Advancing Racial Equity Initiatives Through Purposeful Action & Impactful Grantmaking

2/9/2022
Giving back to our communities to support better places to live, work, play and raise families for everyone is at the heart of our stewardship value. Tragic events over the last couple of years have reinforced the urgent need to not just acknowledge racism and embrace diversity and inclusion but also actively work towards racial equity.

With associate expertise and time and Opus Foundation resources, we are taking purposeful and measurable action to address disparities and create equitable economic opportunities with organizations like Justice Built Communities.

Revitalizing Communities from the Ground Up

Justice Built Communities (JBC) is a Minneapolis-based community development corporation and entity of Pillsbury United Communities. In 2021, the Opus Foundation awarded JBC with a $450,000 multi-year grant. The money, which will be conferred over three years, will help JBC launch an ambitious effort to develop properties and revitalize neglected communities in Minneapolis. In addition to the grant, Opus is providing JBC pro bono development counsel and guidance.

Formed in 2021, JBC's vision is to create thriving communities where every person has personal, social and economic power. The organization is doing this from the ground up – literally – by resurrecting blighted and underused properties and involving community members to transform them into economically productive spaces within the community.

Through land acquisition and community development, JBC will help local entrepreneurs establish ownership while preventing gentrification and displacement and ensuring neglected properties are maintained. Over time JBC will bridge land ownership back to local entrepreneurs, building generational wealth.

“JBC was born out of the devastation of George Floyd's murder," said Adair Mosley, President & CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “Disinvestment has been happening for decades in our communities of color, but the events of 2020 brought to the forefront so many disparities. The work we are doing centers Black and Brown residents in entrepreneurship, labor and wealth creation for lasting change."  

“When we talk about the gravity of these challenges, solutions need to be at the scale of the challenge – and that includes financial support," said Mosley. “We get very few multi-year grants like this that have a runway of three years. We know the arc of change won't be instant, and the generous Opus Foundation grant gives us the ability to develop intentional strategies for transformational impact over the long run."

Phil Cattanach, Vice President & General Manager, serves as a strategic advisor for JBC. He volunteers his time, providing his deep development expertise to JBC, which includes working closely with Jimmy Loyd, who oversees JBC as Senior Director of Community Development at Pillsbury United Communities.

“My role is really to support and supplement Jimmy's efforts to advance the development process," Phil said. “Drawing on our collective knowledge at Opus, that can include anything from guidance on environmental and geotechnical design, to economic modeling and development checklists, to brokerage assistance for valuations of land and providing recommendations for construction and pricing."

“From the onset, Phil was insistent that our relationship was not just transactional, but a partnership," said Loyd. “He has been an indispensable professional thought partner. In addition to meeting bi-weekly to discuss development topics, he connects me with other professionals at Opus to help answer questions. It has been a great pleasure to get face time with a brilliant real estate mind and a genuine person as well. I am grateful to the Opus team for being committed to our mission beyond just grant dollars. It has been a wonderful experience."

Currently focused on north Minneapolis, JBC closed on its first two properties in 2021. They include a former O'Reilly Auto Parts property on West Broadway that burned during the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd and an adjacent site on Golden Valley Road.

“In addition to being a catalyst for transformational change in corridors that have been underfunded, Justice Built Communities is establishing a mechanism to help underrepresented local entrepreneurs and small businesses start and grow," Phil said. “Ultimately their work will lead to stabilized additives to the community that will change lives, create jobs and provide additional tax base."

JBC's approach involves using a community-centered design process to inform redevelopment plans, followed by providing opportunities, guidance and financial support to help local, Black-owned enterprises get established and grow.

“Collaborating with JBC is a good fit for us," Phil said. “In addition to targeting dollars toward the advancement of racial equity through our philanthropic arm, it leverages our business arm and expertise to help transform properties in these communities that desperately need the investment."

“I appreciate the humbleness of the Opus organization," said Mosley. “They are going through an introspective time as a company and as individuals. They are aligning their actions with their words and making decisions that affect change. That kind of solidarity is what is needed on a large scale to eradicate the challenges we face ahead. Opus is showing up through both contributions and personal leadership."

Opus Foundation Awards Over $1 Million in Grants in Support of Racial Equity

In 2021, the Opus Foundation also awarded grants in support of racial equity to the following organizations:

  • ​African American Leadership Forum
  • Greater MSP
  • Project for Pride in Living, Inc.
  • Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Inc.
  • University of St. Thomas
 ***

The Opus Foundation®  is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families. The Foundation is committed to improving conditions that disproportionately affect historically underinvested individuals and communities by resourcing key focus areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.