Hopkins is sprucing up its storefronts to lure more shoppers into local businesses and make downtown more welcoming to pedestrians.
The city's historic Mainstreet, lined with small businesses, is a vestige of the days when a streetcar line connected the city to Minneapolis. A new "Friendly Fronts" city initiative, funded by Hennepin County, is helping shops there make their entrances more enticing.
"It's already a very pleasant place to walk up and down," said Max Musicant, a consultant on the project. "Most of the things we did were fun and interesting and unique and just add to the experience of visiting downtown Hopkins."
"Lux" the skeleton, ready to pose for selfies, greets patrons outside Health Source Chiropractic. A logo-imprinted bike invites people down to LTD Brewing. At Kiddywampus, a toy store, a retooled mail slot invites children to leave questions for a magical "Wampus" creature. The primary plaza, Clock Tower Square, features seating areas and a box of activity supplies, including ladderball and sidewalk chalk.
"It's definitely been drawing attention, especially with the lunch crowd walking by," HealthSource owner Brenda Higgins said of Lux, who can be seen wearing a Gophers uniform, Vikings jersey or cowboy hat on his skeletal frame. The name is derived from the word subluxation, a common bone or joint problem.
The aim of the Friendly Fronts project is "high impact, low cost" adjustments, said Meg Beekman, the city's community development coordinator. Businesses volunteered to participate, which primarily involved brainstorming with Musicant's team and a $500 micro grant to pay for the changes.
Beekman said they learned during a recent planning exercise that just 5 percent of the downtown was dedicated to pedestrians vs. cars and buildings. So they started looking at ways to make the area more inviting for people.
"We can't physically move the buildings, we can't necessarily narrow the roads," Beekman said. "But how can we take that [pedestrian] space that we have and increase its impact?"
The city authorized a contract with the Musicant Group for up to $40,000, which includes the micro grants. A $30,000 grant from Hennepin County helps cover the cost, and the city will cover the rest.
Andrew Seifert, co-owner of Good Vibrations Yoga, said the table, chairs and lighting installed around a fountain outside their studio has "done exactly what they advertised."
"The day they went in, there wasn't a class here," Seifert said. "We walked in and people were out there hanging out, chatting."
Over at LTD Brewing, Jeremy Hale said they've been getting a lot of comments about the bicycle parked on Mainstreet featuring the brewery's logo.
"We've got people walking down Mainstreet, but they have no real reason to cut down here unless they're going to the chiropractor," Hale said. "So getting that Mainstreet feel off the beaten path a little ways has been our biggest struggle."
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732