In address, Mayor Rybak says north Minneapolis is key to the city’s success

In his annual State of the City speech, Mayor R.T. Rybak focused on the struggling area.

In address, Mayor Rybak says north Minneapolis is key to the city’s success

Nick Sudheimer

 

In his annual State of the City address Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak linked the fate of the struggling north Minneapolis area to the overall health of the city.

Using the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis as his backdrop, Rybak called for improvements in public safety, housing, jobs, transit and opportunities for young people in the north Minneapolis neighborhoods.

“If the city wants to grow, the key will be north Minneapolis,” Rybak said.

Hundreds of people including many top city officials gathered in the recently renovated theater to hear the mayor speak.

Rybak highlighted some of the neighborhood’s successes, like violent crime falling 45 percent since 2006 — the last time he spoke at the Capri Theater — but he added that the city should not have “any sense of complacency,” especially in light of a recent rise in violent crimes.

On Monday night, a 22-year-old man was killed while riding his bike blocks away from where Rybak spoke.

Rybak also placed a high priority on improving housing in an effort to bring more residents into the city, especially north Minneapolis. The area has some of the highest housing vacancy rates in the city.

While several parts of the city grew in population since 2000, the city’s population remained stagnant largely because roughly 7,700 residents left north Minneapolis, according to a city report. Rybak said officials expected to see the city’s population grow and were surprised to see how many people left the north side.

The mayor called for further investment in the neighborhood and also announced plans for a new housing program called Green Homes North, which will produce 100 new green homes on city-owned vacant lots on the north side over the next five years.

Funds for the program will come from city and state coffers. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency committed $500,000 to the project last week, Rybak said.

Rybak also promoted transit improvements by making buses more efficient and timely and calling for a possible streetcar in north Minneapolis as well as downtown.

The mayor criticized the city’s large employment disparity between whites and minorities before announcing his plan to expand the STEP-UP program — which finds youths, mostly of color, summer internships with local business and organizations.

While the city’s overall unemployment rate is currently 5.3 percent, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly four times that, Rybak said. The city will also begin the Urban Scholars program, which will provide college students of color with internships at City Hall.

“The goal is to give them a great experience, but we’re very blatantly hoping to hire these young people,” Rybak said.

To further combat the unemployment disparity, Rybak announced plans to rebuild the historic North Branch Library on Emerson Avenue to include a new workforce-development center for youth and adults in north Minneapolis.

Rybak also announced an anonymous $50,000 donation will provide north Minneapolis residents with flowering trees to replace trees that were destroyed by the tornado last May.

Rybak said that if north Minneapolis grows, the entire region will benefit.

“This city of compassion is what it is today because we believe we are all in this together,” Rybak said. “And if one neighbor, or one neighborhood, is challenged, we all step up to level the playing field.”