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'It's Just A Different Place': The Uncertain Future Of Downtown Minneapolis

Originally published Jan. 18, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's hard to deny that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to the hustle and bustle of downtown Minneapolis.

And as for the future, there's some bad news and some good news for the biggest city in the Upper Midwest.

Jason Mill works in legal services. He's one of the few who have been working downtown the whole time.

"Used to seeing people walking around ... before the pandemic. Now the pandemic, it's just a different place," Mill said.

Roger Peters works in a financial firm and comes in one day a week.

"I'll probably never work downtown fulltime again," Peters said. "Probably the most will be thee, maybe four days a week."

And Ronda Anderson-Drake says her publishing firm has only a handful of onsite employees. Does she think downtown will ever be the same?

Downtown Minneapolis Before and After Pandemic
(credit: CBS)

"I think it's gonna be many years to come," Anderson-Drake said.

Despite the lack of hustle and bustle downtown, we did find an organization that offered some optimism: the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Steve Cramer is president and CEO.

"We just have to remember that, you know, there are these markers of real progress that we have seen over the course of the year," Cramer said.

He says the NHL Winter Classic at Target Field was a hit, and before Omicron, occupancy had gone up to 41%.

Target -- the largest employer -- is still mostly remote, but they are slowly reopening work spaces. US Bank is still remote, too, so it will be a bit longer before the city center feels like a city again.

"It's just a slow and methodical process, and that's the way it's going to be, but we're consistently optimistic that this reanimation is gonna continue to occur," Cramer said.

The Minneapolis Downtown Council says the hardest hit area of downtown is the skyway system. But they say with reduced rent rates, more new businesses are slowly moving in. And a new restaurant is opening in IDS Center this week.

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