2024 State of the City

Mayor Jacob Frey delivered the 2024 State of the City Address from the Northstar Center in Minneapolis.

Thank you for that kind introduction, Erin.


Our excellent City team, the great people of Minneapolis: Good morning from the Northstar Center in downtown Minneapolis! Council President Payne, Council Vice President Chughtai – good morning. Good morning to all Council Members: Council Member Wonsley; Council Member Rainville; Council Member Vetaw; Council Member Ellison; Council Member Osman; Council Member Cashman; Council Member Jenkins; Council Member Chavez; Council Member Koski; Council Member Chowdhury; and Council Member Palmisano. All of you bring the voice of your constituents. You bear the weight of their aspirations and concerns. And you work through these hard issues, even, and especially in a city that doesn't always agree. Thank you.

Last year, the state of our city was in rebound. We highlighted our record-setting affordable housing; our exciting, new climate action; and all the amazing events that were yet to come that summer. By the numbers, the acceleration of our recovery and the pace of change continues.

We are leading the nation in the rate of visitor returning to downtown with activity up by 45% in the past year. Meet Minneapolis announced that 2023 was the strongest year for hotel room demand since 2019. Zillow recently ranked Minneapolis as a top city for first-time homebuyers. That’s right. Anyone looking for a great new home, in a great new city… they should look no further than right here. People want to live here, and they increasingly want to work here, specifically for our City enterprise. Compared to last year, applications to work at the City of Minneapolis are up 101%, and our number of hires are up 26%.

I just got back from Washington D.C. where I joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Homelessness Task Force alongside nearly 50 fellow mayors from around the country. Do you know what I heard repeated over and over? That other cities look to Minneapolis for our forward-thinking approach to housing, and our results set the bar.

Positive strides and significant shifts mark a city – our city – brimming with possibility. Achieving that possibility and realizing potential during a time of great transition is hard. And realizing potential is not always a comfortable process, but we must lean into that discomfort all the same.

So, the state of our city is brimming with possibility and leaning in to change.

New possibilities

Take, for example, the building we are in now, at the Northstar Center, the home of our first, recent commercial-to-residential housing conversion project. This space—literally under construction right this second—is a sign of greater change to come: a reimagining of how we think about downtown. Let’s give a big thank you to Chris Sherman, Matt Legge, and all of Sherman Associates, Gardner Builders, and Polaris Development who had a collective team working to open this space early to host us. And this conversion project overall is supported by more than 200 union jobs. So as the space shows us, the future of downtown isn’t limited to a place where workers drive in at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. It can be a playground of activity, a place to bring your kids, grab a meal and a drink, have a night out, maybe even go ice skating down the middle of Nicollet Mall, which could be fully pedestrianized... and we can make it happen. We can have carnivals, bright lights, food vendors, and people… lots of great people watching.

People will be coming in and out of the Northstar, a previously half vacant building that’s now complete with both affordable and market rate housing where people… yes, live! We can make sure the warehouse district is the entertainment hub. The place where people come from around the state not just to catch a play or a ballgame, but for an experience so rich with choices and activity that they feel safe, stay longer, lose track of time, and wander back home way later than intended.

And we also must continue to embrace the return to in-person work and collaboration as one part of the overall strategy. To every employer and team member here who continues leading by example – thank you.

Cities also encapsulate a human response to the feeling that the world is crazy and disorganized. And by the way... it kind of feels that way, doesn’t it? Everyone let’s take a breath. The world is a chaotic place right now. An indicted former president standing trial and up for re-election. Thousands of innocent people are dying through war and famine. A global and environmental crisis is only getting hotter… literally.

So first, let’s take a collective breath; like actually take a breath…take a beat…find the good, the positive in each other…and the good, the positive in our city. I don’t know what’s in store for the world, but we can envision–and actualize–our outcomes here in Minneapolis.

Cities are the place where we can accept each other, organize ourselves, work together, build relationships, fall in love, and share time in person with friends and colleagues. Cities are the answer to loneliness and the antidote to fear because we can find a collective understanding within the people, with our neighbors. In Minneapolis, we are going through this transition together. Cities will be a backbone that hold it all together through steadfast relationships and mutual agreements. The way you treat the clerk at the cash register or a fellow Council Member on the dais. So, today I’m going to focus on a few things that will guide Minneapolis through this transformational time, areas that will need collective buy-in and support.

Arts & vibrant storefronts

There is a clear prerequisite to realizing potential and leaning in to change, and that’s embracing and supporting art.

