How to make the Twin Cities the best region in America

The good life in Minnesota: A 12-step plan to greatness in the Midwest

How to make the Twin Cities the best region in America

A classic Time magazine cover from August 13, 1973, shows Minnesota Gov. Wendell Anderson on a lakeshore, hoisting a big fish, next to the headline: "The Good Life in Minnesota." The accompanying article touted Minnesota as a state that works, an example to be envied and emulated throughout the nation.

More than 40 years later, we're hip again. Time and again, lately, Minneapolis-St. Paul tops '"Best places to live" lists. Our job growth is solid and our real estate prices have rebounded and then some.

We've got music, theater, and literature, and we just legalized gay marriage. You can bike just about anywhere, and we're undergoing a massive local food and beer boom.

But nothing is perfect. So what will it take to prepare the Twin Cities for a great future? We asked a crack panel of experts.

1. Keep bringing back the downtowns

Millennials are wary of the suburban two-car lifestyle. Many empty-nesters are looking to downsize and trade the single-family home for the convenience of a downtown apartment. There's plenty of demand for more city-centered lifestyles.

"We've always had a strong enough downtown," says former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. "But now we've added thousands of new residents, and turned a strong 12-hour-a-day downtown into a 24-hour vibrant place to work, live, and play."

Downtown Minneapolis is pulsing with the sound of construction. Even the much-maligned Block E finally will have a second life as a haven for the Timberwolves and the Mayo Clinic. With the Vikings stadium a done deal, Nicollet Mall is ready for its makeover. Even downtown St. Paul is showing signs of life.

But downtowns aren't just buildings and infrastructure. As in typography, what's left unoccupied in between is just as important to making it work.

John Soranno, the co-founder of Punch Pizza, got his 15 minutes of fame when President Barack Obama gave him a shout-out in his State of the Union address in January. Soranno also knows a thing or two about dense, vibrant downtowns, having spent part of his childhood in Milan, Italy.

"I would like to see more parks in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul," he says. "Block E should have never been built. If we would have made the commitment 20 years ago to make that an urban park space, I think that would have paid dividends for downtown Minneapolis."

Soranno likes the plans for a new park in downtown Minneapolis, next to the new Vikings stadium. He calls Peavey Plaza the perfect example of an urban park that works.

2. Support the local-food explosion

Gone are the days when a typical Minnesota meal was bland and white. When sophisticated mega-city dwellers from the coasts do end up here, they're often blown away.

"It's like an explosion," says Heartland Restaurant owner and chef Lenny Russo, who was a finalist for this year's James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest.

Customers have become more discerning and adventurous. The farm-to-table movement is everywhere from food trucks to fine dining.

"Every week I get at least one or two emails from another farmer who's raising a heritage breed of some sort of animal," says Russo. "Let's face it, it's all about the ingredients. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but you can certainly fry it and put it in your stomach."

Along with the dining explosion comes a local-beer boom. Local breweries have been successful for years, but since the Legislature allowed them to sell beer onsite in 2012, tap rooms have sprouted up all over.

Qiuxia Welch is the co-founder of the Boom Island Brewing Company, which specializes in Belgian-style beers. The brewery has been around for two and a half years. A tap room followed last December.

"We're just trying to keep up with demand," says Welch.

Our growing sophistication about what we put in our mouths in general helps small breweries, says Welch. "People are looking for local products. They want to support small businesses instead of corporations. That's part of the wider trend."

So how do we solidify our status as a nascent foodie capital?

"We've got to continue to make it an attractive place for small restaurants to open up," says Soranno. "The less barriers we have for first-time restaurant owners like I was 18 years ago, the better."

A growing number of restaurants around the Twin Cities have to compete over the same limited talent pool and pay good people top dollar, says Russo. That puts a strain on budgets, because even high-end restaurants operate on thin margins. So why not expand the talent pool?

"It would be a great thing if there was some kind of funding mechanism available to help young people develop the skills they need to fill these positions. Maybe we need to come up with some kind of an apprenticeship program, where we work with the trade schools and the culinary academies, and with the high schools as well."

In any case, we shouldn't hesitate to blow our own horn, and promote ourselves as a foodie destination, says Russo. "We have things that are either as good or better than any place else. There's no reason Andrew Zimmern should live here, but he's still here."

3. Fix the traffic mess

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32 comments
phux
phux

BETTER FOR WHO?? DEVELOPERS AND YUPPIES? WHO WANTS MORE TECH? WHAT SO WE CAN HAVE EVEN MORE RICH FUCKERS DRIVING AROUND TOWN IN THEIR FANCY CARS WITH THEIR ME FIRST ATTITUDES? This is such a clusterfuck of an article. The main point of it and of many of the new kids in the city council though is DEVELOPMENT. Did construction companies pay for this article? Its a developers wet dream. Our city is already a great place! We need better transit for sure, but that's because its being done wrong. Everybody agrees we need better transit. But the same morons pushing more condos are pushing light rail on the street level. I do like how the cover picture shows elevated trains, but unfortunately that is not happening here. And they are pushing for more tech jobs. As if trickle down hadn't been disproven already... a bunch of rich brats with tech jobs doesn't make our city a better place. Unless you think plundering our city is a good thing. And until we do have a full network of trains and buses that actually come regularly during drinking hours and all the rest of the time we need our streets, so don't even talk about shutting down roads until that happens. How can you talk about reducing traffic and about making roads smaller at the same time? when you don't have the light rail in place yet?? And take a good luck of what befell Uptown and you will see what more tech workers and the condos being built for them will do to our once cool city. They fucking demolished uptown and built a bunch of ugly high priced condos and luxury apartments. They tore down the Uptown bar and put in an Apple Store. Uptown is ruined and this article is the leading charge to do the same thing to the rest of the city. Fuck that! You fucking yuppies and douche bag rich kids suck! You are ruining what used to be a good city. A city that was affordable and working class is now being sold off to developers by technocrats. How about affordable housing? Why wasn't that mentioned? Why wasn't it mentioned that RT Ryback and City Council ignored affordable housing in favor of kickbacks from construction companies who built condos? Affordability has been a problem for years, and its getting worse, and now you call for making it even worse. Not to mention our city is great because of parks etc. and those parks are already overused, so do we really need even more people so that you can't find a space on a beach or at a park?

Rick Miller
Rick Miller

Screw diversity Diversity =weakness Unity = strength One way to help traffic? Quit having Somalis relocate here

joecool1999
joecool1999

Here's a dose of reality from these same Citypages: "Rents are increasing despite a less-than-booming job market, the repot indicates, citing Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development stats showing only 900 new jobs were created in the Twin Cities during the first quarter of the year. " 


The Twin Cities has always had a good job market for well-connected local yokels. For well-educated outsiders, its opportunities are little better than "loser cities" than Detroit and St. Louis.

joecool1999
joecool1999

This article includes the usual clueless garbage. Great place for white males? Great place for white males over 6'2" who are from the area. If you're not one of those white males you will be shit on by the local "feminist" females and anyone else who can get away with it. I used to think this was a great place for liberalism. Then I learned from experience it is the male-bashing, bigoted form of "liberalism". Yuck. No wonder people from the real cities don't take MSP seriously. It is every bit as discriminatory as the Jim Crow south, just with different targets of abuse, different selected "winner and loser" groups.

Ryan Bethke
Ryan Bethke

it would be good..if it were in "world pages"

David Hlavac
David Hlavac

Yup, Sinclair Lewis had that whole midwestern inferiority complex thing pegged around 100 years ago. Still relevant as hell today.

carnivalminds
carnivalminds

"Why are you plugging a rapper and his resume in regards to transit issues? Why not quote a transportation planner that "plans traffic" professionally?"
- noted Minneapolis resident, me.

cholm1976
cholm1976

I'd like to see a very limited and controlled amount of development allowed right on the river / one of the lakes. A small riverfront plaza area with bars/restaurants right on the water would likely be hugely popular. Maybe even a pier on the river modeled after ocean piers that have shops, etc. I know I really wish there were spots where I could hang out and drink a beer next to the water.

loserdroid
loserdroid

#1 should be "Build a dome over the whole fucking thing."

Mohit Sharma
Mohit Sharma

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Sam Adamsson
Sam Adamsson

This is what I don't like about the twin cities... We're insecure. Why do we have to compete or try to make ourselves appear nicer to outsiders? I get and respect the need to improve and grow, but it seems like we are sooooo desperate to be liked.

Eric Ramsey
Eric Ramsey

Remove all roads from Detroit and Chicago. But do it 40 years ago.

Travis Mueller
Travis Mueller

ummm... hello? the state just gave rochester...i mean MAYOCHESTER, about $500 million to become a Destination Medical Center (DMC)..... the twin cities are over... just a north suburb of MAYOCHESTER now...

Truth_Teller_1
Truth_Teller_1

Makes you wanna puke!

And all it takes is OPM - other people's money.   The socialist's will create a great city - just like the Soviet Union - with their 7 year plans.

