2006 State of the City
Prepared Remarks by
Mayor R.T. Rybak
We come together today in a beloved landmark of our community. The Capri Theater, which opened in 1927, is the only remaining movie theater in north Minneapolis. Prince held his first public concert here on January 5, 1979, as a benefit for the theater. Tickets were $4. A second concert followed the next night, attended by Warner Bros. that led to a recording contract for Prince.
The Capri has seen better days, but better days are also ahead. The Plymouth Christian Youth Center, whose school across the street has set a new course for so many of our city’s young people, is now setting a new course for the Capri.
With a visionary plan calling for a new marquis, new programs, renovations and an outdoor plaza, the Capri will become a beacon for changing times on West Broadway. The life of the theater will flow onto the street and influence the design, streetscape, public art, and façades of the nearby buildings as a further sign that things are changing for the better. On West Broadway. On the Northside. And in Minneapolis.
In my inaugural speech, I laid out three values to frame the core of my work over the next four years: closing the gaps between haves and have-nots, preparing youth for the future, and creating vibrant public spaces. Over the last three months, I have spoken in depth on each of these topics and brought those values into strategic planning with the new City Council. For the last several weeks, we worked together and emerged with a common vision for the future. This process was important because there is only so much that we can do as elected officials in four years. It is essential that we coalesce around a common vision and focus our efforts around shared goals.
Our ambitious agenda starts with the most basic of principles: That local government is first and foremost about those basic core services that touch and transform peoples lives every day. Public safety and other core services come first and we will deliver them with efficiency and in deep partnership with our citizens.
This city will deliver a good value to our citizens, and we will do that by being a government with values. We believe in government, and we will run this government well, but we need to run it for a reason. Together, our work will focus on six key reasons:
1. To make Minneapolis A Safe Place to Call Home
2. For One united Minneapolis
3. To be a city of ideas and our Education is Second to None
4. To be a city of Connected Communities woven together
5. To have an Enriched Sustainable Environment
6. To be A Unique Destination
I would like to review these six reasons and then finish with how they affect one very special part of Minneapolis.
#1: Minneapolis is A Safe Place to Call Home
A month ago Council Member Samuels and I sat in the living room of a beautifully restored home in Jordan with a "for sale" sign in the front lawn. The owners told us, with tears in their eyes, that after years of fighting to keep their neighborhood safe, they had given up and were moving. North Minneapolis lost two great members of the community that day, but the city lost something more. Homeowners like this that have dug in and fought are our single best asset against crime. Our battle to keep north Minneapolis, and other high-crime neighborhoods in this city, safe is about the scores of homeowners who continue to fight. They need to know that we are with them every step of the way.
A couple of weeks after that meeting, I got an email from Megan Goodmundson, one of the strong Jordan homeowners who stayed. It seems there was an officer at her front door. Sadly, that is not unusual for someone like Megan and her neighbors. She went to the door expecting to hear about another nearby crime, but when she asked the officer what had happened, he said, "Nothing. I just wanted you to know I was patrolling the area and wanted to know what I could do to help."
This encounter is part of a new effort called "Community Connections," which was started by officers patrolling the Northside to build deeper partnership with the residents who work so hard to keep Jordan strong. An officer and a resident meeting at the doorstep will not solve all the crime problems in our city, but that’s where it begins. The core of public safety in Minneapolis needs to build off community-based policing that brings residents and police officers together to protect our safety.
We have an increasingly serious problem with crime in our city. This is not acceptable. Assaults that have led to murder are deplorable, regardless of where they occurred. While no part of the city is immune to this problem, certain areas are suffering more.
Public safety must be the top priority for resources. We have and must continue to dedicate more revenue to public safety than any other budget area. I am pleased that we are well on our way towards the placement of the 71 additional officers budgeted for this year. The first 17 are on the street from waterworks and a class of recruits is in the academy at this moment. Half of these new officers are people of color. Since it takes time for new officers to be hired, Chief Dolan has undertaken an aggressive and innovative effort to use existing funding to put the equivalent of 70 officers on the street now using overtime. In the short term, this means more cops on the street for more hours in the most financially efficient way possible.
