Green heroes

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February 28, 2011 // UPDATED 8:54 am - February 28, 2011
By: Sarah harris
Sarah harris
The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID) is charged with a mission — to make Downtown cleaner, safer, greener and better.

The brilliant part about being in Minnesota is natural refrigeration! Unlike southern cities that try to maintain a sense of excitement year-round, Minneapolis can actually use fresh pine, birch and dogwood to celebrate the winter. The plants thrive thanks to the natural cool. And, the twinkle lights and LED snowflakes actually make sense here where they can sparkle along with the snowflakes that fall from the sky (in greater quantity this year than most, but you get my point).

So, why am I writing about our wonderful wintry season? Because DID has been bringing attention to the need to create magical, pedestrian scale spaces in our public realm. As mentioned in the last issue of The Journal, DID hosted an event in January to highlight the multiple ways greening can improve our city. The event included recognition of nine organizations that made a difference in the public realm last summer. We will do the same in 2011, at which time we will also include a celebration of winter greening winners as well.  

Previously we focused on the effectiveness of softening parking lot edges with plantings. Today, we highlight how important entryway greening is in making Downtown feel engaging. The work done by YWCA and Target Corp., DID Greening Award winners, showcases two models of greening projects that other businesses can follow to help transform Downtown into a beautiful outdoor city.  

Planters, hanging baskets, sculpture, hall of fame stars in the sidewalk and seating are but some of the many ways properties can enhance the exterior of their building and highlight the businesses inside. Every element adds interest to the public realm while visually signaling to pedestrians that the area is cared for, beautiful and full of exciting things to do and explore. The sense of arrival to the individual businesses is important, but equally important is how each part adds appeal to the community as a whole. All of our constituents, whether customers, visitors, residents, families or employees, want to be in beautiful, cared-for spaces, and each well tended greening effort helps make Downtown such a place.

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.


Our DID greening and public realm awards jury is always looking for worthy recipients. If you know of a property going above and beyond to make the outdoor experience better, let us know by going to the feedback page at