Working to bring back the vibrancy of downtown Minneapolis
A file photo from 2019 courtesy of Minneapolis Downtown Council
Downtown Minneapolis, like many other city centers across the country, has faced challenges since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
With many employees continuing to work from home, the rush hour trains and buses are still operating at a fraction of their typical daily ridership. Quiet, too, are the Minneapolis skyways, which provide an indoor, sheltered path for people to get from building to building or pick up lunch or coffee without going outside.
For the many small businesses that rely on the patronage of those workers, such as restaurants, coffeeshops, caterers and salons, getting through the pandemic has been a monumental challenge. Many haven't made it, and have closed for good.
RBC Wealth Management-U.S. is committed to helping revitalize the area. Headquartered in downtown Minneapolis for decades, the firm broke ground in 2019 on its future downtown home, the RBC Gateway building. While the move-in date for workers is still several months away, already executives are thinking about how the new location can help revive the downtown business core.
And in early 2021, RBC Wealth Management contributed $100,000 to a grant program facilitated by the Minneapolis Downtown Council, a business organization focused on promoting downtown growth and stability, to support small and independently owned businesses in the downtown core.
“Our goal is to start bringing back the vibrancy of downtown Minneapolis,” says Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. “A program like this is part of an effort to keep those businesses alive.”
Thanks to RBC's support, as well as significant contributions from other major downtown employers, the program distributed a total of $1.6 million in grants to 102 restaurants, bars, retailers and entertainment venues throughout the downtown's central business district, with all eligible minority- and women-owned businesses receiving funding.
“The downtown customer base will be restored, eventually, but it's already been a long year,” Cramer says. “These businesses are holding on, and we just have to help them get to a point where they can rely only on their customers again.”
Participating in the grant program was an easy decision for Tom Sagissor, president of RBC Wealth Management-U.S.
“It's critical for major employers like ourselves to find new and unique ways to support the businesses that give the downtown area its life,” he says. “We've been a part of this community for decades, and we want to see it be successful for decades to come.”
A lasting presence in downtown
Meanwhile, construction continues on RBC Wealth Management's new RBC Gateway headquarters, a symbol of the firm's continued commitment to downtown Minneapolis. Located several blocks from the current RBC Plaza headquarters, the Gateway tower is on track to be completed in February 2022.
A rendering of RBC Wealth Management's new downtown Minneapolis Gateway headquarters.
At 37 stories tall, the building will be one of the 10 tallest in Minneapolis, and RBC Wealth Management will share the space with a Four Seasons hotel, Pohlad Companies and other tenants and downtown residents.
In looking at potential spaces for the new building that would allow for continued growth, the firm also considered locations outside of downtown Minneapolis, Sagissor says.
“But in the end, it was important for us to remain in the downtown core—both for our benefit and for the benefit of the city,” he says. “The energy and excitement that downtown as we know it offers employees, visiting clients and potential recruits, are unparalleled, and we're very invested in helping to ensure that once our employees and those at other downtown businesses return to the office, that energy is there.”
Though there's still uncertainty about when that return might happen, Cramer is among the many looking forward to seeing downtown like it used to be, with the skyways filled with workers on their way to get lunch or grab a coffee with colleagues during the day, and bars and restaurants bustling during happy hour.
“Downtown was that way before, and it will be that way again,” Cramer says.
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