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As office workers prepare to return, Twin Cities downtowns face uncertain future

Plus: Minnesota House slated to take up recreational marijuana bill; housing prices continue to rise across state; Minneapolis leaders begin signing off on large workers’ comp packages for outgoing MPD officers; and more.

Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis
Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik writes:  “As cities around the country prepare to welcome back office workers who’ve been on the job at home, there are big questions about just who will return and what post-pandemic downtowns will look like. ‘There’s no one downtown,’ laments Brenda Lamb, who owns Candyland stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns. … Even downtown boosters acknowledge their districts will never be the same following the pandemic. Steve Cramer heads the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Downtown Improvement District. … ‘I think we have to be realistic that there is going to be this process of resetting the downtown economy and it’s not going to be exactly like it was before,’ Cramer said. ‘But it’s not going be a collapse, it’s going to be a reset and there are still some things you can only do downtown.’”

A WCCO-TV story says, “The Minnesota House is slated to take up a bill Thursday that would legalize recreational marijuana, marking the first time that the issue has advanced to the chamber floor for a vote. The bill, which has bipartisan support in the House, would legalize cannabis use for adults and expunge the records of those convicted of nonviolent offenses involving marijuana. If the bill is approved in the House, a vote is unlikely in the Republican-controlled Senate. In February, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka released a statement, saying he does not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as ‘a Minnesota priority’.”

FOX 9’s Paul Blume reports: “Minneapolis city leaders have begun signing off on large workers’ compensation packages for dozens of police officers who left the department after the death of George Floyd and subsequent civil unrest. By some estimates, those settlements requiring City Council approval could approach $35 million. … [Attorney Ron] Meuser is currently settling workers’ compensation packages with City Hall as his clients officially leave their jobs, including one for [$]250,000. The city is spreading out the payouts over several years to ease the financial impact. One council member told FOX 9 the mass exodus of officers is alarming.”

Says Carter Jones for The Business Journal,The gap between buyer demand and available inventory in Minnesota’s housing market is continuing to widen, causing prices to rise even higher. Median sales prices statewide rose to $305,000 last month, a 10.9% increase over the same time last year. Closed sales also climbed 10.9%, while pending sales leaped 32% and new listings jumped 18.2%, according to data released Tuesday by Minnesota Realtors (MNR). Meanwhile, the amount of homes for sale decreased 51.7% from last year to only 8,519 listings this April. Homes were only on the market for an average of 36 days, a 25% decrease from year-over-year.”

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At FOX 9, Babs Santos says, “During the pandemic, the Minnesota Orchestra has resorted to recording its concerts for people to listen to online or on the radio, but very soon people will be able to enjoy the music in-person again. … Things won’t sound different, but they will look different. ‘6 feet apart, we have to be masked,’ Freed explained. ‘We are now I believe we are almost completely vaccinated.’ Tickets go on sale in one week on Tuesday, then around 400 people will be back for two shows on June 11 and June 25.”

This from the Austin Daily Herald: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the state of Minnesota’s revised hemp production plan. The plan governs the production and regulation of hemp in Minnesota and needed federal approval as part of USDA’s U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. … This will be the first year Minnesota’s program will be operating under a new, federally approved state plan that governs production and regulation. When the 2018 Federal Farm Bill legalized hemp as an agricultural commodity, it also required states and tribal nations to submit plans to the USDA if governments wanted to oversee their own commercial program.”

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes: “Tech entrepreneur Marc Lore and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez’s 30-day exclusive negotiating window to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves from Glen Taylor has ended without a formal deal. Both sides are continuing to negotiate in good faith in an attempt to reach an agreement and it is possible that an extension to the window could be worked out, but one isn’t currently in place, sources told ESPN.”

For Southwest News Media, Audrey Kennedy writes: “Emily Sands has always been a ‘Jeopardy!’ fan. She and her family watch the popular quiz show every night — but little did she know that the half hour she spent on an online test would result in a trip to Los Angeles and tens of thousands of dollars. Sands is now a three-time ‘Jeopardy!’ Champion, winning three games in a row and leaving with $73,000. The Chanhassen resident’s episodes were filmed in late February and March and aired this May.”