You’ve probably heard of the North Loop, the industrial-chic neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis that’s the metro area’s white-hot center of hip.
You probably haven’t heard of the South Loop — yet you’ve surely been there many times.
The South Loop is a triangle of Bloomington roughly bounded by Interstate 494, Cedar Avenue and the Minnesota River. It includes the Mall of America and Ikea, as well as a slew of hotels and office buildings. Ever since Bloomington was settled, what is now the South Loop has pretty much epitomized suburbia.
But the city is pouring money and planning into the district in an attempt to create a vibrant, urbanized enclave. Adding the Blue Line light rail was one big step. In recent years, the city has pushed redevelopment efforts toward making the area more walkable and pedestrian-friendly. (It has a ways to go.)
Now Bloomington has committed a six-figure sum to promoting the arts as a “creative placemaking” tool. Working with Artistry — formerly the Bloomington Theater & Art Center — the city will create an advisory commission and hire a part-time creative placemaking director.
Creative placemaking includes activities such as music, public art, historical tours, streetscape design, cultural and public events, outdoor performances and other creative acts that engage and connect a community to a place.
The city has committed $400,000 to this program over the next year, a commitment that city officials expect will be renewed annually for several years. The money will come from the South Loop Development Fund — in other words, from liquor and lodging taxes paid mostly by visitors.
If the South Loop is to live up to the city’s hopes, it needs to be about more than shopping, and the creative placemaking program is a step in that broader direction. Minnesota has a history of supporting the arts, but much of that support is in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It will be interesting to see if Bloomington’s efforts inspire other suburbs to follow suit.