Downtown Minneapolis is not bouncing back

Despite the constant reassurances from local media and elected officials, activity in the inner core of the state’s largest city is not returning to pre-pandemic levels.

We were told in September that Taylor Swift’s summer concerts had saved the city from ruin. Then the Twins’ unlikely playoff run in early October had boosted the city’s fortunes, supporters claimed.

Beyond these anecdotes, hard data was lacking.

The University of Toronto’s School of Cities’ Downtown Recovery project tracks the bounce back from the pandemic in activity in the downtowns of major North American cities, based on cell-phone activity. They published their latest rankings on October 16. The news for Minneapolis is not good.

Of the cities tracked, only Las Vegas exceeds pre-pandemic activity, in the latest report issued October 16. A few other cities have nearly recovered, including El Paso and the California cities of San Jose and Bakersfield. Here are the bottom 13 on the October list,

Minneapolis ranks third from last (64th), just above the midwestern river towns of Louisville and St. Louis. Nine spots higher, in 55th place, sits Detroit.


Minneapolis’ 56 percent recovery is up from the 51 percent reported back in January. So the trend is positive. But Minneapolis hasn’t improved in the relative rankings.

Minneapolis now ranks above St. Louis, but has fallen behind Raleigh.

When the latest ranking came out last month, local media (WCCO) quibbled with the project’s methodology, claiming that the study had unfairly left out the areas including the football stadium and the convention center from the footprint of the core downtown.

But the study isn’t trying to track all activity across the city. It’s tracking activity relative to past points in time and against other cities. The key element is that the definitions never change, not which buildings are in and which are out. My colleague John Phelan covered the controversy in this post.

The search for the green shoots of growth continues…