Coliseum rises from the ashes around East Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave., models new way of doing business and development

It’s been four years since the Coliseum building was damaged in the Uprising following the murder of George Floyd around the former 3rd Precinct site at E. Lake and Minnehaha. On Juneteenth 2024, people gathered there to celebrate the renovation and reopening of the building that marks a new way of doing things in the city.
“Like the phoenix, we will rise from the ashes and here we are today,” said Carol A. Behmlander as she stood looking at the area where so many buildings were damaged and destroyed. She lives a few blocks away from Lake and Minnehaha.
“This building and the process is only the beginning,” said Taylor Smrikárova of Redesign, a nonprofit community development corporation based in greater Longfellow that will be occupying the third floor of the building. “So today, we celebrate.”
From the beginning, the purpose of this project has been to create generational wealth for BIPOC-, women-owned, and small business owners who are also often othered (LGBTQIA+, Veterans, etc.), through the equitable redevelopment of a site that bears the scars of the community’s pain. The historic building has been brought back to life, ensuring long-term affordability for up to 30 BIPOC and other local entrepreneurs/small businesses, pointed out Jessie Roeming of Redesign.
“Juneteenth marks a day to reflect on where this country has come,” said Smrikárova, and “hope for the future.”
“The last four years have been a reckoning in this state,” said Governor Tim Walz. He observed that the murder of George Floyd brought to light systems operating as they were designed to do that created gaps in homeownership, education, and more between Black and White. Project like the Coliseum building help in equitable distribution of resources, he said.
“It’s amazing what powerful women can get done,” stated Governor Walz. 
Black-owned community development is a right that so many White businesses have had for generations, pointed out Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. “That should be a right for everyone,” he said. “That starts to change right here. You are all making a difference. ... Let’s keep the momentum going.”
Robin Wonsley recalled standing outside the 3rd Precinct in May 2020 demanding justice for George Floyd. “In that moment, it became clear that I wanted to run for office,” she said. She now serves as the Ward 2 City Council member. “How can we bring this area back?” she asked. It was done through the “fierce leadership of black women,” she praised. “I thank all of the co-owners for being a beacon of hope.”
Co-owners include Alicia Belton (Urban Design Perspectives), Janice Downing (CommonSense Consulting@Work), and restaurant/cocktail room owner Shanelle Montana (Lagniappe & Du Nord Cocktail Room) who have partnered and co-developed the Historic Coliseum Building with nonprofit community development corporation Redesign, Inc.
Clarisa James has been a Prince fan since she was nine years old. After he died in 2016, she began traveling from New York City to mark the anniversary of his death with events in Minneapolis. She made friends and connections in Minneapolis, and in 2021, she met the women leading the effort to renovate the Coliseum. 
James co-founded DIVAS for Social Justice after she started mulling over the digital divide and how it intersects with social justice. “How do you show people that their voice can contribute to community?” she pondered. 
DIVAS uses a makerspace model to connect youth living in underserved communities with computers, sewing machines, VR/AR equipment, 3D printers, videography/photography tools and more – things they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. 
After talking about her work with two of the Coliseum building developers, Alicia Belton (Urban Design Perspectives) and Janice Downing (CommonSense Consulting@Work), James said she wanted to bring the DIVAS to the Coliseum building in South Minneapolis. “Our visions aligned,” she said. “I knew it was something I wanted to hold out for.”
James added, “I remember coming to this building in 2021 when there were no walls. You could see the beauty of it, the beautiful floors that had potential.”
DIVAS will be on the second floor, and will be led by board member George Suratt, who resides in the Twin Cities. “People of the community will be involved in doing participatory design workshops,” said James, and give input into what they want the space to be. They are also collaborating with University of Minnesota professors Dr. Nathaniel Stewart, Dr. Elliot James, Dr. Nicole Dillard, and Dr. Stephanie Sisco.


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