Carter aims to revitalize N. Mpls

Jimmy Carter visited Wednesday to jumpstart the construction of 12 new homes.

Former President Jimmy Carter speaks at the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project on Wednesday at 6th st and 31 Ave N. The Project is part of President Carter’s foundation Habitat for Humanity, which seeks to help build, renovate or repair homes for those who need affordable housing.

Simon Guerra

Former President Jimmy Carter speaks at the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project on Wednesday at 6th st and 31 Ave N. The Project is part of President Carter’s foundation Habitat for Humanity, which seeks to help build, renovate or repair homes for those who need affordable housing.

Andre Eggert

David Luce was drawn to MinneapolisâÄô Hawthorne neighborhood in 1983. With a wife, two kids and a dog, the pet-friendly rental property on 29th Avenue near Farview Park was a natural choice.

Now the neighborhood of boarded-up houses and padlocked doors has among the lowest median incomes in Minneapolis. But thatâÄôs changing.

Twelve new homes are being constructed in the Hawthorne neighborhood, which was chosen to be part of the 2010 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The project is partnered with Habitat for Humanity and creates affordable housing.

Former President Jimmy Carter, 86, spoke on the streets of the neighborhood Wednesday with U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Twin Cities mayors and former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Carter also helped with some construction work despite recently having been hospitalized in Cleveland during a book tour.

The revitalization being done is part of the “cluster approach” the city is taking to redeveloping North Minneapolis, focusing resources in small, concentrated areas to make visible improvements to neighborhoods.

Minneapolis was chosen to be part of the project to highlight the foreclosures crisis, said Brian Juntti, a spokesman for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

People who find themselves in dire straits would say they have “a right to live in my own decent home,” Carter said.

He said the project is part of a goal to share wealth and well-being with those who are in need.

“ItâÄôs one of the most difficult things in human existence to break down the barriers that exist between those of us who have everything and people who donâÄôt have anything,” Carter said.

Throughout the years, the Hawthorne neighborhood has seen problems with crime, litter and many house foreclosures.

There were “perceptions by the larger community [to] write off the neighborhood,” Luce said.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he believes investments in neighborhoods, like those being made in Hawthorne now, will bring in more private development.

“Having Habitat come in at this point is the positive tipping-point this neighborhood has needed,” Rybak said. “We focused on this area because it was the worst of the worst.”

New homes arenâÄôt the only improvements to the neighborhood, Juntti said. A four-block area centered on 31st Avenue North and Sixth Street North has been dubbed the “Hawthorne EcoVillage.”

All of the Habitat houses meet EnergyStar standards and many are reaching various levels of LEED certification. The community has also been planning community gardening and environmentally friendly initiatives.

Luce said the event is a culmination of neighbors working together for the past 20 years.

“ItâÄôs not by accident that Jimmy Carter was at this intersection. ItâÄôs because the neighbors have been involved,” he said.

Neighbors want to fight the bad perceptions of North Minneapolis, and this is among the steps to reach that goal, he said.

“The neighborhood was disrespected when the big push to the suburbs came along,” Luce said. “Now weâÄôre coming back.”