2014 is going to be an exciting year in downtown Minneapolis! I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to be part of that excitement from my post as CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District.
I also greatly appreciate the chance to weigh-in regularly on the pages of the Downtown Journal as events unfold.
I started my career downtown 34 years ago working for the Urban Coalition of Minneapolis in a third floor office at 89 South 10th Street. (Actually, I didn’t have an office until the organization decided to build walls around the desk I sat at in a large open space, which I took as a sign that I was doing well on the job.) My first apartment was in Loring Park, so I walked through the Loring Greenway every day, down Nicollet Mall, past Westminster Church and Peavey Plaza, towards the IDS Center before turning at 10th. Very exhilarating for someone who grew up in Dubuque, Iowa.
Over the years I have been privileged to serve on the City Council for a decade, be appointed a department head in both city and county government responsible for overseeing development activities, and for 16 of the past 20 years lead a high impact non-profit organization (Project for Pride in Living) working to strengthen neighborhoods and low-income residents throughout the Twin Cities.
During that time Minneapolis has become a very different place, growing in ethnic diversity, coming of age dealing with tough urban realities of public safety, public finance and market trends not always favorable to core city prosperity, and emerging as one of the strongest and most resilient “post Great Recession” communities in America.
As for downtown, I can’t remember a time when it has been this healthy. Of course there are plentiful remaining opportunities to build on current success. The Downtown Council’s 2025 Intersections Plan maps out a visionary and comprehensive set of goals designed to make downtown Minneapolis an even more extraordinary place to live, work and play. Count on reading regularly in this space about how different aspects of the plan are progressing in the months and years ahead. And the Downtown Improvement District, just renewed for an additional five years, adds an outstanding suite of services that contribute an important quality of life factor to the downtown experience that was missing before.
We also start the year with a new Mayor, and a City Council that is a terrific blend of experienced public servants and newly elected members, all with a variety of personal and professional backgrounds to draw on as they weigh decisions. Downtown leaders have already had several occasions to interact with Mayor Hodges in her new role, as well as with council members. An open, regular and constructive flow of communication is one key to maintaining momentum. I’m confident that will occur.
I took note a few months when the U.S. Commerce Department ranked the Minneapolis-St. Paul area economy as 13th largest in the nation, just ahead of Detroit and just behind Seattle. Downtown Minneapolis is the heart of that thriving economy, and it only makes sense for city, regional and state leaders to continue to nurture growth and prosperity, working hand in hand with the business community and other stakeholders.
It’s also important for all of us in Minneapolis to recognize we are fortunate to be part of a city with both a strong downtown and strong neighborhoods. In my view this is a connected and mutually reinforcing condition that helps set our city apart and must be maintained.
For me, it’s been a fun ride so far. And there are even better days ahead. I’ll look forward to sharing my thoughts as those days occur.
Steve Cramer is the new CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council/Downtown Improvement District.