The Old Saw of Twin City Municipal Tensions: Neighborhoods v. Downtown

Former Minneapolis City Council member Steve Cramer, now head of the Downtown Council rekindled a long simmering debate in Minneapolis recently with a Counterpoint Opinion Piece in the Star Tribune entitled In planning the city’s new core, we look up, not down.

As he highlighted the issues of concern he has with the direction of the Mill City, he focused on the in migration of businesses into the downtown. This traditional juxtaposition of business interests, which are often people who do not live within the city boundary and people who reside in the city limit is not a valid any longer. As we have also seen in St Paul, the people who decry the availability of skyway access and routes of travel between the skyscrapers then need to also acknowledge the vibrancy of downtown is due in large part because people live there.

The expenditures of monies in the downtown core often brings about controversy, but face it that is what people think about first when they talk about a city, it’s downtown amenities. There is a new dynamic to consider and that is the fact, Downtown is now a neighborhood too.

The interests of business now must be offset by the interests of downtown residents. The number of businesses who do commerce throughout the day and evening need to take into the idea of operating in a shift mentality. There are retired people who live there as well as people who work 1st, 2nd and 3rd shift. The ability for the community to thrive is not to pull up stakes after 5 pm, but look to other opportunities throughout the day. If Minneapolis and St Paul want to become true mature cities their vibrancy needs to evolve to the same structure as cable news, a 24-hour cycle or at least a 20-hour cycle. If the millennials ever organize then a new political power group could seek change.

There are reasons why Mickie’s Dinner is a St Paul icon, because it is open 24-hours. Similarly, so is Fed Ex and you can mail, ship or work on a project anytime of the day.

Any issue of safety and security in the skyways is because uniformed police do not randomly patrol them. The skyways need to either be incorporated as a regular part of a beat where police get out of their cars and walk through, security cameras need to be in place and vagrants need to be moved along and prevented from relieving themselves in the alcoves of these concourses.

As these new realities come to the fore the structural balance between the interests creates opportunities for dialogue.

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