Nicollet Mall is about to get the white-glove treatment, as judges conduct surprise inspections beginning at the end of June.
The judges are not city inspectors or angry drill sergeants, but the businesspeople themselves. For the third straight year, mall blocks will compete to see which looks the best.
Last year, the honors went to the block between 8th and 9th streets, home to U.S. Bank, McCormick and Schmicks, Midwest Plaza, Walgreens, and Barnes & Noble.
The reward: "Recognition and a plaque," said Brian Fesler, director of special affairs for the Church of Scientology, 1011 Nicollet Mall, who coordinates the Nicollet Mall Advisory Board Maintenance Committee.
The purpose is to keep Downtown's main shopping artery beautiful without raising the cost of special assessments, which are used for repairs, Fesler said. Property owners do their own upkeep and maintenance of streets, sidewalks and public planters.
A group of four to eight judges will score each block on landscaping and maintenance, as well as how well each block works together. At the end of the summer, Fesler will tally the results and announce 2005's winner.
Brian Burg, Midwest Plaza's operations general manager, credits much of last year's victory to contracted maintenance crews who keep up flowers and landscaping on the block.
"It's a great thing that the board promotes it," Burg said, calling Fesler a "champion" in his own right.
"It reminds people to take a more conscious pride in something they should be looking out for on a daily basis," Burg said.
That's one reason for the "surprise" inspections. Fesler wouldn't say when the judges would be out, lest business owners spiff up sidewalks for just that day. Fesler said there are no kickbacks or back-room deals.
"I wish the competition would heat up that intense," he said (to encourage participation, not to line his pockets, he explained.)
Said Burg: "On Thursdays, when the Farmers' Market is set up, with all the flowers in bloom and everybody out, it makes you glad that you work in Downtown Minneapolis."
Volunteer judges last year included City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), seniors from the Skyway Senior Center and members of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Anyone connected to Nicollet Mall who is interested in being a judge may call Brian Fesler at 338-5111 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.