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Nicollet Mall Proposal: Fewer Buses, More Drinking

Plus landlords sue Minneapolis, a skyway redesign, and Ellison's latest suits in today's Flyover.

Minneapolis Public Works|

Someday Nicollet Mall could look like this—but without the bus.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Let’s Re-Re-Re-Reimagine Nicollet Mall

Remember the Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup, the task force that Jacob Frey convened to look at the future of downtown Minneapolis? Well, they’ve got some ideas, largely focused on Nicollet Mall. The group accepts the loss of retail downtown as essentially a given and says downtown needs to find a new identity. Their big suggestion, which dropped today: Get rid of the buses and let people roam freely along Nicollet. Another possibility they float is to finagle an exception in state law to allow open containers in that area during events. Other suggestions include asking residents and visitors (and not just office workers) what they want from downtown as well as providing financial incentives for owners of vacant properties to bring in businesses. Personally we’d rather fine them or seize their property is left vacant but that’s probably not “legal” or something.

Former Landlords: We Have Rights!!!

Some guys just never give up. Former landlords Stephen Frenz and Spiros Zorbalas had their real estate licenses yoinked by the city of Minneapolis and were forced to liquidate their rental properties in 2017. Now they’re claiming that a procedural error on the part of the city entitles them to “multiple millions” in damages, reports Susan Du in the Star Tribune. If you don’t recall, the city’s go-round with Zorbalas and Frenz began in 2010, when tenant complaints led to the discovery of so many code violations in Zorbalas’s properties that he lost his license. So that low-income tenants wouldn’t be booted out in the cold, the city brokered an agreement: Zorbalas would transfer half his properties to Frenz, with the assurance that Zorbalas would have nothing to do with their rental.

When the city found out that Zorbalas was indeed a part owner of Frenz’s rental company, they went after Frenz’s license. A fun sidebar: At the same time as all this, the renters’ rights group Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia filed a class action suit against the landlords, ultimately agreeing to a settlement of $18.5 million. As a result of that case, Frenz was convicted of felony perjury because he’d presented fake leases to show that the suit didn’t have sufficient support among the renters. “The city will no doubt try to distract from its failings by attacking our clients' character,” says lawyer Jack Perry. Nah. We’re pretty sure that the city can just attack his clients’ past behavior. 

Duffey Skyway Gets a Makeover

It's exceedingly rare that we look at a downtown redevelopment project and go "Oh wow, that looks nice!" But lo, a Monday morning Facebook post from the North Loop Neighborhood Association inspired in the Racket staff that very reaction! As part of the conversion of the two historic Duffey Paper buildings into apartments, the Duffey skyway connecting the two over Third Street North is getting completely redone. Its metal siding is coming off now, and will be replaced with glass paneling, and if the renderings can be believed, it's gonna be a great upgrade. It looks like they're keeping the "Duffey Paper Company" logo, and the glass makes the whole thing look open and modern—but crucially, not soulless.

Ellison Sues Trash Bag Makers, Major Property Owner

If you were to buy a box of trash bags labeled for recyclables use, you’d probably assume the bag itself was recyclable, right? Well, apparently the ones from Reynolds Hefty brand and Walmart’s Great Value dupes are not. Although Hefty’s packaging states that the bags themselves are not recyclable, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s case asserts that unless you read the fine print, you might think these low-density polyethylene bags are. According to Tuesday’s filing from Ellison's office, these types of bags shouldn’t even be in use for recycling, as they "can cause the sorting machinery to malfunction, cause fires, and result in unsafe conditions for workers who must crawl into the machinery to remove them." The AG office also estimates that they cost $75,000 a year in “lost productivity and lower revenue.”

This is the second lawsuit filed from Ellison’s office this week. On Monday they announced a case against Madison Equities, a property management company that allegedly screwed security officers out of wages owed then retaliated when employees came forward. Madison Equities is the largest landowner in downtown St. Paul; buildings include the First National Bank Building, Fitzgerald’s, the Eagle Street Grille, the Lowry Building, the U.S. Bank Center, the Alliance Center, and many, many more.

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