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Working from home during the pandemic caused a sea change in how we think about where we have to be to work. I believe that Target's announcement that it is giving up one-third of its downtown office space will be repeated by hundreds if not thousands of companies across the country ("Target Corp. will leave City Center, shift 3,500 jobs," front page, March 12).

Although on the surface this appears to be a major blow to commercial real estate owners, I believe that along with the rest of us, they are being presented with a major opportunity. It's time to visualize what downtown could become: a vibrant family residential area where people can live and work without the expense, aggravation or energy use that comes with commuting.

The millions of square feet that will become available in prime locations is ripe for residential use. And not just for singles or empty nesters. Just as schools have begun using closed department store spaces across the country, they can also open in downtown space. The remodeled Dayton's Project is a great example of how the developers included spaces for relaxation, exercising, eating and working all in one space. That concept can be expanded to include residential space. Nothing will bring back restaurants and live entertainment like lots of people living nearby.

Fortunately, Minneapolis is blessed with forefathers who saw to it that we set aside open spaces for all to enjoy. Bike paths, parks and beaches are all readily available to residents. Council members, city planners and developers who can envision a vibrant city where people can live, work and play within all the square footage that is ready and waiting have an opportunity to be at the forefront of what could be the most rewarding transformation our city and its citizens have seen since skyways were built.

Vision is key. Planning is key. Just as our city fathers envisioned the great benefits of connecting our downtown with skyways and fueled the growth of our skyscrapers in a compact, efficient manner (unlike the urban sprawl cities like Houston experienced with little or no planning), we have a tremendous opportunity to envision how existing spaces can be transformed. Let's repurpose and provide an amazing quality of life in a redesigned downtown.

I urge those involved to take up the challenge and engage the ingenuity that made our city great. Doing so will insure not only its survival but its place as a forward-thinking, vibrant, great place to live.

Gabrielle Rohde, Deephaven
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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey acknowledges a "rethinking" of the modern workplace and workforce with the advances in technology, and that the COVID pandemic has expedited that rethinking ("Target move jolts real estate sector," March 12).

But it is quite feasible that Target's abandonment of its Minneapolis City Center headquarters is both an indicator of the city core's socioeconomic deterioration and a well-founded concern for Target employees' daily well-being.

Let not Mayor Frey's diplomatic interpretations overlook the city's progressive politics' incompatibility with free enterprise and the resulting consequences.

Gene Delaune, New Brighton

Groundwork was laid long before Google, Facebook or Zoom

In "Imagine the pandemic without Big Tech" (Opinion Exchange, March 10), Noah Smith must be using his "computer glasses" to look at the technology that has come to the forefront during the pandemic. He focuses on a few things that have been around for a little while as the saviors of this latest crisis. But, he doesn't see, or mention, what has really allowed technology to mitigate the effects of the necessary lockdowns.

There have been computerized work-from-home initiatives going back over 30 years. Sun Microsystems had an "app" to create a custom pizza and order it in the previous millennium.

The critical component that regulated the speed of the creation and adoption of this application of technology is the availability and speed of the data services connecting people to people, people to business and business to business. The increase in bandwidth available at a reasonable cost is the enabler. Unfortunately, even 25 years after the big telecom and cable companies received hundreds of millions in tax breaks in exchange for promised rollout of "high speed" connections, many locales and people still do not have reliable connections with enough bandwidth to participate in this new economy.

From commission reports to conferences to Connect Minnesota, the issue has been highlighted and discussed. It is time to get past discussion and for the Legislature to remove restrictions on local communities who want to provide high-speed data services to their constituents. Cities shouldn't have to fight in court to provide important resources to their citizens. And, it is time for the large telecom and cable providers who have effectively been operating as monopolies in most areas to work with those communities to provide the services needed at a cost people can afford. We need the high-tech grandchild of Reddy Kilowatt to become the spokesperson for this effort.

But, most of all, we need to quit talking and start doing.

Craig Wilson, Arden Hills

What about the 26,000 who came?

Last week's article on "vaccine tourism" begs for more information ("Minnesotans cross state lines for shots," March 6). It touched on some reasons why 15,000 people left the state to get vaccinated and the irrational decision to place older people high on the priority list regardless of risk or health factors, while high-risk younger people were relegated to secondary — or lower — status. But it failed to mention the motivation of the 26,000 people who came here to get vaccinated from other states. Were they seniors who took advantage of the state's prioritization of the elderly?

As it is, the vaccine rollout was poorly planned and executed. Those at highest risk should have been at the top of the list regardless of age. Those who were older but healthy should have waited. Yes, older people are also at risk, but they also have the easiest path to avoid the virus. Most of them are retired and have the luxury of not having to go to work to pay their bills. Many can take advantage of special store hours or can just stay home and have supplies delivered.

Teachers and even first responders should have taken a back seat to those among us most likely to have negative outcomes. Right after nursing home residents and workers, the next in line should have been the most vulnerable, most of whom are still young and in the prime of their lives.

John Morgan, Burnsville
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Regarding the sexual orientation question on the Minnesota Vaccine Connector website ("Cut vaccine query on sexual orientation," editorial, March 6, and "Stance to remove sexual orientation question is ignorant," Opinion Exchange, March 9): If you're in the closet, you're probably going to mark "straight" anyway, and if you're out and proud you will check the "gay or lesbian" box. I don't understand why this is even a problem or why people that don't even have skin in the game are feigning such outrage.

Gary Beckensten, Minneapolis

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