"Minneapolis is in rebound" was the theme of Mayor Jacob Frey's State of the City address on Thursday, delivered in person for the first time since 2019.

The intervening years have witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the calls for justice that followed, a spike in violent crime — as well as the birth of Frey's first child.

But the mayor largely steered clear of controversy in what he described as an "optimistic speech" that touted popular initiatives of the past year, such as the city's protection of abortion access and transgender rights and its plans to eliminate childhood lead poisoning — and ended with the announcement that Taste of Minnesota will be held this summer in downtown Minneapolis.

Here are five main points Frey made:

The city is tackling housing and homelessness.

The speech, livestreamed on the city's website and delivered before an invitation-only crowd of more than 200, was held in a building overlooking Currie Commons in the Harrison neighborhood of north Minneapolis.

That's where Wellington Management is developing a residential complex that includes affordable housing. It's the same place where Frey earlier this year announced the city was seeing construction of both affordable and deeply affordable housing at a record pace.

The mayor touted the "Stable Homes Stable Schools" program that he said has ensured homes for more than 4,000 students and their families, suggesting that a major expansion of the program will be announced in the coming months.

While housing has been a major priority for Frey since before taking office in 2018, he finds himself in what is about to become a hotly contested issue at City Hall: rent control. One faction of the City Council favors a stricter rent control policy than Frey says he can accept. It's a dynamic almost certain to lead to spirited debates this spring and summer.

Frey never specifically mentioned rent control in Thursday's speech, though in a veiled swipe he cited a recent Pew Research study that found the city's rents have increased 1% since 2017 — evidence, he said, that the city's efforts to boost housing supply are working. Many rent control advocates are pushing for an annual cap of 3%.

Violent crime is down.

In a repeat-after-me moment, Frey emphasized a possible turning of the tide for a problem that has dogged Minneapolis, as well as big cities across the nation, for several years: "Say it with me: Crime is down."

He cited reductions in violent crime this year over the same period in 2022, including homicides, down 43%; carjackings, down 41%; gunshot wound victims, down 32%; shots fired calls, down 28%; and robberies, down 24%.

The trend builds on figures reported earlier this year, which showed violent crime fell in Minneapolis in 2022 — though it still remained above historic levels.

Downtown can come back – but workers need to come back too.

Acknowledging that a full return to in-person work five days a week is unlikely, Frey made a pitch for workers to return to the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Everyone comes back to work on these days," he urged. "Everyone."

A study from last summer found Minneapolis lagged far behind other American cities in its level of recovery, ranking 59 out of 62. But Frey said he's bullish on downtown, emphasizing the conversion of commercial to residential space, and a reimagination of retail space.

Last year, the mayor noted, he established a "Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup" to tackle vacancy rates in skyways and at street level.

Frey also urged everyone to "experience Minneapolis," ticking off lists of new restaurants, developments and entertainment events across the city.

Minneapolis is meeting its climate goals.

Frey announced that the city has achieved 105 of its renewable-energy goals for city-owned buildings this year, but noted that another ambitious goal looms: reaching 100% renewable electricity citywide by 2030. Reaching that milestone, he said, will require a special focus on low-income residents who can't afford often-costly housing upgrades.

Later this year, he said, the city will roll out the "Minneapolis Climate Legacy Initiative," which he said would explain how to follow the city's recently updated Climate Equity Plan.

City workers deserve respect.

Frey articulated a strong defense of the city's workers in the face of sniping on social media, as well as occasional pointed criticism from some of the City Council's more progressive members.

"When you have the third-snowiest winter in the city's history, the huge potholes are not the result of our city workers sitting on their hands," he said. "They are the result of the third-snowiest winter in the city's history."

He said out loud what has been an unspoken concern of some at City Hall: a sense of community hostility toward city employees that can make it harder to fill important jobs. "The world is watching what happens in Minneapolis," he said.

Positive response

Frey received a standing ovation from the assembled crowd, which included elected officials, civic leaders and community activists who were essentially hand-picked by the mayor's office.

A spokeswoman said the event was made invitation-only because of space limitations. But the fact that the location was not publicized also ensured that Frey's most vocal critics were nowhere in sight.

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who often holds positions to the left of Frey, said those differences don't detract from the thrust of the mayor's message Thursday.

"There's always disagreement on some things," Ellison said. "But in the broad areas, I think we're heading in the right direction."