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Will Frey’s Task Force Composed of ‘Downtown Pundits’ Save the City?

Plus locally angled love stories, MOA witch heists, and yet another national outlet fails to understand us in today's Flyover.

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

Frey Targets Downtown Vacancies

Brick ‘n’ mortar retail is in decline. The people who started working from home at the start of the pandemic are in no hurry to get back to the office. The role that downtown plays in the overall life of Minneapolis is definitely ripe for reconsideration. Is Mayor Jacob Frey’s “Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup” a step in the right direction? Hm. The idea is to develop new strategies (such as pop-ups) to fill vacant storefronts and revitalize the area, and, in keeping with Frey’s M.O., it appears to take a very top-down approach.

The group’s members, according to Nicole Norfleet at the Strib, include “City Council members, downtown pundits, and building managers and brokers,” which raises a couple questions. First off, who or what is a “downtown pundit”? Second, where do the residents of downtown fit into this scheme? After all, they’re the folks who can’t shop after work anymore because the stores are closing early. Shouldn’t they have as much say in how their neighborhood is reshaped as the Downtown Council’s Steve Cramer or some real estate big shots? Just throwing this out there: What if we converted as much of the vacant space as possible into housing and transformed downtown into a bunch of smaller neighborhoods, and then businesses would arrive to service the residents. Alternate plan: Rip out the skyways.

A Locally Angled Love Story

File under “Well shucks, that’s nice”: Local musician Katy Vernon and Randy Vanderwood, her husband of almost 30 years, had their unusual globetrotting love story highlighted by CNN today. (Did you know CNN has a “Chance Encounters” series? I did not!) Vernon and Vanderwood met on a sleeper train from Amsterdam to Berlin in the summer of 1991. The former was a Brit working toward her drama degree in London; the latter was an American serving in the U.S. Air Force and traveling across Europe on his summer leave. And though the two got off on the wrong foot—Vanderwood remembers initially thinking Vernon and her friends were “obnoxious and loud”—they ended up exploring Berlin together, and the rest is more or less history. You gotta give the whole, heartwarming, Before Sunrise-ian story a read.

A Witch Stole Over $300K from MOA’s Piercing Pagoda

It was All Hallows’ Eve, just a few hours short of the witching hour when, according to the court filing obtained by the Strib, someone “wearing a witch costume with [a] large hat” entered the Piercing Pagoda kiosk, emptied all the jewelry trays into a duffel bag on wheels, and hauled ass outta Mall of America. The shop, which is owned by Signet (who also owns Zales, Kays, and Jared), reported 1,079 missing jewelry pieces totaling $316,813.63. But this crime isn’t sorcery; it most likely was an inside job. The car caught on parking lot security footage is owned by an employee, and when that employee returned to the mall, police obtained a warrant to search his vehicle… where they found some marijuana. But! They later discovered that this worker had sold at least five of the stolen items to a pawn store. This jewel thief definitely needed a getaway broom.

Boston Globe Writer Somehow, Someway Squeezes 1,466 Words Out of Lazy Prince Travelogue

Boston Globe writer Christopher Muther admits he was already in town for a wedding. Short on ideas and long on physically being in Minnesota, he likely pitched his editor something akin to: “Uh, Prince is from here. I could write about that!” And write he did, in this sprawling piece that, initially, feels like it was written by a Prince pun generator. “If you talk to the residents of Minneapolis, even ordinary apple orchard wedding folks, it seems that everyone has a Prince anecdote,” Muther writes, though we never do get to the fireworks factory of literally any Prince anecdotes from locals.

Instead, we get his proforma prose as applied to visits to: Paisley Park, where “I [didn’t] need my phone to remember the thrill of being in the recording studio where Prince spent long nights working” (the studio is never described); the Electric Fetus, where “I’m pretty sure [they stock] every Prince record ever made, but I’d like to think I was channeling Prince with my purchases” (he purchased Paul Revere & the Raiders); and various Prince murals, though “I cherry-picked from the list because I still needed time to see the Mary Tyler Moore statue (priorities, people)” (the city’s tourism bureau is cited as a great resource). One person is quoted (a U of M prof), zero sense of place is imbued (Paisley is “odd-looking”), and little history is revealed beneath the surface level. Channeling all of the author’s sense of wordplay wizardry, we must ask: Where does Muther “Get Off”?