Keep Riverside in mind

Students marginalize the nearby community too often.

Daily Editorial Board

Residents of Riverside Plaza spoke out this week against poor conditions in the large West Bank apartment complex.

The complaints come after a two-year, $132 million renovation to the group of buildings at the center of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Residents said security and elevator service in the high-rises are often lacking or nonexistent, and some fear retaliation from the complex’s management for speaking out.

Riverside Plaza is the state’s largest housing development, home to more than 4,000 people, and unfortunately these issues are not new.

The cluster of 11 buildings is steps away from the University of Minnesota, but it’s kept at an arm’s length from our campus identity. At best, students ignore the large community next door; at worst, they hurl cheap, sneering nicknames.

Riverside Plaza was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, and its rich history has deep ties to the University and Minneapolis as a whole.

The complex was designed by Ralph Rapson while he was serving as head of the University’s architecture school, a post he held for 30 years. Rapson envisioned the complex, then called Cedar Square West, as the first step toward a planned utopian community where people from a range of backgrounds and income levels would live side-by-side.

Though the project was unfinished, Riverside Plaza still stands as a pioneer of urban renewal and one of Rapson’s most important works.

In the 1990s, the Plaza and Cedar-Riverside housed a massive influx of immigrants. Today, 80 percent of Riverside Plaza’s residents are immigrants or refugees from East Africa, according to the complex’s tenant association.

Riverside Plaza’s legacy and ties to the University could be celebrated, not shrugged off. As the complex’s residents continue to fight for better conditions, students should embrace and fight for one of the University’s most interesting neighbors.