When all 71 new officers are hired, we will have more officers on the street than any point since 2001. We cannot stop here. As work on next year’s budget begins this summer, I call on members of the Council to work with me to explore option to put even more cops on the street next year. We need to keep the hiring pipeline open and put as many officers on the street that we can.
According to Chief Dolan, the first and best thing we can do with our officers is to increase a visible police street presence, especially in high density and high crime areas. We have already begun increasing existing police presence in north Minneapolis, Uptown, and Downtown. Our Downtown Safe Zone has done an incredible job to build collaboration between our police and the business community and this model now needs to be applied in Uptown and north Minneapolis.
We are expanding on the success of the Chicago Avenue Safety Center by establishing a Safety Center on West Broadway. Along with our STOP unit, our South Side and North Side Robbery Task Forces are contributing even more police presence in areas with the greatest robbery patterns. To address the reality that half of the robberies this year were carried out by minors, many who had guns, a new Juvenile Unit in the police department is being created to coordinate youth enforcement and work with schools to centralize juvenile crime prevention.
We are implementing new and more rigid geographical accountability for our officers to respond to safety challenges. Building off our CODEFOR targeting system, Chief Dolan is applying additional resources and changing the span of control to keep officers in the same geographic areas for longer periods of time and pairing specific patrols to specific gangs. This improved accountability will strengthen the connections between cops and community. You will be hearing much more about these plans from Chief Dolan in the coming days and weeks ahead.
Let me underscore what all of this means: For residents, this means that you will see and talk to more cops in high density and high crime areas. For our police, this means that you will be getting out of your cars, out of your routines and inserting yourselves into the community, building relationships with residents. For all of us, this means that we need to work together to get upstream on more of the root causes of crime.
We will keep fighting this battle upstream. We can’t arrest the problem of crime away. There is a time for tough enforcement – and we will do that – but we also need to get at the root causes of crime. We must prevent crime by creating an environment of hope to attack the core issues of jobs, housing, and youth engagement. This summer, our youth must have meaningful things to do:
• We are working to increase the number of youth STEP UP summer jobs from 300 to 500 this year.
• Phat Summer youth recreation, which last year gave 5,200 something to do at night will again be operating in our parks.
We know that some youth aren’t likely to get a summer job or willingly go to a recreation program. That’s why the city is allocating half a million dollars over the next two years for programs that target our most disconnected youth. These grants will go to new or existing programs that either have proven or will promise to literally out-recruit the gangs.
We need everyone’s help in this effort. We still have to raise $400,000 for Phat Summer. We still need employers for 50 more STEP UP jobs. If you can’t be part of these efforts, find a way for you, or your neighborhood, or your faith community, to reach out to a young person who you think may be slipping away. Crime and gangs thrive on young people who have no meaningful connection to adults, so make yourself one of those adults who reaches out to make sure we own our streets and we love all our kids.
#2: We are One Minneapolis
The history of Minneapolis is not a story of rich and poor separated by a yawning gap. The story of Minneapolis is about ladders of opportunity, in education, in jobs, in neighborhoods. Many peoples from many places becoming one people in one place woven together in ways that helped each of them.
That is our history but the challenge of our future is that the gap between haves and have-nots is growing in Minneapolis. In fact Brookings now says that we have one of the largest gaps of any city in the country. This reality is sobering. As a community we must face the deep-rooted inequities that exist in our community, inequities that have grown over generations. But our generation can dedicate ourselves to addressing them and closing them. We need to remember that we have closed many of these gaps successfully before and we can do it again.
The story of the renaissance of Phillips neighborhood, where we are now opening the Midtown Exchange and Global Market, where Wells Fargo Mortgage has lit up the former Honeywell headquarters, housing values are rising faster, and more jobs are being created than any other neighborhood in the state. Crime is down 40% the past decade. Lake Street store fronts are being re-populated with businesses owned by our growing New American communities. We have done it before and we can do it again.
These successes are proof that we are not starting from scratch. We have in place strong policies and values. Through all of this work, a single core value should guide us as we build One Minneapolis: that in a generous community, you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.
Since coming to office four years ago, my work to close the gaps has been focused on housing, and that commitment will continue. But the more I work on housing the more I recognize that the best housing program is a good job. That’s why even in a period of declining state and federal aid, this city has invested more in job creation and placement for more people than ever.