Artists have long been a precursor to economic revitalization. In the 1920s, Uptown gained a theater–obviously, we all know the one–with an iconic “Uptown” sign atop the building. The stage was set for film enthusiasts to flock to the area, and other artists followed suit, coming to the neighborhood to make their mark on Hennepin and Lagoon. In the ’80s, Uptown saw a revitalization and boost via the punk music scene. Artists, musicians, and fans alike came together for memorable sets from icons such as The Replacements and Soul Asylum.

Uptown is in the “leaning into change” part of the cycle right now. The Uptown Theater is refurbished and open once again, and good things are on the horizon. We have people–culinary artists like Ann Kim–who are committed to seeing through the next phase of Uptown, and it will be a great one.

At other points in our history, artists were prevalent downtown. Then the values went up, and the increasing rents pushed the artists over to an area with abandoned warehouses – now called the North Loop. Art and music there created another renaissance, the values went up, and the artists moved to Northeast. And so on.

Recognizing that art is a lynchpin for so much in Minneapolis, we created the Department of Arts & Cultural Affairs last year, and now they are embarking on a beautiful plan for transition across the city. Got a bland, vanilla, underutilized storefront? Give it to an artist. Let them shape an outcome that is dynamic and transformative.

Imagine walking over to Harmon Place after a drink at Mackenzie Pub or a meal at Gai Noi. Lights hang from roof to roof, a local artist is playing, oil paintings from Florence Hill representing the Northeast Arts District, a poem from Heid. E. Erdrich, our Poet Laureate, and live dance featuring young and talented Northsiders from Les Jolies Petites School of Dance.

The possibilities are truly endless, and our potential can be realized. That’s exactly what Director Ben Johnson and his team are doing. Changing vacant storefronts to must-see destinations. Giving the next Prince or Aldo Moroni their rightful place in a public space. And this work, our focus on arts, it should be supported unanimously. And I believe it is.

Community safety

Let’s talk about another area where we have unanimous agreement: rideshare.

Just kidding. Let’s talk about the South Minneapolis Community Safety Center. We’ve got a site, and we have a clear-eyed vision to create a comprehensive and integrated safety system under one roof. We have Council Members passionate about stepping up, and an entire administration ready to get the job done.

Commissioner Barnette is leading a team to bring this idea to fruition by next year, and our communities are shaping this vision alongside our city team. To date, OCS [the Office of Community Safety] has met with community members during more than 15 engagement sessions and is collecting feedback directly from those who will be most impacted, our Third Precinct residents. The team, led by Director Amanda Harrington, is engaging residents on East Lake Street and Franklin Avenue. They are meeting new immigrants at Bossen Terrace food shelf events. They are pounding the pavement, getting real-time feedback on what people want to see in their new safety center, a first-of-its-kind. While that might sound pretty simple, reinventing community safety is hard work.

I was recently talking with Council President Elliot Payne and Council Vice President Aisha Chughtai about this. We are embarking on something that is very new and very different. We won’t always get it right because it’s new and it’s hard, but we are truly united in this groundbreaking work. These points of consensus should shine brighter. They should also guide us as we work through decisions that will ripple across our city. That includes the site for the former Third Precinct.

The Elections & Voter Services team, Finance & Property Service team, and deeply committed, smart public servants from across the enterprise have designed an exceptional proposal for the area: a Democracy Center with 8,000 square feet of ground-level space dedicated to community use. I wish I were overstating this: voting in this country is under attack. Cities need to be investing in election integrity and infrastructure. This proposal will help shore-up our status as being consistently one of the highest voter-turnout cities in America while making the best financial use of a space owned by Minneapolis taxpayers. We know that a new voting center is a need. We own a centrally located building that staff have determined meets that need. We shouldn’t ask taxpayers to foot the bill for another one. This proposal is a win for community; a win for democracy; and a win for property taxpayers. I hope that my Council colleagues will join in supporting this vision for a neighborhood that deserves the opportunity to move forward and move forward quickly.

Another area where our city is depending on us to act quickly? Our first responders. From 911 call takers and dispatchers to police officers—these are critical roles that save lives. So, in March we launched a multi-year recruitment marketing campaign for hard-to-fill safety jobs, seeking both police officers and 911 call takers and dispatchers. The campaign, titled “Imagine Yourself” seeks not just qualified candidates but community-oriented candidates, candidates that love our city. While it’s early, and there will be a bigger, official update this summer, I want to give you a preview on what we’re seeing so far.

