Downtown Council picks new board chair

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February 7, 2005 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Downtown is nearing 30,000 residents and Deborah Hopp is one of its leaders.

Hopp, publisher of the Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, has been elected chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, succeeding Russ Nelson, president of the commercial real estate firm, Nelson, Tietz & Hoye.

She is the second woman elected chair in the council's history; the group turns 50 later this year. The private, nonprofit corporation promotes Downtown business growth and development.

Louise Saunders, who operated Charlie's Caf Exceptionale, a nationally renowned Downtown restaurant that closed in 1982, was the first female Downtown Council chair in 1978. Saunders - also one of the first women to make partner at a Twin Cities law firm - died in 2003 at age 82, according to a Star Tribune obituary.

Hopp also serves as vice president of publishing for Downtown-based MSP Communications, which also publishes Twin Cities Business Monthly and Minnesota Law & Politics.

Hopp said she's eager to carry the torch on several key initiatives and Downtown projects, such as a proposed new Twins ballpark in the Warehouse District, expanded commuter rail lines and a plan to reroute buses from Nicollet Mall.

"We certainly have to continue our efforts for this Twins ballpark and keep the pressure on to make sure our transportation needs are addressed and funded. We really need to maximize usage and visibility of the light-rail line that we have and really make efforts to extend the line," Hopp said.

She also plans to focus on special festivities to commemorate the Council's 50th anniversary planned for late summer.

Besides Hopp, the Downtown Council elected 16 additional board members to three-year terms during its annual meeting Jan. 27 at the Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Ave. S. About 800 people attended the event. The group has 48 board members.

Sam Grabarski, president and CEO of the Downtown Council, highlighted recent transportation and development projects, such as the June 2004 opening of light-rail transit during remarks at the meeting. He also lauded proposals for additional rail lines Downtown, such as the Northstar Corridor that would connect Minneapolis and Big Lake, a city 40 miles northwest of Downtown, and the Central Corridor, a line linking Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Grabarski also joked about creating a "train-cino" that would generate additional transportation dollars by allowing casinos on mass transit.

Besides promoting transportation projects, Grabarski also singled out developers who have completed new housing projects Downtown or have new residential developments in the pipeline.

According to Downtown Council research, Grabarski said Downtown is on the verge of reaching 30,000 residents. As of Jan. 27, he said the population was 29,350.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also drew attention to a list of Downtown highlights, including Lund Food Holding's recent announcement that it plans to open two new full-service Lund's grocery stores in Loring Park and on the East Bank in 2006; the area's burgeoning jazz district with the opening of the Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall; and thousands of new housing units.

Rybak also urged business and community leaders to step forward with donations to keep open the Skyway Senior Center at 950 Nicollet Mall. The center, which has several resources and activities for Downtown's senior citizens, is in danger of closing. He also asked business leaders to help with a city initiative to create summer job opportunities for area youth.