The DID was formed this year by the Downtown business community. Its mission is to make Downtown vibrant and engaging for everyone who works, lives and visits Downtown.
Initially, this means we are focusing on making 120 blocks of Downtown cleaner, safer, better maintained, and, starting next year, greener. Properties in the DID pay a special assessment that is pooled together enabling us to raise the overall standard of Downtown. As proven in districts in numerous other cities nationwide, by raising the standard, people will notice that Downtown is a vibrant and great place to be.
Our first effort was to deploy safe and clean ambassadors (the “people in green”). Everyday of the year, these friendly faces of Downtown will be patrolling 120 blocks to help you navigate to your destination of choice, provide ideas of things to do while you are in downtown, or escort you under an umbrella if you unexpectedly get caught in the rain. The Ambassadors have already assisted more than 8,000 people in July alone. Equally important, they serve as extra eyes and ears on the street — they are trained in first aid, are connected directly to the Minneapolis Police Department, and have been trained to address aggressive panhandling. They can even save lives — they have already ‘come to the rescue’ in several serious medical emergencies.
Some ambassadors are also focused on making Downtown clean — removing more than 62,000 pounds of trash and 3,500 graffiti tags in July alone. You may have also noticed the disappearance of weeds, gum and other stains from the sidewalks. Think of Downtown as everyone’s front yard, and the Ambassadors are working hard to enhance our curb appeal!
Over the coming months, I will contribute articles to the Downtown Journal explaining what we’re doing at the DID, why it matters and how everyone can get involved in making our Downtown better. I encourage you to provide feedback about what we’re doing well and what we can improve upon — you can comment at MinneapolisDID.com. I will also introduce you to the people that are making the DID success possible.
Demetrius, Safe Ambassdor
Question most frequently asked of Demetrius: “Where is a good restaurant?”
When asked why he became an Ambassador, Demetrius replied simply: “This is my job, it suits me — everything I do is downtown.”
Since arriving in Minneapolis seven years ago, all of his activities have been Downtown — his job, home and fitness club.
This enables him to live a vehicle-free (and gas-free) life, and he can “always make it to work, even in a snowstorm.”
He also enjoys working with people “from 5 to 65 years old, everyone is welcome downtown.”
Unshakeable and calm, with a soft voice and warm smile, Demetrius likes to help people if they are lost or simply need a hand. He is happy to make them feel safer.
When asked to share his most memorable experience, Demetrius recalled a recent interaction when he was helping to de-escalate a fight between two men. At first they were upset with him for interfering, but as he treated them with respect while discussing the need to change their behavior, they quickly calmed down and became appreciative. The incident ended with them shaking his hand in thanks. Demetrius remarked that he was gratified to see how effective the training he had received was in this situation. And, he is gratified to know he is making a difference.
Sarah Harris is the Chief Operating Officer of the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making Downtown a clean, safe, green, and vibrant place to be.