The Pandemic Has Not Been Kind to Pedestrian Skyways in the Twin Cities

Already a source of eternal controversy for their effects on street life and local business, pedestrian skyways have proven even more problematic during the pandemic.

2 minute read

April 18, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A series of pedestrian bridges, linking buildings on either side of the street, are illuminated int he night in downtown Minneapolis.

Sam Wagner / Shutterstock

Jake Blumgart reports on the latest developments in the planning of pedestrian skyways—the effects of the pandemic adding new questions about the effects of skyways local retail and public safety.

Blumgart helpfully notes the history of skyway planning and development in the Twin Cities, where this story focuses its attention:

Minneapolis inaugurated the skyway era in 1962 and eventually built out a system with 9.5 contiguous miles of second-story connections between office buildings, hotels and housing towers. St. Paul soon followed, and has five miles of its own. The idea was to compete with suburban office parks and shopping malls, giving aged downtowns an edge — especially in the winter months.

The results, however, have underwhelmed:

From the beginning, skyways were controversial. Critics feared they would imperil existing sidewalk-facing businesses. Today, the streetscape of the two cities is remarkably quiet. With consumer dollars focused on the second floor, street-level stores and restaurants suffer. (It’s worth noting that downtowns as varied as Baltimore and Los Angeles manage a similar deadening effect without skyways.)

The pandemic has accelerated some of the less desirable effects of the skyway approach to downtown circulation. With office emptied out, like they are in so many other cities, the skyways in the Twin Cities have become dark and filled with litter, cigarette smoke, and encampments, according to Blumgart.

The future of the skyways depends on how many people return to the office if and when the public health situation improves, according to the article. While the trends indicate a return to the office, the daytime office population of the Twin Cities is still far below the pre-pandemic precedent.

Thursday, April 14, 2022 in Governing

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Google office building in Virginia.

Virginia Data Centers Draining State’s Water Supply

Being the world’s largest data center hub is having a severe impact on local water resources.

May 9, 2024 - Grist

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state.

Northwest Power Demand Could Surge as Data Centers, Transportation Electrification Ramps Up

New estimates project a steady increase in electricity demand due to population growth, data centers, and the shift to electric power in homes, buildings, and transportation.

May 17 - Governing

Blurred traffic speeding by on freeway with Los Angeles skyline in background.

California Testing Per-Mile Gas Tax Alternatives

A summer pilot program will test the fairness and efficacy of collection mechanisms for mileage-based fee options.

May 17 - Newsweek

Close-up of 'Pay rent' note in red marker on day 1 of monthly calendar.

After Months of Decreases, Rents Nationwide Are Going Up

Average rents rose by $12 around the country so far this year.

May 17 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.