Efforts to add lighting to 15th Ave. prove fruitful

Kevin McCahill

Because of the efforts of University students and a donation from the University and local landlords, more lighting will be placed along 15th Avenue to keep the street lighted.

Workers will install lower-level streetlights along 15th Avenue from Fifth Street to Como Avenue, an important access route to the University for students, said Kendre Turonie, University coordinator for Student and Community Relations.

The lighting will cost approximately $212,000 and should be installed by the end of the year, she said.

The initiative began nearly two years ago when students raised the concern that the lighting wasn’t sufficient for traveling at night.

Students, along with the Panhellenic Council, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association and the Southeast Como Improvement Association, began petitioning last spring, and submitted their information to the Public Safety and Transportation committee for the city of Minneapolis.

On Sept. 2, the Minneapolis City Council decided unanimously to install the lights.

“It’s an issue originated by students,” Turonie said. “Students let us know about their perceived safety issues.”

Kat Baugher, human resources senior and Panhellenic Council vice president, said the reason the council got involved was to help protect bikers and walkers.

Turonie said the University, which typically is tax-exempt from neighborhood improvements, will be chipping in $75,000 for the lights.

Property owners along the avenue have also pitched in for part of the cost.

Tim Harmsen, owner of Dinkytown Rentals, said he had no problem paying the extra amount.

“It’s a gateway to the ‘U,’ ” Harmsen said of 15th Avenue. “Even if I’m going to get hit with (the cost), it’s still the gateway to the ‘U.’ “

Harmsen owns three properties along 15th Avenue and one on Seventh Street. He said he hasn’t received many complaints from his tenants about the lighting, but said he sees the street get dark at night, especially toward Como Avenue.

“It gets pretty dark down there,” he said. “No one wants anyone to be unsafe.”

Because a large number of property owners were willing to help, the donation cost dropped.

“It was really expensive (to start),” Harmsen said. “But as different people chipped in, the price came down.”

Harmsen is paying $3,388 for his four properties, which he will finance over 20 years.

Jim Eischens, a manager for Twin Cities Housing, a group that runs six buildings along 15th Avenue, said the lighting does a lot for the area.

“It’s a good community service,” he said.

His company is paying $11,584.

Some students are looking forward to the installation.

“It’s a good idea,” said sports management senior Brandon Wickesberg. He said he has known several women who have been harassed while walking along 15th Avenue near Como Avenue.

Carrie Moritz, a sociology junior who walks 15th Avenue daily, said the lights will help her feel more secure when returning home.

“I get creeped out when I get off the bus and someone is following me,” she said.

According to Bev Warmka, a city engineer working on the project, the lights will look similar to those in other areas around Dinkytown. Approximately 30 lights will be placed roughly 80 feet apart along the avenue.

There is a moratorium in Minneapolis for low-level lighting, but the lights have been accepted on 15th Avenue because it will be in conjunction with a construction project on the street which was done over the summer.

Turonie said students made the project happen.

“Students were passionate about it,” she said. “It’s our job to get behind them and support that topic.”