Can downtown Minneapolis save itself?

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
The Skyways are part of a 1970s-era attempt to recreate a suburban mall atmosphere downtown with inward-facing shopping areas like City Center and others.

It was billed as a discussion on how to keep the economic and cultural momentum of Minneapolis going. It turned into something more like an intervention. 

Part of the “Kick-Ass Happy Hour” event series put together by Little, a design and branding company in the North Loop, the panel of speakers was asked to respond to this question: “We’re no longer the best-kept secret: We’re seen as a pretty kick-ass place to be. But how do we keep it that way?” 

But at least one of the panelists, restaurant and retail entrepreneur Eric Dayton, wasn’t so sure about the kick-assedness of the place – at least not its downtown.

“Everyone points fingers at Amazon and the other reasons [Minneapolis’] downtown is dying — except looking in the mirror and asking ourselves, what are we doing wrong as a city?” he said.

‘I don’t have a lot of optimism’

Dayton initiated the idea of positioning the region as the capital of “The North,” and is one of the people trying to establish a trans-Twin Cities winter festival, The Great Northern. He kicked off the discussion by talking about the ultimate goal of another organization he founded: The Skyway Avoidance Society. “The goal is to bring down the Skyway system,” he said. 

So is he really suggesting that the skyways — so rapturously beloved by many and grudgingly accepted by others — should actually be ripped from the facades of downtown buildings? It isn’t just another branding gimmick? “This isn’t an academic enterprise,” he said. “It’s not to get press. It’s really to try to change the city.”

As Dayton sees it, rebuilding streets — even if you program them from dawn until dusk  — won’t be enough to overcome the damage that results from dividing up downtown’s worker and denizens between the sidewalk and the skyway.

The idea for the society, Dayton said, came out of an article written for Mpls.St.Paul magazine by Alison Kaplan, following word that Macy’s was in negotiations to sell its Nicollet Mall building. Since the site was once home to the flagship store of the Dayton’s retail empire, Kaplan proposed that the family members buy it and make it into something cool and productive.  “Unfortunately,” Dayton says he told Kaplan, “I don’t have the optimism about downtown right now. I wish I did.”

After thinking about it more, he said he sent Kaplan a message, one he describes as half tongue-in-cheek but half serious: “I’ll buy the building if you bring down the skyways,” he told Kaplan.

“I’ve always thought that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” he said.

“Kick-Ass Happy Hour” event
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
From left to right: Little Co. President Joe Cecere; Eric Dayton, Bachelor Farmer, Askov Finleyson; Ann Kim, Young Joni, Hello Pizza, Pizzaria Lola; Tom Hoch, mayoral candidate; and Giselle Ugarte, GO Radio.

The closing of Macy’s, as well as and Barnes and Noble and Saks before it, should be a wake-up call for downtown, he said. Other cities of similar size have retail downtown, yet they too have Amazon and suburban malls to deal with. “So there’s something unique about Minneapolis and downtown retail,” Dayton said.

It isn’t just the skyways, he conceded. But the skyways are part of a 1970s-era attempt to recreate a suburban mall atmosphere downtown with inward-facing shopping areas like City Center and others. “I’m personally not happy with it,” Dayton said. “I’d like to see our city repositioned for the next 50 years rather than positioned based on 50-year-old urban design.” 

Nicollet Mall to the rescue? Not so much

One of the other panelists, invited before he became an announced candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, was Tom Hoch. The recently departed president of the Hennepin Theatre Trust is also the outgoing president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Both as a political candidate and as a promoter of downtown, Hoch wasn’t likely to endorse the demolition of the skyways.

He did, however, agree with the value of human beings on the sidewalks. “If you’ve got lots of people on the street, then you’ve got retailers thinking, ‘There are people who could shop in my store,’” Hoch said. “If streets are attractive and they feel safe, that moves us a long way.”

But the mention of safety triggered a response from Dayton. “I think potentially the more compelling argument for the skyways coming down is the safety issue,” he said. “If we want safe streets in downtown Minneapolis, we have to reclaim our streets. If we leave them empty, we create a vacuum. Somebody’s gonna fill that void. 

“We can’t eliminate everyone downtown who makes us uncomfortable. That’s not how cities work,” he said. “What we do is change the ratio…If you are walking down the street in New York or San Francisco, that person is still there but there are hundreds of people around you and it’s not a big deal.”

Eric Dayton
Photo by Thomas Strand
Eric Dayton: “The goal is to bring down the Skyway system.”

Another panelist, Ann Kim — who owns Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza — said that she spent eight years in New York City in college and after and can’t recall ever feeling unsafe on city streets.  But “when I’d come home from college, I felt unsafe walking because, again, safety in numbers,” Kim said.

The reason she and her husband/partner put their three restaurants in city neighborhoods and not in strip malls or downtown is because they provided a sense of community, she said. 

In response to audience question about the long wait for the new Nicollet Mall and whether it would do more harm than good for downtown, Dayton brought the discussion back to the negative impacts of the skyways. “I’m hopeful that it’s good,” said Dayton, whose most visible businesses are the Bachelor Farmer restaurant and Askov-Finlayson retail store, both of which are located in the North Loop. “I just know that it’s not going to solve downtown’s problem on its own.” 

He also doesn’t have high hopes for the “new” Nicollet Mall: “I disagree with the idea that Nicollet Mall will be must-see and that will make us a world-class city,” he said. “Not having an ugly city is not differentiating … I’m glad that it’s going to be more attractive than it was. But if we’re really going to hang our hat on that to save the day I think we’ll be disappointed.” 

Downtown, he said, needs retail stores and restaurants that attract people. Getting those things, however, requires creating an atmosphere and a density where such places can succeed.

But at least we’re getting the Super Bowl, right? 

Hoch said the event is an opportunity to sell the city, but quickly added that the events and traditions should first appeal to people who live here. Dayton agreed, and said that moving the Great Northern festival, which combines winter events from both Minneapolis and St. Paul, to the weeks surrounding the Super Bowl will be retained in the future.

“We need to create our own traditions,” he said. “Let’s not create them for a bunch of out-of-towners who come here one time and then leave. Let’s create them for ourselves and make this a better place for us.”

What we suck at: a list

Moderator and Little president Joe Cecere said that Minnesotans love being high up on best places lists. But if there was a list of things that the state and region were bad at, what would they be?

“We don’t always operate in this realm of ideas and big ideas,” Hoch said. “What do we want our city to be? Where do we want it to go? What would it look like?”

Added Kim: “We don’t want to win. We don’t want to be first. Maybe it’s part of Minnesota Nice. Work hard. Don’t ruffle feathers. Persevere. Be the good city. We should say, ‘That sucks. We need something better. We have, I don’t know, be a little nastier.”

For his part, Dayton cited the region’s aversion to risk. “We play it safe,” he said. “Our young people, when they graduate from college, they go work for whatever big company it is. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the rest of the country people are starting companies right out of college. We need to start encouraging people to take that risk, recognize the people who take that risk.”

Comments (46)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/24/2017 - 12:49 pm.

    Do any of these people even work downtown?

    I shopped at Macy’s and Barnes & Noble and accessed both through the skyway. Not sure why making me go outside to get to them would have helped save them. I probably would have shopped there less frequently, if at all.

    For people who actually work downtown, the idea that you would remove skyways is completely asinine.

  2. Submitted by Pat McGee on 03/24/2017 - 01:18 pm.

    Dayton and crew are clueless

    There is nothing appealing about trudging thru rain, puddles the size of lakes, snow, ice, ice mountains and thousands of smokers in the “great” outdoors. Give me the skyways where I can safely walk; accomplish errands and exercise. None of which can be done at street level.

    Bus drivers constantly struggle to find a safe spot for their passengers to disembark for months of the year on end.

    Walking (and for that matter driving) to stores will not save them for me. I am almost completely on online shopper.

    Go save Ottawa from its skyways. Leave ours alone. You can walk outside. I’m not going to.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/27/2017 - 07:13 am.

      Kudos Pat

      Skyways are simply elevated sidewalks. Which happen to be enclosed, safe and warm year round. And we should give that up because of the opinion of some “entrepreneur”?

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 03/27/2017 - 12:22 pm.

        Good point on the skyways

        What they really have is a double-decker sidewalk system. Twice the sidewalks per building. Is there too much sidewalk capacity for the population?

  3. Submitted by Peter Vader on 03/24/2017 - 01:19 pm.

    Elitists need love too.

    Seriously you guys, be fair – posting a picture of Eric looking that smug is prejudicial.

    Though I might feel differently if my business depended on selling $50 stocking caps, Skyways face facts: of climate, of accessibility, of choice. Philosophically no different from bike lanes.

  4. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 03/24/2017 - 02:17 pm.

    I understand the logic but…

    I understand the logic behind wanting to remove the skyways. Yes, they drain people from the sidewalks but they don’t drain them from downtown. The skyways have helped keep the central business district compact and not sprawling over several miles, like some cities. They also keep us warm and dry and they most definitely feel safe. And we are the capital of the North. I give Mr. Dayton total credit for that concept and I love it.

    As a northern city, we need to create a new hybrid that keeps us comfortable during inclement winter weather, but also entices us to get out of the hamster tunnels and enjoy the invigorating air. Having a reason to be on the streets is a good first start. Winter kiosks serving warm nuts and drinks, outdoor cafes that can stay open during the winter by having canopies and space heaters. An outdoor used book pavilion like in Paris. I believe the reason people don’t go outdoors is because there is no reason to go outdoors.

    Perhaps the revamped Nicollet Mall will help as it is suppose to be more pedestrian friendly, no inter-city buses and new amenities, but I think we just need to give people a reason to be outside and we don’t, so that is our downfall.

    • Submitted by J. Kurt Schreck on 03/25/2017 - 05:32 pm.

      Hybrid is the answer…

      “I believe the reason people don’t go outdoors is because there is no reason to go outdoors”. How about using wind/solar energy AND Elon Musk’s energy storage system to heat the sidewalks on the New Nicollet Mall. Pair it with a substantial amount of manufactured, full-spectrum simulated sunlight to get people out of those hamster tunnels. I’ve thought the same thing about Mears Park in downtown St. Paul, a gorgeous, destination park, seven months out of the year. Heated sidewalks and “high” full-spectrum lighting would make it a winter destination for those of us suffering with that pesky, inevitable cabin fever.

      • Submitted by Bill McKinney on 03/28/2017 - 12:15 pm.

        Good idea!

        This would be an example of doing something really innovative that could attract. Add more art, get rid of buses and you’ve got Millenial Park with SAD treatment built right in!

  5. Submitted by Scott Henry on 03/24/2017 - 01:38 pm.

    Designers missed the boat on Nicollet Mall

    If city planners really wanted to make downtown Minneapolis stand out and be a destination, they should have designated all or most of it as a pedestrian zone — no busses or cabs. That would have done a great job to create another Eat Street zone further up on Nicollet in the downtown area. Think of what restaurants could have done with all of that space! Think of the restaurants that would come to an area that’s unique to the entire metro. It would be the new gathering space and would have been a great home for the Downtown Council’s struggling Christmas Market.

  6. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 03/24/2017 - 01:47 pm.

    Worth Considering

    I’ve never really felt strongly about the skyways one way or the other. When I have used them — or tried — I’ve often found them to be inconvenient and inefficient. Because of the byzantine layout and often awkward connections to the street, sidewalks are generally quicker and more direct. I don’t work downtown, so I don’t have a day-to-day perspective. I suspect it’s much different for people who park more than a block or so from where they work — at least in the winter.

    Despite the spin found on the skyway maps, there are plenty of significant destinations downtown which are not on the system. For example, there’s no way to get to the Pantages, Cowles, Guthrie or library (some of my most frequent destinations) by skyway. This means that, at least around these places, the impact of the skyway system isn’t as great as it might first appear. Were the skyways removed, rush hour and lunchtime foot traffic would increase on the sidewalks, but evenings and other off-peak times would remain more or less the same. (Finding open skyways after a show is an exercise in absurdity. I mean, you can see them — they’re RIGHT THERE! — but you often can’t figure out how to get to them…)

    I think it’s worth noting that there are absolutely NO skyways in the North Loop (they end at the big parking ramps), and so a certain level of comparison is already possible. The difference, though not overwhelming, would probably support Dayton’s view. There is a vitality on the North Loop sidewalks at all hours which is very different from the downtown core. The lack of skyways probably contributes to this, though the degree is anyone’s guess.

    Conceptually, however, it’s clear that the skyway model is due for serious reconsideration. Hiding people made sense 50 years ago, but it really doesn’t anymore. I agree that the Nicollet Mall redesign will likely have no impact whatsoever. And my gut tells me that Dayton is probably onto something: We very well might have a noticeably more vibrant and safe downtown core without skyways.

    But such a solution would immediately raise another question: What can we do about these one-way mini-freeways we call “streets” which make pedestrians feel unsafe?

  7. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 03/24/2017 - 02:37 pm.

    Winter

    Skyways offer choice, and many people choose them over sidewalks. No ice, no snow, no worry of being hit by a car or bus. Not as hard for anyone with physical limitations. Removing them would be like removing public transit and expecting everyone to drive. The result – much more sidewalk congestion at peak times, such as rush hour and lunch.

    If you want people out on the sidewalks, give them a reason to do so. The farmer’s market does that, food trucks do that, and free live entertainment does that. Make the street level a party and people will come. Planting a few trees to pretend that make the Mall appealing doesn’t cut it.

    Look at the street life in European cities and copy that. Make it fun and “they will come.”

  8. Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/24/2017 - 02:39 pm.

    The problem is biggest than skyways

    If you tore them all down tomorrow, you’d still have little reason for pedestrians to be on the sidewalk and a pedestrian-hostile sidewalk environment.

    Until our sidewalks are welcoming – lined with small store fronts, spacious enough for groups, unecumbered and not next to speeding cars – taking away skyways will just mean workers staying close to the office and residents staying close to home.

    I work downtown and I’ve lived downtown. Being on or closely adjacent to the skyways is a major factor in favor of a downtown location, because (1) the skyways are where the stuff is, and (2) the skyways are protected from the elements.

    Even if you think the latter doesn’t matter that much (put on a coat, as Dayton says), the former very much does. If we’re going to remove skyways, we need a much, much bigger investment at the sidewalk level.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/24/2017 - 04:50 pm.

    Skyways are not the only issue

    To begin: My answer to the rhetorical question in the headline is, “I’m not sure.”

    I’ve lived in Minneapolis proper for nearly 8 years after a lifetime (65 years) in suburban environments in other states. My city neighborhood is, from the perspective of trying to secure modern life’s necessities, the LEAST convenient place I’ve ever lived. Of the 1500 lots in my neighborhood, only one is zoned for commercial activity (Currently, it’s a daycare facility. Before that it was a print shop.). I have to get in the car and drive somewhere for anything and everything, and every suburban neighborhood I’ve lived in elsewhere had more conveniently-located retail outlets. The only metric I’d judge to be equivalent is safety. I walk for 45 minutes to an hour every day it’s above zero, and have never felt threatened here, except by cyclists.

    I personally find downtown Minneapolis to be unfriendly to both pedestrians and drivers for a variety of reasons. As others have stated, I feel at risk as a pedestrian, especially after dark. I don’t ever want to be downtown late at night. When the theater performance is finished, my first thought is not “Where can I go to get a bite to eat and maybe enjoy myself?” Instead, it’s “How do I get out of downtown from here?” Closing time for the bars is fighting and shooting time for too many of the patrons, and I want no part of it. As a driver, the street signs are too small and too hard to read (I’m part of that “Silver Tsunami” headed for Minnesota and the Twin Cities, but so far there’s little accommodation to that demographic fact of life). At this point, no matter how much money they spend, I’ve not read anything that makes me feel compelled to visit the “new” Nicollet Mall when it’s finally completed. I’m willing to be convinced, but it won’t be automatic.

    I’ve been in/on a Minneapolis skyway once. I’ve never shopped in downtown Minneapolis, and won’t miss the departure of a single retailer (including Macy’s) from the downtown mix. My grandchildren will miss the Christmas display at Macy’s, and I’m sad about that, but not sad enough to have ever done any shopping there before the store closed.

    If I lived and/or worked downtown, I can see how the skyways would be valuable. But I don’t live, work, or shop downtown, so I’ve never figured out which building is connected to which other building, at what level, and how I would go about making use of them. There must be maps to explain the layout of the system, but I’ve never seen one, which suggests that they’re not nearly prominent enough to make them useful to Minnesotans who don’t live downtown.

    I was very comfortable on Denver’s 16th-Street Mall, which has a free, slow, shuttle bus running back-and-forth from one end of the mile-long street to the other. Cars and, for the most part, trucks, were prohibited. That mall is lined with high-end and tourist shops that I rarely patronized, but it did have good restaurants—lots of them—lining a broad, pedestrian boulevard that was well-lit, with a noticeable police presence. I could, and did, take public transit from my suburban condo to downtown Denver to meet friends for lunch or dinner at one of those restaurants, making use of the mall shuttle bus to get to a specific establishment. It’s worth pointing out, local bragging rights aside, that Denver and Minneapolis have similar climates, including average snowfall totals, and while Denver may not have quite as many below-zero nights as we do here, below-zero nights are an annual occurrence there. If they can adjust to inclement weather, we should be able to do so, as well.

    I found Minneapolis an interesting place to visit, and if you have enough money, there’s plenty of good food and a cornucopia of cultures to sample. As a resident with a limited income, it has so far left something to be desired. It’s not awful, but I still like Denver better.

    • Submitted by Jason Swenson on 03/27/2017 - 12:59 pm.

      Denver Climate and Vitality

      While I certainly agree with Mr. Schoch that part of the issue is the overall density and vibrancy of the shops, restuarants etc…, calling the two climates similar is at best stretching the truth.

      Yes, its true Denver gets a few cold below zero nights a year. And yes, they get as much, if not more snow than we usually do.

      However, look at the statistics: The Average High in Denver in January is 44. Its 24 in Minneapolis. The average low is 17 in Denver, while it is 7 in Minneapolis. There is a significant difference in comfort at 44 degrees versus 24, and add on top of that how much more often it is Sunny in Denver.

      Or count the cold days – Denver averages 20 days a year where the Temp goes below 10 degrees. Minneapolis averages 47 of those, and 23 days below zero… That’s nearly 4 weeks more of colder temperatures.

      Long story short, there is a difference between seeing that kind of cold for a few days versus a month more of it. Not to mention not seeing those glorious sunny 50 degree days in January that Denver seems to get regularly. (Yes, I too used to live on the front range). Or having actual sunshine that melts the snow and ice away, versus the arctic high cold sunshine we get in January…

      That being said, the 16th Street Mall is nice, with a high density of shopping, restaurants, etc… we ride the light rail in to Union Station, and make a decent trip out of it often when in town. Part of it is there is a very vibrant younger generation that has decided Denver is good place to be… Ask folks there where they are from and odds are it isn’t Colorado orignally. Something I don’t get the feeling is true of folks from other parts of the Country in regards to Minneapolis.

      My opinion is there is a place for the Skyways here, and it isn’t the reason our Downtown is having trouble. More to point, we likely struggle because we have TWO downtowns we are trying to support, and honestly not doing a great job of it…

  10. Submitted by Jason Carle on 03/24/2017 - 08:09 pm.

    Okay, you first…

    No skyways for you on those windy winter days when it’s below zero.

  11. Submitted by Jason Carle on 03/24/2017 - 08:13 pm.

    I also have to wonder…

    If this has anything to do with trying to get rid of the homeless population that congregates downtown and uses the skyways to stay out of the elements…

  12. Submitted by Garth Taylor on 03/24/2017 - 08:55 pm.

    Benches

    This article is 100% spot on accurate. If you want people to be on the streets you have to make the streets a place where people want to be. Nicollet Mall may be salvageable (though Chicago got rid of its White Elephant State Street Mall decades ago). A very low cost experiment might be to put some pedestrian benches along the mall. I mean really, my wife and I visited about a year ago and there was no place to sit down. Heck with it. We won’t be back.

  13. Submitted by Kurt Olson on 03/24/2017 - 09:42 pm.

    Let’s help create the kind of city we want

    I agree that skyways have damaged the street level experience of downtown and have led to segregation by income and class. The city could be a much more pleasant experience to the downtown crowd, the visitor and the casual user (like Mr. Schoch, above) if there were more activities/doors/eyes on the street. Although Mr. Dayton and many other idealists wish skyways did not exist — I am among them — they appear here to stay.

    But what if there was more incentive to have street-level retail and services? I admit I don’t know the ins and outs of property taxation, but what if street level retail and service businesses had a rate that was a tiny fraction of the skyway level as long as there were doors on the street? I would hope for gradual implementation of an overall-neutral taxation scheme so there would be no large gain or loss to either the city or property owners. But building owners and small business people would have a strong incentive to be on the street. I picture a city where the skyways are used to get around in inclement weather, but the street is where one prefers to be. Imagine skyway-connected buildings where the skyway level opened to an atrium (it could be a relatively small opening, unlike the IDS court that was designed to be grand) where you could see establishments on the street level that you could easily access by stairs (elevators too, of course). Imagine those same establishments with an additional street entrance. A design like this would also make it easy for those not familiar with the skyway system to understand how to get from one level to the other.

    This past August, I spent a week in downtown because of jury duty. We had long lunch breaks and I spent time wandering around downtown. I was astounded by how few people were on the street on a gorgeous day in the center of the city. When I went up to the skyway level, I was amazed at the liveliness — and the many shops and eateries. Areas of the city without skyways (e.g. the Mill District) were less dense but still relatively lively. As someone who occasionally uses public transportation that connects through downtown — often at night, I understand the unease and/or fear when there are relatively few eyes on the street. Couldn’t we create stronger incentives to get the kind of lively and attractive city we want?

  14. Submitted by Chad Roberts on 03/24/2017 - 10:06 pm.

    Daytons..

    Without the Skyways I’d bet the Dayton’s downtown store wouldn’t have stayed in business long enough to become Macys in the first place.

    I’ve owned a business in the Skyway for 16 years. Take those connections between the buildings away and my business, and likely most others on the 2nd floor, disappear.

    Would the street level then do better or would people just stop traveling from the building they work in? Well, when the weather is nice I’m guessing they’ll go to the street level just like they do now. When the weather is lousy they’ll stay in the building where they work because they can’t access others via the Skyway. If that becomes reality, well then nobody wins.

  15. Submitted by Paul Sandberg on 03/25/2017 - 02:36 am.

    Downtown is dark cold and boring

    I lived in downtown Minneapolis for 1 year. Ninth street near the Target store. I used the skyways during the winter and walked outside in the summer. But that was during the day. During business hours I could walk to the gym in the target center and when I returned about 8 pm the skyways were mostly closed. The mall at 8 pm on a cold winter night is a creepy place. The main problem with downtown living when I was there in 2007 is there is nothing interesting open. Thankfully there was Target. Wanna buy a coke or some small item after Target closed, good luck. Large urban center and it is like it is on lock down. Bottom line is downtown had little to offer. I loved the views but it was not a convenient place to live. I did not work downtown. There are several high end restaurants downtown but that is not what a working person needs very often.

    I have spent most of the last 20 years living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The downtown area is very vibrant. Traffic jams at midnight and 1 am. Wide range of food and entertainment at a variety of prices. Thousands of people on the street. Perhaps Minneapolis city planners need to look at what is going on in other cities. I spent 3 weeks in Sydney Australia during the holidays, went downtown almost every day. Wow the crowds shopping DOWNTOWN on boxing day. Long lines to get into stores. And they have many suburban malls in Sydney. They have food courts, casual street restaurants and all the major retailers in the downtown area, there is reason to go. Downtown Minneapolis has few reasons to visit and if visited it is likely for a single destination and that becomes inconvenient when you consider parking.

    Minneapolis planners need to think big. The light rail on Nicolett avenue could make it easy for people to visit downtown. During the warm months designate free parking areas for motor scooters and motor cycles. They take a fraction of the space compared to cars. A couple dozen casual restaurants on the mall would be nice, open late. Without critical mass downtown will fail and it will take something big to entice businesses to locate where there are few potential customers other than people that work downtown.

    The skyways I believe are a non issue because they are closed during much of the time more people need to be attracted to the city center.

    It would not be hard to put together a what we suck at list. That sounds negative but it may be the key to success. I used to like downtown, I went to the movies but that was a long time ago. Now it is much more convenient to visit a mall. I used to be able to find free parking, I had to walk a few blocks but that was not a problem. Good luck finding that spot now. And for that reason I am not going to just pop into a store to buy something.

    • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 03/27/2017 - 11:18 am.

      KL – Really?

      While I have not lived in Kuala Lumpur (KL) I have been there at least 30 times, each for a week or more. Their “Golden Triangle” – the core business district, is clogged, literally choking on traffic. The sidewalks are crowded, true – but in reality, most people are inside the mega-malls, which are air conditioned and in the tropical climate, that’s where most people are. And there are subways – tunnels – that connect the shopping malls and gets one safely across the street.

      I like KL, so don’t get me wrong it is a wonderful city. However, I would not trade KL for Minneapolis for all the tea in the Cameron Highlands.

  16. Submitted by Rebecca Wilson on 03/25/2017 - 06:17 am.

    Parking…Hello!

    Skyways are not the problem, many avoid them because they are not all that easy to navigate, heck I live downtown and sometimes can’t figure out where I’m going. The skyways are busy during the week with those who work down here, they aren’t taking away business, it’s easier to find where your going from street level. The skyways are necessary for those who work down here. Also if streets are fine right, because skyways are glass over the streets people will see cool, fun activity and come down. Skyways get people downtown in the winter. If skyways are the problem why is downtown not busier during the summer?

    PARKING IS THE PROBLEM!!! It’s outrageous! No one wants to pay for parking. I don’t have that issue because I live here but that’s what I hear about and that’s why my suburban friends don’t want to come here. Target at least validates parking, people should at least be rewarded for spending money downtown, maybe each spot the shop or eat at gives a voucher good for 1-2 hours, so the more you spend the more free parking you get!!!

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/26/2017 - 06:39 pm.

      Rebecca nailed it:

      Was Downtown for a get this (Minneapolis Friendly education event) Parking hit me $25 for ~ 2 hours. Message don’t come here unless you want to get ripped off. Correct: Unless we have to go downtown, we don’t, because we don’t want to get ripped off. The message, drive downtown we are going to rob you be it city or private enterprise.
      PS: Guess the 2nd message is mass transit doesn’t work as well as it should for us city folks!
      PSS: We did the Sky-ways for convention center events: Why get lower parking rates!

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/27/2017 - 10:47 am.

      Parking is not the problem

      Outside of business hours, parking is abundant and cheap. Those who won’t leave the suburbs because of downtown parking aren’t changing because it goes from cheap to free.

      And no one goes somewhere for the parking.

  17. Submitted by Peter Doughty on 03/25/2017 - 09:19 am.

    Damage Done

    I’m glad to see at least one mayoral candidate grappling with downtown viability issues, but alas a great deal of damage has already / recently been done — especially on the side toward the boondoggle that sheds panels in the wind (and kills birds in droves, I hear). I see the soullessness and the unrecognizable cityscape when I ride the Green Line, and have no desire to get off the train.
    The interminable Nicollet Mall “project” is obviously a major problem in itself. What is it about really? How long has it been a mudhole / dustpit — three years? Is it so very complicated, or is it maybe a contractor cash cow? For one who chooses to bus / walk, it’s very challenging to negotiate, but maybe that’s the idea too — push people into skyways or cars.
    I worked downtown for about five years, 2004-09, and used the skyways a bit. I somewhat learned how to get around in them, but hated the rabbit-warren feeling.
    I see the skyways as a means of separating classes of people as well as an indulgence from a time when society was richer than now or will be henceforth. They will be accessible and maintained as long as there are resources available for such, then they won’t. (As a system, not much longer.)
    Maybe the main areas for positive change is along the edges, such as the North Loop.
    It would be smart to study and adapt what is demonstrably working in other cities of comparable size and climate — focusing on small, incremental, low-cost efforts. (Look at what master plans have gotten us!)

  18. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 03/25/2017 - 09:23 am.

    Dayton is totally right

    I’m just really disappointed that people are so fragile and whiney that they won’t face mild discomfort for the possibility of a vibrant downtown.

    Downtown will always suck if we continue to put the comfort of suburban office workers first. The place that is best for a person to be whisked in from Woodbury, park conveniently​, never experience weather, and effortlessly be back on the freeway by 5 is simply diametrically opposed to a rich, interesting, thriving place that serves its local residents and residents of the rest of the city.

    If we really want to create an excellent downtown, it will require a little bit of sacrifice. We have to decide what our priorities are. To give up the opportunity to create a great place because we’re scared of snow and committed to a urban design mistake from the darkest time of American cities is so, so sad.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/26/2017 - 04:09 pm.

      Suburban office workers

      I don’t get it. Why the contempt for people who work downtown? Downtown Minneapolis is the business center of the state. Tens of thousands of people commute to work there.

      In the summer, I go outside all the time. The food trucks are great. But in the winter I’d like to be able to just walk inside to one of the many great lunch places in the Skyway. To get my dry cleaning. To pick up things at Target. And, yes, to get books at Barnes and Noble and clothes at Macy’s.

      If you haven’t worked downtown and understand how helpful the skyways are, I don’t know how you can even weigh in on this.

      • Submitted by Jeff Klein on 03/27/2017 - 02:15 pm.

        It’s not about contempt, just priorities. The entire question is can Minneapolis have a vibrant downtown. If office workers can’t handle minor discomfort, we won’t. That’s pretty much it. I don’t need to have worked downtown. I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole live and managed to survive without them.

    • Submitted by Rory Kramer on 03/30/2017 - 02:13 pm.

