Como housing pending approval

City votes on the plans July 1.

by Raju Chaduvula

A University of Minnesota neighborhood is seeking city approval to bring it up to par with other area associations.

The Como Blueprint outlines development and expansion in the Southeast Como neighborhood for the next 20 years.  The city’s planning commission began the approval process May 23. Now the plan will face another hearing and a final vote at the full City Council.

Como is the last neighborhood near the University to seek approval from the city for its plans. Others like Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park and Cedar-Riverside have already been granted approval for their plans. 

The Blueprint outlines strategies to attract businesses to the area by marketing the land. In addition, the plan aims to develop community relationships and prepare recreational development and transportation in the area over the next decade.

The Blueprint was in the works for almost four years, said Haila Maze, principal city planner for the City of Minneapolis. It was officially introduced by the Southeast Como Improvement Association in September 2015, going through local community hearings and receiving feedback before a final draft was completed in December.

Following public hearings, the plans entered a city approval process, where they have received initial unanimous support from city commissioners, Maze said.

Cody Olson, SECIA’s neighborhood coordinator, said the city was supportive of the plans from the beginning.

“The city appreciates when a small area plan comes up from [the neighborhood] with community participation,” he said.

If the plans are approved at the full City Council meeting, they will be rolled into the city’s comprehensive plan. 

Maze said this is the last of the neighborhood plans that will be adopted before the creation of the city’s next master plan in 2018. 

Once the plans are adopted, the Blueprint would effectively be under city control, Maze said, and the city can decide to add to or amend them. 

Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon said he supports the plans, adding there is a city protocol to include community input with any changes.

“I want the neighborhood involved. … [From the beginning] this was a neighborhood-led plan,” he said. 

Once the plans are approved, they will serve as a guide for future area projects, Gordon said. The city can refer back to the plans to see if the projects match its goals, he said. 

The city would mostly get involved in larger-scale projects and leave smaller issues to SECIA, Maze said.

Meanwhile, Olson said, the community would start immediately with parts of the Blueprint aimed to attract residents to Southeast Como.  

Jan Morlock, president of University of Minnesota Government and Community Relations, said the University was a consultant in the Blueprint’s development. The University and its students play an important role in the community, but the plans were entirely neighborhood-led, she said. 

Morlock said the University gave an initial investment of $250,000 to the University District Alliance to help develop plans for the surrounding neighborhood areas. 

Meanwhile, the University’s Good Neighbor Fund gave nearly $575,000 to University neighborhood projects between 2008 and 2016, said University Relations Spokesperson Peg Wolff. 

Maze said the City’s Zoning Committee hearing should go smoothly and the city tends to follow its decisions.

The Como Blueprint plans will go through the city’s zoning committee on June 23, and the Council will make a final vote July 1.