Rebuilding Green on Lake Street in Minneapolis

Metro CERT Annual Event

As most things in 2020, the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT) at the Great Plains Institute made our 13th Annual Resource and Networking Event virtual, minus the networking part. We rescheduled the event from April 30 to October 1, hoping we would be able to meet in person by the fall. Of course, that was not in the cards. We shifted the topic of the event from electrification to rebuilding efforts in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25.

The Metro CERT event centered on the story of a business caught in the middle of shockwaves of destruction following Floyd’s killing—after months of challenges due to COVID-19—and a broader look at the role of clean energy in rebuilding and supporting businesses along Lake Street and beyond. We also highlighted two Metro CERT-funded seed grants with a focus on the Black community in North Minneapolis.

The event was a reminder of the interconnectedness of issues people are facing—racial injustice, the pandemic, economic insecurity, climate change—as we work to build thriving communities with clean energy. We hope you'll learn from the speakers and find ways to come together.

Diana McKeown, Metro CERT Director, Great Plains Institute

Du Nord Craft Spirits - Rising with a new purpose

Du Nord Craft Spirits is located just two blocks from the third precinct that became to focal point of the nightly damage and destruction in the days after the killing of George Floyd. Shanelle Montana, co-owner with her husband Chris Montana, spoke to us about their attempts and challenges to pursue energy efficiency and solar in the building where they are tenants, what happened in the days around the unrest, and what their future plans hold.

Shanelle and her husband Chris opened the distillery in 2013 and had lofty goals about energy efficiency and renewable energy—especially solar since that is the industry Shanelle works in. Shanelle stated, “We were firm in the belief that businesses can have a positive impact on the community. A sustainable and socially conscious business is who we wanted to be. Full stop.” As they started to explore options, they realized how challenging that was for a small business start-up, especially as a tenant.

We were firm in the belief that businesses can have a positive impact on the community. A sustainable and socially conscious business is who we wanted to be. Full stop.

Shanelle Montana, co-owner of Du Nord Craft Spirits

When COVID-19 hit the Twin Cities, Du Nord pivoted from making their gin, vodka, whiskey, and liqueurs, and began manufacturing much-needed sanitizer in their distillery. In the days after the killing of George Floyd they handed out sanitizer to the protesters. In the early morning of May 29 the distillery became another victim to arson. The building wasn’t destroyed; it was damaged more by water from the sprinkler system than the fire. Realizing the need in the community for baby formula, food, diapers, and other supplies, they cleaned and cleared space in their warehouse and created a pop-up donation center. “We gave our space to the community,” Shanelle shared. The need was great, as many in Minneapolis struggled to access food while stores were closed and buses were temporarily halted.

They also created a Riot Recovery Fund to support the community. Shanelle noted the fact that so many Black and Brown businesses are undercapitalized, so they focused their fund to support those businesses in particular. Chris Montana, a native of Minneapolis, is Black and a majority owner of Du Nord. They had a goal of raising $30,000 and at time of publishing have raised over $750,000. They have received over $1.5 million in donation requests and have funded 50 businesses so far. Their efforts even got featured in the New York Times. They plan to continue raising money and distributing the much needed funds to impacted businesses through their newly-formed Du Nord Foundation.

In terms of greening their own rebuilding process, Shanelle said that Du Nord wants to be energy-efficient and LEED certified, do solar water heating for their distilling process, add a solar PV canopy over the parking lot, and explore a community solar garden subscription to cover the rest of their electricity use.

Watch or listen to the conversation below

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Lake Street Council - Helping businesses recover

Longtime Metro CERT partner and friend Matt Kazinka, Senior Strategic Initiatives Manager at Lake Street Council, talked next about the struggles, progress, and gratitude from businesses along Lake Street. The organization’s own office was lost in the civil uprising.

Lake Street Council is a nonprofit that engages, serves, and advocates for the Lake Street business community in Minneapolis to ensure the vitality and prosperity of the commercial corridor. The six-mile corridor has about 2,000 businesses, the majority of which are owned by people of color. It is currently (and historically) a place for immigrant-owned businesses, including Ingebretsens—celebrating 100 years soon.

There's going to be a lot of work in the coming years to do community-led planning to talk about what should be rebuilt and how it can be beneficial to the community. We're all accountable to ensure that businesses can recover.

Matt Kazinka, Senior Strategic Initiatives Manager at Lake Street Council

Lake Street Council launched the We Love Lake Street recovery fund hoping to raise $30,000 and within days had raised $5 million, then $10 million within weeks. At time of publishing they have granted 325 businesses and nonprofits along the corridor small grants for a total of $5 million and will continue the process to support the businesses.

Matt gave an overview of the impacted businesses:

  • 85% employ 10 or fewer people
  • 50% of owners live within Minneapolis city limits
  • 82% of the businesses are owned by someone who identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) or as an immigrant
  • 85% of them rented their space of operation
  • 55% of the businesses were uninsured

Watch or listen to the conversation below

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Energy Services – Support for rebuilding green

Representatives from Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy, and Energy Smart shared their special services, incentives, and rebates to business and homeowners in the damaged areas. It is really encouraging to see our utilities and energy service providers step up their efforts to respond to the community need.

Metro CERT Seed Grants - Projects in North Minneapolis

CERTs grants $20,000 in seed funding every other year in each of the seven regions we serve. During the event we highlighted two of the 2020 Metro CERT Seed Grants, both focused on the Black community in North Minneapolis.

Watch the Seed Grant presentations below

Camp SEE Architecture, led by Alicia Belton, Principal Architect and Founder at Urban Design Perspectives, is a summer STE(A)M camp for young women of color, specifically middle school girls. The focus of the camp this year was “Climate Change” with an expanded definition to incorporate the current socio-economic conditions within our community toward accelerating climate justice. The campaigns could either reflect environmental stewardship or other broader community action for sustainable change. Due to COVID-19, the camp shifted to a weekly distance learning model with staff providing “Creative Energy Kits” that focused on designing for sustainability. In one of the sessions the campers enjoyed building a solar playhouse. Alicia and her colleagues will combine images and curriculum to do a video exhibit that will include some personal videos as well as finished projects.

We heard from Kristel Porter, Executive Director at MN Renewable NOW, an organization that familiarizes and educates the Twin Cities community about renewable energy by establishing relationships and building bridges around Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the world with a focus on the North and South Minneapolis Green Zones. They originally received Metro CERT Seed Grant funding for their Leadership Conference, which had to be postponed due to COVID-19. The conference was planned as a leadership training for high school juniors and seniors to understand the urgency to implement renewable energy into the energy grid, how renewable energy works, and ways they can participate in renewable energy now and advocate for renewable energy for their communities. Serendipitously, they were also working on a groundbreaking effort called Solstar to install 24 solar arrays on roofs in North. Kristel Porter described the inspiring project, as well as their Power North effort, and the commitment to hiring all Black staff and contractors living in North Minneapolis for the project.

Watch the entire event

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