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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Most of the 218,000 people who worked in downtown Minneapolis before the pandemic still have jobs — they're just working remotely.

Why it matters: Restaurants, retailers and hotels have been hit hardest by the lack of office workers, and years' worth of momentum for downtown has halted.

  • While workers will return, it's unlikely to be at pre-pandemic levels —at least anytime soon.

By the numbers: Only 15.8% of office workers are going to their downtown job, according to the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

  • Sales tax revenue in the city was down more than 40% from March to the fall.
  • With corporate travel curtailed, hotel occupancy in downtown finished 2020 at 21.8% compared with 33.3% for the broader Twin Cities metro, according to STR, a hospitality benchmarking firm.

The state of play: The Downtown Council warned in August that several companies were considering moving their offices to the suburbs due to concerns about public safety — but no such moves have been confirmed.

  • "The dynamic of a largely vacant downtown and the aspect of increases in crime is not unique to our city. It is something that we've seen in almost every major city nationwide," Mayor Jacob Frey told us.
  • In fact, Frey said that he’s encouraged by Deluxe Corp.’s decision to move more than 500 jobs from Shoreview to downtown.

The bottom line: "We are not out of the woods yet, but there has not been a huge exodus by any means. It will take a year or two to more fully tell the tale," Downtown Council President Steve Cramer said.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

A sneak peek inside Minnesota's only 5-star hotel

This rendering shows what the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Minneapolis will look like. Photo: Smallwood Architects

Developer United Properties shared this not-yet-publicized rendering of the Four Seasons lobby in downtown Minneapolis with Axios.

The state of play: The 222-room hotel — which will be Minnesota's only five-star property — is part of the 37-story RBC Gateway Tower office-retail-condo project at Nicollet and Washington, the largest current development in the Twin Cities at a cost north of $400 million. It's set to open in 2022.

Jan 29, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

A new proposal to overhaul the Minneapolis Police Department

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Minneapolis Police Department would be replaced with a new entity responsible for "various public safety functions" under a draft ballot measure introduced by three council members.

What's happening: The proposed charter amendment would maintain a division with police officers but remove a requirement to maintain a minimum head count based on population.

The Twin Cities' favorite sledding spots

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you're anything like us, you're in the market for new sledding spots to get your thrills in this winter.

We asked readers to share your favorite hills across the metro. Here are some of your recommendations (in no particular order):

  1. Como Park in St. Paul
  2. Aquila Park in St. Louis Park
  3. Newton Hill (51st and Newton) in southwest Minneapolis
  4. The hill at Wayzata East Middle School
  5. The hill at 32nd & Louisiana in Crystal