Coliseum Restoration Project Breathes New Life into Old Building

We’ve been watching the Coliseum on the corner of 27th Ave S and East Lake Street transform over the last several years from a building scarred by neighborhood destruction into a future beacon of business. And the restoration is almost complete. Construction is slated to be completed by March of this year with a Grand Opening planned to coincide with Juneteenth, according to Taylor Smirkarova, Real Estate Development Director with Redesign.

The Coliseum has a long history in our neighborhood. It was originally constructed in 1917  to house a department store and dance hall – some of the original dancehall floors you could still see! Its uses continued to expand, and by the 2020s, the building featured a health clinic, a variety of restaurants, and other various businesses. In May 2020, the building was burned, with much of the neighborhood, in the uprisings following George Floyd’s murder. The past tenants left the structure in large part due to the damage caused by the fires and the worry that there might be more to come. The building remained standing in disrepair. Most of the commercial parts of the areas of 27th Ave S. and East Lake Street were burned down and damaged, which greatly impacted the area referred to as “Downtown Longfellow.”

Years later, the Coliseum will have yet another new life. The historic building will host a full service bar and a new restaurant featuring food with a New Orleans flair from Du Nord Social Spirits, nonprofits SHAKE Communities, and 20 open spaces for more businesses. Developers are hopeful these businesses will be open for the Juneteenth Grand Opening.

The basement, second, and third floors are available to lease for office use. The street-level first floor is for retail use and also houses the Coliseum Event Center which will be available for weddings, corporate retreats, conferences, and more. There will also be conference rooms available for lease by the hour. Business leasing begins in April of 2024 and there will be a leasing preview as part of Doors Open Minneapolis the third week of May. Folks that are interested in leasing space are encouraged to join. Redesign and its partners are working to fill the space with local small businesses that are BIPOC owned.

Taking Steps to Physically Repair

Greater Longfellow nonprofit Community Development Corporation Redesign, Inc. is the Development Lead on this project, co-developing with emerging developers of color. These three local Black-owned small businesses leaders – Alicia Belton (Urban Design Perspectives), Janice Downing (Common Sense Consulting), and Shanelle Montana (Du Nord Social Spirits) – are co-developing the Coliseum Building with Redesign, Inc. and will be both tenants and long-term owners of the building.

The historic structure has long been a destination for community commerce and the redevelopment will honor that legacy with a bar and restaurant on the first floor as well as retail spaces and event center. On the floors above is planned office space  as well as hybrid conference rooms and meeting spaces and a roof deck. The building will also have bike storage and shower, mothers room and solar panels. Construction is currently ongoing, with hopeful plans to open around Spring of this year. The 60-year-old, family-run construction company Watson-Forsberg partnered with Tri-Construction, Inc., a minority-owned, union company on the construction of the Coliseum Building.

“The restoration of the Coliseum building is a key part of the Longfellow neighborhood’s healing process,” Redesign states on their project page. The Coliseum’s restoration is a symbol of hope for the community and is a way to propel the community’s repair efforts for the area that has been affected by protest damage, as well as a step in the process in the mental and physical healing of the Longfellow community.

“The 85,000 square foot Coliseum building has long been a beacon for local businesses and BIPOC entrepreneurs. Through the redevelopment process led by Redesign, Inc. the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Redesign is partnering with three local Black-owned small businesses to be both tenants and long-term owners in the Coliseum Building,” Redesign stated, “Through this partnership, the voices of people of color will be at the table making the key decisions on how this community moves forward.”

Through these efforts, the building will once again be hosting businesses for the community instead of remaining a barren structure. Additionally, the idea of giving BIPOC partners a substantial voice in the project’s progression will also aid in approaching the healing project properly for the community while working towards uplifting BIPOC voices, ideas, businesses, and more, therefore allowing the building to continue  its legacy as being a place for BIPOC entrepreneurs and local businesses to flourish.

LCC Staff got a little sneak peek at the building during construction in December of 2023 with a tour through the building. Redesign staff showed us where the the restaurant would be, retail space and office space. It was exciting to see all the of the plans come to life and see Redesign’s vision for the space come to life. The remodel of the Coliseum has been a long awaited revitalization for the community.

The Importance of BIPOC Involvement

Maintaining the idea that the Coliseum will house POC-owned businesses, creates a positive impact through BIPOC citizens in the community and will serve as an opportunity “to create generational wealth for BIPOC small business owners through the equitable redevelopment of a building that was damaged in the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.” The Coliseum’s impact aims to improve the equity levels of ownership and opportunity in Longfellow, allowing for a more fair and equitable playing field for local businesses of all kinds to thrive, grow, and carry on throughout generations. This will strengthen the community’s healing process and attempt to address issues of inequality within our neighborhood while giving Black business owners a voice in the restoration process itself. As Redesign, Inc. stated, “We have committed to a set of principles that aims to center BIPOC voices throughout the redevelopment process along the corridor. Redesign is also committed to working with the National Association of Minority Contractors of Minnesota and hiring as many BIPOC-owned firms as possible.”

Art as a Tool of Healing

In addition to housing BIPOC-owned businesses, several of which will co-own the building, the Coliseum restoration project will allow opportunities for local art and creativity to shine. Redesign, Inc. believes that “the health and well-being of a community can usually be seen in the faces of its residents, in its architecture, and its businesses & streetscape.” Through the help of five x five art consultants, artist Kada Goalen created a beautiful, two-story mural on the coliseum’s facade. In the article titled “Mural Brightens Coliseum Building and Celebrates Diversity” by Longfellow Nokomis Messanger, Goalen stated “My hope is that the new mural captures the strength of the neighborhood and its bright future ahead. The mural represents unity and resilience, with the intention of celebrating the diversity of those who live in the area.” When it comes to the content of the mural, the LFNM article stated “Goalen restored the Freeman’s sign and added elements representing the community into her adjacent mural, highlighting the diverse women of Longfellow and the numerous cultures and ethnic groups they represent. The 27 million dollar restoration is led predominantly by women of color.” Through the healing power of art, the Coliseum restoration provides more than just literal opportunities for BIPOC citizens (especially women), but puts them and their achievements on the map in a visual display of appreciation.

With available leasing space, new businesses to come, and healing displays of art in an area that has fallen into despair, Longfellow citizens as a whole have lots to look forward to with this project. This will be a project that aims to benefit the community as one unit and will be an important step in healing the community.  Leases are available for a 3-year minimum starting in April of 2024. For businesses curious about leasing, email Taylor Smrikarova at