The Developmental, Technological, and Environmental Policies in our Neighborhood
The Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs is technically in the bounds of the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood even though the City defines the University as its own district, hence the 55455 standard zip code. Despite a long history of unfriendly -- to put it nicely -- relationship with the surrounding communities the University has changed its’ ways. For example, CHANCE i.e. Cedar Humphrey Action for Neighborhood Collective Engagement is a stellar program that reaches out to the community in many ways, including connecting student projects to business development and neighborhood restoration, to name a few initiatives. I see CHANCE as a program that tackles projects that can be acted upon right now and by doing so is creating positive sustainable relationships.
The University is also thinking ahead to future development and including the surrounding communities in the process. As it is endearingly referred, THE ALLIANCE: A UNIVERSITY DISTRICT PARTNERSHIP (note the U of M like capital letters, as seen in the logo) which includes, the City of Minneapolis, the neighborhoods of: Marcy Holmes, Southeast Como, Prospect Park, Cedar-Riverside and the corresponding business districts. The Alliance (I am going to stop using capitals now) was created by accident when the University began the planning process for the new stadium. Now the Alliance is charged with the task of creating a plan to sustain the districts as premier places to live, work, do business and learn. The progress will be reported to the legislature this session and work will continue into the future.
Part of maintaining neighborhoods is smart development, implantation of technology and a commitment to environmental improvement. Each neighborhood has it unique challenges and pressing needs, but I would like to focus on Cedar- Riverside.
The neighborhood has change substantially over the past 100 years, but generally it has been mixed income, with high levels of immigrant communities and density. Some of the biggest impacts to the neighborhood was the removal of Streetcar lines, (which could possibly be the worse planning decision of the 20th century) then the construction of highway 94 and the expansion and redirection of Washington Avenue which created the trench that Humphrey borders. In the early 70s city planners also identified this area as problematic and in need of social redirections and threatened to demolish all except one building for new city planning. The 70s also played into an architectural phenomenon of modern brutalism. Much of University of Minnesota West Bank campus and the towers of Riverside Plaza, now a symbol of the community, were build during this period. The results of these architectural theories were buildings with zero embellishments and the elimination of green space.
The neighborhood once being primarily residential homes has seen the expansion of the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, and the Fairview and St. Mary’s Hospitals, now all part of the University. These institutions have in the past designed their building with their backs turned towards Riverside; a feature that could be accused of increased crime in the neighborhood. This has all begun to change, especially with the building of Augsburg’s Oren Gateway Center.
At the last Alliance meeting an urban design consultant team and members of the community discussed the needs of the neighborhood and identified short and long term goals for the community. Some very tangible development issues were identified, for example, the redevelopment of the Dania Hall site, which burned due to lacking maintenance and security around Light-rail transit (LRT) stops. Long term development goals focused on the redevelopment of Riverside Avenue (currently hosting very little commercial property and unfriendly to walkers or bikers) and of South Cedar which deteriorated after major roads sliced the neighborhood. Other ideas included improving the connection over the trench and thoughts on changing needs in the neighborhood once it is host to one of the only spots where two LRT lines stopped.
THE IMPROTANT PIECE:
However, the most important outcome of the meeting came from a comment by Abdullahi Warsame an elder in the East African Community and a Board Member of the West Bank Community Coalition. He highlighted that many members of the community need access to education, healthcare, fitness facilities and green space, which they are currently lacking. If one takes a moment to think of the composition of infrastructure in the neighborhood this is rather shocking and highlights a major failing of policy (I will focus more directly on science related policies). Cedar-Riverside has one of the largest teaching hospitals in the state and a HealthPartners Clinic in walking distance. It also has two educational institutions both of which have gyms and the neighborhood connects to some of the largest park land in the city. The barrier of course is first cost and secondly the lack of pedestrian planning in the area. It could be considered dangerous for a mother with small children or an elderly people to cross the neighborhood and connect with Riverside Park and Mississippi River.
With the University and partners already looking at the big picture we can hope that steps will be taken in the future that will consider the needs of low-income people in term of healthcare and education. Our infrastructure is science policy and just like science can tell you what is, but not what is right, one can hope that future development will take into account cultural aspects of the community, like primary schools that kids can walk to. We can also hope that we will explore ways to reconnect our green spaces and employ more environmentally friendly policy.
The neighborhood is a central hub of the city and could become even more so in the future. The University is taking steps in the right direction and we can help with the progress. Though smart policy (science policy that is – science on the ground as I would say) we can dramatically improve the lives of people in this neighborhood and create an environment that is example for successful public transit and environmental protection. I will end this long post with photo of the neighborhood before the 1960. This dynamic area has such potential to be even more unique and interesting then it is currently.
Looking towards Seven Corners
Cedar & Seven Corners Featured in the Star Tribune in 1952
Cedar Avenue across the intersection of Fifth Street South, Minneapolis; Dania Hall is at right
Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society