Two years ago we launched an effort to close the gap between the employment rates in the city and the suburbs. In 2001, the gap was 1% and today that gap has virtually disappeared for the first time in 13 years. This means that Minneapolis no longer has a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the metropolitan area. This didn’t happen by accident. It was accomplished with targeted, strategic, aggressive work by the City of Minneapolis. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
In the last four years, we have placed 13,300 people into unsubsidized private sector jobs in addition to the 3,300 subsidized city jobs to previously unemployed residents. We increased our annual rate of job placement from 2,400 jobs in 2001 to more than 4,200 in 2005. This means that in four years we have doubled the annual number of people placed into jobs and we have wiped out any gap between the suburban and urban unemployment rate. City government can make a tangible difference for people and we’re going to do even more of it with a community and economy that works for everyone.
#3: Minneapolis is a city of ideas and our Education is Second To None
The demographics are clear: we will not have enough college graduates to replace retirees at a time when we need more educated workers, not less. Too many youth are unprepared and unsupported as they enter the world.
As the world becomes "flatter", as China and India educate far more engineers and other skilled workers, our ability to get this next generation ready for new careers becomes even more important. But if we do it right, the students now in Minneapolis' schools – who speak more than 80 languages, who cross cultural barriers every day – can become Minnesota's best weapon in competing in a Global Economy.
Simply put, we need to ensure that youth get access to opportunities that strengthen skills and build connections in order to be well-prepared for college, work and life. Our vision is that every young person in Minneapolis will be ready by 21 with 21st Century Skills. The Youth Agenda, emerging from our Youth Coordinating Board, says to be ready by 21 our young people need to be:
• Connected to family, adults, peers and organizations in their community
• Physically and psychologically healthy and living in a healthy environment
• Transformed by learning opportunities in school and the community
• Prepared for and engaged in building their future.
While recognizing that getting our youth ready by 21 begins at birth, it seems to me that a culmination of our efforts all come together at one pivotal moment: 9th grade. This is the point where we begin the process in earnest to ensure that our youth are prepared to succeed in college and their career. It’s time to make a promise to our 9th graders that we will be there for them.
America has made great promises before. We promised World War II veterans that in return for their service they would get a college education with the GI Bill. We promised our seniors that in return for their contribution to our economy and workforce they would be cared for in their old age. Now Minneapolis needs to make a great promise to our youth: if you go to school, if you work hard, if you develop a life plan, and if you graduate, we will support you. The Minneapolis Promise will get you the counseling you need to plan your future, will help you find a summer job, and will help you get the funds you need to go to college.
We know that a person with a college degree will earn one million dollars more in their lifetime than a person with just a high school degree, making the Minneapolis Promise a million dollar promise. So when I go into high schools today I say to students "If you knew there was a room in this school that would give you a million bucks, would you go?" When they say "Yes" I tell them to go to the new career center, make your plan, go to college and you’ll get your million dollars."
The Minneapolis Promise says to students that the barriers you may have seen to your success are being broken down one by one. Now the responsibility to succeed is up to you.
#4: We are a city of Connected Communities woven together
Our city is growing, and that is a very good thing. But I believe that we are not just here to build the city but to weave it together, to restore the fabric that differentiates a great city from just another housing development, office park, or shopping center.
The New Minneapolis will not be just about housing, jobs or transportation in isolation, it will be an integrated collection of urban villages with quality jobs and stores within walking distance of our homes. Transit will support our commercial corridors and the economy grows because we are stewards of the greatest natural environment of any city in America. To reweave the urban fabric we have to get beyond the silos that often isolate our work. It is about how transit, community development, public art, beautiful architecture, environmental design, green-space, a tangible connection to commerce and services, even universal high-speed Internet access…and more... all work together to create great, sustainable spaces. One clear and simple value should guide our work in this area: that our streets aren’t just ways to destinations; they are destinations in themselves.
Just as we need to reweave the city, we also need to reweave the city government. That’s why we merged the planning and economic development arms of the city into the new Department of Planning and Economic Development. It’s why we need to now integrate that effort with our work on transportation and public works. It’s also why we need more than ever to have a strong, visionary Planning Commission. It’s why we need to work even harder to make sure we finally deliver on the promise of Minneapolis One Stop.
And as we reweave city government, we also need to reweave our connections to the thousands of people in this city who care about building great spaces. This is why we are working with the American Institute of Architects on the creation of the Mayor’s Great City Design Teams to engage volunteer architects to help neighborhoods across the city plan their futures. The first of those teams will work on Washington Avenue.
And to help neighborhoods manage their commercial corridors, we need to create more special service districts. These districts give businesses the tools they need to work together on security, cleanliness and marketing. The top of our list should be working with the Downtown Council to pass a downtown service district.
Our city grew up along street-car lines and once again our transportation corridors will be the key to future growth. The corridor housing project is helping neighborhoods plan ways that more people can live where they can take transit to work. Our 10-year transportation plan is looking at every street in the city to improve traffic flow. Our street car study is looking at the most viable route for a new streetcar line. I want to thank Council Member Ostrow for being a leader on the Northstar plan to bring commuter rail into downtown from the northern suburbs; Council Member Johnson for working on new transportation visions for Lowry and Broadway; and Council Members Benson and Lilligren for partnering with me on bus rapid transit along 35W. I will continue to work hard with Mayor Coleman to make sure that the Central Corridor becomes the next leg of a light rail system that needs to expand throughout the region. Even with all of this, we lag behind regions like Denver, which is building four light rail lines at once. It’s time for bold action. We need to pass a multi-county sales tax to fund the transit we need to get out of our growing gridlock.
#5: Minneapolis has an Enriched Sustainable Environment
One of our greatest environmental achievements in the last year was adopting a Sustainability Plan. The process was thoughtful, comprehensive and mission-driven. Focused on measurable progress, advised by a group of citizens, we established 23 clear indicators and translated those indicators into 10-year goals that will now be tracked and measured. Tonight I want to highlight one of those goals, which is managing storm water.
Although seemingly harmless, unmanaged excess rainwater can have an incredible negative effect on the urban environment. Today, too much or our city is paved with concrete and asphalt forcing excess runoff water into our lakes, creek and river – bringing with it dirt, debris and chemical from city streets and properties. Every time more of the city is paved, more rainwater is funneled through the city rather than soaked into the ground. Our storm-water fee begins to account for this problem, but we need find better ways to capture water and prevent it from carrying fertilizer and other chemicals into our lakes, creek and river.
An example of an exciting sustainability effort is happening at Folwell Middle School with their precedent-setting storm-water garden that they plan to integrate into their public school grounds. The garden will reduce hard surface on the school grounds by 40%, enough to absorb not only storm water from the school but also five acres of the surrounding neighborhood.
This sustainable amenity will enhance the aesthetics of the school property and the neighborhood, offer educational opportunities, provide environmental cleanup, reduce capital costs to the school, AND completely eliminate their storm-water fee of approximately $9000 a year.
An enriched environment in Minneapolis also means a cultural environment and ours is second to none. No city in America is doing what we are doing with the arts. I could speak all night about the explosion of arts and culture occurring in our city. While Minneapolis is already well-known for its vibrant and diverse cultural scene, that’s not stopping our creative economy from striving for more.
The unprecedented arts growth in Minneapolis is driven by several critically acclaimed arts organizations with internationally recognized architects to design their buildings. In the span of just two years, Minneapolis will unveil nearly a half-billion dollars in new arts infrastructure marking the largest expansion of arts anywhere in America.
We are now a year into our 10-year strategic Plan for Arts and Culture, which had a 77 member advisory committee and input from more than 500 people. In a time of limited public resources for the arts, this process helped define and focus the city’s role to support the arts and integrate the arts into our daily business. I’m glad to see that this plan is already being implemented by the newly-established Arts and Culture Coordinating Committee. This group is comprised of representatives from several city departments, the Arts Commission, GMCVA, and the Library, School and Park Boards. We need to fully implement this Public Art and Cultural Plan. Towards this end, for the third year in a row, I call on the Council to double the public arts budget from 1% to 2% in next year’s capital budget.
