This morning I joined with downtown leaders and stakeholders along Hennepin Avenue to unveil the Minneapolis Partnership to Create a Safe and Inviting Hennepin Avenue — a blueprint for this spring and summer. My full remarks from the press conference are below. The full plan is available for download here.
Minneapolis’ already-great downtown is in the midst of an extraordinary transformation. Nicollet Mall is being redesigned for the next 50 years, and the project is on schedule and on budget. Target Center is being renovated to attract hundreds of thousands of new spectators and fans. Downtown East Commons is about to have its first full spring and summer season. And cranes are still in the sky in every direction.
Our downtown also stands out because of our extraordinarily civic-minded business community, our dynamic business associations, and our committed nonprofits that all serve downtown and the people who work, live, and visit here every day. Increasingly our reputation precedes us, and I talk to mayors from around the country all the time who want to know how we have fostered such a positive, strong, successful public-private environment. I tell them – “We are Minneapolis. We are just awesome that way.”
We also have challenges. One challenge that has understandably attracted attention and been the source of frustration and anger is an increase in individuals engaging in behaviors on Hennepin Avenue — like public intoxication and catcalling — that are unpleasant, unwelcoming, and leave people feeling unsafe.
I have seen it for myself, both as I enjoy my own theater and restaurant and shopping experiences and because last summer and fall I made a point of walking Hennepin Avenue at various times of day. And yeah, I saw things that were unpleasant – shouting matches down the block, people who were drunk and wanted me to know it – and it wasn’t illegal, but it wasn’t fun.
Crime is down overall in downtown, and our group all noted that reality. But knowing that these behaviors come in the context of an overall decrease in crime downtown, including violent crime, doesn’t make these behaviors less of a concern.
And knowing that some of the factors that have contributed to this increase — like the temporary closure of Nicollet Mall, or judicial changes that have limited police officers’ ability to curb or deter livability crimes — doesn’t make these behaviors any more acceptable. They’re not.
We are a community that rises to and meets our challenges. As a result, for the past several months, Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, and I have convened a group of leaders to tackle this challenge, and they are here with me today.
Our shared goal is to ensure that Hennepin Avenue is safe and inviting for everyone, from every neighborhood, at every time of day.
We quickly agreed on a set of three principles.
First, that we cannot simply arrest our way out of this challenge. While the presence of law enforcement remains an important piece of maintaining livability on Hennepin Avenue, it cannot by itself make Hennepin Avenue the safe, inviting destination for everyone that we all want it to be. Nor will simply adding more police officers.
Second, that many of the people on Hennepin Avenue who are engaging in unwelcoming behaviors during the day are in need of outreach, assistance, and human connection, not law-enforcement intervention.
Third, that the best way to address the livability concerns on Hennepin Avenue during the daytime is by ensuring that all of us — the public, private, and non-profit sectors — are working together along with law enforcement on solutions that increase positive interactions, positive engagement, and activation of underutilized spaces.
The plan that we are presenting today is rooted in these principles. It lays out a set of actions in four areas: outreach, activation, legislation, and law enforcement.
It starts this weekend, on April 1. In this plan there are a variety of new partners, new creative thinking, and new resources. These are added to good work that was already being done on the Avenue, including new initiatives that we tried out for the first time last fall to great effect. Steve Cramer will walk us through many of the details of the plan shortly.
It is also a living, breathing plan. We will be measuring its results, we will be meeting regularly throughout the spring and summer to assess its effectiveness, and we will adjust and revise it as needed to make Hennepin Avenue the welcoming and inviting destination for everyone that we know it can be.
For this great work, allow me to express my thanks to many people, beginning with the founders of the group:
- Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair with me of this endeavor;
- Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council;
- Kevin Lewis, executive director of BOMA Minneapolis; and
- Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis;
for their stewardship of Minneapolis, for their willingness to roll up their sleeves with me to dig deep into this work, and for always keeping the goal that we all share, of a Hennepin Avenue that is safe and welcoming for everyone, at the forefront of the work.
I also very much wish to thank:
- Shane Zahn, director of Safe Initiatives at the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District
- Mark Thompson, deputy County administrator for public safety at Hennepin County; and
- Chester Cooper, director of Hennepin County Community Corrections
for the extraordinary creativity and cooperation that they have brought to the process of devising this plan. Shane’s on-the-ground connection to the work has been crucial in pulling the plan together. Mark and Chet are a great asset to the people of Hennepin County, and a testament to the ability of local government to quickly take concrete steps that can measurably improve people’s lives.
And of course, to senior City of Minneapolis staff, including:
- Police Chief Janeé Harteau, Assistant Chief Kris Arneson, and First Precinct Inspector Michael Sullivan;
- City Attorney Susan Segal; and
- City Coordinator Spencer Cronk
for their many years of great results around downtown safety and livability, and for their willingness always to do more, try more, and steadily shift the center of gravity on public safety in Minneapolis toward true partnership with community.
This plan, and the body of new work in it, grew out of my desire to find a solution to the challenges we face on Hennepin Avenue, coupled with a strong invitation from business leaders, which I was happy to accept, to work closely together to craft a solution. I am very proud that we are standing together today with a plan that we all agree on that advances our vision for how law enforcement and community can work together in good will to bring out the best in all of us. Of that, all of Minneapolis can be proud.