People returning to Minneapolis after some time away have remarked to me recently that Downtown feels much more alive. They've noticed more businesses and sidewalk cafes, but they can't put their finger on the exact reason.
The answer is simple: New residents are transforming Downtown Minneapolis from an office park and shopping area into a bustling 24-hour neighborhood.
Nearly 30,000 people today call Downtown Minneapolis home, which is more than live downtown in Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento combined. This includes the neighborhood along the revitalized riverfront and established neighborhoods such as Elliot Park and Loring Park. Most of this development has happened without city assistance.
The Downtown housing boom has been fueled by people tired of long commutes, who want to live within walking distance of their office. Empty nesters are also leaving the suburbs to live in a community where they don't have to do a lot of upkeep and where there are amenities such as theaters and other cultural attractions, sports venues, first-class shopping, nightclubs and restaurants. Low interest rates have contributed to the increase in condo ownership Downtown, as well as homeownership throughout the city.
But Downtown is not just the province of the wealthy. Since 2002, the city has assisted in the development of 90 new affordable units, in addition to 122 new supportive housing units.
Citywide last year, more than 1,500 multifamily units were completed, and nearly 3,000 more are currently under construction. Of these, 1,800 units are affordable for families below 50 percent of the Metro Medium Income (MMI). This means we've doubled our annual production level in two short years.
Over the next 30 years, we need to add about 26,000 housing units to meet the housing needs of a population expected to grow by 25,000 households. To do this, we will need to continue to encourage and support the production of different types of housing for all income levels, as well as preserve the many existing units throughout the city.
Whether it is Downtown or in the neighborhoods, we welcome the housing development. Because of new housing development, Downtown is becoming more than just a place to work and shop; it is becoming a collection of thriving neighborhoods where people work, play and live.
R.T. Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis.