While cities around the nation have attractions that enable visitors to experience their unique offerings, Minneapolis has yet to create a magnet like Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Boston’s Newbury Street or Beale Street in Memphis — until now.
The renovation of Nicollet Mall has the potential to transform the 12-block pedestrian and transit thoroughfare into a prominent symbol that will make Minnesotans proud. But to make it the world-class destination that we as a state want and deserve, we must rally together.
Nicollet Mall was originally constructed in 1968 to strengthen appeal both for retail and downtown investment at a time when residents were flocking to suburban areas. Today it continues to house the densest concentration of jobs and market values in the state.
With New York-based James Corner Field Operations providing the design, and residents and downtown stakeholders participating in creating the vision, we have an opportunity to truly convert Nicollet Mall into a world-class destination. Corner’s team has been involved in a multitude of high-profile projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier, Seattle’s Waterfront and the High Line in New York City, which is now that city’s second-leading tourism attraction — even ahead of the Statue of Liberty. The High Line project also has attracted more than $1 billion in economic impact.
Downtown Minneapolis is experiencing a revitalization that has the potential to benefit residents throughout the state. The Minneapolis Downtown Council has set a goal to double downtown’s resident population to 70,000 by 2025. In addition, 3 million square feet of additional office space, 200,000 square feet of retail and 1,100 new hotel rooms are forecast for the area. This doesn’t take into account the 130,000 people who work downtown every day or the 28 million visitors who spent $6.88 billion in the region in 2012 alone.
The overall Nicollet Mall development is expected to generate additional annual property tax revenues of more than $2 million for the state as well as more than $8 million for the city and Hennepin County, plus more than $1 million in additional annual sales tax revenue. In total, the $50 million reconstruction is expected to create $105.5 million in additional spending in Minnesota and close to 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs. The short-term investment in renovating the 12-block area will clearly reap long-term gains for the city as well as the entire state.
With the construction of a new Vikings stadium and Downtown East and new investment in Block E and Target Center, we must take this opportunity to further enhance downtown. We can do that by once again employing the public-private partnership model that put the mall in place more than 40 years ago. As new leaders in our respective posts, we commit to re-energizing that partnership model on this project and future initiatives.
Never before has the need to leverage the mall as “the” public square providing space for a range of users been more apparent. This is our opportunity to elevate our offerings to ensure we can compete with other cities for tourism dollars, remain home to corporate headquarters, continue to grow the city, and attract new generations of families and employees while developing a space that will serve generations to come.
Betsy Hodges is mayor of Minneapolis. Steve Cramer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.