Losing middle-income Downtown

Share this:
August 18, 2003 // UPDATED 11:03 am - April 30, 2007
By: Shawn Marie Christenson
Shawn Marie Christenson

I love the city of Minneapolis -- especially Downtown. This place felt like home from the time I was 8 years old, hopping the #12 from Hopkins just so I could spend some time exploring the city streets. Now 37, I've collected memories on almost every block.

I have my own daughter now: Gracie, age 6. We have lived at Rivergate apartments near the Mississippi River for most of her life. This is the neighborhood she knows. It's peaceful here. We wake up to a view of the sunrise over that river every single morning -- our own slice of nature right here amidst the glass and concrete. The beautifully landscaped Mississippi Mile offers us the trees and grass we might have if we lived in the suburbs. The skyways are where we make our morning commute.

We can look out at the wide spaces one minute and 10 minutes later be in the heart of the city -- but it's what's right outside our window that concerns me these days.

There is talk of a 39-story building, Bridge Square, going up right by our apartment. If enough units sell, they could be breaking ground next spring. Within a year or two, our lovely view of the charming Stone Arch Bridge and riverfront could be replaced by glass and concrete, and the sounds of construction will invade our peaceful space for a very long time. If this tower is going to be so tall, does it really need to stand so close?

I am not against progress, mind you, but I am against tossing yet another large tower along the river's edge in the name of profit. You see, it doesn't feel much like a neighborhood when you're surrounded by skyscrapers. It doesn't feel much like a neighborhood when the sunlight coming through your window each day turns to shadow. It doesn't feel much like a neighborhood when 200-plus people move in next door. It feels like the city.

And that was the beauty of this place: it didn't used to feel the city.

My lease is coming up in November. I don't know if I'll sign it or not. I can't afford to buy a unit in the new condos and get my river and sunlight back. I'm a single working mother, after all. I do OK, but not that OK. I really lucked out when I found Rivergate, but now it seems Rivergate may lose its sight of the river. Finding affordable housing for middle-income families Downtown is a joke.

I've lived in the city for 19 years now, and I always swore I would never leave. To me, what I have here is what has made this city so wonderfully unique. Typically, a middle-income, single mother, couldn't find a place she could afford Downtown, away from the heart of the city and close to the trees and the grass -- one where even a kid fits in. That we can live here has always seemed like a great fortune to me and is what makes the city of Minneapolis so beautiful. Typically, you can find older buildings but not entire neighborhoods. Typically within a major city, you just don't find spots like this.

Do we really want to be that typical?

Shawn Marie Christenson lives Downtown.