Mayor Rybak Celebrates Partnerships in EcoVillage Revitalization
New neighbors join old in ‘shining star’ neighborhood as Habitat for Humanity Carter Work Project concludes
October 8, 2010 (MINNEAPOLIS) As the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project concludes today in the Hawthorne EcoVillage, and as new neighbors join old in new and rehabilitated homes, Mayor R.T. Rybak celebrated the many close partnerships — between residents, the neighborhood organization, City departments, nonprofits, and county, state and federal government — that have led to the ongoing revitalization of the EcoVillage.
"From being the worst neighborhood in Minneapolis, the EcoVillage is now the shining star of how people can come together, take a stand and revitalize their community," Mayor Rybak said. "Habitat for Humanity’s investment in the EcoVillage this week will prove to be the tipping point that this neighborhood has been waiting for and has long deserved."
City Council Member Diane Hofstede said, "It is with sincere gratitude that we celebrate this historic week. What you see today could have led to another conclusion: we could have become a statistic, another neighborhood that stood as an example of a problem-ridden community. We could have become a neighborhood to move away from, rather than a place to call home.
"Our success is the result of true partnerships between many City departments, businesses, nonprofits and elected leadership, and in five years, the results are remarkable," Council Member Hofstede continued.
"Next week, the crowds of people who’ve worked so hard on the Carter Work Project will be gone, but the folks in this neighborhood — old and new residents alike — won’t be alone," Mayor Rybak added. "The residents, the City and our partners are sticking around, and the hard work of keeping this neighborhood safe and strong, and making it safer and stronger yet, will keep going."
The following are among the many partners that have contributed to ongoing revitalization of the Hawthorne EcoVillage:
Neighborhood residents: EcoVillage residents went from being fearful and resigned about their neighborhood’s future to being active participants in their neighborhood’s revitalization. They have been the eyes on the street: they have recorded illegal activity and key information like license plates and descriptions of criminals, and shared the information with police and the City. They organized a National Night Out event and provided stability to the cluster development. They also provided information about which houses were occupied and by whom, which was mapped by the project coordinator and used by the police department to determine who belonged in the neighborhood.
"The residents of the EcoVillage stood shoulder to shoulder with the City to combat crime and blight, the first steps in paving the way for redevelopment and stable new homeowners," said Jill Kiener, coordinating consultant to the Northside Home Fund, which has coordinated the efforts of all the partners in the EcoVillage.
"We have to celebrate first and foremost the neighbors who stuck it out," Mayor Rybak said. "It took a lot of courage on their part to stand up for their neighborhood and take a stand against criminals, but they did it. And it took a lot of trust on their part to work with police and officials who they felt hadn’t always been aware of and responsive to their concerns. But we worked hard together to build those relationships, and they have paid off."
Hawthorne Neighborhood Council: The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has facilitated communication between the neighbors, police and City departments, and has worked tirelessly to help all Hawthorne residents engage and communicate more effectively with the City. The neighborhood organization’s housing director conducted regular patrols of the EcoVillage to check for vacant properties that were open to trespass, and shared this information the City’s Department of Regulatory Services in order to help them quickly secure properties. The neighborhood organization’s research on fraudulent mortgage activity on foreclosed properties ultimately led to a groundbreaking, nationally-recognized, successful lawsuit against a bank for negligent lending. They also provided $15,000 in Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds for property acquisition.
Minneapolis Police Department: Police officers and top leadership launched a concentrated strategy, along with other City departments, to clear the streets, alleyways and abandoned buildings of crime: they organized drug busts, made arrests, increased patrols and pursued geographic-restriction orders for prostitutes and pimps known to work the area. They also reached out to longtime neighborhood residents to build relationships of trust, which led to their meeting regularly with community members and using the information that residents passed on to shape their law-enforcement strategy.
The combined efforts of building relationships of trust with residents, community policing and crime prevention resulted in dramatically decreased crime rates over the past three years: the violent crime rate decreased 73 percent and arrests for drug-related activity declined 85 percent between 2007 and 2009.
