I left my heart in Minneapolis

This is going to be one of those fluffy opinion things. I’ll warn you: It’s not consistent with what one might think my opinion would be. Life is like that. It gets messy sometimes. An interesting person doesn’t always think in a predictable way. That said:

How did Minneapolis get their revitalization so right when Milwaukee still has trouble finding the lakefront?

Last week the spouse plopped my jet-lagged body on a plane for 24 hours of corporate wifing. Our destination: Minneapolis. I was smitten when I stepped onto the light rail at the airport. For $1.75 I was within two blocks of the hotel in minutes.

If Milwaukee had done light rail ten years ago we’d be loving it by now. But Milwaukee has a problem Minneapolis didn’t allow to develop. We split our traffic southbound towards the airport and onto Chicago, and also westward to Miller Park, some suburbs and later Madison. While we would have to front money to do both in order to get someone from the airport to Miller Park, Minneapolis has the luxury of putting them all in a line. Airport to downtown? Easy. Airport to the new Target baseball stadium? Easy. Airport to Viking Stadium? Easy. Downtown to Mall of America? Easy.

So maybe a mistake a number of years ago was putting Miller Park near the old location instead of a new place between downtown and the airport.

Granted, having the football franchise downtown helps Minneapolis, too. Wisconsin splits the professional sports with Green Bay. Yes, it’s a legacy. No, it’s not necessarily good for Milwaukee. I don’t remember having the Milwaukee Packer games, but I’m told they existed. Did it add to the vibrancy of the metro area to have games here?

One of the locals did complain downtown Minneapolis is still having trouble in the evening hours with roving gangs of teens. I’m not sure that’s a problem downtown Milwaukee experiences. He lamented he felt safer in the middle of New York City than he did his own downtown after dark. That’s too bad.

One other reason I really enjoyed the city was the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. (I wrote about it a bit at the other blog.) After walking there, I took a sidetrack to explore a couple of condo developments, and then a long walk by the river. Minneapolis is very clean. Bus stops and gathering spots all have good seating options. The sidewalks are even and well maintained. The places I saw didn’t have the worn out feeling a lot of Milwaukee seems to have.

Like I mentioned, I know this seems inconsistent, a Fairly Conservative suburban housewife content with the idea of living in urban Minneapolis. Republicans are supposed to hate the urban lifestyle according to those who’d like to neatly pigeonhole demographics. I am just so sad that from the tiny bit of research I did, both Milwaukee and Minneapolis went to work to revitalize, and Milwaukee didn’t get nearly the return on investment that Minneapolis appears to have received.


  1. The Lorax says:

    Notable differences between our cities:

    1. Segregation. Mpls has a lot of immigrants, and their own problems, but not the incredible institutionalization of racial and economic strife that we have. Huge roadblock to prosperity in the region.

    2. They have consistently embraced regional transit. We have not. A main reason their light rail is successful is that it’s linked regionally–it extends beyond the city, and people who are traveling would commute via rail to the airport from, say, Brainerd or Bemidji, than drive and pay parking.

    3. Arts. I’m too lazy to do it, but if you compare what WI and MN spend on the arts, you’ll see we are being dwarfed by MN. And our governor is cutting the WI Arts Board further.

    4. Education. Education drives economies in the modern era. We haven’t seen the commitment to education that we have seen in Milwaukee. Also, UMN is the flagship campus of the state, whereas UWM is not a flagship, and is also an open access university.

    5. Age of cities. Milwaukee is a very industrial city. Minneapolis is newer, and its suburbs are much more sprawling.

    So there you go, my morning diatribe. I love Minneapolis too. Everyone does!

  2. I will agree to your point about UMN and UWM. I think it’s a good one.

    The transit issue is something I discussed. I think the map of our transit needs is harder to please, but then, if one had known transit was in the works, other decisions might have been made.

    I’m going to need some back up on the discussion of segregation. Ditto arts. They’ve had a Republican governor. That surely isn’t the problem as you intimated.

  3. We share your enthusiasm for Minneapolis. We have two children living in the metro area with six grandchildren. We visit at least once a month and have always been impressed with the area. We feel that they all have better longterm opportunities in Minneapolis.
    Do you think Milwaukee would have rerouted an interstate to accommodate a major employer–BestBuy?
    They have completed an update to the plans for the expansion of the light rail. Both families will be able to travel downtown on the light rail when it is available in their area. The biggest difference I see is that downtown Minneapolis is a hub with the three sports stadiums downtown and the University adjacent to downtown. There are additional attractions downtown as well as more lodging accommodations than exist in Milwaukee.
    It also helps that there is not another large metro area within several hundred miles.

  4. The Lorax says:

    Well our transit needs are difficult because there’s no comprehensive plan… aka an empowered regional transit authority.

    Segregation? We’re the most segregated city in the country.

    And the arts funding gap is monumental.

    Choose not to believe me; maybe I’ll look up the facts later if I’m bored.

    I intimated about our governor, not about Republicans, or even Pawlenty. Of course he’s more moderate than Walker in a more liberal state.

  5. The Lorax says:

    Also interesting regarding sports: http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/121810714.html

  6. J. Strupp says:

    As much as I love the light rail up there, keep in mind that Metro Transit sold the light rail as a means to reduce conjestion on 35W. Didn’t happen.

    I think it’s a fantastic addition to the Minneapolis metro (especially when they finish the Minneapolis, “U”, St. Paul spur) but I’m just not sure that light rail has had much of an impact on reducing traffic volumes to and from the south metro.

  7. The Lorax says:

    True, Strupp. I can go without the traffic in the Cities. So much congestion – again due to the sprawling suburbs. Gross.

    I complain about being stuck on 94W for an extra 10 minutes.

  8. Wilson828 says:

    I agree with Lorax.

    Mpls is more white collar… Milwaukee remains more blue collar – with that said there are different perceptions, traditions and politics.

    Wisconsin and Milwaukee doesn’t like trains. But we like other peoples trains.

  9. Darn, Pat. Good work.

    So, Milwaukee must be more segregated because it’s #1 and Minneapolis isn’t even in the top 22, and the arts information was pretty amazing. Minnesota definitely supports the arts.

    Throwing money at the arts would improve that ranking, but what does one do about segregation?

  10. I’ve lived in both cities.

    Minneapolis is a wonderful place to visit, but I’d much rather live in Milwaukee.

  11. Far more connected skyways in downtown Minneapolis as well. Makes going from building to building much easier in the winter.

  12. That may be the best summation yet, Elliot.