Safety deposit boxes still out of reach at Wells Fargo damaged in Minneapolis riots

A Wells Fargo in south Minneapolis was damaged during the riots following the death of George Floyd. (FOX 9)

Below the burned out shell of a Wells Fargo Bank at 3030 Nicollet Avenue, across from the Fifth Police Precinct, is a massive vault with hundreds of safety deposit boxes containing customers’ important records and treasured valuables.

Those safety deposit boxes have now been inaccessible for ten weeks, ever since a fire gutted the building on May 29, in the arsons and riots that followed the police killing of George Floyd. 

In an email to customers, Wells Fargo said the branch located at 3030 Nicollet Avenue will remain closed for the “foreseeable future.” There is no fire damage inside the safety deposit vault, but there may be some limited water damage.

Wells Fargo has submitted a plan to the City of Minneapolis to construct a scaffold tunnel that would protect customers as they walk into the burned out shell of the building, and down into the basement, where the safety deposit vault is located.  

Wells Fargo is still waiting for additional permits before its contractor can begin work.  

“We can’t promise an exact date of when that will be, but we will continue to inform customers about progress and the timeline once we know it, as we have all along,” said Steve Carlson, a regional Vice President for Wells Fargo Corporate Communications, based in Des Moines, Iowa.  

The Wells Fargo branch at 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue has many customers who are immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, and East Africa - communities that are particularly dependent on having a safe place to keep passports and other documentation.  

Contrary to popular opinion, there are no federal laws protecting or insuring safety deposit boxes, or requiring banks to compensate customers if the contents are lost, stolen, or destroyed. 

In an email to customers, Wells Fargo said it has “posted dedicated security guards onsite 24/7 to ensure out customers’ assets are safe and secure.” During a recent visit to the bank, it was surrounded by fencing, but no security guards were visible. 

There are an estimated 25 million safe deposit boxes in the U.S. For security reasons, a Wells Fargo spokesperson would not disclose how many safe deposit boxes are located in the basement of the Wells Fargo at 3030 Nicollet Avenue.  

The permit application to the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) describes the project as: “Construction of temporary use protection structures for temporary public access to safe deposit box area in anticipation of future building demolition.”

Those seeking information about their safe deposit boxes are asked to email, or to call (651) 205-8554.