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Minneapolis’ mayor wants workers downtown three days a week — and other takeaways from the State of the City address

You know how Al Gore “invented the internet?” Minneapolis’ 48th mayor just “invented” Tuesday.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey delivers the State of the City Address at the Leef North offices in Near North, just west of downtown, on Thursday.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey delivers the State of the City Address at the Leef North offices in Near North, just west of downtown, on Thursday.
MinnPost photo by Kyle Stokes

You know how Al Gore “invented the internet?” 

Minneapolis’ 48th mayor just “invented” Tuesday.

During Mayor Jacob Frey’s State of the City address on Thursday, he acknowledged that Minneapolis’ population of downtown workers — at least one-third smaller than it was before the pandemic — will likely never fully return to its pre-2020 levels.

Frey said he (sorta) gets it: If you have the option to spend your Monday in comfy clothes or your Friday logging in from a lake place, why would you ever want to go into the office?

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So Frey made a pitch for the city’s white collar workers: come to work in the office on the other three days.

“The sweatpants-on-Mondays thing sounds pretty good,” Frey quipped. “So let me introduce you to this new concept that I came up with while I was writing this speech — it’s brilliant: It’s the concept of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. These are days that fall in the middle of the week — after Monday and before Friday.”

“This is a new innovative idea,” Frey added, with the audience of perhaps 200 invited guests and city officials chortling (groaning?) at his dad-joke. “In 10 years, people are going to say I was a genius.”

It was a tongue-in-cheek introduction to a serious proposal.

Frey referenced research that suggests in-person work increases “the likelihood of inventions, patents, and new business concepts,” and thus Minneapolis’ ability to stay on the “cutting edge.” He also hinted at benefits for restaurants and retailers, referencing his fond memories of “just hanging out with friends, coworkers or loved ones” downtown.

Frey’s bully-pulpit push to return to in-person work was one of several initiatives the mayor touted to inject a different kind of vibrancy to downtown — and one of several ways he argued in his speech that Minneapolis was in the midst of a “rebound.”

“Let’s pause and give each other the permission to feel happy about where Minneapolis is going,” Frey said.

Here are some other takeaways from his speech:

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More downtown initiatives

Frey said the city has convened a Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup — “one of the worst names we’ve ever created” for a task force, Frey said — which will advance recommendations for the city’s retail space later this spring.

He also highlighted the city’s initiative to transform unused offices into housing: “Sometimes the walls are going to literally have to come down.”

Crime & police reform

Frey highlighted sharp year-over-year drops in the number of homicides, carjackings, shots fired calls and robberies across the city. (He didn’t mention a rise in motor vehicle thefts and sex offenses.)

The mayor also noted that the city recently entered into a settlement agreement with a state agency that will usher in court-monitored reforms to the Minneapolis Police Department.

“The work won’t be limited to some policy change that you see in the paper,” he said. “People will feel it in interactions that they have on the streets.”

Affordable housing

Frey delivered the State of the City speech at Leef North, a new office space that’s part of a complex of housing and artist lofts in Near North Minneapolis that includes affordable units and some units for previously-unhoused individuals.

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Leef North was the same venue where the mayor held a press event in February to announce that the city had built more units of affordable rental housing (919) than in the previous three years combined — including  264 units affordable to people making less than 30% of area median income.

On Thursday, Frey said the city has helped fund another 23 projects that will eventually provide 2,221 units of new housing.

Public housing: ‘Stable Homes, Stable Schools’ to expand?

Since 2021, Frey said the city’s budget has included funding for a partnership with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and the Pohlad Family Foundation that provides rental assistance to Minneapolis Public Schools families experiencing homelessness (and some help to others who aren’t homeless, but otherwise at risk).

Frey hinted that the city and housing authority will soon announce plans to expand the program in the coming weeks or months: “It’s going to make a difference for even more kids.”

The mayor has also convened a working group of local officials and non-governmental organizations to figure out how to build more affordable public housing units.