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Minneapolis needs a good hostel

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Minneapolis gets good press. Everybody loves the Midtown Greenway, Forbes acknowledges our fitness, and Slate’s Matt Yglesias is basically our municipal cheerleader. The problem is that we’re bad at converting this good publicity into population growth. What’s the missing step that might make a mobile coast-dweller reading an article about Minneapolis into a new Minneapolitan? A good hostel experience.

If you’re visiting a town for a wedding or a sports game or a business trip, then a hotel is an efficient and comfortable option. However, if you’re trying to get to know a city and to get a good feel for what it would be like to live there, a sterile and institutional hotel room will only frustrate you. A good hostel will draw you into the community and give you a decently accurate picture of everyday life in a city. Mayor Rybak says he wants our city’s population to grow to 500,000 by 2025, so there should be at least one visitor-friendly hostel where outsiders can give our fair city a trial run.

As far as I can tell, Minneapolis has only one hostel, and its domain name (minneapolishostel.com) is on point, at least. I’m sure running a hostel is hard work and I don’t want to speak ill of the people behind this operation, but they have a bad website and a 2.5-out-of-5 star rating on Yelp. When I’ve stayed at hostels in other cities, I’ve been attracted by glowing reviews and user-friendly websites and Facebook pages. So I think we need another hostel.

I’m interested in this question: what’s the best location for a hostel in Minneapolis?

I have desiderata for this neighborhood. It needs to be close to street life. It needs to easy to get to from the airport by a person who doesn’t have a smartphone, doesn’t have a car, doesn’t know the area, and doesn’t speak English as her first language. There should be a lake or a park or a river nearby. It should show off the best Minneapolis has to offer.

Uptown?

Uptown has a lot going for it. The myriad bars and restaurants cater to a variety of tastes, from the fratty William’s to the froofy Barbette. Our parks are well-represented by the Midtown Greenway that leads visitors to Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. Locals might view the construction cranes as eyesores, but when I’ve visited other cities, I’ve always appreciated evidence of renewal and growth.

calhoun square
Uptown has a lot going for it.

But Uptown has a lot going against it, too. Many of the chain restaurants and retail shops (I don’t need to list them here, do I?) would bore international travelers interested in uniquely Minnesotan culture, and the transit options, while very attractive on paper, would annoy visitors who would rather use credit cards than quarters and can’t understand the street names as they’re grunted over the bus’s intercom. If they’d like a clear list of the stops made by the bus, they’d have to pull one of those little paper schedules down, and remember the route suffix that was on the front of the bus. Not fun.

North Loop?

The North Loop is the last best hope of increased population density in Minneapolis. With the new residential buildings sprouting up along the Cedar Lake Trail, behind the old Chicago-style brick buildings that the urban renewal folks forgot to raze, it’s the fastest growing neighborhood in Minneapolis. It has a train station, a farmer’s market, a great rock club, the best cluster of restaurants in the five-state area, and it’s close to the river, to boot! Maybe that would be a good place to put a hostel?

The problem with many bars and restaurants around the North Loop is that they aren’t priced for international backpackers or traveling artists; they’re marketed toward downtown workers with high salaries. Between the fancy restaurants and dance clubs, a North Loop experience would miss out on Minneapolis’s working-class and international aspects.

Cedar-Riverside!

So instead, imagine this: an international backpacker flies into MSP airport. She takes the Blue Line up to the Cedar-Riverside station, grabs dinner at a Somali restaurant, catches a local hip hop show at the Triple Rock Social Club, gets whiskey and a beer chaser at Palmer’s, and crashes in a nearby hostel. She rises late the next morning to brunch at Republic, and goes to a theatrical event at the Cedar or the Theater in the Round, after taking a picnic (or a brisk walk, depending on the season) on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. I have a hard time believing this hypothetical backpacker would ever leave our fair city. Throw in the ample stock of duplexes and the nearby college students looking for part-time work, and you have the perfect recipe for a hostel operation.

If we want people to move to Minneapolis from other cities, we should try to make a good first impression.

This post was written by Scott Shaffer and originally published on streets.mn. Follow streets.mn on Twitter: @streetsmn.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/23/2013 - 11:53 am.

    Hostel

    Something we’ve bantered around for several years is a hostel at Fort Snelling. Not the historic fort (that’s taken by the Historical Society), but rather the upper post tucked in between the historic fort and the airport. It’s close to a light rail station, Mall of America, the airport itself, two major rivers, and bike trails galore, just to name a few amenities. For night life a person would have to make a trip to uptown or downtown, but that would be part of the urban adventure.

    The heavy lifting would be raising funds for a renovation, working up a business model, and a war chest to fund advertising so people know it exists. Nothing insurmountable, but it’ll take some work to make it happen.

    If anyone is curious, this building is the lead candidate for a hostel.

    Bachelor officers’ quarters:
    http://www.upperpost.org/buildings/151/001.html

    -Todd
    Vice President, Friends of Fort Snelling

  2. Submitted by Joseph Barisonzi on 10/23/2013 - 12:28 pm.

    Minneapolis has a lot of “hostels”

    This is not a commercial plug — I am not financially connected to AirBNB

    I travel extensively. I do not stay at hotels. I stay at hostels. The hostel market has changed. They are all over. In today’s market they list on sites like AirBNB

    Minneapolis has a bunch of hostels listed on AirBNB. The range from single rooms to entire homes for rent by the day or the week. They range in price from $30/night to . . . a lot more. There are listings in every part of Minneapolis. Why choose from your list — stay at a hostel in every one of those neighborhoods today. You can read about you host and find someone that you may mesh with. I have life long friends who hosted me in Cities throughout the US.

    Travelers can afford to stay in Downtown — here is an entire studio apartment for $76/night (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/765398) Here is another in the North Loop for $125 (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/533503)

    You can stay in a Spacious Master Suite located in the heart of the city: Whittier, “The International Neighborhood”. This 1909 Gem was designed by architect Ora Wood Williams, a unique Spanish Mission style home. The host is an internationally recognized artist. Price? $72/night. The pictures will blow you away: (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/902593)

    Rent an entire home in Northeast Minneapolis. Gorgeous house. Two great living rooms. A hot tub. Need I say more? Price: $119/night.The host has over 35 reviews and a unanimous 5-star rating. (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/684633)

    I don’t have to image — I can actually do it today. Zach and Betsy have a Greek revival triplex with the characteristic grandiose columns sporting a two-story porch at the front of the house. Guests will enjoy a private room with a twin bed with a shared bathroom. They provide breakfast and free parking. They are walking distance from the light rail stop. Price: $56/night. (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1361241)

    I could go on and on and on. Not every option will work for every travelor. But if you are a family or a business travelor, a couple exploring Minneapolis for a romantic getaway — there are hostels with amazing hosts.

    And they leave a great first impression.

    Here is the link: http://goo.gl/M1XS8k

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