Minneapolis Downtown Council Wants to Attract Smaller, ‘Boutique’ Stores to Nicollet Mall
Signaling a step forward for the Minneapolis Downtown Council’s 2025 Plan, one of the Council’s task forces has launched an initiative to enhance the retail district along Nicollet Avenue.
The Retail Task Force, comprised of 33 members including representatives from the City of Minneapolis, downtown retailers, property owners, management groups, and other stakeholders, is hoping to reshape or improve the shopping area between 5th Street and 10th Street.
“This is the perfect time to convene the expertise of this task force to work on opening a new era of retail on Nicollet,” said David Frank, co-chair of the 2025 Plan’s retail task force and director of the City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development department. “We are embracing this moment of opportunity and a chance to redevelop the shopping scene in our city’s core.”
The strategies laid out by the task force included organizing an alliance of stakeholders focused on promoting tenant recruitment; integrating Nicollet and downtown safety and activation strategies into the district; and examining potential changes to signage regulations for storefronts and buildings.
The task force will look to develop new approaches for targeted retail businesses and bringing in new entities. Mark Remme, communications manager for the Council, told TCB they’re “interested in speaking with any businesses looking to open a store downtown,” but stores with smaller footprints would be ideal.
“We’ve seen a national trend of stores scaling down their brick and mortar storefronts,” said Remme. “Instead of larger department stores, we’re looking to engage companies to entertain smaller sized stores with a more boutique feel. This will help with store overhead expenses and make it a more economical approach to business.”
This sentiment comes a little over a year after the historical downtown shopping landmark Macy’s closed down. Big box retailers Barnes and Noble and Sports Authority left shortly thereafter.
Developing smaller store footprints is a key focus of the task force, but they’re also planning to improve the shopping experience itself by addressing wayfinding issues. They intend to work on street-to-skyway navigational guidance.
“We were active leaders on the MN Super Bowl Host Committee’s wayfinding committee this winter and helped update skyway signage and launched a new skyway app. We are looking into ways to keep these tactics relevant and up-to-date,” said Remme. “The new Nicollet also has Skyway access points integrated into the sidewalks. These findings will help us work toward creating better displayed access points to and from the skyway. “
Remme added that for the Super Bowl, they had explored street-level signage improvements. One strategy put forth was to create a comprehensive booklet aimed at attracting retail tenants to the available sites. In fact, Remme said this was the next course of action for the committee: finalizing funding to create the booklet.
The City of Minneapolis’ Community Planning & Economic Development department is a partner in the data book project, but other efforts will likely be privately funded by the local business community, said Remme.
Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, noted $300 million of private investment has already gone into revitalizing the new Nicollet, including a significant amount for The Dayton’s Project at the old Macy’s site.
“We know Nicollet is an important gathering destination for our city,” said Cramer. “This task force is assessing how we can position new retail tenants to succeed in our downtown, which continues to see overall business vitality, residential growth and visitor traffic.”
The retail task force is just part of the overall mission to boost Minneapolis’ downtown. It’s one of five sub-committees under the Council’s Development Committee – which in turn, is one of six overarching committees dedicated to the Council’s 2025 plan.
These six committees are comprised of more than 350 volunteers working to address ten initiatives established in 2011. The plan, formally known as Intersections: The Downtown 2025 Plan, aims to help leaders and citizens build on downtown’s assets and guide downtown Minneapolis’ development.