The state of downtown is strong

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February 10, 2014
By: Steve Cramer
Steve Cramer

The Minneapolis Downtown Council’s (MDC) annual meeting Feb. 5 drew a crowd of over 700 people from across the city’s business, political and community sectors to the Hilton for lunch. Attendees heard a status report on a thriving downtown. Leaders working on the Council’s 2025 Intersections Plan also highlighted successes related to implementing 10 overarching goals for further vibrancy, and unveiled new initiatives for 2014. All during the program special guests including Mayor Betsy Hodges and U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis offered their comments and insights.

Here are a few highlights I found especially noteworthy.

— The residential population downtown continues to grow, now up to 37,526. And a task force of the 2025 Plan Development Committee is hard at work fashioning a “Live Downtown” campaign to help maintain momentum toward an eventual goal of 70,000 residents.

— Downtown is a vital employment hub. Our top 15 companies alone employ over 50,000 workers. To promote further job growth an exciting new web-based tool was unveiled at the meeting, featuring key facts about downtown as a place for employers along with compelling testimonials from several CEOs who chose Minneapolis. Thanks goes to another 2025 Development Committee task force focused on office, retail and hotel growth, along with a website team from Target, for this new resource.

— The reality of safety downtown is improving, although working to broaden that understanding requires constant attention. For the fourth straight year offenses by the “downtown chronic 100” were reduced by more than 70 to 84 percent in 2013 alone — due to a concerted public-private partnership. The Minneapolis Police Department, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, City and County prosecutors, the DID Fusion Center at the 1st Police Precinct in the Warehouse District, and other law enforcement personnel are all gearing up to work hand in glove with the business community over this busy summer in downtown.

— I said at the meeting we can be proud that a business organization like the MDC has as one of its top goals ending street homelessness, and that the 2025 Plan Downtown Community Committee can show solid progress over the last several years due to efforts to house people. The number of individuals around downtown who street outreach workers identify as chronically homeless is at an all time low. Attention is also turning to development of a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to increase livability along Nicollet Mall by dealing constructively with panhandling and loitering as physical improvements designed by James Corner Field Operations are also planned.

— Greening downtown and enhancing how workers, residents and visitors experience the “public realm” is a theme running throughout the 2025 Plan. The Council’s Greening and Public Realm Committee can point to several instances last year where business community input and involvement resulted in public and private projects focusing more on this goal than otherwise would have been true. With significant but also costly opportunities to vastly improve open space and the street level feel of downtown just ahead, there is a premium on this cooperative approach. MDC is ready to play our part.

—   The 2025 Plan calls for a consistently compelling downtown experience. We know 2014 is going to fit that description with the All-Star game in July, a great season for Hennepin Avenue’s theatres, lights back on at Orchestra Hall for the Grammy winning Minnesota Orchestra, and a record setting year in store at the Convention Center. An active Downtown Experience Committee reported more work in the cue to build on this success, to brand Hennepin Avenue as a cultural corridor, and yes to create an exciting new holiday tradition in downtown for years ahead. Another mainstay of the downtown experience announced at the annual meeting is the Minneapolis Mix: Minneapolis Idea eXchange. Stay tuned for details about an initial launch this fall.

I walked away from lunch with a bounce in my step, feeling downtown is alive and well with the best yet to come!

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