Dan Coleman took control of the building on the southeast corner of 38th & Chicago in south Minneapolis well before the intersection was known as “George Floyd Square.”
The developer never expected it to be easy. But Coleman said “distressed and problem properties” are his niche. He grew up nearby. He already owned a similar property eight blocks over, on Bloomington Avenue, so he had an idea of what issues he might encounter. 38th & Chicago “had not been a very stable corner, historically” — but when he entered the picture in 2019, Coleman felt the area was “probably the healthiest it’s been.”
Then, a Minneapolis police officer killed Floyd right across the street — and suddenly, Coleman found himself at the epicenter of a national news story, with Coleman only able to react.
“It was a very surreal moment,” recalled Coleman, now 38 years old. As thousands of people protested, rallied and grieved right on his doorstep, he was trying to figure out what was next for his tenants: not only the restaurant downstairs — at the time, Dragon Wok — but also “I had families that lived upstairs the whole time.”
“There’s really no way to process that much,” he said. “That was really an event we can probably say has changed the climate of the world. And you throw in a pandemic on top of that. It all happened at the same time.”
After all that, Coleman now owns the property
Through it all, Coleman technically did not own the property. He controlled the building under a “contract for deed,” a financial arrangement more involved than a lease, but where Coleman didn’t hold the property’s title.
Not anymore. Last month, city leaders approved a forgivable loan to Coleman — the final piece of financing he needed — to pay off the contract for deed and take over full ownership of the building in George Floyd Square that he’s managed these last three turbulent years.
The city’s loan, plus a $444,860 loan from the community development nonprofit LISC Twin Cities, will pay off both the contract for deed and the building’s mortgage. Coleman’s pitching in roughly $100,000 into the $775,000 package, which will also pay for a new roof and windows on the building.
City officials said the $230,000 loan will help “stabilize a property that … has struggled to maintain tenants” during a “turbulent era.”
That struggle, said Coleman, made it difficult to pull together the money needed to make this deal happen.
Private lenders weighed the transaction based on whether they thought Coleman could turn a profit, and the property’s location in George Floyd Square — where community members still maintain a memorial space in the intersection — has made it “a little too spicy for traditional money,” Coleman said.
“It’s not really a tourist area. There’s not really foot traffic anymore. It’s in this weird limbo,” he said. “I think it’s going to trend back up, but in the immediate moment, these businesses are having special circumstances. What was viewed as a bustling spot to meet has changed, it’s pivoted, it’s it’s own thing. Things are still happening. But right now, it’s more healing than it is active.”
That’s led to practical challenges for his tenants. Dragon Wok closed, Coleman said, because delivery drivers couldn’t physically get to the restaurant; there were protesters in the square.
He’s secured a new restaurant tenant: Chopped & Served, a caterer specializing in a blend of Black and Jewish cuisine. Its founder and chef, Imani Jackson, told KARE 11 in September that the restaurant planned to offer “grab-and-go, take-and-bake food.”
‘The biggest challenge is not the money’
But even with protests no longer a daily occurrence in George Floyd Square, the symbolic importance of the site means that any real estate transaction in the square is sensitive.
“If I was an outside person not entrenched in the community, this would be a dangerous project, because it’s just so emotional,” said Coleman, who grew up on 42nd Street, just across I-35 from King Park. (By the way, he’s also a 6-foot-9 former University of Minnesota basketball player.)
The sensitivity isn’t only about optics; it’s about ensuring that boosting George Floyd Square doesn’t create a new cycle of gentrification or displacement.
Coleman doesn’t see his property at 38th & Chicago as a profit-generator; he’d be content if the building simply broke even. He said he’s renting to Chopped & Served at a below-market rate with a “safe, [tenant-]friendly lease.” (Jackson didn’t return requests for comment.)
“The biggest challenge is not the money,” Coleman said, “but trying to get the money to the demographic that you’re trying to work with. I think this project will be able to help boost revitalization — but at a price that reflects the neighborhood and what’s going on.”
The city’s loan to Coleman has a 40-year term. At the end of that term — if Coleman maintains the property, complies with zoning laws, pays property taxes and doesn’t otherwise default — the city will forgive any principal balance on the loan.