Mohamed Hershey noticed last week that the U.S. Bank branch on Lake Street, which was heavily damaged in the civil unrest nearly two years ago, is open for business again in a newly rebuilt building with big windows.
“Then the idea came to me about opening an account here because it’s close to my home,” said Hershey, 18, who stopped in along with some friends this week to open his first bank account.
Hershey remembered what the branch looked like after it had been set on fire and destroyed. He added that he was impressed by the look of the new branch as he sat and waited to speak with a banker.
The branch, across from Midtown Global Market, is one of the last banks to be restored on Lake Street after being damaged in the riots following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020.
Top executives of the Minneapolis-based bank as well as community members gathered Thursday afternoon to celebrate the reopening of the 6,000-square-foot branch, which is considered a “flagship” location because of its larger size and high customer traffic.
Andy Cecere, chief executive of U.S. Bancorp, paid tribute to the branch’s employees who worked out of the parking lot for months to help customers get access to their safe deposit boxes in the basement.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to be here almost two years later and to see what we have here today,” he said, adding that it was heartwarming driving down Lake Street to see how much the community has come back.
Earlier in the week, branch manager Rene Madrid pointed out some of the location’s new features such as a community room that can be used by neighborhood groups for meetings and classes. It has a separate entrance from the entryway so it can accessed with a code even after hours when the bank is closed.
“We’ve never done this in a branch before,” he said.
The branch will also have a wealth management team for the first time with those positions expected to be filled in the coming months. The bank will also have mortgage and business bankers on-site.
The branch features many of the latest elements of U.S. Bank’s newest branch prototype such as modern fixtures and lighting, digital workstations and flexible office spaces where bankers can sit down with customers for in-depth conversations.
It also includes a colorful mural and other artwork reflecting the community’s diversity from Juxtaposition Arts, a Minneapolis-based youth arts nonprofit. The organization’s art is also on display at U.S. Bank’s branch on West Broadway in north Minneapolis, which reopened last summer after also being damaged in the same unrest.
The Lake Street site took longer to rebuild in part, Madrid said, because the bank wanted input from neighbors about what they wanted out of a new branch.
“It wasn’t just want we wanted here,” he said. “It’s what our community wants here.”
He added that there were also other challenges that led to delays such as the pandemic, securing permits, labor shortages among construction companies and supply-chain issues.
While it was being demolished and then rebuilt, U.S. Bank set up a temporary branch in a bus, and later a double-wide trailer, in the parking lot of one of its other branches along Lake Street, which was also closed because of damage during the civil unrest.
U.S. Bank donated that location, which is east of Hiawatha, to the nonprofit Seward Redesign so it can be redeveloped into affordable housing and for other commercial, cultural and arts purposes. That branch was relocated down the street and opened in February.
Wells Fargo also had two heavily damaged branches along Lake Street. The one near Hiawatha was relocated about a half-mile away and opened in September. Its burned-down branch at Lake and Nicollet is expected to open in the next year or two as part of a larger mixed-used project including affordable housing.
“It’s been great for the community that those banks did decide to come back and reinvest and that they didn’t consolidate,” said Allison Sharkey, executive director of the Lake Street Council.
She said about a dozen or so buildings on Lake Street that were demolished after the riots still need money to rebuild.
“We would love to see local banks make a bigger commitment to investing more deeply to finance those projects,” Sharkey said, while acknowledging that doing so may mean accepting a lower rate of return.