      Office workers usually aren’t prepared

      Office workers who predominantly use the Skyway system are usually unprepared for the elements. People who drive their car/use transit to commute to work downtown usually do so without the proper winter attire-caps, gloves, coats, boots, etc. Yes, they might wear a coat or heavy jacket but the usage of stocking caps and gloves are is minimal at best. When was the last time you saw a female business worker wearing a dress or whatever for work walking around outside downtown Minneapolis in January wearing a proper winter coat? If they had to use the sidewalks to get around in the winter, they would have to spend time freshening up in the restroom each time they went into a store/restaurant. With the skyways they don’t have to worry about combing their hair/making sure their $100 hair-do still looks fresh and their outfits aren’t covered in salt/sand residue from crossing the streets or down the sidewalks. The same can be said about the male workers, but to a much lesser degree. More money would be spent on dry-cleaning to remove said sand/salt residue off of business suits/dresses and shoes would need to be cleaned as well. Businesses would need to actually provide coathooks/dressing rooms for people to change both times-once when they come inside and again when they leave. This is time that is wasted and cuts into people’s lunch-hours/breaks-time that could be spent more productively. Yes, the skyways might look hideous to you and others of your ilk but they serve a purpose here in Minnesota.

  19. Submitted by Marcus Genzlinger on 03/25/2017 - 09:32 am.

    Completely The Wrong Approach…

    1. Remember when you were a kid or parent and going to Downtown was special. That’s gone. There is nothing exciting about Downtown. Fix that.
    2. Vote Betsy Hodges out of office. No agenda to to make Downtown better except by making it more expensive to do business for restaurant and retail which is the exact opposite program needed. It’s already the one of most taxed city for hospitality in the country. Fix that.
    3. Nicollet Mall. This is the biggest embarrassment of a construction project I have ever seen. Why would I walk down here since it started? If I’m not walking down Nicollet then I’m not shopping. I hope all of those businesses sue everyone involved. This should be the 2nd best street in the city. I’m taking bets Nicollet won’t be done by Super Bowl.
    4. Hennepin Avenue. Where do you start. The Best Buy CEO once said this should be the most beautiful street in America. I would settle for 52nd. I hear they are going to fix it. Do it right if you care about the the larger problem.
    5. This leads to Downtown is not safe. How many people have been shot this year? No one who follows the local news of sound mind would take their family or a date Downtown after 6pm. I manage a networking group and very few of the members will go if it’s downtown. The problem is the suburbs and accompanying developments like West End, Arbor Lakes and neighborhoods like North East and Longfellow have stepped up their game, not to mention online shopping. Why would I come Downtown again?
    6. Nightlife. Instead of embracing nightlife they have pushed it out. Street closures at 1am and again the violence make it impossible for most people to head Downtown. Most great cities also have great nightlife. Minneapolis is not one of them.
    7. Skyways are an asset, not the reason. If streets like Nicollet Mall were constructed properly and people felt there was a reason to shop, eat and meander they would increase retail space. Leave the Skyways alone. Fix the other problems.
    8. Clean spaces. Just recently coming back from Seattle I was shocked to see city workers pressure washing streetscapes on Saturday and Sunday. Shows me and others we care the places you walk and shop are clean and we are glad you are here.

    As adult who remember the joy of taking the car ride downtown with Mom and being giddy to transitioning to a career working for a Fortune 500 downtown, starting a business trying to make downtown cool to 25-35 college educated professionals, doing Marketing for one of the largest restaurants and serving on the Uptown Association Board for 6 years I hope I have an idea of what I am talking about.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/27/2017 - 10:51 am.

      One should generally avoid local TV news entirely

      Especially if it’s giving you the impression that it’s dangerous after 6. It’s not. When there’s trouble, it’s almost always late at night.

      As for cleaing, the DID ambassadors actually do a pretty good job.

  20. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/25/2017 - 02:45 pm.

    A few comments

    Far from damaging downtown Minneapolis, the skyways have saved it, and they have given all kinds of small businesses, whether sandwich shops, independently owned convenience stores, florists, shoe repair shops, or what have you, to flourish. They’re not at street level, but so what?

    I’m sure Kuala Lumpur and Sydney (both cities I’ve heard great things about and would like to visit some day) have marvelous street life, but neither of them has a real winter.

    I lived here from 1981 to 1984 when traditional Minnesota winters were still the norm, and I recall one time when I had to walk three blocks downtown (between two destinations that were not on the skyways) in a -40° wind chill that started to freeze my hands through my gloves. I had to stop off at Woolworth’s and buy a second pair to put over the ones I already had. Granted, winters haven’t been that bad recently, but we’re not Sydney or Kuala Lumpur, except possibly in the hottest part of summer.

    Fear of being downtown at night is exaggerated. The troublesome bars are limited to a small area, most homeless people are harmless, and you are more likely to be mugged in a parking ramp than at a bus stop, where you’re in plain sight. I have taken the bus home (along the #6 route) from evening classes and Minnesota Orchestra concerts these past 13 years without any problems.

    People need to get out of their heads the notion that transit is inherently dangerous. In every city, driving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. Ask anyone who works in an emergency room about the ratio of car crashes to injuries sustained by transit riders.

    Parking would not be a problem if everyone who could ride transit did so. (And yes, I do realize that not everyone can.)

    I also agree with the commentators who say that people will go to street level if there are things happening on the street. If I were Downtown Czarina, I’d put the buses on Marquette and Hennepin and the food trucks on Nicollet Mall, along with the farmers’ market and organized entertainment. However, unless you flood the Mall and turn it into an ice skating rink or fail to snowplow it and turn it into a cross-country ski trail, you’re not going to get a lot of people on the street during the winter unless they can’t avoid it.

  21. Submitted by jody rooney on 03/25/2017 - 03:21 pm.

    Ray Schoch is on the right track

    There is a insufficient mass of attractions, eateries, shopping and activities in down town to make it interesting and it is hard to get around.

    Downtown lacks focus and it is getting to the point where when all those hotel rooms fill up that folks need to go to the suburbs for something to do. I had colleagues here from Mississippi who were excited to be in a city that offered the things that Minneapolis does and they gave up because it was too hard to get around. These are folks who navigate Chicago, New York, Paris, and Montreal with ease. The only site the saw was the Mall of America.