Police applications are up, and it’s likely that 911 call taker positions will be filled in the coming months. These results are borne out of partnership. From staff in HR, Police, and Communications to many other staff from both the Office of Community Safety and the Office of Public Service… our team is working together and getting a job done – filling these critical roles.

For years, I’ve asked our department heads to not think of themselves as leaders of their individual departments, but as leaders of the city team. Ready for collaboration and poised for action. Look beyond the City of Minneapolis; specifically, look to time spent in Emmitsburg, Maryland, just a month ago. Under the leadership of our Emergency Management Department, we took a team of 70+ city employees to a week-long FEMA simulation to test our overall emergency preparedness.

Yes, we had staff you’d expect there, from Police, Fire, and 911; but we also had staff from Health, Public Works, Finance, and even a multi-jurisdictional presence. This entire team worked together to complete the final recommendation coming out of our 2020 civil unrest after-action report to achieve emergency preparedness. We worked together to make collaboration the going rate and reduce complex processes to muscle memory. That practice–and gained trust and camaraderie–will better prepare the City to handle and respond to crises well into the future.

We’re also acting on the recommendations coming out of the Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report. This report serves to launch our community safety design and implementation work – helping OCS [Office of Community Safety] coordinate our safety departments to address prevention, response, and restoration.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, this work, building out a comprehensive approach to community safety is new. But we have the right people at the table to take novel concepts and build out a plan. That includes OCS [Office of Community Safety] in collaboration with our Performance, Management, and Innovation team and even with NYU’s Policing Project. I know this team will get the job done.

And finally, we are carrying out the necessary work of police reform. Both through a settlement agreement with the State and an eventual federal consent decree, we are changing the way policing is done in the United States. I know Chief O’Hara and his leadership team are committed to these reforms and strengthening community-police relations. I know City Attorney Kristyn Anderson and the entire 34-person implementation unit is committed to upholding compliance and seeing this thing through to the end. Minneapolis will be the city that leaned into the challenge, that met the moment, and embraced change.

City workforce

Speaking of meeting the moment, let’s talk about our amazing city workforce.

Through deliberate recruitment efforts by staff across our enterprise, great leadership from department directors, and a brilliant HR strategy execution from our Human Resources Director, Nikki Odom, we are getting new hires in the door quicker, increasing employee diversity, and welcoming and retaining some serious talent as well. I’ll reiterate: City applications have gone up 101%, time to fill jobs has decreased 26%, and the diverse team we are forming is serving our city with passion and skill.

In the first quarter of 2024, we are up 56% in our Hispanic/Latino hires; up 55% in our Native American hires; up 15% in our Asian hires; and up 8% in our Black/African American hires. And, this past year, we have also been recognized as an “Age Friendly Employer” by the Age Friendly Institute and as a “Most LGBTQ+ Friendly Employer” by Diversity for Social Impact.

These aren’t just awards. These recognitions, coupled with the new hiring data, show the deep investment we have made–and continue to make–in our City workforce. And that investment is just that: an investment, which also includes salary increases.

As our City Operations Officer Margaret Anderson Kelliher will tell you, from filling potholes to keeping us safe to administering payroll, we invest in our employees because they are invested in our city. This means new union contracts that reflect their commitment to service and are in line with the ideals we govern by. This increase in pay will cost money, but it’s worth it. Because our staff are worth it.

When you see a traffic control agent out checking meters on University Avenue, thank them. When you see a police officer walking down West Broadway, thank them. When you see a snowplow driver out in the middle of a snowstorm by Bde Maka Ska, thank them. Don’t run out in traffic, though; maybe yell it at them from the sidewalk. To our nearly 4,000 City employees, I can’t emphasize enough how incredible you are. I can only say I am excited to keep up the amazing work we are doing together. Thank you.

Housing, climate, economic inclusion, parks

And what comes with amazing and dedicated City staff? That’s right: impressive programs and nation-leading outcomes.

Since I took office in 2018, affordable housing has remained a top priority, and our housing team in CPED [Community Planning & Economic Development] has been leading the charge. We have invested a total of 363 million dollars into affordable rental housing and homeownership programs in the past six years. And we have seen our return on investment firsthand. You don’t need to take my word for it, look at the numbers: between 2018 and 2024, we have produced 4,679 total units of affordable housing, an average of 780 total units each year. That’s more than double the average between 2011 and 2017.

