LBA, SCCA partner with Redesign

New staff member serves Longfellow and Seward
Gabriela Ortiz-Riera wants all businesses in Seward and Longfellow to thrive. Through her new role with Redesign, Inc., she’s seeking to help businesses build relationships with fellow community members and use each other as resources.
Ortiz-Riera was hired earlier this year to replace outgoing Longfellow Business Association (LBA) staff member Kim Jakus. While Jakus supported only the LBA, Ortiz-Riera’s role has been expanded. She’s officially a staff member at the Redesign (2619 E Franklin Ave.), and will split her time three ways, supporting Redesign, the LBA and the Seward Civic and Commerce Association (SCCA). 
“The way Redesign, LBA, and SCCA make Longfellow and Seward a better community is how they all want to ensure all businesses thrive,” stated Ortiz-Riera.
The partnership between the three organizations grew from meeting regularly together. Plus, all three had part-time job openings at the same time. The two neighborhood groups, Longfellow Community Council (LCC) and Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG), also join the business groups to keep updated on projects.
Ortiz-Riera is based out of the Redesign office on Franklin Ave., but the three organizations still operate independently and maintain their non-profit statuses. The intent is to cut down on any redundancies and increase capacity.
Ortiz-Riera graduated from Columbia Heights High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in public policy from Augsburg University. She resides in Fridley.
Hear more from Ortiz-Riera:
What drew you to this position?
I find value in a place with a community because it allows everyone to know each other and know they are not alone  – that there are folks who support them and understand the issues each other is facing in the neighborhood. 
Before I knew where I wanted to go after college, I reflected on my experiences from internships and other opportunities. I was a Legislative Intern at Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) while I was reflecting on what was next for me after college. I enjoyed my time there, which made me want to find a job in the nonprofit sector that focused on small business development support. As I started my search, I came across Redesign, Inc. I have heard of the great work they do, and I was excited to apply for the role of business outreach specialist. I thought that my journey to continue to work with small businesses could proceed in Redesign, Inc. and be able to learn more about the beauty of a community can be through the opportunity to work in the Seward and Longfellow neighborhood. 
What are you excited about?
I am excited for the opportunity to connect with small business owners through the business associations, and be part of the community Seward and Longfellow have. I am also excited about the opportunity to have events happen and bring businesses together to host and lead events. My goal is to have business owners know each other and find ways to connect with each other and support each other as they continue to grow their businesses.
How will you balance the three responsibilities of this new position (Redesign business/LBA/SCCA)?
I see balancing my roles among the three responsibilities by making time for all three each week by organizing my calendar and to-do list. In addition, I plan to connect and make the work I do for all three of my responsibilities overlap with each other as they are similar in how I focus on making sure I connect with businesses letting them know of the benefits of being a member of either business association and knowing about the services Redesign has and how we can help them. 
What’s coming next?
Once I am well adjusted to the role, I hope to host many events with businesses inviting the neighborhood to connect and learn about each other’s businesses and how they started. I want to do many things in this role, and I am excited to work with board members and business owners to make all my visions for the business associations go well. I hope to find ways to continue the mission of Redesign Inc, LBA, and SCCA to ensure that the neighborhood has a great connection. 
The LBA and SCCA send out a joint e-Newsletter once a week. Contact Ortiz-Riera at or 612-435-0277.  
Redesign’s new executive director believes in power of community development
Redesign is working with community members to re-shape areas that were damaged in the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. They are leading the projects at the Coliseum building and former U.S. Bank property near E. Lake and Minnehaha Ave./27th. 
At their helm is Andy Hestness, who came back to Redesign, Inc. (2619 E Franklin Ave.) after a stint away, drawn back because he believes in the power of community development.
Learn more from Hestness:
WHat is the history of Redesign and what does the organization do?