I hope you all will join me in another example of the city’s commitment to the arts as we kick off a third summer of Minneapolis MOSAIC, which uses art to celebrate the many cultures of the city. This year’s festival begins June 10 - 11 with U.S. Bank’s "Many Worlds, One Weekend" celebration of free performances and events, including free performances Saturday night at the Pantages and State Theaters, and Sunday afternoon in Fair Oaks Park.
#6: Minneapolis is A Unique Destination
When we say we want Minneapolis to be a unique destination, we mean a premier place for more people to live, more people to work, more people to visit, more people to play. How can we fit all those people? Think about this:
At our peak Minneapolis housed 500,000 people, 115,000 more people than it does today. That alone should convince us we have more room for more people. Not only can we grow, we need to grow. This region will have 1 million more people in the next 15 years and if Minneapolis wants to continue to be at the center of the region, we have to take our share.
We can grow, we need to grow, and we should also want to grow. Remember what made the streetcar city of Minneapolis so appealing - that city of half a million people right after the war had vibrant shopping streets, corner stores, and jobs near homes in part because there was enough density to support a truly urban, walk able lifestyle. The energy that makes street life so appealing is almost always the result of having a critical mass of diverse people, enough people to support great shops and restaurants and jobs and services in one place.
Growth to a city is like wind to a sailor: If you can direct it, the wind can take you to great places. So, one of our great challenges in the next few years should be to aggressively articulate where we want this city to grow. We have created existing plans that show how developers and communities can come together to add more growth along Hiawatha, in the Basset Creek Valley, along South Lyndale, on the current site of the Upper River Terminal and other parts of the river. A decade from now new growth can make each of those areas as exciting as the booming Mills District is today. Making this happen takes work, which is why we added three new city planners to engage citizens in areas like Downtown and Uptown.
So, these are our goals:
1. Minneapolis is A Safe Place to Call Home
2. We are One united Minneapolis
3. We are a city of ideas and our Education is Second to None
4. We are a city of Connected Communities woven together
5. We have an Enriched Sustainable Environment
6. We are A Unique Destination
Before closing, let me talk briefly about how each of these six goals can be applied to north Minneapolis, a part of town that needs our most immediate attention. Just as we have a common vision for the future of our city, so too we must have a common vision for north Minneapolis. If this really is a common vision for One Minneapolis, then there is no other part of the city calling for our attention more than north Minneapolis. As city leaders, as entrepreneurs, as neighbors, as residents, I call on all of us: NOW is the time and this is the place to make north Minneapolis the jewel we need it to be. This entire city – from top to bottom – needs to be committed to success in north Minneapolis.
This is a crucial moment in north Minneapolis. Our greatest challenges are clear: crime is at a critical state and we risk everything if we do not get a handle on safety. At the same time, we also face a lack of investment that continues to plague the area.
Fortunately, what is less well-known, are the tremendous assets of the Northside:
• We have the passion and commitment of north Minneapolis residents that is unparalleled.
• We have churches, neighborhood groups and business associations collaborating and organizing like never before.
• We have incredible institutional leadership from groups like Northway Community Trust, North Memorial Hospital, Franklin Bank, and U.S. Bank that bring stability to the area.
• We have corporate partners like General Mills, Cub Foods and Target who share our concern for public safety and care about north Minneapolis.
• We have cultural assets like the Capri Theater, Juxtaposition Arts, and the Folwell center.
• We have the Upper river terminal project to bring long-overdue vitality and connection to the river.
• We have top private developers seizing the opportunity of some of the strongest historic housing stock of anywhere in the city.
Take these assets and see how each can help us build hope on the Northside.
#1: That north Minneapolis is A Safe Place to Call Home
Crime is the #1 challenge facing north Minneapolis. The plan I outlined earlier will be first and most forcefully implemented in our crime-challenged neighborhoods of north Minneapolis. This means that you will see and talk to more cops in Jordan, Hawthorne, McKinley and other areas of north Minneapolis. This means that cops in north Minneapolis will be getting out of their cars, out of their routines and inserting themselves into the community, building relationships with residents in north Minneapolis. This means that we especially need to work together to get upstream on the root causes of crime in north Minneapolis. Everything in our public safety plan will be more focused, with greater accountability in north Minneapolis.
