Southeast Como meets to talk community issues

Vadim Lavrusik

R

ising crime and a proposed condo project were among the topics discussed at the annual Southeast Como Improvement Association meeting Tuesday night.

The proposed redevelopment of the Bunge tower, a Como landmark and defunct grain elevator, sparked a lengthy discussion among association board members and residents.

Project for Pride and Living, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income people achieve self sufficiency, has purchased the Bunge tower property and plans to redevelop the tower into a 20-floor condominium, said Chris Wilson, an organization representative. The group also plans to add other housing in the surrounding area.

The proposal includes 236 units, eight of which will be part of a halfway-house program that helps people recovering from chemical dependency, he said.

Charlotte Wild, a Como resident, voiced her concerns against the project.

“I don’t wanna see a bad element come into my neighborhood,” Wild said, referring to the halfway house.

Wild said she has had problems with Project for Pride and Living staff on her block, some of whom have criminal backgrounds. She doesn’t want to see an increased presence in the neighborhood.

“I am concerned (the project) is coming with a good face, but things can change,” Wild said.

Wilson said the demolition work for the elevator will begin in January. He said he thinks the plan they have developed is a good model and, though one of the features is a supportive housing program, he doesn’t think it will affect the neighborhood in a negative way. It will only include seven units out of more than 200, Wilson said.

Board member Joan Menken said the board is targeting other options for the proposed project, including University alumni who want to live near campus.

“The new development could be their opportunity,” she said.

Although few of the approximately 30 people at the meeting were University students, Adam Engelman, the Minnesota Student Association representative for the Southeast Como neighborhood, addressed students’ concerns.

“The biggest issue for students right now is crime,” Engelman said.

Assaults have increased by 110 percent in the area, he said, and that’s a big problem.

By working together, students and board members can take on the problem, Engelman said.

Later in the meeting, board members talked about the results of phase-one funding of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which funds business grants, more frequent police patrol and environmental projects. Attendees and members unanimously passed phase two of the funding without objection.

The attendees also voted for new board members. Five out of eight total members ran for re-election, but only four were re-elected. The board will have four new members.