The return to the Minneapolis, St. Paul office is still uneven — will that change after Labor Day?

Convention business is back in downtown Minneapolis. The same goes for expenses related to sporting events and theatrical performances. But the economy of the skyway is still fragile, with office traffic remaining at around 55% of what it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Downtown boosters are hoping that number will rise another 10% after Labor Day, as another round of companies put in place structure for back-to-office policies.

In St. Paul, managers of downtown office towers say performance there is also uneven.

Many white-collar workers still work exclusively or for several days from home. And it remains to be seen if that will change anytime soon.

Most office activity takes place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, said downtown Minneapolis council leader Steve Cramer. The back-to-the-office dynamic flattened out over the summer as holidays and summer schedules took over.

“So we’ve made a bit of progress. That’s the good news,” Cramer said. “What works really well are the white linen tablecloths that cater to theatergoers and convention goers.”

But the retail economy of stores and casual dining outlets that depend on office activity is “mixed”.

There are now 400 skyway and ground-floor stores open, down from 200 last year, but still down from the 700 storefronts that existed before the pandemic, Cramer said.

A recent council survey of inner city business leaders found that around 20% of businesses had yet to ask employees to return to the office regularly.

“They didn’t expect to implement their back-to-work policies until Labor Day,” Cramer said. “So we can’t see that [increase] until the end of the year.”

Downtown on Nicollet Mall, about 35% to 40% of workers have returned to the building, said Ryan Strand, the complex’s property manager. This should increase to 40% to 50% next week after children return to school and parents will have more time to travel to city offices, he said.

Still, lunch lines are back at Naf Naf Grill and Los Ocampo at City Center, Strand said.

On Tuesday, there were significant slowdowns along major arteries and freeways in the city.

However, the traffic was still not where it was in years past.

Still, regular business such as conventions sprung up and energized the rest of downtown.

“A number of big conventions were here this year that weren’t in 2020 or 2021. So you had conventioneers coming in and filling hotels and going to restaurants,” Cramer said. “So entertainment venues knock it out of the park.”

The Shriners packed the Minneapolis Convention Center this year, as did 10,000 psychologists and thousands of Olympic hopefuls at the US National Fencing Championships in July. Last week, 2,000 members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority came to town for their Midwest Regional Conference.

Downtown restaurants that have survived the pandemic are seeing decent traffic in part to less competition than years ago and strong fan support for the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Lynx teams.

Upscale Fogo De Chao and Fhima’s downtown and Gavin Kaysen’s new Mara restaurant and bar inside the new Four Seasons hotel building are buzzing with activity as nightlife picks up steam , said Strand and Cramer.

Across the river in St. Paul, downtown boosters are also excited to see returning crowds. The city and businesses have invested millions in free public events designed to attract more people to food fairs, concerts, cat videos, and theater and sporting events.

When it comes to poll workers, reports are mixed. The Infor Commons office building on rue Saint-Pierre saw 35% of tenants return.

The 37-story Wells Fargo Place, however, has recovered 60% to 70% of its employees since last year, with the usual summer slowdown caused by the state fair and the holiday leading up to Labor Day, the official said. senior real estate manager Heide Kempf-Schwarze. .

Jerry Hersman, vice president of Frauenshuh Property Management, which runs Infor Commons, said he’s not sure traditional office traffic in his buildings will dramatically increase downtown after Labor Day.

“I don’t really see that changing much until the end of the year, unless the impending recession hits really fast and hard, and employers can dictate a little more ‘Go back to the office’ with their employees,” said Hersman said. Many corporate CEOs “would like their employees to get back to their seats, but their senior managers tell them, ‘No, that would be counterproductive and we’ll lose staff.'”

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