Minneapolis business leaders hope holidays restore downtown to pre-pandemic form

Minneapolis business leaders hope holidays restore downtown to pre-pandemic form

Minneapolis business leaders hope holidays restore downtown to pre-pandemic form

The new president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council hopes this holiday season can be the start of a new chapter for the downtown area.

“I’m really optimistic about the future. I would bet on downtown,” said Adam Duininck, who just started as president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District on Monday.

Duininck previously served as chair of the Metropolitan Council.

“I understand the importance of downtown’s vibrancy and vitality, how it impacts the entire region, how it impacts the whole state,” Duininck said.

In his first interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS since stepping into the new position, Duininck said he has new ideas for boosting the strength of the downtown area.

“It’s been a long three years coming out of the pandemic and everything with George Floyd, and to see the city bounce back has been great. I think we’re still in the early phases. It’s in early recovery, but this past year has been a great indicator,” Duininck said.

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The Downtown Dashboard, which is updated quarterly by the Minneapolis Downtown Council, shows building occupancy in downtown’s biggest office buildings at 65% as compared to pre-pandemic times, hotel occupancy at about 61% and light rail ridership at about 52%.

The metrics appear more positive for the restaurant scene, which shows a 9% increase in seated diners from the same time last year.

Duininck hopes to encourage the business community to come together in creative new ways to further downtown’s recovery.

“We don’t want people to just come to a game and leave, come shop and leave. We want you to do a little bit of all of it, so the more we can get the business community working together to create that entire experience, the better downtown will be,” Duininck said.

He believes growing attractions, like the Winter Maker’s Market inside the Dayton’s Project, will help.

The market opened for its third season Thursday morning and will run through Dec. 30.

Organizers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it is bigger than ever.

“We went from 48 makers last year to 78 this year,” said Mich Berthiaume, market curator. “It is such a nostalgic place, and I think that’s what drives people to come down.”

Berthiaume said the vendors were hand-selected from across the state, offering everything from apparel to gourmet food to leather accessories and wooden decor.

“This is kind of the first holiday since COVID that we’re really trying to get a better footprint and get people back downtown,” Berthiaume said. “Downtown’s picking up. It’s bustling and it’s fun to be here.”

Berthiaume said thousands of people visited the market last year, and she hopes to double or triple that number this holiday season — while also supporting Minnesota vendors.

“That’s why I make a point to hand-select the brands that are in here because I want those authentic, powerful stories, and I want people to know how much it means to those brands when someone purchases those products,” Berthiaume said.

Duininck believes if more people visit these types of events and attractions downtown, it will help change the public perception.

“There’s still a challenge, don’t get me wrong. I think a large part of it is public safety, making sure the streets are safe and people feel secure. A big part of that is having people down here, so those two things kind of reinforce themselves,” Duininck said. “They go hand in hand. Vibrancy complements safety.”