Even more, we have been prioritizing deeply affordable rental housing at 30% AMI or lower, and our investment is paying off. On average over the past six years, we are producing deeply affordable units at nearly 8.5 times the previous rate, 8.5 times! That’s a huge jump. And a necessary one for our residents who need safe, stable, and permanent housing.

As I said earlier, mayors–and people–from across the country are looking to us for housing reform. Our housing policy is seen as a benchmark, and the 2040 Comprehensive Plan sets the standard. This is now my seventh State of the City address. In my first one in 2018, I said: “Do I believe in the notion that we should change our zoning code to allow for a greater breadth of housing options? You’re damn right I do.” And since then, this issue has been a staple of virtually every major address. So, I’m sorry if you feel like I won’t stop talking about it. But it really is a big deal.

Many of you know that today, the 2040 Plan is still being challenged in court. We are going to win this thing, whether in the courts or in St. Paul. We aren’t backing down. Following suit with our nation-leading affordable housing work, we have built a highly recognized program that continues to see success here at the local level. Our Stable Homes Stable Schools program has served 4,881 children since we first launched it in 2019 – getting our kids into homes and enabling them to find success at school.

This work will outlast our time in these offices.

When it comes to climate action, to say we are excelling more than other cities would be an understatement; in fact, we are creating a legacy: the Climate Legacy Initiative. With $10 million of new climate action funding this year, we are setting a standard that others should—no—must follow. Other standards we have set, investing directly into our local entrepreneurs. Since launching the Ownership and Opportunity Fund in 2019, we have invested $11 million and supported 22 business owners. These dollars literally support them in not just owning their business but owning the underlying real estate, moving them along on the path of building generational wealth.

We have signed executive orders designating Minneapolis as a safe haven for women seeking abortions, for people seeking gender-affirming care, and deprioritizing enforcement against psychedelics.

We have stepped up to deliver long-term sustainable funding for youth programming in our parks. Through that funding, and Superintendent Al Bangoura’s vision, Spark’d Studios have been established in neighborhoods across the city. These creative technology spaces are giving our kids a place for self-expression and self-actualization. We’ve invested further in our parks by putting significant dollars towards our waterways and boulevards. We’re keeping our most vital, natural assets not just up to date but world-class.

And we are investing in both racial healing and new development at George Floyd Square. Under the leadership of Senior Project Manager Alexander Kado, we’re currently engaging the community to help inform the future of the 38th and Chicago through street improvements, art projects and healing work, and eventually a memorial.

And by the way, our staff have taken the steps to purchase the Peoples Way site, a critical step to allowing a community vision to rise. If you own the land, you can guide the outcomes. We now own the land, and the community will help us envision the outcome at George Floyd Square.

Budget forecast

Now stay with me as I forecast out what we are seeing in terms of the City budget for this next year.

The reality of everything I have said so far in this speech, every statistic I provided and number-one ranking I bragged about, is true. It’s also true that our world has changed. And changing with it will, at times, be uncertain. Even uncomfortable.

Here’s the reality: budgeting will look different this year. This is not the year to add new, shiny programs. It’s the year to effectively carry out the ones we have. Coming into this year’s budgeting process, we are starting at a projected levy increase of 6.1%. Anything we add to the budget will only increase the levy. And at the very least, as I said earlier, we know we have 12 union contracts up for renewal next year where we expect to see significant wage increases for over 1,000 City employees.

And the big factor – downtown valuation.

I’ve previously provided statistics about the necessity of getting people back downtown, back to work. I’ve provided anecdotes, I’ve heard from people complaining that their favorite sandwich shop closed in the skyway while sitting in their home in the suburbs. And I’ve told some jokes…one in particular that actually united this city for a brief moment, not in laughter, but around the premise that I’m not funny. But I’ll tell you what’s not a joke: residents having to pick up the tab because less taxes are generated from downtown buildings. Lower occupancy leads to decreased valuation. Decreased valuation leads to lower property taxes collected from buildings that can generate as much property taxes as other wards in their entirety. The money has to come from somewhere, so that burden of a regressive tax shifts to residents–both homeowners and renters, disproportionately impacting our low-income residents and seniors.

We pride ourselves on being an inclusive and accessible city. We will neither be inclusive nor accessible by taxing people out of their homes. I know for some property taxes have not been at the forefront of political discourse. That needs to change now.


As I near the end of this year’s address, I want to end with a few heartwarming stories coming out of the City.

First, a gratuitous applause line if you’ll let me. Those Timberwolves, huh? Yeah, pretty exciting stuff. What an exhilarating ride to watch this year. Doing Minneapolis (and Minnesota) proud.