DaveTheDopeFiend
DaveTheDopeFiend

@phux Wow, you sound so scared of things that are well beyond your control: progress and change. Are you sure you can handle life? It's a city -- cities have to adapt to the times, otherwise they become places like Detroit. Sorry that tech workers are ruining what "once was a great city." From what I hear, downtown wasn't all that great 10, 20 years ago, and the North Loop was where you went to get yourself murdered. So yeah, maybe you should just stick to the suburbs instead of worrying about those of us who actually appreciate where the city is headed.

carnivalminds
carnivalminds

@phux There is this thing called a paragragh. You state your premis and then support it with 3-4 sentences, Often times you have a break. Like a carrige return. It still don't make up for the I think I'm New York pages quoting a rapper about something a civil engineer should handle.
:)

heterosectional1
heterosectional1

@cholm1976 No development along the Mississippi here in TCs. Just conversion of rat filled old flour mills to apartment houses for rick yuppies. Just came back from Davenport, Iowa on a riverboat cruise. Fabulous views. There's a little town right on the river bank! We have nothing like that here. Mipples is still a hick town. Hennepin Avenue is a DISGRACE. Supposed to be the theater district and gateway to the Mississippi. It is full of empty store fronts and fag bars. And the Mall is appalling. Black boys with their low butt pants hitting on white women. NOPLACE TO PARK IN THE STREET! 


As for me, I'm self-employed and very busy working out of my own home near downtown. Only place I go is the Uptown McDs to look at the weirdos for entertainment. And I can park for free at McDs and Lunds.

joecool1999
joecool1999

Not so much desperate to be liked as desperate to be admired, praised, viewed as superior. As far as being liked....nothing to worry about there....nobody is going to like the people in the Twin Cities any time soon.....self-obsessed, arrogant homers just don't warrant much respect anywhere and here is no exception. When Minnesotans start having a healthier attitude toward the outside world the outside world will start to take Minnesotans seriously.

joecool1999
joecool1999

Everything in this yuppie-ism obsessed state has revolved around the suburbs and corporations since about 1960. The Twin Cities exist as a ploy to lure conventions to the state with fancy restaurants - the people of the state and its politicians mostly ignore the cities and obsess over the suburbs and Mayochester. For a purportedly "liberal" state there certainly is a love affair with corporations and fascism-style corporatism here that is WAY more than a little bit suspicious to liberals who move from the outside.

joecool1999
joecool1999

@Truth_Teller_1  You know as much about "socialism" and the Soviet Union as I know about how to build a space ship.

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@Truth_Teller_1  Move to South Dakota.  I'm sure you will love it.  We don't want scumbag bigots here anyway.  Losers like you contribute nothing.  It won't be tough replacing a toilet cleaning loser like you anyway. 

phux
phux

@DaveTheDopeFiend really dude, you are from the suburbs so you should stick them bro. I am from MPLS and was born here buddy. And the "improvements" to uptown are not improvements ya douche. Not to mention I talked about improving transit etc., I am a proponent of transit and very into progress, but rich dicks stealing your city out from under you isn't progress. Its theft.

phux
phux

@carnivalminds Technicality for a technicrat... you misspelled a couple things and put a comma instead of a period before "Often times..." so not sure where you get off telling me about grammar etc. More importantly I mentioned actual important issues in my *COMMENT* which is not supposed to be an article since I don't work at City Pages they would not post an article even if I wrote one. All points were cogent, so please desist from distracting.

phux
phux

@carnivalminds technicality for a technocrat? this is a comment online my friend. they don't let you write a proper article on here unless you are on staff, so we just lob out ideas. don't waste our time with technicalities. and by the way my comment lays out valid points. Oh and you have a comma where a period should be just before "Often times..." haha; and you misspelled carriage.

heterosectional1
heterosectional1

@MicheleBachmann @Truth_Teller_1 Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a great city. They have a half mile outdoor sculptor exhibit on the sidewalks on both sides of Phillips Avenue, which is the equivalent of Mipples horseshit Mall. And you can park your car in regular old time meters on their sculptor Phillips Avenue, the main drag. Free parking after 5 P.M. 


Yes indeed, Sioux Falls is a class act. Wells Fargo is based there, not in Mipples because of low taxes and business perks.

Truth_Teller_1
Truth_Teller_1

@MicheleBachmann  Please take  your meds.   It's easily understandable you have nothing to say - so what's left but to insult people.   Truly mental case.

carnivalminds
carnivalminds

@phux Fair is fair.
Can you solve the puzzle? Why did this puplication spend 2 paragraphs on a rappers resume and his "noted comment was 1 paragraph?

"I'm not going to take that job in the suburbs." Why did you produce a child? What kind of an example are you?

 
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