I read with interest the June 6 editorial ("Enjoy summer 2023 with downtown fun") on the challenges of reviving downtown Minneapolis, given our family's trip to the Convention Center this past weekend.
We went downtown for a piano concert (sponsored by the Minnesota Music Teachers Association), where a variety of performers across all ages and backgrounds played various pieces in large groups (along with a couple of impressive solo performances). All of the participants looked adorable in their dresses and suits and bow ties. This was easily the best use of two hours any parent could hope for, and the Convention Center provided a great setting for these young musicians to show off the fruits of their practice/labor.
Before the concert, however, we decided to go for dinner at Crave at 825 Hennepin Av. downtown, where I experienced my first career metal detector entrance into a restaurant. I'm hard-pressed to believe that the Crave locations spread across the metro area in Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, St. Louis Park, Edina and other cities offer the metal detector experience. I thought metal detectors were reserved for airports, sporting events and, sadly, too many schools.
The walk from Crave to the Convention Center took us by Peavey Plaza, where we experienced a marginally unsettling interaction with a shirtless man seemingly battling some form of mental illness, all set against the backdrop of marijuana wafting through the air. Everything at the Convention Center was "fun," but nothing else about the night would fit the definition.
This brings me to some of the misleading statements in the editorial. It asks: "Do visitors stay away because of a fear of crime, or is crime a problem because so many people stay away?" Any reasonable person would argue the former, and the longitudinal crime data would clearly support this position. Unfortunately, too often stories about companies leaving downtown (or other indicators of economic decline) are reported by the Star Tribune without these figures as if the authors are hoping there is another reason.
This brings me to the next issue with the editorial. It argues that the "drag on the downtowns' economic and social vitality did not begin with the arrival of COVID-19 and the shutdown it prompted" but gives no data to support this argument. Instead, it somehow blames it on the skyways! Various parts of the skyways have existed in some form since the 1960s, though the construction of the IDS Center in 1972 connected different parts of the skyway. Regardless of when the skyway was "founded," it's been around in some form for over 50 years. How can that possibly be a cause of the decline in downtown's "economic and social vitality"?
Finally, you talk about workers discovering they can earn a paycheck working remotely and how they have "the leverage to demand at least some flexibility" if their employers preferred they report to the office. However, you never explain what this "leverage" consists of or where it comes from. Employers can probably produce ample data to show whether or not productivity is the same at home or in the office, but they don't really have a response when the employee plays the "I don't feel safe card." That's the leverage.
Over the past three years, we seem to have dug in to our own positions regards various elements of public safety. It's not clear to me we are honestly willing to listen to others' points of view or experiences. Until that happens, maybe the best we can hope for to revitalize downtown is this — let's have some weekly concerts where children can play their instruments or use their voices and make music. That seems to bring us together better than anything else I've seen.
Matthew Loucks lives in Edina and teaches and coaches at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.