Such engagement could broaden corporate role in community
Target reopened and reconstructed its store located on Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenues in South Minneapolis last November after it was nearly destroyed last May during the unrest following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. The restoration cost millions. What makes this reopening unique is Target’s decision to include community input.
After the store was shut down, Target reportedly donated more than $125,000 in food, goods, and essential supplies such as diapers, baby formula, and medicine to the nearby community affected by the unrest. The loss of the store made it hard for people in the neighborhood to buy groceries since there were no other grocery stores within walking distance.
Target purposely sought to invest in local businesses for their rebuild and reached out to local community organizations to learn about their expectations for the reopening. Not only were neighbors impacted by the store’s closing, but over half of the store’s hourly workers live in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Melanie Majors, executive director at the Longfellow Community Council, said she saw the redesign as an opportunity for change and took part in discussions with Target representatives about their plans, along with neighbors and community organizers. The move was an unusual one for a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company.
Tabitha Montgomery, executive director of Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, also took part in conversations with Target representatives seeking input on the design for reopening its store. “They relied heavily on institutions and organizations that were seeing the challenges of trying to operate mutual aid distributions out of church basements,” she said.
Montgomery said the community had begun to feel like a food desert in Target’s absence. According to Majors, some residents referred to their local Target as “ghetto.”
At neighborhood meetings, Target staff learned from the community that the store’s pharmacy had been located too far from the front door, forcing elderly shoppers to walk a great distance to reach. And they also complained about the lack of fresh produce. And they pointed out that the parking lot was too dimly lit at night and that the walkway to the store from the rail station was unsafe and that access was limited.
The redesign took these complaints into account. The new store has a secondary entrance and a well-lit walkway. The new pharmacy is located closer to the front of the store between both entrances for quicker access. The store even added a greater variety of spices, acknowledging the diverse neighborhood. The store also partnered with Juxtaposition Arts and local artists to paint a temporary mural on one of the walls on the outside of the store.
Target hired minority- and woman-owned Noor Companies as the general contractor for the reconstruction of the Hiawatha/Lake store. They also teamed up with ConstructReach to hire BIPOC and youth as workers on the project.
“I think restoration is healing,” Majors said. “The new store gave them an opportunity to put in better features, internally and externally, that was more welcoming.” She was encouraged by Target’s efforts following their outreach with the community.
Montgomery views Target’s efforts as opening the door for a broader and deeper conversation and positioned themselves to invest in community navigators. She hopes to see that engagement extended to those on the margins who may not be aware of the resources afforded to them in their community.
The neighborhood leader thinks that there is a bigger role for corporations to play in their respective communities. She shared her desire to see Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 embracing more social equity issues.
She brought the issue of homelessness to the attention of the Target representatives during their discussions, and she said others brought up the issue as well. Homelessness was in the spotlight last summer in the Powderhorn neighborhood as dozens of the un-housed camped in Powderhorn Park before the Minneapolis Park Board and its park police forced them out.
Target has invested in relieving homelessness in the Twin Cities. The corporation has supported the Avivo Village project with a $225,000 donation. The village is the first indoor, tiny houses community of its kind created to help address unsheltered homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The village houses up to 100 adults and will include essential services such as substance use disorder treatment, mental health therapy, medical care and assistance with permanent housing.
Target has committed $10 million to rebuilding and social justice efforts. The company also donated an additional $5 million in December to Twin Cities nonprofits to help promote racial equity. Recipients included the Neighborhood Development Center, the Latino Economic Development Center, and the Lake Street Council.
“We want the Lake Street community to feel joy and pride when they visit our store, to view it as more than a place to shop,” said Target Executive Vice President and Chief External Engagement Officer Laysha Ward. “As part of our rebuild, we gathered valuable insights from neighborhood groups, community partners, guests and our team members.
“Guests have noticed the changes based on their feedback, and we’ll continue to listen to our community. We want to make this store a space where the Lake Street community sees itself reflected.”
Target reports committing 10,000 hours of pro-bono consulting services to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-owned businesses in the Twin Cities. To date, they have reached 40 businesses and have donated 2,000 hours of pro bono work.
Abdi Mohamed is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.