Proposed Minneapolis revitalization could include closing Nicollet Mall to traffic

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wants to experiment with it as soon as this summer.

One of the biggest problems with downtown Minneapolis is that foot traffic has all but disappeared since 2020.

And while there are some positive signs downtown, the consensus is that some things need to change, including on Nicollet Mall.

The streets of downtown Minneapolis filled with people on a Tuesday afternoon in June, including visitors from out of town and the suburbs.

"There are a lot of things I really like about the downtown," said Jo Ann Heinrich, an Apple Valley resident who was visiting the Mary Tyler Moore statue with a friend from Australia.

Only about two-thirds of the workforce has come back to downtown office space since the pandemic and George Floyd murder in 2020.

But the numbers are slowly rising and being boosted by more visitors than before and a population increase of almost 5,500 people.

Mayor Jacob Frey says retail and downtown will never have the same relationship, so he launched a working group for reinventing downtown last year.

They focused on some of the area’s attractions like theaters, pro sports arenas, music venues, and restaurants.

And they looked at some of the disadvantages, too.

"Working through public safety perceptions while continuing in the decline of downtown crime," said working group member and downtown resident Mitch Kelly.

Shots fired calls and shooting victims are down this year, according to Minneapolis police statistics.

But assaults are up quite a bit, so it’s a mixed bag.

Frey thinks the atmosphere will be even better if they can attract businesses like daycare, possibly with reduced rents.

And he envisions a pedestrian mall for several blocks starting at the Washington Avenue end of the Nicollet Mall, which just had a $50 million redesign wrapped up in 2018.

"Suddenly you’ve got a big opportunity to create a space that’s valued by people and that people appreciate and that people, most importantly, use," Frey said. "That could be the first step in making sure Nicollet is focused on the pedestrian experience."

The revitalization work could take a long time, but the mayor is suggesting the city try closing Nicollet to traffic for a couple weeks this summer as a test run.

The area will already be shut down temporarily while hosting Taste of Minnesota in early July.