If you’ve ever been a stranger in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, there’s a good chance you’ve done the same thing I’ve done: wandered into the maze of glass-enclosed second-floor skywalks that crisscross the city center, then found it impossible to work your way out again. It’s a unique form of urban panic. You worry about getting locked in for the night -- then manage to escape only through the Minnesota kindness of a local who leads you to the street by a virtually unmarked exit.
In a situation like that, you may also have had the thought that I’ve had: Why would any city, especially one in the midst of an urban revival, want to trap its residents in nine miles of faded and monotonous corridors rather than encouraging them to create a vibrant street life down below? There’s one simple answer, of course: It gets cold in Minnesota in the wintertime. That’s why the skyways were built in the first place.