Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

The Midtown Exchange

Dateline: 9:55 pm June 18, 2006 Filed under:

Sometimes a real estate development project opens and seems to have the hopes of an entire city wrapped in its prospects for success.  The new Midtown Exchange in Minneapolis is one such project, and how do I put this…it is fantastic!  Besides being such a big and impressive public/private project, I have high hopes that all goes well with it, so that years from now we can look back and say it was worth it.

I hope it works because it is a great project.  By that I mean 1.2 million square feet of renovated art deco greatness, with 88 condos, 219 apartments, 370,000 square feet of office space, including the 1,000-plus employees at the headquarters of Allina Hospitals & Clinics, and the 71,000 square foot Midtown Global Market, all of it under one roof in the renovated Sears department store building that dates to 1928.  Newly built as part of the project are 52 affordable condos and a 136-room Sheraton Hotel.

I hope it works because the neighborhood needs for it to work.  The surrounding area has struggled for years as an inner-city neighborhood with a lot gone wrong, but also a lot of hope.  The Midtown Exchange should be a big nudge in the right direction.

I hope it works because the city of Minneapolis, Ryan Companies, Sherman Associates, Project for Pride in Living, Allina and others have invested a ton of money in it – $190 million worth.  Most of all, Allina chose to consolidate its headquarters there, bringing a lot of employment to the area.  They could have chosen another, simpler location elsewhere, but they believed in the project and the neighborhood.  For this, Allina should be applauded.

I hope it works because the Midtown Global Market is so cool.  Part farmers market, part flea market, part upscale ethnic grocer and delicatessen, the Midtown Global Market brings all faces of the city together.  Where else can you buy meat from a Mexican butcher, pizza, gyros, tortas, Caribbean body oils, flowers, Middle Eastern art, and specialty Asian groceries, all under one roof?  The market opened earlier this month, and represents all that is exciting about Minneapolis right now.  It is the place to go for coffee, lunch, groceries, or to buy food for a dinner party.  Take that, Mall of America!

I hope it works because somebody is paying $1 million for the three-story penthouse unit, with its sweeping views of the city in four directions.

I hope it works because it is located along Lake Street, the only true commercial street that crosses the entire city.  It is also located along the Midtown Greenway, a bicycle trail and possible transit route that will cross the city when finished later this year.  The Midtown Exchange will be served by several modes of transportation right in the middle of the city, connecting the chain of lakes, Uptown, and Lyn/Lake to the west with Bloomington and Lake, the light rail line and the Mississippi River to the east.

I hope it works because it deserves to.  It is a public/private partnership that came out of several possible iterations for former Sears store, and was a massive project to undertake.  The building sat vacant for a decade.  Demolition was one possibility, replacing it with big box retail (gasp!).  Patience won the day, and the result is much better for the building, and in the long run for Allina, the residents, the business owners, the neighborhood and the city.

I hope it works because the sheer diversity of people and uses makes it the single most exciting place to be created in Minneapolis in some time, if ever.  It should genuinely make Minneapolis proud.

For those of you in the Twin Cities, go there now.  And the rest of you, perhaps it’s time for a visit!

Check it out online at and

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