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Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

The once-bustling downtown Minneapolis skyways are showing some signs of life again, 13 months after the pandemic cleared out the 9.5-mile system.

The state of play: Downtown office buildings have been stuck around 15% occupancy for most of the pandemic, according to the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

  • Momentum is building now that the Derek Chauvin trial is over, and 2.5 million Minnesotans have gotten their first vaccination.
  • Boards have come off windows, fans are back at Target Field and diners are back at restaurants.

But the biggest driver of skyway business is daytime office workers. Office-retail complex City Center saw a 10% uptick in workers last week, general manager Jim Durda told Nick.

  • At City Center, Los Ocampo and Leeann Chin are reopening today and a new Bell Bank branch opens next week. The former Prime 6 space will re-filled with a sports bar in late 2021 or early 2022.
  • "We've made it through the deep, dark valley and and we're going to see it getting better every week," Durda said.

Yes, but: The damage has been done. Nick walked a stretch of the skyway system on Friday and counted 94 storefronts — but only 36 of them had operating businesses.

  • Some businesses say the closures are temporary. Others, like Au Bon Pain, Erbert & Gerbert's, Dunn Bros. and Banana Republic, have closed for good.
  • Saks Off 5th cleared out its store in City Center last week. The retailer could not be reached for comment.
  • One Two Three Sushi closed two of its three skyway locations and owner Nay Hla told the Business Journal it would be at least 3 to 5 years before there's a full customer base downtown again.

The bottom line: Downtown is making progress, but it has a long way to go. And a full recovery may never come if companies adopt hybrid work models that keep employees at home at least some of the time.

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Go deeper

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

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The big picture: Biden added that the FBI does not believe the Russian government is behind the attack, but they do know that those responsible "are living in Russia."