Is Eric Dayton the sober councilor proposing we stop using the drug we all know as the hamster trails of Minneapolis?
We had the pleasure of working with Eric on his new cafe venture, located just 42 steps from our front door. We’ve been watching his controversial proposal to remove all skyways because they hinder street level commerce and the culture of our city.
Almost every person I talk to about this subject gives a nod of respect to the cultural contributions Eric and Andrew have made to our community. Then they say, almost to a word, “but I like the skyway when it is so cold outside.” The tone of their voice is similar to what I’d imagine an addict would say when begging from their supplier.
Eight years ago the Capsule offices moved off the skyway after way too much deliberation and we’ve collectively fallen in love with our North Loop neighborhood. Sure, there are days when going outside is a near death experience, but how do you know you’re alive if you don’t face death once in awhile? And during summer, it is just easier to find something on the skyway instead of heading outside to face bus exhaust, construction dust and Minnesota humidity.
When we deliberated our move to go stone cold sober off the skyway drug, we checked with clients, prospects and friends. We had a few respond to our query with the question, “how many of your clients are on the skyway?” One. For that matter, at the time more than fifty percent of our clients were not in Minnesota. We were addicted to something that served no other purpose than a warm place to travel for lunch or out to dinner at night. Have we gone soft up here in the North?
If you’ve read some of the conversations in Twitter and elsewhere, you’ve picked up on the fact that this is an economic drain on street level retail. Eric’s proposal has received over 200 angry tweets by skyway addicts facing the proposition of taking away their favorite lunchtime endeavor. Yet there is also a new skyway-level retail scene during the winter months, kind of like Colorado’s tax benefits from legalizing marijuana.
How do we fix a problem we don’t want to see? Are we going backwards if we take them down, forcing a sober reality on a large population and return to only street level retail? There has to be an interesting way forward. How can we sober ourselves up find a path back to the street?
Here’s what we’d propose. A design problem has been identified. Skyways have delivered a comfort zone in our harsh winters but they need to be redesigned. We need a solution that gives more attention to street level retail and we have a community some of the most talented creative minds in the country. This is a design challenge worth solving. This is a technological advancement worthy of Elon Musk and advancing our city forward would make us all proud.
Let’s fund a design challenge. Let’s turn what was a unique attribute and benefit back into one for community. We would like to help find a way to solve this design problem. We can help understand the human behaviors inside skyways and identify opportunity for improvements. We can ideate around possible modern solutions to increase the vibrancy of our city all months of the year.
It is an extreme challenge. We’re talking about facing an addicted population and proposing solutions to a problem they can’t see. It won’t be easy and certainly not a task for those teams only half committed to the idea.
Who’s with us? Can you see the economic return to our city? Do you have a team with the talent to take on this extreme challenge?