Lacking city funds, NRP can’t complete neighborhood improvement projects

Because tax revenues were different from projected amounts, tax-based funding for NRP has been cut.

Joy Petersen

The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, created in 1989 to revitalize the aesthetics of Minneapolis neighborhoods, is under reconstruction due to lack of funding from the city of Minneapolis.

Money isn’t guaranteed to the NRP, Joe Ring, NRP board chairman for Prospect Park, said. The proposed funding for the program is based on projected property tax revenue.

When the city revised its property tax revenue prediction for this year, it ended up being higher than its original prediction, and thus cut funding for the NRP, Bob Miller, NRP director, said.

Only 30 percent of its projected funding is now available, causing a halt in NRP board approval for Phase II, Elissa Cottle, the Marcy-Holmes NRP coordinator, said.

“A lot of projects we have yet to do,” said Cottle. “For now we are on hold.”

Miller said he’ll propose solutions, such as changing tax codes, to the City Council in January.

Under the city’s requirements, 52.5 percent of NRP funding must be spent to improve housing exteriors.

The NRP would take that money and match the amount of money homeowners are able to invest in improving their homes’ exteriors, in the form of grants or loans.

NRP would match amounts up to $5,000, Cottle said.

She said in the past year the Marcy-Holmes NRP could only approve 11 homeowners for grants because of the lack of funding, though 40 had applied.

Neighborhoods will also lose staff members if NRP can’t pay them.

Sydne Westorff, a philosophy and English senior and Marcy-Holmes

student liaison, is one such staff member, who said she’ll still volunteer despite losing her wages.

“Starting out as a paid position has given me the ability to enter in and gain respect in the neighborhood.” she said.

However, students in the neighborhoods aren’t as active as other residents would like, Westorff said.

“Because they’re only living there for a few years they don’t recognize that it is a neighborhood,” she said. “It’s important for students to get involved because this is where they live at this point; it’s their chance to stand up and say they want to make a difference.”

Melissa Bean, the neighborhood coordinator for Marcy-Holmes, said the neighborhood is the third largest in the city and can’t sustain its influence on a volunteer-only basis.

“We happen to be a desirable neighborhood as far as development goes,” Bean said. “We have a very active volunteer group, but they need support from staff.”

It’s uncertain whether Bean will lose her position at this point, but beginning in January Cottle will no longer be working for the organization.

Ring said, however, that the program’s benefits, which include safer neighborhoods, cleaner home exteriors and lawns and better community involvement, will continue in Prospect Park.

For Phase I of the program, which lasted 15 years, there was enough funding, Cottle said.

The program invested $130 million to improve housing exteriors in neighborhoods around the city during its first phase.