Moving toward an even more dynamic downtown

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May 29, 2014
By: Steve Cramer
Steve Cramer

It has been an exciting last couple of months. Progress on achieving the kind of downtown envisioned by the “Intersections: Downtown 2025 Plan” and its 10 goals is occurring at a rapid pace!

For instance, the Downtown Improvement District’s “Greening Awards” presented in late April demonstrate the public realm our community aspires to create throughout the core and adjacent residential neighborhoods. Over two dozen projects from North Loop to Mill District, and South Nicollet Mall to Nicollet Island were recognized. Award winners can be seen at www.minneapolisdid.com.

The 2025 Plan also calls for creating a “consistently compelling downtown experience.” What will be more compelling than this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star game in mid-July, and the just awarded Super Bowl LII in February 2018? Both events will showcase our great city to thousands of visitors and a worldwide media audience.

A centerpiece for both events will be the Nicollet Mall. The Mall was also front and center as the city’s top legislative priority this session. Minneapolis successfully sought an investment to help transform Nicollet into the “must see” destination called for by the Intersections Plan. With a $21.5 million dollar state bonding bill allocation approved this initiative is well on its way toward implementation. There is much hard work ahead to fully finance the project’s $50 million price tag, and to turn the exciting concept design into a reality by summer 2016. Stay tuned as more details emerge.

Other key goals of the 2025 Intersections Plan are also on track for implementation. Five main committees and numerous sub-groups, task forces and working groups are making amazing progress. Literally hundreds of people drawn from throughout the downtown community are engaged and energized by their work on the plan. Here are some additional highlights of activities to date.

The Greening and Public Realm Committee has focused on both short-term and more future oriented initiatives, including:

— Helping Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis shape a new plan for a stretch of Washington Avenue east of Hennepin with a strong emphasis on pedestrian, bike and green elements;

— Advocating for a strong public realm element in the redevelopment of the Nicollet Hotel block in keeping with the vision for a “Gateway” connection between the confluence of Nicollet and Hennepin and the Mississippi River; and

— Planning significant greening and activation of Peavey Plaza this summer/fall.

As cited above one of the 2025 Plan goals is to create a consistently compelling experience. The Downtown Experience Committee has taken up that challenge. By blending the Downtown Council’s year around activation framework with initiatives that stem from the Cultural Corridor like downtown parklots and the “Made Here” campaign featuring local artists and their work in available storefronts, the committee is well on its way. And a new holiday tradition is in the planning stages to add excitement at that special time of year.

Not surprisingly, given hot market conditions right now, the Development Committee is very active. Highlights include:

— Creating a “Be in Business” website to promote job growth, featuring testimonials from several downtown CEO’s about their positive experience as an employer;

— Developing a live downtown to keep the momentum going toward the Intersections Plan goal of 70,000 residents by 2025;

— Displaying work from students at the University of Minnesota’s Metropolitan Design Center, which demonstrates an economically feasible opportunity to physically connect east downtown with the western edge of the U’s campus with a land bridge over I-35W; and

— Organizing to address additional goals around retail growth and development in and around the new Vikings Stadium.

Two committees are addressing aspects of community life in downtown.

The group focused on ending street homelessness is making progress toward this important but very challenging goal through extensive street outreach work, encouraging creation of additional housing options, and an initial public education campaign to redirect the charitable impulses of workers, residents and visitors downtown away from giving on the street to support of permanent solutions.

And with our rich tradition of innovation and strong civic and cultural institutions as a back drop, MiX: Minneapolis ideas Exchange has been conceived as a downtown-based celebration of curiosity and robust dialogue to be held each fall, starting with an introduction in 2014 and full schedule in 2015.

These and many other activities will continue to move forward based on the 10 goals of the 2025 Intersections Plan. Perhaps best of all, work on the goals will continue to offer an opportunity for engagement in shaping our future as an extraordinary downtown.

Steve Cramer is the CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council/Downtown Improvement District.