Bremer Bank is coming to Lake Street.
The St. Paul-based bank is planning to open a location in the business corridor that was the epicenter of protests — and that faced a considerable amount of damage — after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
The branch is set to open this fall in the Hi-Lake shopping center near Hiawatha Ave. The space was formerly occupied by a Subway that did not return to that spot after it was damaged in the riots.
Bremer executives decided to make this move as a result of some of the racial equity commitments they made after Floyd's killing, including having a bigger presence in parts of the Twin Cities that were underserved by banks.
"There was no better place to do that than the Lake Street area, than the Phillips neighborhood, where we know there was a considerable amount of unrest in 2020," said Stephen Spears, Bremer's senior vice president of community banking. "We wanted to be a big part of making sure that neighborhood remains vibrant."
Bremer Bank, which has about 80 branches, has a long history in smaller, rural towns across the Midwest. This will be the bank's fourth location in the city of Minneapolis.
Other bank branches along Lake Street, such as those of U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Huntington Bank, faced significant damage during the riots. Most have since reopened while a couple are still in the process of being rebuilt as part of larger multi-use projects.
Detroit-based First Independence Bank, a Black-owned bank that is expanding to the Twin Cities, has also indicated it plans to open a branch on Lake Street.
Bremer hired Spears a little over a year ago to a newly-created position to improve its services to people of color and its efforts in affordable housing and mortgage lending.
As other banks have also started doing with its newer branches in underserved communities, Bremer's Lake Street branch will have a multi-purpose room that will be available for the public to use.
Spears said he also expects the staffing model will be different at this branch. While plans haven't yet been finalized, he said one idea being explored is having more universal bankers at the branch instead of a dedicated teller, consumer banker and mortgage banker. That way, customers won't have to be bounced from one employee to another.
The branch will also have an open floorplan without a traditional teller line. Construction is expected to begin this spring.
As part of its racial equity commitments, Spears said Bremer has also strengthened its presence in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood, where it recently reopened a branch that he said is now more inviting to the community.
He added that the bank is also looking into how it can bolster its branch in Brooklyn Center.