- Minneapolis on Wednesday formed a working group to recommend strategies for how the city can revitalize retail storefronts downtown. Mayor Jacob Frey said during a press conference that the city’s retail market has changed as many businesses with offices downtown have switched to remote work or hybrid work models since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup, consisting of more than 20 local business owners, real estate professionals, city councilors, city officials, nonprofits, business groups and others, will make recommendations by early spring. The group will review national data, best practices and rent trends in the real estate market and account for the prevalence of hybrid-remote work when making its recommendations, Frey said.
- Changes to the retail market were necessary and inevitable, Frey said, but “we’re having to respond now faster than ever,” he said. “The cities that succeed now going into the future are not the ones that are going to cling, white knuckle, to what once was. The cities that are truly going to succeed are going to embrace change, are going to move with the times.”
Cities throughout the U.S., including Denver and San Francisco, are trying to develop new strategies to make their downtowns more vibrant after much of the weekly foot traffic disappeared following the switch to remote or hybrid work. Boston also announced this week that it would use American Rescue Plan Act funds to help small businesses open new storefronts throughout the city, including in vacant downtown spaces.
The Minneapolis working group will help the community understand the trends and factors affecting downtown retail and storefront uses and help the city find a course forward where it can build a more vibrant future, said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the mpls downtown council and Mpls Downtown Improvement District, in a statement.
“We face a challenge, but by addressing that challenge head-on, we can reinvent this important aspect of the downtown economy,” said Cramer, a co-chair of the working group.
During the press conference, Frey said the large square footage, multistory retail model is dying, pointing to a need to evolve. Storefronts need to provide an “amazing experience” for their customers, he said, pointing to one local business in which entrepreneurs, artists and makers exhibit their craft.
People “want to shop, and they want to have an incredible time while doing so,” said Frey. “They want to walk down the block and not have one conglomerate, but five to eight different concepts all in the same store or all within the same block.”