Redesign was founded in 1969 to build and preserve affordable housing in the community. The organization grew as a collaboration of a local church and a group of Seward Neighborhood activists that had taken over the Seward West Project Area Committee (PAC), and were agitating for a community-led redevelopment approach rather than the near-wholesale neighborhood demolition and reconstruction initially proposed by the Minneapolis HRA in the Seward West area. Growing in scale over the years, Seward West Redesign became Seward Redesign, and now Redesign, Inc. as the geographic focus grew. 
Over time Redesign also expanded from affordable housing into commercial corridor and small business support, as well as leading community planning efforts. 
Now Redesign is a geographically-based nonprofit organization serving five neighborhoods of Minneapolis: Seward, Longfellow, Cooper, Howe and Hiawatha. Redesign has developed and manages seven commercial buildings providing nearly 100,000 square feet of commercial space in the community, as well as supporting the management and preservation of over 800 units of affordable housing. 
We provide small business technical assistance and administer small business grants from the city and a loan program for business investment in our service area. 
We have been working closely with partners on the rebuilding and reimagining of the Lake Street corridor after the damage to the commercial corridor during the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. We just began construction on the Coliseum Building, which will restore another 75k+ square feet of retail and office space in the community as a hub for businesses owned by people of color.  
Please talk about your involvement (past and present) with Redesign.
I began my involvement with Redesign as an intern in the lead up to the Blue Line Light Rail launching in 2004. Redesign was organizing community partners to develop a station area master plan surrounding the Franklin LRT station, and I supported that community engagement and planning process. I joined Redesign’s development committee in 2013 while working as a partner at the Native American Community Development Institute in Ventura Village. Following another stint as staff at Redesign as a project manager in 2015-16, I joined the Board of Directors in 2017. Following Chris Romano’s tenure as leader, I joined Redesign as executive director in January 2022.
What drew you back to Redesign? 
I really believe in the power of community to lead real estate development and community investment, and Redesign is one of the few organizations doing this work with a long-term neighborhood focus. Being led by people within community allows us to design and implement projects that meet the dreams and visions of community. We are able to focus on projects that build personal and community wealth, capacity, and agency for people to shape the world around them. I believe every neighborhood should have an organization grounded in relationships and focused on community-led transformation.
What excites you about this new joint position with Redesign/LBA/SCCA? 
One of my goals coming into Redesign has been deepening our partnerships with other neighborhood institutions like the neighborhood associations: Longfellow Community Council (LCC) and Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG) and business associations: Longfellow Business Association (LBA) and Seward Civic and Commerce Association (SCCA). 
All of these organizations have been meeting regularly to collaborate on shared goals and strategies and look for opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing. Coming out of those conversations and staff transition at both business associations, we decided to launch a shared position, housed at Redesign, to provide staffing for both business associations in addition to Redesign. 
This position leverages the networks and relationships of all the organizations to build a more connected business support system. We hired Gabriela Ortiz-Riera in early 2023 for this new position, and she is off to a great start. 
The challenge of a shared role is balancing the time and needs of multiple organizations, though we believe the alignment of goals across the organizations will ultimately make any challenge worth the effort.
This new position will be a common point of entry for a coordinated businesses support system within the five neighborhoods we serve. The new position will be focused on developing relationships with established as well as new businesses, and providing connections for those businesses to meet with peers, support a strong neighborhood business climate, and connect business owners to loan, grant, and support opportunities tailored to their needs. 
What’s coming next?
We are in the early stages of developing and launching a business retention and expansion (BRE) program to connect with businesses, collect and aggregate their needs, and provide this data to guide the creation of new support tools and funding and also to advocate for the needs of businesses. 
Our hope is to expand membership in both LBA and SCCA to support their stability while broadening participation. 
There has been some conversation about new offerings to connect businesses within specific industries (e.g. restaurants, retail, home-based businesses, manufacturing businesses, etc.). This would create space for businesses to share their experiences and resources with peers to strengthen connections in the neighborhood business community.


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