Thor Construction Aims to Lead with its Dollars and Actions

As reported yesterday in Globest.com, a construction company with $150 million in annual revenue has decided to move its headquarters from the leafy suburbs of Minneapolis into the city’s north side, a historically disadvantaged community. Today, Ravi Norman, the chief executive officer of THOR Construction Co., tells GlobeSt.com more about this decision and what company officials hope to accomplish with this move.

“There has been a lot of discussion lately about the disparity between white communities and communities of color,” he says. And rather than merely joining in this conversation, THOR officials “think we should provide an example of how to bring transformational change. We are going to lead with our dollars and actions, and not just our words.”

The minority-owned company plans a four-story, 92,000-square-foot tower at the southwest corner of Penn and Plymouth avenues, right in the heart of the neighborhood with about 60,000 people but very little outside investment. Although Minneapolis has a remarkably healthy economy, one of America’s best, like other cities it saw white flight in the in 1950s and riots in the late 1960s. That familiar cycle left much of the north side, and its predominantly African-American population, somewhat isolated and ignored.

A simple headquarters building might not help change all that. But THOR aims to much bigger impact. “This neighborhood needs private investment to create a market that can sustain the community,” says Norman. The $30 million project will also offer 65,000 square feet of office space for other tenants, 16,000 square feet of of ground-level retail space, and a parking garage.

The company has letters of intent from potential tenants that will occupy about 67% of the office space, he adds. The city and county board still need to approve the project.

Perhaps most important for the future of North Minneapolis, THOR plans to bring in other institutional partners and create a hub for minority entrepreneurship. For example, Normal says the neighborhood has great potential to tap into the region’s dense ecosystem of healthcare and life sciences firms.

And THOR is not alone in its efforts to transform the neighborhood. The University of Minnesota established its Robert J. Jones Urban Outreach and Engagement Center just several blocks from THOR’s planned project. Furthermore, the NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center on the northwest corner of Penn and Plymouth, directly across from the proposed THOR site, plans a $60 million expansion, yet another sign of the strength of of health care market here.

If the NorthPoint project goes forward, combined with the THOR building it would mean nearly $100 million in new investment. And Norman believes that “will be a sign that North Minneapolis is open for business.”

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