Marcy-Holmes NRP coordinator resigns as program funding runs out

Elissa Cottle brought about various benefits for the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Elissa Cottle started thinking “neighborhoods” when she began writing for a newspaper.

After reporting on the subject, she decided to get involved. Since she began working for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program 11 years ago, Cottle has helped three Minneapolis neighborhoods, including Windom, Lowry Hill East and Marcy-Holmes, with various improvement projects.

Now, her position is coming to a close.

Cottle, 48, will resign from her position as Marcy-Holmes NRP coordinator on Dec. 28, but said it isn’t a surprise.

“I resigned because the funding for my position wasn’t continuing,” she said.

The funding for the program in the neighborhood, which had been budgeted until 2007, will be spent by the end of the year.

During her five-and-a-half years working in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, Cottle’s largest project entailed a 62-page outline for the future of the neighborhood.

The outline, called the Master Plan, addressed land use in the neighborhood, including design plans central to the neighborhood’s development, she said.

“It’s still being used,” she said. “The neighborhood hopes it’ll be used for a long period. It basically gives the neighborhood a tool to use when they work with building developers.”

Before the plan was created, Cottle said neighborhood members were defensive when working with developers because they didn’t know what would happen to the neighborhood.

Cottle said the Master Plan provides guidelines and neighborhood regulations developers must follow, such as the type of housing that can be built.

“It’s a very handy tool. It puts the neighborhood in a stronger position when they’re working with developers,” Cottle said.

Additionally, the plan allotted funds to improve the exterior of Dinkytown businesses, including awnings, store signs, anti-graffiti film for windows and new paint.

One of the most noticeable improvements is the seven murals on Dinkytown business exteriors, Cottle said.

The program paid for six of the seven 1960s-inspired murals, which were painted during the summer of 2006.

Skott Johnson, business representative to the NRP and owner of Autographics, worked with Cottle on the murals.

“The money originally was slated for an anti-graffiti program to clean up graffiti,” he said. “Originally, I think everyone just thought somebody would come out here with white paint and slap it up over the graffiti and cover it up.”

Johnson said the murals are great for the neighborhood.

“It’s been a big plus for Dinkytown,” he said. “People come to look at these murals. When the Weisman had their exhibit on Bob Dylan last year, a lot of people came here to walk the route of Bob Dylan and look at the murals, so it’s pretty cool.”

After a whole year, Johnson said the murals haven’t been touched by graffiti.

Now that Cottle is leaving, Johnson said the neighborhood will be missing an organized leader.

“She understands all that language,” he said. “She understands the workings and the finances and how the city and the neighborhoods work. Boy, if we didn’t have her we would have been bumbling through that process.”

Johnson said he hopes to see her working on similar neighborhood projects in the future.

“She’s very talented and there’re always positions open that people like her can help the neighborhoods and help the city,” he said.

Ardes Johnson worked with Cottle for three years as a volunteer on the NRP board and recognized Cottle’s organization and clerical abilities.

“She was very articulate both in presenting information at meetings but especially in her writing,” she said. “She paid very much attention to detail. We always knew that Elissa would give us the kind of background information we needed to think about.”

Ardes Johnson said although Cottle is leaving, she’s leaving behind good plans for the neighborhood.

Since her work in the neighborhood is done, Cottle said she will be busy finishing graduate school at Hamline University, starting a personal consulting business for home organization, spending time with her husband and two children and working with the Minnesota Literacy Council and Family and Children’s Services.