Downtown Revitalization: Minneapolis

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

Published February 27, 2014 in Cities -

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

Downtown West

Downtown West is the heart of downtown Minneapolis (and Minneapolis as a whole), containing the bulk of high-rise office buildings in the city, and is what comes to mind when most Minneapolitans think of "downtown". Its boundaries are as follows (going in a clockwise direction): 12th Street to the southwest, 3rd Avenue North, Washington Avenue North, and Hennepin Avenue to the northwest, the Mississippi River to the northeast, and Portland Avenue, 5th Street South, and 5th Avenue South to the southeast. It is bordered by the North Loop, Nicollet Island/East Bank, Downtown East, Elliot Park, and Loring Park neighborhoods. Downtown West is home to most of Minneapolis's most notable buildings.,_Minneapolis

Light Rail

The METRO Blue Line (commonly called the Hiawatha Line) is a 12.3 mile light rail corridor that extends from downtown Minneapolis to the southern suburb of Bloomington. The line was originally named after Hiawatha Avenue which runs parallel to portions of the line. Major connections on the line include the Mall of America, the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, the Metrodome, and Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

The Blue Line is operated by Metro Transit, which is also the primary operator of buses in the Twin Cities. The line accounts for about 13% of Metro Transit's total ridership. Less than two years after opening in 2004, the line had already exceeded its 2020 weekday ridership goal of 24,800. The line carried 10.4 million riders in 2012.

Theatre District

Nicollet Mall

Nicollet Mall is a twelve block portion of Nicollet Avenue running through downtown Minneapolis. Working as a pedestrian and transit mall, it is also shopping and dining district. Along with Hennepin Avenue to the west, Nicollet Mall forms the cultural and commercial heart of the city.

Many iconic Minneapolis buildings line the Mall, notably the IDS Center, the former Dayton's flagship store (now Macy's), Orchestra Hall, and the Hennepin County Library. On Thursdays in the summer, Nicollet hosts a farmers' market; in the winter, the Holidazzle Parade traverses the Mall.

As a transit mall, Nicollet Mall has been served by many Metro Transit buses, including several high frequency routes. Aside from buses, only taxis and emergency vehicles are allowed on the two-lane road. Bikes have access during non-weekday rush hours, although this is expected to change in March 2010 when several express bus routes are moved to Marquette and 2nd Avenues in the second phase of the "Marq2" project. Metro Transit has also introduced a free circulator bus along Nicollet Mall that runs from the Minneapolis Convention Center to the METRO Blue Line Nicollet Mall station.

The Blue Line light rail, opened in 2004, has a Nicollet Mall station, and connects downtown Minneapolis to the airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington. The future Green Line to downtown St. Paul will also stop at Nicollet Mall.

Downtown East

Downtown East's boundaries are the Mississippi River to the north, Interstate 35W to the east, 5th Street South to the south, and Portland Avenue to the west. It is bounded by the Downtown West, Elliot Park, and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods. The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood is on the other side of the river, but there is no direct automobile connection between the two neighborhoods. There is a pedestrian and bicycle connection via the Stone Arch Bridge. Downtown East is home to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, where the Minnesota Twins (MLB baseball), Minnesota Vikings (NFL football), and Minnesota Gophers (NCAA University of Minnesota football) have all played home games. As of 2009, the Minnesota Golden Gophers moved into the new TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota Campus. Additionally, the Minnesota Twins moved into new Target Field at the start of the 2010 season. In 2016, a new Vikings Stadium will replace the Metrodome.

Within Downtown East is the Mills District, which contains a number of former industrial properties left over from the days when Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world. Many old mills and factories are being converted to housing, bringing a residential population to a neighborhood that beforehand didn't have many residents. The neighborhood is also home to the Mill City Museum, Mill Ruins Park, and the new Guthrie Theater complex, which abandoned its old location near Loring Park during the summer of 2006.

The neighborhood is served by Downtown East/Metrodome station of the METRO light rail system.,_Minneapolis


Uptown is a popular commercial district in southwestern Minneapolis, Minnesota, centered at the Uptown Theater (the former Lagoon) at the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and Lagoon Avenue. It has traditionally spanned the corners of four neighborhoods, Lowry Hill East, ECCO, CARAG and East Isles neighborhoods, within the Calhoun Isles community.[5] Historically, the boundaries of Uptown are Lake Calhoun to the west, Dupont Avenue to the east, 31st Street to the south, and 28th Street to the north.

The Lakes Area of Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Lake of the Isles became popular in the 1880s as vacation cottages, hotels, and boating recreation became available by streetcar. As Minneapolis expanded south, housing construction boomed through the 1920s. A commercial district began forming just east of the Lakes Area. At the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and Lagoon Avenue, the Lagoon Theatre was built, a multi-function vaudeville theater. When the Lagoon burnt down in 1939, owners sought to rebuild and the business community took the opportunity to rebrand the area. Following the success of Chicago's Uptown District, the Minneapolis Tribune announced the new Uptown District of Minneapolis centered on the newly renamed Uptown Theatre.

Uptown is a mix of various cultural strains and is considered an area for young people to live and shop. It's known as a vibrant center for artists and musicians, hipsters, and hippies. Much more numerous are the young professionals, also known as yuppies, from throughout the Twin Cities area who frequent this district at night, especially on the weekends, in order to visit local restaurants and bars.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Photographs by Russell Conner. Contact Ennis at

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