Minneapolis DID

Posted on Wednesday May 24, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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A Heart Made For Serving

Ambassador Spotlight: Clarence France

In the bustling city of Minneapolis, there are countless unsung heroes working behind the scenes, striving to make a positive impact on their community. Among these remarkable individuals is Clarence France, a Livability Ambassador whose unwavering dedication to his city and its people has touched the lives of many. With his love for Minneapolis and a burning desire to give back, Clarence embodies the true spirit of a Downtown Improvement District Ambassador.

With over four years of service under his belt, Clarence’s journey as a Livability Ambassador began with a role as a patroller on a segway. However, it wasn’t long before he felt a profound urge to do more for the people he encountered every day.

“It seemed like a calling,” Clarence reflects, “I wanted to help people.”

He attributes his involvement in the community as the catalyst for his journey. It is this genuine care and concern for all members of his community that has fueled his dedication to making a difference.

“This is my Minneapolis,” he says, his voice brimming with sincerity. “I care for the people in this city, whether you’re a millionaire or without a dollar in your pocket.”

Working as a Livability Ambassador is not Clarence’s first experience in a position of service. Having served in the Marine Corps for 16 years, his time in the military played a significant role in shaping his character and instilling a strong sense of duty. His experiences cultivated his unwavering commitment and strengthened his resolve to make a positive impact wherever he goes.

“I don’t need a thank you,” he emphasizes. “I do these things because they need to be done.”

Clarence strives to bring positivity to even the most negative situations, believing that compassion and empathy are vital in building trust with others. His genuine desire to make a lasting difference is evident. Each day, Clarence wakes up with gratitude, especially when he’s out in the field, knowing that he has the opportunity to touch lives and make a difference. His passion for people enables him to pour his heart and soul into his job as a Livability Ambassador.

“I want to make sure I tell people ‘I’ll see them later’ so they know they aren’t alone,” he shares.

Clarence’s journey has not been without its challenges. Dealing with dyslexia and having experienced the effects of a flash bomb, he sometimes faces communication obstacles. But these challenges have only strengthened his resolve to overcome adversity and continue making a difference.

Outside of his work, Clarence fills his free time with a range of hobbies and adventures. Exploring the beauty of Minnesota through river walks and kayaking, playing the guitar, and engaging in various sports activities – he thrives on staying active and continually learning.

“After I was a veteran, I needed to discover new things. I love doing something and staying busy. I am always learning and trying new things.” Clarence shares, making his thirst for knowledge and zest for life evident.

Clarence’s unwavering commitment to Minneapolis and its people serves as a shining example of what it means to be a Livability Ambassador. His genuine care, compassion, and unwavering dedication have touched the lives of many, proving that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a significant impact.

“This is my Minneapolis. This is why I want to make a difference, no matter how big or small,” Clarence adds.

Posted on Wednesday May 24, 2023 by Insider Look

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Spring into Action

Minneapolis Welcomes the Warmer Season

As warm weather arrives in Downtown Minneapolis, the city is gearing up for an exciting summer season filled with events and festivities. The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Program has been hard at work preparing the city for the influx of people and activities that come with the summer season.

The Ambassadors have been preparing tirelessly for the various events taking place downtown. The event list includes The Alleyway Project, Street Art Festival, Stone Arch Bridge Festival, and other conventions and concerts.  To accommodate the increased demand for their services, the Ambassador force has grown by fourteen individuals.

The Skyway team has also returned to the streets for additional safety and hospitality support. The team will be assisting visitors and creating a welcoming and safe environment.

“I am so excited to be back outdoors! I love the summers in Minneapolis!” shares Delle, a Safety Ambassador.

One of the main areas the Ambassadors will focus their efforts is Peavey Plaza, a popular green space in the heart of Downtown. The Ambassadors will maintain cleanliness and friendliness at the plaza, ensuring visitors have a positive experience while enjoying the atmosphere.

Special Projects Ambassadors were also implemented to maintain the city’s green spaces. The Ambassadors will be watering plants and removing weeds to ensure that the city’s flowers and greenery remain beautiful and well-kept throughout the hot season.

“The more people that are out, the more work there is for us. We stay busy for sure!” shares Dave, Special Projects Ambassador.

During the night, the night crew will be hard at work, polishing the city’s streets to keep them clean and pristine. The Ambassadors will powerwash Nicollet, ensuring the walkways remain in pristine condition day in and day out. Additionally, the night team will use the street sweeper to remove any debris next to the sidewalks.

