At Thursday’s Annual Meeting, Tom Hoch officially ended his stint as the mpls downtown council’s board chair. He spoke with MplsDowntown.com to talk about his time as board chair, the organization, downtown and more.
What initially made you interested in becoming the Minneapolis Downtown Council Board Chair?
I was the Chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District when we completed the alignment with the Minneapolis Downtown Council; I then became the Vice Chair/Chair Elect of both organizations. I was first attracted to the organization because I could see that there was no organization that has a better finger on the pulse of our downtown community than MDC and, given my work with in downtown, I was anxious to collaborate with other civic boosters who possess an unrelenting desire to make our city even better.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time as MDC Board Chair?
There are many things that the organization has accomplished. I am most proud of the way our staff has come together to achieve so many great things—from completing a strategic plan to growing our membership to orchestrating dozens of events (including sold out Annual Meetings and Galas, Holidazzle), to leading the business community to supporting the financing for a new Nicollet, to our leadership on establishing Green Minneapolis, The Commons and the support we have shown for pulling Peavey Plaza ever closer to completion. I’m proud of the work that Leah Wong has led relative to our branding initiative and indebted to the amazing creative energy that volunteered to support this effort. Finally, our commitment to a safe and welcoming Downtown for all has never wavered.
Personally, I am so proud that we have been able to drive forward on so many individual but related fronts to make a real difference in people’s lives. Our executive committee has been outstanding in driving forward on The 2025 Plan and I believe we have a very strong and productive relationship with most elected officials that impact our work.
How long has Downtown Minneapolis been part of your life, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Downtown has been an important part of my life since my childhood. I used to come to downtown by bus as a youngster and go to Dayton’s to purchase clothing, but only after I called home to confirm that what I wanted was “preapproved”. At the time, I could use my mother’s credit card IF the salesclerk called my home first. I was probably 10 or 11 years old and my trips to downtown alone seemed perfectly reasonable.
I remember O. D. Gay, who was president of the mpls downtown council. In fact, I have two “O.D. Gay Awards” from 1997 that sit outside my office today, were named in honor of him and are a source of pride.
I most enjoy the people who frequent downtown. They are a consistent source of energy and inspiration to me. Downtown really IS everybody’s neighborhood.
What has impressed you most about the progress of The 2025 Plan since its inception?
The commitment of all the volunteers has been so inspiring to me. The mpls downtown council and 2025 Plan committees consist of volunteers who show up with a deep commitment to our city. These women and men give so generously of their time and talents with the sole purpose of making our city better. They are each portraits in civic leadership. How inspiring! And, they accomplish real, tangible results—whether on the greening front, transportation policy, homelessness or marketing Minneapolis for residential growth. All of our participants hold themselves accountable for making real progress and that is thrilling to see!
How has the downtown experience as a whole developed and grown during The 2025 Plan, and why is that such an important piece of a thriving downtown?
If one just glances around downtown, tangible evidence of the fruits of The 2025 Plan planning process are everywhere. Look at the residential growth, the Nicollet Mall transformation, U.S. Bank Stadium and The Commons and the business community’s unprecedented align around the need for a robust transportation system. Downtown is rapidly becoming greener and more walkable. But we still have work to do take make every block a truly great one. The foundation for our 2025 Plan is rooted in the success of the Mpls Downtown Improvement District, which has set the stage for a better downtown.
What are the biggest challenges that downtown currently faces, and how can we as a community help address them?
We need to continue to lead our community in figuring out novel approaches to homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and disaffection that are exhibited by so many individuals on our streets. These issues are distinct from the law enforcement issues we must also firmly address. Partnering with the city, county, nonprofit service providers and the MPD to address these persistent issues is key to making our Downtown open and welcoming to everyone. Ignoring these situations does not make them go away.
To you, why should young people beginning a career decide to live, work and play in downtown Minneapolis?
Young people, or anyone else, should come to downtown Minneapolis because we have it all. Great arts and culture, sports, food and architecture. This is a place you can explore. On one side, we have the mighty Mississippi River, one of the world’s major river systems and the second longest river in North America! We have a Caesar Pelli designed library, historic theatres, world class homes for professional sports and first-rate contemporary visual art. All of these are within walking distance of one another in a town that is livable, affordable and exciting.
What does the mpls downtown council mean to you?
MDC is essential to our Downtown. It is the keeper of our vision for downtown and no other organization has the singular focus on making our Downtown a great place to live, work and play.
If you have advice for incoming board chair Phillip Trier in his new role, what would it be?
One, make room for ideas—they are our currency. Two, make certain that Steve Cramer never leaves. And three, install “push” and “pull” signs on the outer doors to the mpls downtown council.