On a cold night last November, a terrifying call came into 911. A 4-year-old boy had fallen through the ice on a pond in North Minneapolis. MPD’s Sergeant Jeremy Depies and Officer Ashley Bergersen rushed to the scene. It was dark and they didn’t immediately see the child. Once they got eyes on his snowpants above the water in the distance, Officer Bergersen crushed her way through the freezing cold ice water to reach the boy and get him to safety. The police officers performed chest compressions until paramedics arrived, doing everything in their power to keep the child alive. This boy is alive today because of their heroic actions. Just last week, Chief O’Hara and the MPD honored these two officers with a Medal of Valor for their actions to save this young life.

For the first 5 months as a Minneapolis resident, Anna didn’t realize she was recycling incorrectly. Anna, by the way is a fake name that was given to a current City employee; we changed the name here to keep her recycling woes a personal story. So, Anna had just moved here from another city and was recycling the way she was used to; that makes sense. But when picking up the trash and recycling, a Public Works employee noticed that Anna was sorting it a little bit wrong and took this information back to the office. They wrote an amazingly helpful letter to Anna explaining how we separate recycling here in Minneapolis, giving tips and additional information. Anna was so impressed that a Public Works employee took the time to write an informative letter advising how to recycle better. Anna appreciated how thoughtful this was–and has indicated that this is great government service. She’s right.

Some of my favorite stories come out of our Stable Homes Stable Schools program. I remember welcoming a family to their new home after they had been jostled around from couches to cars, in temporary stays. And they got a new home. You know what else? A new bed. And what else? Bedding. With trucks, no mermaids, maybe it was action figures; honestly, I don’t remember at all what was on the bedding. But what I do remember is the smile on that little girl’s face when she realized where she was going to sleep that night. In her very own bed; she wasn't sharing it, she wasn't borrowing it. It was hers. Her space to sing and play, her space to grow. This is why we do this work.

The journey of some local artists is a natural progression. They grow up here, they start their career here, they end their career here. But sometimes, some of our best local artists are transplants who now call Minneapolis home. As a fellow transplant, I know first-hand what it is like to fall in love with Minneapolis and decide to make a career here. An Ohio native, Chris Harrison first became involved with the City through our Public Art Advisory Board back in 2012. He has since gone on to find great success, creating murals and dynamic public art installations, and was one of 17 Black artists who created the John Biggers Seed project that spans I-94 on the Olson Memorial Highway bridge. His contribution to this massive, public art includes 304 porcelain and enamel panels that were inserted into the bridge railing. These panels will most certainly live on and be touched by many Minneapolitans for years to come.

So: brimming with possibility. That is a phrase that means something different to me six years into the job. The world around Minneapolis has changed–and so have we. This city has lessons to teach for those willing to listen.

Brimming with possibility does not mean idealism disconnected from reality. Our city is brimming with possibilities, but these possibilities are not guaranteed. There are some bedrock principles that must be acknowledged: our city exists in an eco-system built on balancing competing needs. We do not need to look any further than the competing approaches to rideshare policymaking in the Twin Cities. This shouldn’t be a debate about left versus further left. This should be a debate guided by fact and guided by doing right; yes by drivers, but also riders who need to get to and from a job, who need to pick up their medicine, or experience the city for the first time. We need to recognize the stakes of this policymaking process are high not just for one group but for the broader ecosystem. We can increase the rates for drivers, keep rideshare here, and maintain on momentum on our economic recovery.

Cities, as the governmental backbone of our country, don’t really have the luxury of dealing in the theoretical. High-minded philosophy and political ideology alone do not get the job done for us. Like any other level of government, we debate–and we disagree. But unlike every other level of government, we’ve got to get the job done. We fill the pothole, or we don’t. We get a home built, or we don’t. I’ve learned over the last six years that in the offices we occupy, every day we have an opportunity to make life a little better for people. And progress demands give-and-take.

Reality doesn’t wait for theory to catch up. Minneapolis residents expect a lot of their local government–most importantly, they expect results. And in Minneapolis, we achieve our possibility by saying “we do” and “we can.”

Changes city leaders and advocates have sought for generations are arriving today. We can knock down the K-Mart, breathing new life into a corridor. We can put up eight and half times the amount of deeply affordable housing. We can convert buildings from commercial to residential; make Nicollet Mall a pedestrian space; and achieve permanent implementation of the 2040 plan. We can. Our city is brimming with possibility, and we all make up that team to ensure it’s realized.

Thank you.