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Program is working in full gear to create a positive and enjoyable experience during the summer season for visitors and residents. From maintaining cleanliness to providing safety and hospitality support, the Ambassadors are an integral part of the city’s preparation for the bustling summer Downtown Minneapolis.

Posted on Wednesday May 10, 2023 by Insider Look

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Growth From Within

Company Culture of Leadership Development and Identification

“I want for us to be more than just a job. I want our company to provide a career path for people so they can do better for themselves,” shared Blair McBride, Block by Block (BBB) president.

Throughout the past few decades, Block by Block has evolved into the nation’s leading downtown hospitality and cleaning service provider. As the business expanded, Blair made it a priority to invest in the company’s employees. Block by Block strived to provide training and advancement opportunities, putting employees at the heart of all operations.

“We don’t want people to leave for better opportunities. We want better opportunities to be here,” Blair said.

Blair started as a parking lot attendant with Block by Block’s predecessor company Brantley Services and worked his way through various Ambassador roles, followed by other positions on the corporate scale before becoming the president of Block by Block in 2014. When first hired, Blair never intended to stay longer than three weeks, but a great supervisor and the enjoyment from his work kept him around for over 28 years.

“Culture is what keeps people around. It’s at the root of who we are,” he added.

Blair’s story isn’t unique to Block by Block. The company sustains many employees who remain for the vast opportunities. Derrek Hughes, Vice President of Operations, shares many similar experiences with Blair. He also started his career at the company when it was known as Brantley Security. Beyond the fulfillment of helping communities and people, he appreciates the variety found in his role.

“If you are going to spend a magnificent time doing something, you need to find value in what you do and have it be impactful,” Derrek expressed.

To continuously expand meaningful job opportunities for employees of Block by Block, Blair and Derrek allocated resources to develop the Leadership Identification Program (LID) and the Leadership Development Program. By providing training and advancement opportunities, the company invests in its employees and cultivates a positive culture, encouraging growth and development.

The Leadership Identification Program ensures that Block by Block promotes individuals who know and trust the company’s systems, ultimately contributing to its success and fulfilling the needs of the downtown communities. Currently, there are 200 employees taking advantage of the LID program, eleven from the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District.

“I want more people within our company who are promotable and ready to go to the next level because I don’t want to hire somebody off the street,” Blair said. “I would really rather promote someone we already know and trust and have them rise through the ranks. Honestly, I’m looking for the new me.”

Anna, Regional Vice President of the Great Plains Region, which includes Minnesota, also paved her way in the company. After completing her Master’s Degree, Anna applied for the Training and Development Coordinator position in Downtown Minneapolis where she was thrilled to employ her love for teaching and training. Twelve years later, she is just as passionate about her job as today.

“We have so much opportunity to change people’s experience in the public space,” she shared.

The Block by Block operation in Downtown Minneapolis is comprised of various staff who took on new growth opportunities. Pam, Office Administrator, started as an MDID Cleaning Ambassador. She also supported the Livability Ambassadors when they needed more hands on deck. Pam applied her strength to fill a payroll opening and took over other administrative tasks.

“I love working with numbers. It keeps me focused,” Pam added.

Victoria, another Minneapolis staff member, also found a way to use her knowledge and expertise in a new position she took on a year ago. Initially hired as a supervisor for a university campus account, management quickly promoted her to Dispatch Manager.

“I was looking for a place where I could create a more important impact in the community,” Victoria shared why she was first attracted to work at Block by Block.

She now oversees the MDID Dispatch Team and collaborates closely with the Minneapolis Police Department and other security networks in Downtown Minneapolis. Proud of the diversity in the company, Victoria is passionate about serving the downtown community, reflective of its needs.

Posted on Wednesday May 3, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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Leader in the Making

Ambassador Spotlight: Kevin Hallenberger

From exchanging only a few words with people and facing challenges in his hospitality role to becoming a confident and capable team lead for a growing night shift crew, Kevin Hallenberger has undergone a significant transformation.

Kevin has been working at Block by Block for 13 years, beginning his journey when he was only 19 years old. During his tenure, he has tried his hand at all the different roles offered at the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, from being a Safety Ambassador to a Cleaning Ambassador and even working on the Special Projects Team.

Initially, Kevin was a very shy and introverted individual and didn’t quite fit the mold of an outgoing and talkative Ambassador. However, with time, he began to break out of his shell and became a leader. Angel Johnson, Operations Manager at Block by Block, remembers him as “a man of few words” but acknowledges how much he has changed over the years.

