Minnesota's two biggest downtowns face an uncertain future in the face of COVID

Empty Streets, Downtown Minneapolis
Photo credit (Entercom)

COVID 19 has changed our way of life, to say the very least.  We are now wearing masks, practicing social distancing and many of us are working from home.  All of it has resulted in a massive drop in the number of people working downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

News Talk 830 WCCO's Susie Jones begins a series of reports on the future of our city centers, and commercial real estate, in the era of COVID.

Before COVID-19, the streets of downtown Minneapolis would be bustling.  More than 200,000 people per day would be working in the high rise office buildings, eating lunch or dinner and shopping.

Since the pandemic began in March, the number of people working inside these buildings is way down.

Cramer says seven months ago, conditions were much different. "We had 283,000 workers, 51,000 residents, seven straight years of billion dollar plus investment.  You know, for the forseeable future, that's probably the high water mark of our economic metrics for downtown."

Cramer does believe workers will come back sometime in 2021.  "Companies will be back but on any given day, probably won't be that many workers.  Not all restaurants will make it through this period.  And so we'll have fewer restaurants, we've already seen that." 

Inside the IDS Center, one of the most famous buildings in the state, it's quiet.  There are no places to sit.  Lisa Cotton waits at her shoe shine stand, which she has run for 30 years.  "It's been hard but it definitely shows you what you're made out of," she tells Susie Jones. 

Cotton still has some regulars who come downtown, specifically to get their shoes shined.  "I just stay on the positive and I'm just here to spread the love."