U might become its own neighborhood

Emily Kaiser

In 2001, a group of University alumni of campus fraternities and sororities began to question why the University district is the only unorganized neighborhood in Minneapolis.

As early as January, fellow alumnus Ron Lischeid, who was the Independence Party candidate for legislative District 59B in November’s election, will apply to city officials to make the district a registered neighborhood.

Through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, each registered community receives funds from Minneapolis for improvements. The University area is not registered as a formal neighborhood and therefore not getting dibs on the extra money, Lischeid said.

The University district includes all of the residence halls on the East Bank campus, many fraternities, sororities and other student housing units, Lischeid said. There are also several businesses, including half of Stadium Village, within the district.

“Since there were no permanent residents in the University district, no one really placed any emphasis on the area,” he said.

Lischeid said the area has approximately 5,000 city residents who are currently not represented by a neighborhood.

If his application is accepted, the University district would receive an estimated $100,000 to use as the residents chose, he said.

Yet, even if the neighborhood becomes official, its future depends almost completely on student involvement, he said.

“The success or failure of the neighborhood depends on the fact that the vast majority of residents are young,” Lischeid said.

Lischeid said the group would provide students a place to voice their opinions about important issues, such as the on-campus stadium, a clean-up plan for the Mississippi River and other safety concerns.

While the University neighborhood is beginning to develop, some area associations are looking into their own bylaws that discuss student participation.

The current bylaws of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association say members of the group must be permanent residents of the area. While the bylaws make no rules on permanent residence, many board members were concerned students were being left out.

The Prospect Park neighborhood includes several major off-campus housing complexes, including the Melrose, Dinnaken House and Jefferson Commons.

Betts Zerby, a board member for the association, proposed an amendment to remove the “primary and permanent” wording from the bylaw.

“Everyone should be able to join the organization,” said Zerby, who is the wife of Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas. “I have my doubts that students would be interested, but if they want to join, they ought to be able to.”

Betts Zerby said the bylaws make the group seem exclusive, rather than a welcoming association for any resident.

“I don’t like the perception of Prospect Park being elitist, because I don’t think we are,” she said.

Joe Ring, president of the association, said the amendment failed by a 17-12 vote. A bylaw change required a three-fourths majority vote, he said.

Florence Littman, co-chairwoman of the zoning committee and former president of the association, said the bylaws never excluded students.

“The reason for that bylaw is because we are a resident group,” she said. “If you consider yourself a permanent resident, you can join.”

She said University students have many groups to represent them and there is no need to make this group student-driven.

“Students are very busy, and most of our concerns are not their concerns,” she said. “Most student concerns are something we can’t represent.”

Littman said students are welcome to the group, but having separate groups for permanent residents and students would be a better way of working together.

Betts Zerby said the neighborhood is very paranoid about the University and the influence students could potentially have on its area.

“The University is like an 800-pound gorilla that grows and imposes itself on the residential neighborhoods,” she said. “They can gobble up whatever they want.”

Betts Zerby said there used to be single family homes where many developers built large apartment buildings used by students.

Ring said the group currently has a student board member and has never turned down students who expressed interest in the association.

“We have a very mixed community, and that, in turn, becomes the strength of the community,” he said.

In the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, students are not involved proportionately with what residential numbers would suggest, said Sara Schwan, a student liaison in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Schwan said there were three student representatives at the meetings she attended, but they continue to encourage her to promote the association.

She said students are given many different opportunities to participate in similar groups on campus and student liaisons are a better way of getting a student voice into neighborhoods.

“I am probably the best link to reach out to students,” she said.