Ice cream and economic development: Minneapolis dizzy for Izzy’s

A new Izzy’s ice cream factory and retail store is open for business as of Monday, July 29th, 2013 in downtown Minneapolis next to Gold Medal Park and not far from the Metrodome. (MPR photo/Dan Olson)

I remember the old days in Minneapolis, 1981, when I was a city hall reporter and elected officials were wringing their hands over the glacial pace of downtown redevelopment. Well, that certainly has changed. Here’s the newest evidence — frozen but not glacial: the new Izzy’s ice cream factory and retail store.

The Izzy’s at 11th Avenue and 2nd Street South is next to Gold Medal Park in the city’s Downtown East neighborhood. It opened late Monday morning and by evening the line was still out the door as dogs, dads, babies and others waited for their cup or cone.

Any hint of opposition by residents to commercial development in the midst of a neighborhood sprouting condos melted away a few months ago when the Izzy’s owner pulled out the secret weapon. Izzy’s staff showed up at a nearby condo and handed out ice cream. Free.

Were all those city subsidies over the past three decades designed to kick start downtown revitalization necessary? Would a strategy built around ice cream shops have worked just as well?