Lake Street Council Supporting, Advancing Vitality of the Corridor with $50,000 Opus Foundation® Grant

While still reeling from the pandemic shutdown, Lake Street small businesses in Minneapolis were at the heart of the civil unrest and destruction following the death of George Floyd in 2020. Some of these mostly immigrant- and BIPOC-owned businesses have yet to rebuild or have been displaced, while others are struggling with increased labor costs, rent hikes and the rise in online shopping.

To support the continued revitalization of this diverse commercial corridor, the Opus Foundation®​ has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Lake Street Council (LSC) to expand its one-on-one technical advising services, increase businesses' access to capital and provide marketing support.

Helping Immigrant- and BIPOC-owned Businesses Succeed

LSC was founded in 1967 to help counter suburbanization, white flight and disinvestment. Today, over 2,000 entrepreneurs operate along the six miles of Lake Street. While LSC serves the entire corridor, most of its work focuses on businesses located between I-35W and Hiawatha Avenue, where about 85% of the businesses are immigrant- and BIPOC-owned.

LSC supports these businesses by helping them navigate regulatory hurdles, secure affordable space and connect to capital; conducting branding and marketing to shape the collective reputation of Lake Street and drive local business growth; and working with artists and partners to spark life on the street and raise the profile of the corridor. Additionally, LSC advocates at the city and state level to increase public investment in the community and amend public programs so they are more accessible to local businesses.

Today, the organization's value to the community is more prominent than ever. In the past two years, LSC has distributed or committed more than $11.5 million in direct business support grants, forgivable loans and predevelopment and acquisition support.

“Community stakeholders called on us to take a leading role in recovery from the civil unrest that devastated the corridor," said Allison Sharkey, Executive Director of Lake Street Council. “We responded quickly and nimbly, and through financial support and advice, we helped over 400 businesses complete repairs, restock and reopen their doors."

Opus Foundation Grant Supports Expanded Services

The Opus Foundation grant will help LSC expand and accelerate the support it provides to small businesses still recovering from COVID-19 and the civil unrest. Specifically, the grant will contribute to LSC achieving three goals:

  1. Expand its small business technical assistance program, including helping business owners access capital to sustain and grow their businesses and in some cases move from renting to property ownership.
  2. Ensure each independent owner of a demolished, damaged or displaced business that wants to purchase a building or rebuild receives professional assistance in real estate development and construction project management.
  3. Help businesses increase sales by expanding their digital marketing footprint, so they can better compete in a world of e-commerce and social media algorithms.
LSC is facing historically high demand for financial assistance, despite expanding its staff from four to 11 since 2020. “We have been able to reach more business owners, in their own languages, and get funds to struggling entrepreneurs efficiently, equitably and transparently," said Allison Sharkey, Executive Director of the Lake Street Council. “Meanwhile, we have grown and this grant will help us sustain the new, larger size of our organization during a time when our services are still very much needed."

Beyond the Foundation grant, Opus associates have the opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of the Lake Street corridor.

“To augment the financial support from the grant, Opus associates have the opportunity to support LSC's second goal. LSC has asked Opus associates to assist with occasional advising to individual entrepreneurs who are embarking on building renovation projects," said Beth Duyvejonck, Regional Vice President of Construction. In addition to being an Opus Foundation board member, Beth is coordinating with LSC to offer associate support. “Our associate volunteers will meet with a business owner to help them determine their next steps for scoping, hiring and managing a building project."

“I've been really impressed by the openness with which Opus leadership has asked the community, 'How can we be helpful to you?'" Allison said.

Through its work, LSC is striving to bring back all the displaced or closed businesses while ensuring Lake Street remains affordable to local entrepreneurs. Its longer-term vision is to help communities of color build generational wealth through business and property ownership. 


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.