    I have been to Denver with groups for classes and the area that Mr. Schoch is fun and visitor friendly.

    We have made downtown convenient for the people who work their with the skyways and that is a good thing. But there needs to be a mass of interesting things and convenient transportation other than foot or large bus for people to circulate in a small area for it to be viable and reliable as “a good place to spend an afternoon or evening” without significant planning.

  22. Submitted by Doug Rosenquist on 03/25/2017 - 07:42 pm.

    Nicollet Mall – Downtown Minneapolis – Dayton’s

    Beloved Dayton’s was subsumed, then shuttered by Target. Then came Marshall-Fields (fail), then Macy’s (fail).

    Meanwhile, this company http://www.bygonebrand.com/daytons-t-shirt/ has revived the Dayton’s logo on a t-shirt and is selling so many they are back-ordered a month.

    I wish Target would revive a Dayton’s Department Store. Upgrade it for the times, but it was a fabulous brand that the community loved and trusted.

    Why not?

  23. Submitted by Mike Nagell on 03/25/2017 - 09:43 pm.

    Skyway security assault

    One week ago I stopped in the skyway to finish a phone call with my son. I had just raced up the escalator to the Crave skyway and in order to catch my breath and finish my call phone call before going on to the YMCA I tucked up against the windows overlooking Hennepin Ave.

    A sky way security guard handcuffed me for tresspassing and handed me over to police. Stopping in the skyway is tresspassing. Sorry, I didn’t know that law before.

    I own property downtown by the river and have been a member of the YMCA for over 30 years. I’m also 65 years old and have since had difficulty sleeping since being taken hostage by security last Sunday afternoon.
    In trying to remove me from the skyway they tried suffocating me and they put pressure on my neck artery in another effort to knock me out. Then they threated to use a taser and mace on me. I have gotten to be a little cranky when young people start ordering me around. But I never expected them to get rough and threaten my safety.

    I could have been more cooperative and gone out on the street to talk to my son, but I refused to be bullied by security guards for what seemed like no good reason. I still can’t sleep at night.

    I was afraid I would have a heart attack there on the skyway. There were suddenly two guys on top of me. My wrists are still bloody from their handcuffs.

    I have my own ideas about downtown safety and how the downtown could be more welcoming. Some of us like to believe our presence is part of the solution. Others are being paid to prevent that from happening.

    • Submitted by Jason Carle on 03/30/2017 - 08:00 pm.

      I have had similar things happen to me while doing completely innocent things downtown. I even went so far as to call the MPD and report the Security Guards for assault. Of course the useless MPD did nothing. I was trespassed from the building for doing nothing but waiting for a worker in the IDS building to come down and meet me for coffee…

      That’s okay though, I don’t live down there, I have no reason to go down there, and have even less reason to be in the IDS building, so I don’t really care. I am sorry this happened to you though. These high school failures that call themselves security guards downtown cause their own problems, and we let them get away with it by not holding them accountable for their actions.

  24. Submitted by Charles Buckman-Ellis on 03/26/2017 - 08:22 am.

    Downtown Minneapolis

    In 1975 I participated in a city led project to create a plan for downtown for the year 2000. I lived in Loring Park then and before that I had lived in Steven’s Square.

    At the time we were concerned about the viability and sustainability of neighborhood level retail, especially grocery stores and drug stores, essential for folks who didn’t drive. We encouraged the city planning department to place housing in a ring around downtown, but not right downtown, and to do what was necessary to keep neighborhood retail strong in the communities immediately outside of downtown like Loring, Stevens Square, Eliot Park.

    I’ve changed my mind about where to locate housing downtown since 1975. Ethan Fawley and the bicycle oriented folks, millennials who want to walk to work and play, people concerned about climate change all want denser housing, especially in the city center. It makes sense to me and though I know residential living downtown has increased, it could be greater.

    Residents walking the streets, dining out, shopping after work is, I think, a more rational approach to solving the downtown vitality issue. Skyways are strange, yes, and difficult to navigate, but they provide a haven during harsh winter weather. Worth it, it seems to me.

    Obviously no one policy will create a more vibrant downtown, but I believe adding more residents to the mix is the place to start. Maybe the old Dayton’s building would be a place to start.

  25. Submitted by jim hughes on 03/26/2017 - 02:02 pm.

    where is the realism in this discussion?

    What’s the point of talking about removing the skyways? That’s obviously never going to happen. Trying to convince people to choose to walk on cold icy streets, and stand on corners waiting for traffic lights, is also pointless.

    It’s like the Tea Party platform: just shut down the government, repeal the ACA, don’t worry about what happens after that, don’t propose any realistic alternatives, just wait for the miracle.

    The problem with the skyway ‘system’ is that it’s not a system, just a collection of ad-hoc corridors with no uniform design or common set of rules for access and navigation. And really changing that would take a lot of money and a lot of push from the city.

    You can’t herd people onto the streets, you’d have to lure them down there. Pull, not push.

  26. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/28/2017 - 01:09 pm.

    A mall has too many copies …now designers have place to try

    something special with N Avenue; whatever it takes to rebuild downtown again?

    The ‘mall’ started here in the early fifties maybe with Southdale which pulled away from our once,main street and the center of it all, Dayton’s at the time?

    But the malling of our main-streets was in one sense, our alternative to the square, central plazas of Europe for centuries their marketplace, gathering space still with organ grinders; street musicians etc? And look what we developed over and over?

    Let’s say Dayton’s was gutted and was carefully redesigned into an open plaza with IDS and the attendant N Avenue all recreated into the European style marketplace with our own distinct flavor?. Not the same old divided pockets of commerce but one grand square, and no cars allowed but a grander scheme than our pinched in plazas we call mini-malls?

    There has to be a way to give people a human space. We deserve it in spite of just-for-profit motive, for whatever the momentary loss of return on investments?

    Somebody try something with a sense of marketplace that draws no borders but opens up two blocks even; a most grand space inviting people to participate in more than just shopping and eating…let music and sculpture be an integral part of design and resting spots and floral appointments. that make natural response to living pleasure places?

