Mosley said.

With a fundraising goal of $30 million, whether it's retail space or housing, Mosley envisions a thriving business corridor in the city's largest Black community.

"We want to be able to also bring in more Black and Brown entrepreneurs, specifically Black small businesses."

"There’s no shortage of business owners in north Minneapolis -- the problem is there’s no space for them," said KB Brown, owner of Wolfpack Promotionals.

KB Brown owns a printing business on west Broadway and says that he's hopeful. 

"I think that’s the issue is that people in north Minneapolis have been abandoned for so long that we hear the talk. We don’t care about the talk anymore; we want to see the action."

The Justice Built Communities initiative has raised more than $10 million so far.

"All of those things are coalescing at this moment in time that I think is going to be really catalytic for this community," Mosley said. "And as long as we can center north Minneapolis in that conversation in making sure that those who live and labor here are the direct beneficiaries of that, this place will look remarkably different, and we will see the type of economic revitalization that we all dream of."

Pillsbury United is also eyeing blighted properties along Lake Street and in the Camden neighborhood in north Minneapolis.