City leaders believe that Minneapolis should be the first non-coastal city that knowledge workers and business leaders think of after Chicago. Here's a look at what makes the capital of the "North" tick.
It's been one year since Pete Kane founded Startup Venture Loft
(SVL), a coworking hub and business accelerator in Minneapolis' North Loop. Since then, more than 30 early-stage companies have moved into the space.
Kane is developing a native startup financing ecosystem, centered on SVL and other Minneapolis coworking spaces and accelerators like CoCo
and Treehouse Health
, that rivals counterparts in San Francisco and Boston. Venture capital funds and angel investors are looking at SVL, too.
As Kane sees it, Minneapolis is a city with world-class urban assets, but the northern metropolis still suffers from a dated reputation beyond those in-the-know. Outsiders hear "Minneapolis" and think Fargo
, Mary Tyler Moore, funny accents, long winters and perhaps the Mall of America, that quintessential monument to suburban-style consumerism.
Yet that's starting to change as redevelopment efforts bear fruit and word gets out. Minneapolis's booming startup scene is one of many signs that the city is evolving.
"Our culture of innovation, and the companies that thrive on it, are putting Minneapolis on the map," says Eric Dayton, who owns several successful businesses near Startup Venture Loft. He's leading the charge, along with local academics, businesspeople and civic leaders, on an ambitious effort to position Minneapolis as the capital of the "North"
-- a vast cultural, linguistic and economic region that covers 10 percent of the Lower 48's landmass.
"We need to make sure we're getting credit beyond our borders for everything that's happening here," he adds. "If we can do that, we can compete with any city in the country for talent."
Homegrown success stories include: accelerating business and population growth in core neighborhoods; a comprehensive, goal-driven vision for the future; cutting-edge models of community-building and place making in formerly disinvested neighborhoods; and a wholesale embrace of arts and culture in the public planning process. Setting clear and ambitious goals
In late 2013, outgoing mayor R.T. Rybak outlined a plan to grow the city's total population to 500,000
-- a nearly 30 percent increase -- by 2025. Skeptics scoffed about a growth rate more typical of the Sun Belt than the Frost Belt.
But Minneapolis policymakers have taken Rybak's directive to heart, progressively amending the city's Plan for Sustainable Growth to encourage higher-density development around the University of Minnesota, the Lake Street corridor and the Green and Blue METRO light rail lines, and making small but important zoning changes like the Granny Flats Amendment
, which permits self-contained rental units on owner-occupied lots zoned for single- or two-family use.
Meanwhile, in downtown Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Downtown Council
's far-reaching Downtown 2025 Plan
has catalyzed growth, development and innovation.
The plan's 10 goals, to be reached by 2025, cover everything from population growth (70,000 downtown residents) and transit (creating a "downtown circulator," most likely a streetcar loop) to quality of life (housing all homeless downtown residents) and national thought leadership (launching the Minneapolis Ideas Exchange
, an Aspen Ideas Festival-style gathering).
About 40,000 people already lived downtown at the end of 2014, with 2,000 additional apartment and condo units planned or under construction across nearly two million square feet.