Department of Regulatory Services: The City of Minneapolis’ code-enforcement arm has worked closely with neighbors and the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council to use its regulatory authority to conduct comprehensive inspections and resolve housing-code violations and rental-license violations. It has demolished eight blighted properties in the EcoVillage that were the sites of crime, unsafe living conditions and other forms of exploitation.
Department of Community Planning and Economic Development: The City’s housing and economic-development department has moved aggressively to acquire 22 properties in and around the cluster. CPED held for development vacant land where blighted properties had been demolished. CPED has also targeted redevelopment dollars, including federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) resources, to the project to support redevelopment efforts, and has provided NSP funding for seven properties. CPED investment in the EcoVillage has totaled $1.84 million so far.
Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity has recently joined the EcoVillage partnership, and its engagement through the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is proving a critical spark in the cluster’s revitalization. In addition to the Carter Work Project, Habitat is engaged on a regular basis in the EcoVillage and throughout North Minneapolis in rehabbing properties and helping homeowners with home repairs through A Brush With Kindness.
Family Housing Fund: The Family Housing Fund, through the Northside Home Fund, has funded the position of project coordinator for the EcoVillage, which has made it possible for the partnerships to work effectively to implement the vision for the cluster. The Family Housing Fund — which is generously supported by the McKnight Foundation — has also provided flexible funding to help meet project needs. The Northside Home Fund coordinates efforts for all six North Minneapolis clusters.
Project for Pride in Living: Project for Pride in Living, the EcoVillage master developer, engaged residents in the creation of the community-development plan and has led all the partners in the implementation of that vision. PPL has also acquired properties for rehabilitation and led sustainability and livability improvements, such as the planting of a native-species demonstration garden. PPL has acquired seven properties: so far, they have completed one new construction and one rehab, with two rehabs to begin soon. They are holding three vacant lots for future development.
The Home Depot Foundation: The Home Depot Foundation made a critically important grant of $500,000 that has helped the EcoVillage achieve its sustainability goals. Sustainability, as a value and a practice, defines the EcoVillage and the support of the Home Depot Foundation has made turning it into reality vastly more achievable.
Twin Cities Community Land Bank: The Twin Cities Community Land Bank provided $35,000 in financing for the new LEED-certified home in the EcoVillage that was just sold to new homeowners.
Tree Trust: The Tree Trust completed a survey of hazardous trees and has helped establish and manage the EcoVillage’s tree nursery.
Hennepin County: The County acquired four properties for demolition and held vacant land for the EcoVillage. It also provided Regulatory Services with a contribution of more than $700,000 for demolition of blighted properties. In addition, the County has been the lead on the expansion of the Lowry Corridor.
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency: MHFA provided resources for two affordable rehab projects, for a total of approximately $650,000.
Federal government/Neighborhood Stabilization Program: The federal government, in significant part through the Recovery Act, has provided the City of Minneapolis with a total $32.2 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding that provides assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of abandonment and blight in their communities.
The City uses NSP funding in the clusters as well as in other communities affected by foreclosure to acquire and rehabilitate homes, in order to get them back on the market. The Minneapolis foreclosure-recovery plan has identified over 20 neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by foreclosure for strategic investment of NSP resources, in order to dramatically impact blocks in these neighborhoods, to protect public and private investment and ultimately, to revitalize neighborhoods and restore a healthy housing market.
NSP funds have allowed the City to acquire or rehab 275 properties in Minneapolis. The City recently celebrated the sale of the first NSP-rehabbed home to a new North Minneapolis homeowner.
"With the federal government and President Obama’s Recovery Act as our partner, the City has stabilized and reinvested in hundreds of homes — as well as in blocks, neighborhoods and people," said Mayor R.T. Rybak. "The ripple effects are critical: we have not only created opportunities for great new neighbors to buy homes and give back to their communities, we have created thousands of hours of work in good jobs at a time when our top priority is helping our city rebuild from the recession and grow economic opportunity."
In a recent speech, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan cited Minneapolis’ "potent" use of NSP resources in neighborhood revitalization as a national example.
Published Oct. 8, 2010