Monday, December 17, 2018

Wither Downtown????

"For those of us who do not have rose colored glasses on, it is as clear as a bell. Wither downtown? Only in the history books, my friend."   

It was not too long ago, there was an article in the media bemoaning the fact that retail is fleeing downtown Minneapolis. WHAT??? You are kidding! Put me in a time machine, and send it back fifty or sixty years. It was fun to hop on the old 5C (yes, I still remember the MTC bus number) and take the ride from Robbinsdale into downtown Minneapolis. Back then, it was so easy, so safe to ride the city buses, I was allowed to do it by myself or with friends when I was in Jr. High. 

Once downtown, it was a thrill. Stores galore. Stuff to do. My Mother worked part time in the office in the downtown Dayton's. When I would go downtown, I would stop up to visit her. Sometimes, she would treat me by taking me to the Sky Room for lunch - very fancy, and very fun. I would then go to Donaldson's, Penny's, and some of the lesser known stores to kick around. When I was finished shopping and exploring, I would hop on the 5C and ride it back to Robbinsdale.

Today - Dayton's, Donaldson's, and JC Penny's are all gone from the downtown scene. Many city leaders have tried to revive SOME kind of retail in downtown, but all have failed. Today in the paper, it was reported that even the fast food joints have also deserted this Lefty paradise. Why? Labor cost is one issue. That $15/hour specter which is hanging over many businesses. Plus the clientele. With the growing number of homeless, drifters and gangs, a fast food joint makes for a good magnet to attract trouble.

What is left downtown to make it livable? High end this, high end that. Great for the Yuppie class. Bad for the minimum wage class. Want to buy groceries? Good luck with that one. By the way - the City Council wants the residents to gear up to be a car-less town. So if you don't have a Cub Foods close by where you live (and there are precious few in town), enjoy your expensive natural food co-op. I suppose you could take a choo-choo or a bus to buy your food. That is, if you don't mind riding with a bunch of gang-bangers.

The Utopians, whose eyes glaze over when thinking about how wonderful Minneapolis will be when it is "racked and stacked" (and compliant with Thrive 2040), are in for a rude awakening. Why? You can't make a silk purse out of a cow's ear. The good news? The new minimum wage will be $15/hour. The bad news? There will no place to work which hires low skilled labor. All the jobs in downtown will be Yuppie centered, as will be the housing. The net result? Minneapolis will become more and more hollowed out. 

The glory days of Dayton's, Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant are relegated to the dust bin of history. Those of us who can remember those days, have good memories of those days gone by. When downtown was normal. The future of downtown however, looks dystopian, and anything but normal.

For many who do not have rose colored glasses on, it is as clear as a bell. Wither downtown? Only in the history books, my friend. Only in the history books.  


  1. It's not just the downtowns.
    Now it is malls that are failing. Mass retail giants that once anchored countless shopping centers are closing stores all across the United States, stores like Sears, Best Buy, Gap, and Toys ‘R’ Us. The malls themselves are closing too. Brookdale?
    So should us urbanists who praise walkable neighborhoods and dense downtowns celebrate the demise?
    Hell No!
    The giant shopping beacons were costly experiments, but the reasons for their downfall should not necessarily elicit urbanist celebration.
    The failure of a poor project does not guarantee that the success of a well-designed one will follow.
    Online sales may have been a culprit, but the rise of online retail and two-day, door-to-door delivery poses just as imminent a threat to many small brick and mortar businesses.
    I think the real problem is stagnant wages leading to a lack of excess spending money may be the true culprit, another grim forecast for downtown or suburban mall revitalization efforts.

    1. I agree. My retirement wages are stagnant. If we could get rid of the unfair Social Security state income tax, that would help a whole bunch of Minnesota seniors.

    2. The lost revenue would have to be replaced. Probably by a tax that all workers would pay. You don't want that. But, as the market losses destroy my portfolio, I may have to agree with you. Wish your guy realized that every tweet and utterance he makes affects the market. I know he and his rich cronies make money on down markets, we retirees don't have that luxury.

  2. "The lost revenue would have to be replaced." WHY!??

    Where is it written that government must never do with less, even as the rest of us must? MN gets a 9% "raise" every year. When was the last time you got one?

  3. Sorry, I revisited the math. That's 9% per biennium, not per year. Per year, it is 3.5% ABOVE what is needed for inflation and population growth (since 1960). Government doesn't have a revenue problem. Maybe if taxes and regulation weren't so high those businesses could have survived.

    1. Maybe if their business model recognized a new paradigm, they would have survived.

  4. What new paradigm? That government grows beyond all reasonable size and power? How about price controls on rental property, coupled with stringent maintenance requirements not covered by the existing rents? Just like $15.00/hr, there is no economic sense to these socialist/totalitarian pipe-dreams.