As buildings destroyed in Lake Street riots cleared away, business owners look to future

Demolition crews cleared away the remains of several buildings along Lake Street in Minneapolis on Tuesday, nearly seven months after they were destroyed in the riots following George Floyd’s death.

Gandhi Mahal, a popular Bangladeshi restaurant, was one of the businesses that burned to the ground during the unrest.

Ruhel Islam said he opened the restaurant 12 years ago after moving to Minnesota as an immigrant.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS interviewed Islam in August, when he encountered roadblocks in trying to demolish the building.

Lake Street business owners facing roadblocks in demolishing buildings destroyed in unrest

He said Tuesday’s demolition is an important step in moving forward.

"Very important thing is how we can come back strong," Islam said. "We just have to make sure that we hope for better future. That means we will finally have a blank canvas to put our dream together."

Islam said, once the rubble is cleared away, he wants to reimagine what that corner of Lake Street can become. He believes that, with community support, they can create an ‘urban ecosystem’ that will sustain itself and breathe new life into the area.

He is already building a greenhouse across the street to grow vegetables, leafy greens and spices.

Islam is working with neighboring businesses and a consultant to draw up plans for a new community gathering place on the grounds of his former restaurant. He said that will likely include a redesigned restaurant, theater and artist space. He said the building will incorporate solar energy and an aquaponics system as well.

Islam said he would like to gather input from around the country to design the new space, which he hopes can be a model for other communities around the world.

"The building will sustain for a long, long time and help us continue our work of social justice, racial justice and food security," Islam said. "Healing, peace, you will come in to feel peace. All we want is peace."

Islam is running a new restaurant called Curry in a Hurry from a temporary location.

He hopes the community will support that restaurant and the plans for the future. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $123,000.