Kevin’s father, Dave Hallenberger, who is also one of the first Ambassadors at Block by Block, advocated for Kevin to secure the position when he first applied. Kevin has always been grateful for his dad’s support and guidance.

“He is completely different from when he first started. He takes ownership of what he does.” Dave shares.

As the years went on, Kevin developed his leadership skills and now heads a team of people during the night shift, which is a testament to how far he has come. Although working during the night shift can be challenging, Kevin has learned to adapt. He now operates the street sweeper, an essential part of keeping the city clean, and recently, his crew has been given the responsibility of ensuring that trash cans are emptied way before people return to the city.

Despite the challenges that come with working the night shift, Kevin finds it rewarding. He enjoys the peace and quiet of the city during those early morning hours, and he takes pride in knowing that he is making a difference in his community by keeping the city clean.

“He can make decisions, and he takes action, and that’s what makes him such a good leader,” says Angel.

Kevin’s journey at Block by Block is an inspiring one. Starting as a shy and reserved teenager, he has now become a confident and capable leader. His story is proof that hard work and dedication can lead to great things.

“I like to take the initiative when I see something needs work. Sometimes I have to hold back my questions for the managers since I work when they are usually off,” says Kevin.

Posted on Wednesday March 8, 2023 by Insider Look

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Introducing the Skyway Program

Hospitality and Safety Welcomed Into the Skyways

Four Safety Ambassadors in Downtown Minneapolis posing for a photo

At first glance, the winter streets of Downtown Minneapolis bear a deceptive appearance. The sidewalks aren’t bustling with rushing commuters, nor are visitors braving the fierce winds to explore the city’s architecture. The work week brings an illusion of a deserted metropolis; however, the city is secretly buzzing with people.

The downtown landscape is interconnected through a complex and expansive skyway system. These aerial links connect one business to another, alleviating the residents and commuters from facing the outdoor elements.

Downtown Minneapolis contains key landmarks like the Target Feild Center, Minneapolis Convention Center, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Orchestra and many others. These large facilities hold concerts, conventions, and sporting events, attracting thousands of visitors daily.

The skyway system serves as a covered walkway, enabling visitors to travel from one side of downtown to the opposite without leaving the comfort of a sheltered walkway. However, navigating the pathways can be a challenging task to the unfamiliar. Because skyways do not mirror the streets, getting to the correct locations may require unexpected turns.

In collaboration with Block by Block, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District worked on a solution to battle the skyway confusion.

“Instead of laying off some of our Ambassadors in the winter, during our slow season, we worked with DID to create the Skyway Program,” shares LaVelle, the general manager at Block by Block, Minneapolis.

Prior to the new program, Safety Ambassadors would serve the community only outdoors, but now they are helping hundreds of people learn the skyway system. The new program creates job stability during the slow season for Ambassadors and provides a valuable resource for those traversing the skywalk.

Received well by the public, the new program is consistently getting emails of appreciation. Ambassadors are always on high alert for individuals who seem lost. The team distributes skyway maps and provide escorts for those who need a little more help getting to their destination.

“I was completely lost in the skyway,” James, an out-of-town visitor, emailed DID. “Elise went out of her way to help me. She must have walked with me for a mile to get me where I was going. She really helped me out.”

Beyond giving directions, the Safety Ambassadors also deliver a safety element to the skywalks. Safety Ambassadors will walk visitors or residents to their final destination, ensuring the individual feels safe and secure.

Business hours are another layer of complexity visitors encounter. Because each business privately owns each skyway, the open hours differ. The skyway map, accessed at skywayaccess.com, contains a directory of all the skyway business hours.

Next time you visit Downtown Minneapolis, don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly DID Ambassadors for help. They will quickly get you to your destination, and you can avoid misleading directions from your mobile navigation system!

Posted on Wednesday March 1, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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No Longer the Underdog

Ambassador Spotlight: Uledus Roseman

In 1991, Uledus Roseman left his past in Missouri and arrived in St.Paul, Minnesota, with only $50 in his pocket. He craved a fresh start, but the journey ahead still held many challenges.

Growing up, Uledus did not have an easy upbringing. He was raised by his grandmother in Sedalia, Missouri. Once he turned eight, Uledus was reunited with his mother in Oakland, California. He witnessed the abusive marriage his mother was in, which negatively affected his educational abilities.

