Group urges formation of U district

As an official neighborhood, the Minneapolis campus area could get city funds.

Eric Swanson

University students living near or on campus might soon have their own official neighborhood association.

The group would represent residents living in areas not included in other recognized neighborhoods and could include parts of existing neighborhoods.

Currently, the University district is one of two areas in Minneapolis not included in an official neighborhood. The other is the industrial area on the north side of the Southeast Como neighborhood.

With an official association, the proposed area would gain recognition and be eligible for funding.

Representatives of the University District Improvement Association, a registered nonprofit group that hopes to represent the University area, met with the Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association on Monday to propose annexing part of Prospect Park.

Because the presentation was informational, no decision was made, but one could be in the next few weeks, said Ron Leischeid, a University District Improvement Association board member and a University and fraternity alumnus.

Although his group said it believes there might be contention over annexing parts of surrounding neighborhoods, Leischeid and other community leaders said grouping students into a single neighborhood is a good idea.

“They simply have more in common with each other than they do with the surrounding neighborhoods,” he said.

Preparations for a new neighborhood have been in the works for about two years, Leischeid said, and the plans are nearing completion.

“We are 99 percent of the way there,” he said.

Leischeid said the Minneapolis City Council might look at the proposal in the next few weeks.

Second Ward council member Paul Zerby, who represents areas surrounding the Minneapolis campus, said he will support the group if they ask the council for recognition.

“It might be helpful to both students and greeks,” Zerby said. “It seems to me like a good idea.”

University officials are also supportive of the proposed neighborhood and hope to be involved with it.

“I think it is a great idea. Neighborhood organizations provide valuable functions for its residents,” said Jan Morlock, University Relations community relations director. “The University district has never had this type of representation before.”

Former Interfraternity President John Kokkinen said a recognized neighborhood could be good for fraternities, students and the proposed University stadium if they fall within the boundaries of the proposed neighborhood.

“It would be appropriate for the University students to be represented,” said Kokkinen, who thinks the association “would solely focus on University matters.”

Neighborhood organizations in surrounding areas said they are supportive of the possible change.

“By not being a part of a neighborhood, they miss out on some positive things, including (Neighborhood Revitalization Program) funding,” said Melissa Bean of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Marcy-Holmes is one of about 80 neighborhoods that receive funding from the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

To be eligible for funding, a neighborhood must gain recognition from the city and have an association to distribute funds in compliance with their specific Neighborhood Action Plan.

If the University District Improvement Association meets those requirements, it could possibly receive funding. But because much of the money has been allocated to existing associations “it would be a fairly small amount,” program director Bob Miller said.

The association has set a tentative first general membership meeting March 24, barring any delays. Time and location have not been determined.