We also know that safety means having residents who are deeply invested in their communities. One of the solutions to this in north Minneapolis is increasing home ownership. It’s why we created the Northside Home Fund, which began as a response to the community’s request to address boarded and blighted properties in their neighborhoods. The city developed a partnership between public, private, and neighborhood-based organizations and seeded the effort with one million dollars.
The core approach of the Northside Home Fund is to target five housing clusters where we take back housing one-by-one, especially targeting homes on the city’s boarded and vacant housing list and redevelop them for re-sale to owner occupants. By the end of this summer you will see the first physical evidence of this approach at the Cottage Park cluster at Ilion and James, as the Ackerberg Group begins construction of new homes on vacant properties.
We also need to finish a critical remaining piece of Heritage Park, the linchpin to reweaving north Minneapolis to the rest of the city. Heritage Park is transforming a long-forgotten section of town with the last major piece being the ownership units. We are working with Centex to build ownership units and bring a boost of confidence to this area. This would mean 165 ownership units, 50 of which would be affordable. This is an unprecedented opportunity to build a genuinely mixed income neighborhood from the ground up, connected to our schools, libraries, green space, retail, transportation, and within walking distance of the farmer’s market.
#2: We are One United Minneapolis
Our commitment to closing the gaps between people and places is very much about closing the gaps between north Minneapolis and other parts of the city. That’s why I’m glad to report that of the 4,200 jobs the city placed last year 1,300 were in the neighborhoods of north Minneapolis. We know this is not enough, so our goal for this year is 1,500 jobs in the Northside through our "Close the Gaps" initiative.
Central to this effort is getting the most difficult-to-employ people into stable jobs. That’s why I’m so proud of the partnership between the city and the Northside Jobs Connection, which last year placed 72 difficult-to-employ people, many with criminal histories, into unsubsidized private sector employment.
We also want to credit the business and community groups that have started the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON), an exciting new collaboration of six organizations working together to strengthen, expand, coordinate and focus business development on West Broadway. NEON is a tremendous collaboration of organizations bringing their expertise to this effort, including: Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, Neighborhood Development Center, Black Chamber of Commerce, Pillsbury United Communities, West Broadway Area Coalition, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. These groups are building successful businesses by providing entrepreneurs with training, lending assistance, and support to expand.
#3: North Minneapolis is a place of ideas and Education is Second To None
The fact that north Minneapolis is home to more children and young adults than any other part of the city means that the Minneapolis Promise for the next generation needs to be more real here than any other part of the city. It means that the Career Centers at North High and Henry are more essential than ever. It means that every effort that gets a kid in north Minneapolis into a safe environment with supportive adults must be nurtured and funded. Chief among these examples is the City Kids Co-op.
City Kids Co-op is a cluster of free youth programming at Folwell Center that offers summer and after school programs for youth aged 6-14 including summer day-camp, after school education, special events, active sports, and much more. These programs provide safe, supervised, engaging, activities for youth that encourage self-expression and academic achievement.
Roughly half of north Minneapolis residents are under the age of 19 and many live in poverty. The youth that Folwell serve experience higher rates of violence than elsewhere in Minneapolis, particularly juvenile gang gun violence. Without this programming many more youth and children would be home alone, out on the streets, and ripe for gang recruitment and other risks.
At the Probation House, Juvenile Probation officials responded to increased juvenile criminal activity last year with a new summer employment program for Northside youth. Through this effort, the city and county employed 40 at-risk Minneapolis youth. This summer it will run again with the young people involved pledging to "stay out of trouble" during the summer. The youth will work in small crews to help senior citizens maintain their homes, clean area roadways, and help neighborhoods remove graffiti.
STEP UP will employ about 250 north Minneapolis fourteen and fifteen year old youth in 2006. Fourteen and fifteen year olds often lack the necessary contacts and skills to gain employment on their own. Over 275 positions have been created for youth by public and non-profit organizations on the Northside. In addition to their work experience, youth will participate in academic enrichment with teachers that includes basic skills, career exploration and employability. Students can also receive high school credit for their participation.
#4: North Minneapolis is a Connected Community woven together
This value of connecting great places together is especially needed to reconnect north Minneapolis with the rest of the city. The Northside was separated from downtown by freeways. Well-healed neighborhoods were severed from neighborhoods in need of healing. Residents were separated from jobs and opportunity, and the area declined. Today we are reversing that trend with Heritage Park and Van White Boulevard which will rebuild that connection through what is now the impound lot to the Walker/Guthrie area. The exciting Bassett Creek Valley master plan will take this one step further.
