Downtown Minneapolis office occupancy is still only about 35 percent

A tale of two Starbucks

Downtown Minneapolis has been a strange place to go for more than a year now.

First, COVID-19 hit in March last year. Businesses were closed and offices sent staff to work from home. At that time, the Starbucks on Marquette and 5th that I stopped in every morning closed, and has never reopened. I started going to the one on 6th instead.

Second, came a summer of rioting following the killing of George Floyd. When, in August, fresh looting inexplicably broke out after someone committed suicide, the Starbucks on 6th was wrecked. It, too, remains closed.

Two Starbucks, one shut by COVID-19, the other by violence. Together they tell the miserable story of downtown Minneapolis in 2020.

COVID-19 continues

Recovery has been slow in coming.

Last week, Kare 11 reported that “Downtown office occupancy is still only about 35%.” This is up from the depths of the pandemic, and Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, says that “the return of the Minnesota Twins, concerts and other downtown events have helped the economy rebound this summer.”

But there is now the ‘surging’ ‘Delta variant’ of COVID-19 to worry about. As a result, Wells Fargo, downtown Minneapolis’ third largest employer, and US Bancorp, the fifth largest, have both delayed their back-to-office plans.

And even then the impacts of COVID-19 might linger even longer:

Regardless, [Cramer] says most are rethinking how many days and hours employees really need to be at the office.

“Most employers, as they bring workers back to the office, are going to be doing that under a flexible work policy,” Cramer said. “More work from home, maybe in the office three days a week, something like that.”

This is bad news for the downtown businesses who depend on that trade.

The death of the office resulting from COVID-19 might well be overstated but that is not to say that it is non-existent. Activity will return to downtown Minneapolis, but not, probably, to quite the same level as it would have without the pandemic.