SE Como looks for resident input

Students question their role in developing a neighborhood plan.

by Megan Gosch

Southeast Como neighborhood leaders are seeking input from both long- and short-term residents as they draft a plan to reshape the neighborhood, but they haven’t received much of it.

Members of the community and the Southeast Como Improvement Association are creating the Como Blueprint — a plan for the neighborhood that reflects the goals and needs of its residents.

Plan creators say community input is essential and hope to get students and long-term residents involved.

“We want to attract some of the student renters and student residents into the focus groups and receive their feedback,” said Natalie Reciputi, the chair of the Como Blueprint Committee.

Although their hopes are high, those involved in creating the plan said resident involvement has been slim.

 “We are getting responses, but it’s been kind of slow,” said Reciputi.

Many residents said they have not given their input because they were unaware of the plan.

 “I can honestly say I’ve never heard of the Como Blueprint,” said Ben Borgeson, a University senior and a neighborhood resident.

To get people involved, the committee in charge of creating the plan has created a website, dropped off fliers and held a public “kickoff” meeting.

A small area plan is based on the wishes of the residents of the neighborhood, said Reciputi. “It all depends on what the neighborhood wants.”

All other neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota campus have made plans like the Como Blueprint.

These plans are often used to determine future land use but also have the potential to provide funding for additional neighborhood projects, Reciputi said.

Unlike other Minneapolis neighborhood plans, the Como Blueprint will be entirely generated by the community.

Other neighborhoods with adequate funds, like Marcy-Holmes, have utilized consulting firms in the drafting of their small area plans, taking some of the burden off of residents.

“It’s more economical to rely on community members, but community engagement is always one of the hardest things to accomplish with city planning,” Haila Maze, a principal planner for Minneapolis said.

After finding out about the Como Blueprint, some students questioned the value of their involvement.

“I’m only going be here another year. Is that something they really want me to participate in?” said Borgeson, “My insights for the neighborhood don’t concern the long-term development of the neighborhood, they’re for the next two years.”

Courtney Chirpich, another student and neighborhood resident, agrees.

“I want to know how my involvement would benefit me, as selfish as it sounds,” the junior said. “But students are so busy, if we’re going to dedicate some of the little time we have to something, it’s nice to see results.”

Once a small area plan is amended to the Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth, “it becomes a framework of policy for the city,” said Maze.

“It doesn’t guarantee that a project will happen, but it provides a case for the neighborhood,” she said.

Maze said the Master Plan for the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood is an example of a small area plan that has worked successfully to carry out the goals of the neighborhood.

“The plan has been helpful for both the neighborhood and developers,” Arvonne Fraser, vice president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association said. “Developers read the plan and start a discussion with the neighborhood to move forward from there.”

The last city plan to address the Como neighborhood was the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which was established in 1990, and was utilized through 2011.

Although resident input has been low, Maze said resident input determines how the neighborhood has shaped.

“It’s like voting. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about what’s done after that,” she said. “It really is democracy on an elemental scale.”