    Malls have become traps for shoppers not a place to enjoy in so many ways…stick people look okay on a drawing board but try the human scale… surprise us this time…make downtown fun to be here …a great, good planning surprise rather than same old cold mini mall…got to be a finer way to go to survive the copy cat style we’ve been duplicating for how many years…just a thought…

  27. Submitted by Bill McKinney on 03/28/2017 - 12:50 pm.

    Nicollet Disaster!

    Echoing the comments on Nicollet “reconstruction” being a complete and utter fiasco. How can it possibly take this long? No progress of any sort is evident, and it’s a disaster for visitors. There is however one clear benefit! After 2+ years MTC has clearly proven we don’t need to run buses down the mall! Since that’s abundantly clear, let’s shutter the plans to bring buses and taxis back to the mall and make it pedestrian only. Food trucks in summer (keep 1/2 the land open for bikes), more pleasant sidewalk dining (no bus exhaust with your lunch!!), Christmas market over holidays, pleasant walk from light rail to Guthrie. Having spent time the last few years in Manchester, London, Prague, and Copenhagen, I can say that a linear mall devoid of traffic running down the middle could be a huge attractor. We’ve killed off so much retail by now that we actually have a chance to repopulate with new ideas (I’m sure someone’s ready to put in a brewery or distillery).

    If we keep Nicollet as a transit corridor masquerading as a pedestrian mall, though, my other thought is whether we’re mixing up our comparisons of downtowns. There are huge swaths of every downtown (including London, NYC, and Tokyo) that are predominantly office space and largely deserted at night. Maybe the answer is that NE, North Loop, Uptown, and Guthrie areas are the places people should expect to go to find lots of people at night, and central downtown is going to be largely empty.

    As for out of town people coming here and only seeing MOA, that’s just stupid (or willfully ignorant). Tell them to take a $5 Lyft to Lyn-Lake, North Loop, Eat Street, NE, Uptown, etc. There’s plenty of stuff happening in all of those places at every price point to keep anyone happy…live music, theater, breweries, art, people, foodie options, etc.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/28/2017 - 02:07 pm.

      Emptiness

      Is a function of single-use land use. If all that’s downtown is office space, then it’s going to be empty at night. For a very long time we seemed to be trying to combine offices with downtown retail and almost no housing and, not surprisingly, retail struggled and downtown was empty at night. Thankfully, we’ve started adding housing. We need a lot more.

      As for other cities, Lower Manhattan (financial district) is much less empty at night and weekends as it’s added housing too.

      A pedestrian and bike only Mall would be great, but the current configuration of buses on Hennepin is over capacity and creates delays. It’s not been a successful demonstration of an alternative.

      Also, it won’t turn into a European shopping street just by getting rid of vehicles. It needs a lot more store fronts. A now-empty Macy’s offers some opportunity re-create pedestrian scale, but unfortunately much of the Nicollet is abutted by super blocks that may be hard to break into more digestable parts.

  28. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/30/2017 - 04:41 pm.

    Glass and steel and what else to give Downtown another life…

    Noticed an old article or two from “The Oregonian”
    from March 2015 as the Lloyd District finds its redevelopment inspired by the the concept,of the European Marketplace…do wonder how that project became successful or otherwise. Certainly it was a creative approach to redefining life in the city?

    Alice-doesn’t-live-here-anymore, nor I, but best image I remember is a woman with grey hair loose flying in the breeze on roller skates by-passing other younger shoppers, strollers and swinging her Dayton shopping bags like sails stuffed to overflowing.. my god it was a real gem to behold back then, many moons ago.

    Then do remember the news man with papers on the corner of N Avenue and 9th and with customers, clients and always a great conversation pursued’ not just buying a paper? But nowadays without the paper and everybody texting…heads down? Like drones walking.

    Sad story of the Times now… but there is another story rising hopefully with its own sense of soul?

  29. Submitted by Moira Heffron on 03/30/2017 - 07:18 pm.

    Where can I find some great chocolate?

    I found myself asking some of these questions during a recent winter trip to Chicago, not exactly a warm climate city. I remarked to a friend that it was fun to spend time in a city again because Minneapolis has felt increasingly like a suburb to me, empty streets and sidewalks and nothing much to see. Yes, I worked downtown and occasionally used the skyways (and occasionally wasted time taking a wrong turn). And yes, I stood on cold, desolate busstops. At least, during that era, I had the fun of running to Borders or Daytons/Fields/Macy’s, or a great little coffee shop, etc. Now the food trucks and market are about the only things of interest to me.

  30. Submitted by Mary Ostroum on 04/09/2017 - 11:34 am.

    Skyways

    The skyways are an economical advantage. Visitors to Minneapolis (particularly in winter) have always been amazed at our skyway systems. They keep people warm and comfortable but in addition look at the vast number of stores, coffee shops, and restaurants that line the skyways! If this so called committee wants to reinvigorate downtown Minneapolis they should look at eliminating the criminal element, not the skyways.

  31. Submitted by Paul Kenyon on 10/04/2017 - 10:11 pm.

    Minneapolis CAN save itself! Every city can. I don’t live in Minneapolis and I have never even visited, which might lead you to believe my opinion shouldn’t count. I disagree. I happened upon this article doing research for a movie I am working on that will be set in Minneapolis. The key ingredient to every fully functioning city in the world is people. People need to LIVE downtown; not just work. Reverse suburbanization has saved every city in the world that suffers from what you are experiencing. I see lots of funky old buildings in Minneapolis; turn them into lofts, artist enclaves, mixes of FMV and affordable housing – with a retail component, slowly demolish public housing in favour of mixed housing. Attractive pricing will spur the development. The neighbourhoods will quickly become gentrified to meet the needs of the populace and then the new condo developers won’t be far behind. Just make sure they are welcome and not met by a wall of bureaucracy. The city streets will burst with people and everything will fall into place. No criticism here and I don’t mean to oversimplify, but Minneapolis can once again become the kind of place people want to live, work and visit. You can debate the skyways and highways post facto. Bonnce chance!

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