While attending Hamilton Junior High School, Uledus’s mother frequently pulled him out of school. Unable to stay on track with his peers, he developed learning differences and a stutter, setting another challenge before him. Uledus was put into the special ed program, preventing him from achieving a high school diploma. Instead, the school awarded him a certificate of attendance.

“I felt like the underdog my whole life,” Uledus shared.

Up until his early thirties, he battled with substance addiction, but he didn’t stay the underdog he presumed himself to be for long. Uledus felt a spiritual guidance to take control of his life and rise like a phoenix.

“I was always so hard on myself, but I have so much to prove. I didn’t want to let people down,” Uledus said. The memories of his two special ed teachers encouraged Uledus to strive for more.

“They invested so much time in me. They were like my moms away from home,” he added, “I wanted to break the underdog mold.”

He enrolled at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College to pursue a degree in addiction counseling. Due to his learning challenges, Uledus had his work cut out for him. He needed to start his degree by taking high school-level English and reading classes.

“I flunked the high school level English twice before I could pass it,” he added, “I even had to get a tutor to help.”

Uledus landed an internship opportunity working at a transitional center while attending college. After graduation, he gained experience working as a chemical dependency tech and a CNA at a veteran’s home before pursuing his career in outreach work.

He joined the Livability Team with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and Block by Block in 2021. He began helping the city’s vulnerable population by connecting them with the right resources or providing quick assistance.

“This job has changed my life in so many ways,” Uledus shares, “This job is like a Tylenol because whatever you have going on in your life, it doesn’t compare to what some people experience.”

He witnessed some difficult things on the field, but it hasn’t discouraged him from continuously supporting his community. Uledus’s desire to help others rise pushed him to discover a passion for motivational speaking.

He often braves the starling cold while most people are sound asleep to record motivational messages for his YouTube channel. In his videos, Uledus discusses life and creating a vision for the future. Some of his videos include “Living a Clean Life”, “Your Thermostat of Life” and “The Front Row”.

Uledus hopes to inspire others to work hard and overcome their challenges. Because he was deeply motivated by his special ed teachers, he hopes to do the same for other high school students.

“It’s more than just doing motivational speaking. I want to bring that motivational element to anything I do,” Uledus said.

Posted on Monday February 20, 2023 by Insider Look

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Collaboration Effect

Crafting a Safe and Welcoming Minneapolis

Over 34 million people travel to Minneapolis each year looking to enjoy the thriving art scene, outdoor culture, and friendly atmosphere. With tourism on track to return to its pre-pandemic levels throughout 2023 and 2024, the city continues to be well equipt for its visitors by streamlining its cleaning, safety, and hospitality efforts.

The dispatch center, located within the 1st Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), houses a small team of people who operate as the eyes and ears for Downtown Minneapolis around the clock. This group of individuals relays information to the Ambassadors on the streets, assists the unhoused population by connecting them with the right services, and works to prevent crime when possible.

“We work in tandem with law enforcement. For our Ambassadors, we are the extra eyes and ears in case of emergencies or if they need any information, ” describes Lyle, a dispatch team member.

In partnership with 70 plus downtown businesses, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the DID Ambassador program, the dispatch team manages reliable and effective communication between the outlets. This pristine communication network ensures safety and outstanding hospitality on the city streets.

“There are many moving pieces between all the things we monitor and the groups we connect with,” Victoria, the dispatch manager, adds.

With access to 127 cameras in the downtown districts, dispatch can spot unusual behavior and send in the right team. Some instances include requesting Emergency Medical Services to help a hurt individual, reporting an offense to MPD for further investigation, directing Ambassadors away from possible danger, and sending in Livability to assist unhoused community members.

“We have the ability to spot things and get the right people on the scene. For example, we can spot individuals who need welfare checks and send out Livability to check up on them,” says Lyle.

In addition to monitoring the streets, the dispatch center is closely connected to the business security offices through the radio-link system. This radio communication network between the dispatch team and the downtown institutions is another layer of added security. To be a part of the communication radio-link network, businesses must meet certain criteria within their safety protocols, for example participating in roll call during designated times.

Business security can provide more awareness for the dispatch team beyond the outdoor premises with their access to cameras within buildings. During large events such as concerts and sporting events, dispatch will facilitate a perimeter check to ensure the rooftops, skyways, and parking ramps are safe and secure.

“We want to have this high level of awareness to ensure we are on the same page,” Katherine, a dispatch member, adds.

Beyond looking out for the safety of the downtown community and the Ambassadors, the dispatch elevates the quality of the hospitality services. In real-time, the dispatch team can pinpoint answers such as business hours and locations, bus routes and schedules, and much more. This allows Ambassadors to perform excellent hospitality, no matter the question.