West Broadway Alive will lead a small area plan for West Broadway that will encompass one block on either side of Broadway from the Mississippi River to Wirth Park. The plan will provide guidance for future economic development and offer a tangible five year strategy for revitalizing this important commercial corridor.
#5: North Minneapolis has an Enriched Sustainable Environment
Environmental protection is not a luxury, or an after thought. Because some of the challenges are so great in north Minneapolis, the environment has often been put lower on the list of priorities, sometimes forgotten. This part of Minneapolis sits between the Mississippi River and Wirth Park, but you wouldn’t know it. We need to connect this area with more bike trails and green space. That’s why more trails are going to be created in north Minneapolis along Plymouth Avenue, 42nd Avenue, 26th Avenue, 2nd Street, and the Upper River.
Of course, the most important environmental intervention in north Minneapolis, and the entire city, is the conversion of the Riverside coal plant to cleaner natural gas.
#6: North Minneapolis is A Unique Destination
Economic development begins and ends with people – our human capital. Buildings alone don’t change peoples’ lives. But there are times when a single development can have a catalytic impact on a community. We have seen that at the Midtown Exchange where almost 2,000 new jobs are being brought into the former Sears building. A development of this scale gives homeowners and business owners the confidence that they are not alone, the confidence that they too can invest in their property.
The Sears building was unique; we won’t often find a single development that will send that scale of a message to ripple throughout north Minneapolis. Instead, we are staging a series of projects at the same time to send the message that the city is investing and you can too. These projects include:
- Cub and CVS that are now both operating and, thanks to all of you, operating successfully.
- Just this afternoon, two new developments on Broadway just got approval from the City Council Community Development Committee. The first is an empowerment zone grant for a housing and retail development just east of Cub Foods. The second is a development by Stuart Ackerberg and Welsch at Emerson and Broadway that will include a deli, a Credit Union, and a Pillsbury United job training center.
- Across the street from Cub, the American Indian Neighborhood Development Corporation plans to convert a former furniture store into a business incubator focused on the building trades.
- The Bean Scene just up the street from here is expanding into a full-service restaurant, and the owners have plans to renovate across the street with commercial retail, breathing life into an essential intersection.
- We are also working on a retail development at Penn & Lowry.
- All these are being tied together with improved transit on both Lowry and Broadway.
Even if you are not part of one of these efforts, every person in Minneapolis can help the Northside by putting your money where your mouth is. Patronize the great independent businesses here, like the Bean Scene, Papa’s Pizza, El-Amin fish shop, the Cookie Cart, and Builders Surplus hardware store. And love your Cub. Every person in this city, every person in this region, every person in this state has a stake in the future of north Minneapolis. We will not be judged by how well we do with areas that are already doing well. We will be judged by whether we saw an area with deep challenges, and refused to rest until it realized its great potential. Let’s be clear: our chance of success here is lower, but that’s exactly why we need to be here.
All this brings us back to where we began: The Capri Theater. Looking around here today I’ll admit there are a few rough edges, and those of you who have been sitting this long probably agree it could use some new seats. But to imagine what it can be, go back more than half a century with me to New York's Apollo Theater. Back then the Apollo featured performers who were part of the cultural renaissance of the surrounding neighborhoods of Harlem, and people came from across the city – and the country – because they couldn’t find that kind of entertainment anywhere else. They came to Harlem because of what it was, not in spite of it.
Now the Capri is ready to play that role, as a showcase for the best of the Northside, and the best of Minneapolis. Dancers and actors, musicians and spoken word artists will perform on this stage and crowds will come from around the city – and the country – because this is in north Minneapolis, not in spite of it.
It’s a lesson we need to remember as we build this city, and this neighborhood. There is only one Minneapolis, and only one north Minneapolis. There is no model for what we are doing, and our success does not lie in imitating anyone. The inspiration for our work lies in our ability to see who we are, uniquely, at this moment….a city and a neighborhood…on the edge of greatness.
Published Apr. 19, 2006