Downtown Revitalization: Minneapolis

February 27, 2014 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the heart of the Midwest's second largest economic center: Minneapolis.

About Minneapolis

Minneapolis is known as a city that seems to represent all of the elements of an urban utopia. The downtown streets are clean and safe. Transit is functional, attractive and reliable. Whether you are into art museums, performing arts or the outdoors, there seems to be something for everyone. In addition, claims the city has been named "America's Best Bike City."

However, the Minneapolis we know today was not always this way. In the early 20th century, then known as the "Mill City", Minneapolis was a world-leading center of flour production, spawning names such as General Mills, Pillsbury, Bisquick, and Wheaties on the national scene.

Things would change as competition from places like Kansas City and Buffalo led to the gradual closing of most of the city's mills between 1930 and 1965. After World War II, businesses and residents started moving to the suburbs, and downtown Minneapolis, along with downtowns across the nation, was perceived as dying.

The city's population peaked at 521,000 people in 1950, primarily due to growth fueled by an organized private streetcar system, which was shut down in 1954. It would later be discovered that the system had been shut down for personal gain.

If that wasn't enough, between 1957 and 1965, one-third of downtown Minneapolis was leveled in hopes of urban renewal. Most of this destruction occurred in the Gateway District, which was a neighborhood characterized by cheap hotels and flop houses. By 1990, the city's population had declined to 368,383.

Nevertheless, a focus on enhancing the region's quality-of-life has turned the city's fortunes around. With the mill district in shambles, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board began to acquire land and build trails paralleling the river. This in turn, spurred private development.

Light rail made its debut in Minneapolis with the opening of the Blue Line on June 26, 2004. In 2009, the Northstar commuter rail line opened, connecting downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake, MN. An additional light rail line to neighboring downtown St. Paul is now nearing completion.

Today, Minneapolis is no longer the world's flour milling center. The economy is now based in commerce, finance, rail and trucking services, health care, and industry. The city is also rapidly growing again, adding over 10,000 between 2010 and 2012, according to census estimates. It is the second largest economic center in the Midwest, behind Chicago and five Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters within city limits.

According to Walk Score, Minneapolis is the 12th most walkable city in the country. Its Nice Ride bike program offers more than 60 bicycle sharing kiosks. Plus there's 34 miles of connected dedicated bike lanes and shared use paths integrated with a park system has been called the best-designed, best-financed, and best-maintained in America.

Any community looking to bring life back to their own morbid urban cores should have Minneapolis at the top of their list as a successful real life examples to study.

Tale of the Tape:

Minneapolis City Population 2012: 392,880 (City); 3,422,264 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1867)

Jacksonville City Population 2012: 836,507 (City); 1,377,850 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Minneapolis (521,718)

City Land Area

Minneapolis: 54.9 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2012)

Minneapolis: 2.19%
Jacksonville: +2.40%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Minneapolis: 2,650,890 (ranked 16 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Minneapolis: 2,594.3 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2012

Minneapolis: +10,302
Jacksonville: +14,723

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Minneapolis: Minneapolis Convention Center (expanded in 2007) - 475,000  square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Minneapolis: Millennium Hotel Minneapolis - 321 rooms, Hyatt Regency Minneapolis - 645 rooms
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Minneapolis: IDS Tower - 792 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2013 (City limits only):

Minneapolis: Target Corporation (36), U.S. Bancorp (132), General Mills, Inc. (169), Medtronic, Inc. (172), Ameriprise Financial, Inc.(263), Xcel Energy, Inc.(266), Thrivent Financial for Lutherans (325), Nash Finch Company (500)
Jacksonville: CSX (231), Fidelity National Financial (353), Fidelity National Information Services (434)

Urban infill obstacles:

Minneapolis: I-35W limits accessibility between downtown Minneapolis and urban neighborhoods to the south and east.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Minneapolis: Nicollet Mall, Warehouse District, Block E
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Minneapolis: 94 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to

Next Page: Downtown Minneapolis Photo Tour

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