“It is great to know that we are not out there on our own,” says Terry, a DID Safety Ambassador.

For more than eleven years, the powerful collaboration between the dispatch team, downtown businesses, law enforcement, and hospitality programming still continues to deliver non-emergency services in Downtown Minneapolis efficiently. All the services working in sync create a safer, cleaner, and friendlier environment for residents and visitors.

“We are the behind-the-scenes resource, making sure we provide extra protection and safety for downtown and our Ambassadors,” Lyle says.

Posted on Friday January 20, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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A Memorable Moment

Ambassador Spotlight: Larry Willaims

Imagine showing up to work on a day that feels just like any other but encountering one of the most prolific artists in history, who happens to notice your work. For starters, the odds of running into a large celebrity name in Downtown Minneapolis aren’t very great, and to be appreciated by one is even rarer. But that’s exactly the type of day Larry Williams experienced on January 21st of 2016.

On a Thursday, Larry arrived at the MDID/Block by Block (Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District) headquarters and got ready for his shift. He headed out with his fellow teammates to the streets of Downtown Minneapolis to greet residents and visitors and clean up the blocks. While he was hard at work, sweeping the area by the Dakoda Jazz Club, he was being noticed.

Later that day, the MDID Ambassadors were approached by none other than Prince himself. Throughout his success, he kept his hometown of Minneapolis close to his heart. He valued the work the Ambassadors were providing for the city, so he invited the workers to a private show at his home. Larry was a part of the small VIP list of Ambassadors who were welcomed to attend, but he was considering not going.

“I can’t go to it. I got nothing to wear, and I can’t afford to miss work,” Larry recalls saying.

That is when Anna Schmoll, current Regional Vice President but MDID Operations Manager at the time, stepped in to convince Larry to attend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It was very short notice, and the performance was going to take place during the evening shifts, but when will anyone get an opportunity like this again?” Anna said. “I even offered to give rides to those who didn’t have one,” she added.

Anna, Larry, and several other Ambassadors waited at the back of the line until they were rushed to the front of the room to watch the performance. The private event only had 200 attendees, some of whom were the Ambassadors.

“It was just Prince playing the piano. No band or any other distractions,” Larry added about the experience. He revealed this to be one of his most memorable moments, and he was thankful Anna encouraged him to attend.

Eleven years later, Larry Williams still works as an MDID Ambassador at Block by Block. He tried many different roles, from cleaning to safety, and currently works as a Special Project Amabassador. Larry valued the compassionate and understanding nature of management. Beyond the encouragement to make memories, the current leadership team worked with Larry on his work schedule flexibility.

“I am a single father with two little kids. A two-year-old and a three-year-old,” Larry said.

He shared that due to the difficulties of finding child care, and his father’s stroke, he was granted a leave of absence by the management team to prioritize his family first. Larry is grateful to work among caring individuals.

“Not once did they question me about the time I needed off. They saw me as a person and understood my situation,” added Larry.

Employers play a crucial role in the job satisfaction of employees. It remains highly important to Block by Block to hire and promote managers who strive to create relationships with their employees. Whether it’s’ encouraging an employee to partake in an experience or being flexible and understanding, everything adds up to a fun and rewarding work environment.

“Everybody faces a challenge in their life, and building relationships with employees makes them more comfortable communicating that with us,” Anna commented.

Posted on Friday January 13, 2023 by Insider Look

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The Livability Network

Downtown Minneapolis Caring For All Its Residents

Minneapolis Livability Team Member Helping Man

Out of 75,729 total interactions made by the Ambassadors in 2022, 3,746 were interactions between a special outreach team and residents requiring assistance. This data highlights that hospitality services offered in Downtown Minneapolis extend beyond friendly greetings or location findings. MDID and other groups in Downtown Minneapolis are working to extend hospitality to all members of the community, including the city’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2016, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID), in collaboration with Block by Block, added social outreach services to its Ambassador programming – also known as the Livability Team. The team is comprised of four passionate individuals who work around the clock, reaching out to people and connecting them with resources offered in Hennepin County.

The job fulfilled by the Livability Team takes patience and positivity. It’s more than showing up to work and going through the motions. Being a Livability team member requires grit. It is a career that takes compassion, communication, kindness, and much more. Many traits in these team members contribute to their ability to help others.

These four individuals are the architects of networking. They establish connections with various community programs designed to help the unsheltered population, and they hold a vast knowledge of all the different resources people can be connected with. The Livability Team bridges the gap between those who require assistance and the organizations that offer aid. In addition, the team has direct contact with the Hennepin Country social worker to deliver the right help straightaway.

The Livability Team ensures when they are out on the field, they meet each individual where they are. While maintaining their professionalism, sometimes this requires using the same dialect as the person they are communicating with or maintaining the same eye level height. Meeting people where they are, requires seeing people on equal ground and locking away any presumptions.

“Being slow to speak but quick to listen,” Uledus, a Livability team member of almost two years, shares to be his number one rule.

Being present and self-aware is key to providing the proper outreach to the individuals requiring assistance. “Building trust is essential and takes time. But it is also important to recognize just because they trust you doesn’t mean they will trust others,” Clarence, another Livability team member, says.

The team begins their day by going to locations where people tend to spend prolonged periods of time and perform wellness checks. This includes making sure everyone is well and not requiring medical assistance. While making the first round of check-ins, it is also a great time to see if they can provide quick aid, like handing out gloves, hand warmers, water, and snacks. The workday begins by showing care.

Once the initial rounds of check-ins are complete, Livability Ambassadors scout individuals who they have been in contact with previously. Each Livability team member keeps a list of individuals they connect with regularly. This allows them to form consistent communication and build meaningful relationships. All interactions are tracked through Block by Block’s SMART System to record any resources individuals were connected with or the progress made.

It’s important to recognize that asking for help is easier said than done, which is the case for many residents. In many instances, the Livability Ambassadors will only engage in brief conversations to show their presence; over time, they will aim to develop a meaningful relationship.

“People have difficulty asking for help or accepting it. Some people need help just to ask for help.” Clarence expresses.

“We also do not want to enable people. We want to inspire and educate them to turn their own lives around.” Uledus adds.

The Liveability Team works hard to help as many people as possible, and sometimes getting an individual to accept help or take a step in the right direction is a huge victory.

Clarence experienced firsthand the impact he brings to the community. Recently, he was stopped by a man he failed to recognize. Clarence was unaware that he was being approached by someone who he had helped a year ago. The man was filled with emotions. He thanked Clarance for helping him find a place, a job and connecting him with immigrant resources.

“We are not the solution, but more the facilitator to get individuals the right help. We are just the start of the solution, but we can act the mitigator or be the middle person for whatever is needed,” Uledus addresses a common misconception about his role.

“We are also not enforcers. We do not push anything on individuals or remove them from certain locations. We are simply there to help in any way we can,” Clarence adds.

Minneapolis has hundreds of resources the Livability team members can connect people with. Their connection list includes St.Stephen’s Street Outreach, House of Charity, Hennepin Country Shelter Team, and COPE, to list a few. The organizations provide a long list of services and support that includes meals and showers, shelters and housing, health care, mental health care, trauma care, life emergency assistance, literacy assistance, and more.

The Liveability Team understands the importance of establishing a network. It is crucial to work with others. Fruitful networking adds more resources to the list and empowers others to help in any way possible. Setting a precedent for networking unlocks new ways of supporting those needing assistance. It broadens the scope of reaching more individuals with the right help.

“Understanding that you are not the solution is key. Collaboration is the force behind our success. This creates a movement for people to help as well. It is a powerful thing. ” Uledus affirms.

Just as with any profession, the Livability Team faces its own challenges, but it’s maintaining a positive outlook that helps them overcome adversity.

“It is hard work, yet it is important to go above and beyond. It is not about doing what is required but doing more.” Clarence says.

The Livability Team encourages the Minneapolis community to continue to be open-minded.

“Don’t judge. We are always quick to judge others, but being unhoused or facing a difficult time can happen to anyone.” Uledus shares. “It takes time to build trust, and most individuals are not quick to ask for help, especially if there are factors like mental health and substance abuse at play.”

“Being kind can get you a long way!” Clarance adds.

Posted on Monday December 19, 2022 by Insider Look

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The SMART Way to Hospitality

Telling a Story Through Data Tracking

In 2022 alone, the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) Ambassadors provided 58,351 hospitality assists to visitors and residents in Downtown Minneapolis. This is a prime example of the data tracked through the SMART System, representing the incredible work completed by the Ambassadors.

The SMART System, which stands for Statistics Management and Ambassador Reporting Technology, is a technological tool for downtown districts developed by Block by Block. The SMART System supports field managers in their planning, informing them of the most current information, and it creates a sense of accomplishment for the Ambassadors. It provides data collection, accountability, and reporting all in one spot. The SMART System is constantly evolving, delivering more accurate data and tracking tools to stay up to date with the needs of our customers.

Some of the most commonly used functions within the SMART System include basic activity entry, maintenance reporting, Ambassador walk paths, incident reporting, persons of interest interaction, activity reporting by property/business/parcel, and so much more. This tool allows managers to account for the areas covered at any time in the downtown region. It tells a real-time story of what is happening in the districts with data, and it’s highly customizable to fit the landscape and needs of any downtown.

“Without the SMART System, we would not have an account of our work. The SMART System helps us create the story,” Anna Schmoll answered when asked why she believed it beneficial to management. She also explained how the SMART System helps with coaching and improves activities throughout the day because there is always room to grow.

Not only do supervisors and managers at Block by Block find the system useful, but many Ambassadors appreciate the capability to track their efforts. “It lets us know what work is being done and helps us collaborate better with other team members. I am able to keep track of any escorts or interactions I make or log anything that needs work,” Crystal Krajewski, a Safety Ambassador, shared.

Lastly, the Smart System is a reporting and accountability tool for clients. They can utilize it to best suit their needs, from being very involved to not. They can access the system daily or request reports from the Block by Block operational office. Tracking this information allows clients to make effective strategic decisions backed by data.

Throughout 2022, the Ambassadors provided various services to the residents, removed and cleared many unwanted materials from public spaces, and so much more. Watch the video below to see the exact stats assembled through the SMART System. Imagine how different Downtown Minneapolis would be if it were not for the services provided!

Posted on Friday December 2, 2022 by Insider Look

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The Faces Behind a Welcoming Downtown Experience

The Different Types of Ambassadors and The Impact They Create

Are you aware of all the moving pieces that make Downtown Minneapolis clean and friendly?

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) works with Block by Block to deliver hospitality services to the streets of downtown. The incredible people behind the daily grind are the MDID Ambassadors. They are responsible for specific initiatives with some overlap in their tasks. Let’s break down the various functions to highlight the impact the Ambassadors make in Downtown Minneapolis. 

Safety Ambassador’s role includes escorting citizens, helping them locate their destination, assisting them in finding their parked vehicle, distributing maps and other MDID information, checking in with local businesses, and providing support to various MDID pop-ups. In addition to their hospitality work, these Ambassadors also aid in keeping the city clean and act as the eyes and ears for others. Because they are actively walking the streets and skyways, they communicate with Ambassadors outside their task force if further assistance is required.They can request help for larger projects like graffiti removal or connect citizens in need with the Livability Ambassadors.

The Cleaning Ambassadors’ main priority is to keep the streets clean and welcoming while creating a friendly atmosphere. They’re the force behind the polished feel of Downtown Minneapolis. These Ambassadors work on freeing the walkways of trash, clearing undesired substances, removing unauthorized posters and stickers, wiping down public surfaces, and emptying the recycling bins and trash cans. 

Even though the Cleaning Ambassadors focus the majority of their efforts on cleaning up, some tasks are left explicitly to the Special Projects Ambassadors. This task force works on any project specially requested by MDID or any businesses in the downtown districts. The projects include removing graffiti from buildings and other surfaces or polishing public areas to prepare them for the upcoming season.

Livability Ambassadors are a unique extension to the rest of the team. They act as a connection between individuals in need and resources provided by Hennepin County.  The Livability Ambassadors patrol the streets to detect individuals needing assistance, perform wellness checks and connect them with shelters, social workers, and treatment centers. They hand out snacks and water throughout the year, and during the winter months, they distribute socks, gloves, and hand warmers.

The different teams of Ambassadors offer various services and hospitality solutions downtown. This breakdown of responsibilities has successfully functioned in Minneapolis for over 13 years. Block by Block can tailor the Ambassador positions to fit the landscape of your downtown to ensure you receive the necessary services in your unique urban environment!

Posted on Monday November 28, 2022 by Insider Look

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Hot or Cold, The MDID Ambassadors Continue Onward

Insider Look: The Work MDID Ambassadors Accomplish in the Winter

MDID Safety Ambassador out on the street of Downtown Minneapolis

It is this time of the year again when the sun goes down early and the city glimmers in golden lights. The holiday season enters Downtown Minneapolis and brings holiday cheer and colder weather. The MDID Ambassadors walk the streets with a smile, assisting visitors in the city. Even when the temperature in Minneapolis drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit, Ambassadors are still showing up to work.

The cold temperatures introduce new challenges to the downtown streets. The sidewalks glaze over with ice, the roads hide beneath the snow, and the freezing winds drift between the buildings. These challenges can yield a not-so-pleasant experience in Downtown Minneapolis, but that is why our Ambassadors are there to help!

Beyond their daily efforts in the winter, the Ambassadors are also on the lookout for slippery and icy surfaces. They cover those areas with sand to ensure the safety of the citizens. In addition, they occasionally remove snow from corners if other businesses or the city hasn’t tended to them.

One of the more notable jobs the Ambassadors provide in cold temperatures is motorist assists. With consent from the owner, Ambassadors can jumpstart the vehicle or shovel it out of snow. This comes in handy due to the severity of the weather experienced in Minneapolis. In addition, our Safety Ambassadors continue to provide hospitality services to people looking to avoid the elements and get to their destination quickly.

Lastly, the Livability team works extra hard during the winter months to help individuals caught in a difficult time. They conduct safety checks on people who spend prolonged periods outside to ensure they aren’t suffering from hypothermia or dehydration. The Livability team will also hand out emergency kits that contain heat-reflective blankets and other winter resources like gloves and hand warmers.

Posted on Monday November 14, 2022 by Ambassador Spotlight

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The Spirit Behind the Service

Ambassador Spotlight: Dave Hallenberger

“I want to be outside. I want to be where the people are,” Dave Hallenberger replied when asked why he valued his Ambassador position at Block by Block (BBB).

Before working as a Special Projects Ambassador in Downtown Minneapolis, Dave spent 28 years in a security role where he was confined indoors, behind a desk. He shared that he did not know what happiness felt like in a work environment until he started his career at Block by Block. From Dave’s first day on the job to 13 years later, he is still passionate about the positive impact created by his work downtown. Raised in a small town near Lake City, Minnesota, the army veteran of 10 years initially felt intimidated by Minneapolis since he was unfamiliar with the landscape. Now he knows the streets of downtown like the back of his hand. 

Dave’s journey as an Ambassador began when his sister-in-law advised him to apply for an opening position at the company. At the time, Block by Block was a recently introduced hospitality service to the downtown area contracted by the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District. 

Immediately after reviewing the job description, Dave was thrilled to apply. “They were going to pay me to be a good Samaritan!” he thought. Quickly, he learned that his new employer was different from any other that he had witnessed in the workforce. 

“Where do you get a job where the vice president of the company goes out there with you?” Hallenberger commented about his first day on the field. He appreciated the precedent the company’s leadership set because it connected the values and culture through the different roles and ranks. 

Throughout his years working at Block by Block, he became a trusted employee who always went above and beyond. “He makes my job easier,” Angel Johnson, Operations Manager at BBB, shared. 

Many other managers who worked with Dave agreed. He always takes the initiative to complete tasks before they are noticed and goes above what is expected of him. Over the 13 years, he was recognized twice as the employee of the year and was recently awarded employee of the quarter. Hallenberger thrived in his role because of the trust he built with the management team. He appreciated the freedom and the responsibility of his job. 

Throughout his time, he implemented a routine, starting his week by patrolling the blocks and noticing anything that seemed off. From there, he prioritized his projects and what he needed to accomplish in the following days. Even his colleagues were quick to see the self-starter within Dave’s personality. 

His coworker and partner on the field, Ron Carlson, said, “You can see how much Dave cares about what he does. He is passionate about his work and wants to do the best job possible.”  

Because of the painstaking efforts Dave and many other Ambassadors demonstrate, Minneapolis is kept clean, friendly, and safe. Their hard work keeps the graffiti off the buildings, trash off the streets, and hospitality at the forefront. The Ambassador position at Block by Block was more than just a job for Dave. In addition to positively impacting the community, it was an opportunity for Dave to find joy in his work. Within a year of working as an Ambassador, he encouraged his son, Kevin, to apply. Closely behind Dave in seniority, Kevin has worked as an Ambassador for 12 years in various roles. Currently, he is the team lead for the night shift.

Stories like Dave Hallenberger’s reveal the environment Block by Block creates in downtown areas. By incorporating their hospitality services, downtown communities can provide meaningful jobs that are rewarding and beneficial to the economy. In turn, Ambassadors serve by keeping the city polished and welcoming for the individuals visiting or coming to work. 

This ecosystem generates opportunities for people to find work where they feel heard and gives them a chance to serve other citizens. “I feel very passionate about my job,” Dave added.