MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New numbers show things are looking up for the downtown Minneapolis economy.

Between COVID-19 and civil unrest, the city has seen an unprecedented exodus of businesses. But there are new signs that the economy of the upper Midwest’s largest city is on the upswing.

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Two years ago, downtown Minneapolis was bustling. One year ago, it was a ghost town. These days, it’s somewhere in between.

Patrick McCutchan runs a longtime family business, Nibbles Hot Dogs.

“I think things are starting to pick up a little bit. The wood is starting to come off the windows, business owners are starting to get back to work,” McCutchan said.

McCutchan’s family business has been serving Nicollet since 1983.

“When all the restaurants shut down, we were the only ones out here to feed people and people need food,” he said.

And many of those restaurants are still shut down, especially in the skyway. The once thriving midday marketplace is now trying to survive. But according to the downtown council, there’s hope.

Restaurants around the city are at 35% for seated diners, hotel occupancy is up 19%, light rail ridership up 36% and 23% of downtown workers are back in the office which may be the biggest deal of all.

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“As those office workers come back, a lot of other things will start to happen and we will start to see a positive reanimation,” Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer said.

And positivity is clearly in the air.

Theophilus Hayes works downtown as a Downtown Improvement District ambassador.

“It’s more people out here today than I’ve seen in a long time,” Hayes said.

Richard Mofan of Minneapolis walked through downtown Tuesday.

“Being able to get back to my community, that’s a good thing as well,” Mofan said.

A community that is forever changed.

“Our future downtown is not going to be exactly like our past downtown, but it’s going to be much more like what people remember than this past year,” Cramer said.

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Another sign of rebound: The farmers market will return to Nicollet Mall on June 3.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield