Marcy-Holmes eyes improvements

by Neil Munshi

Marcy-Holmes neighborhood officials are preparing to use thousands of dollars in city money to spruce up a local community that’s home to many University students.

The Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program is entering its second full decade and has started to use tax dollars for community improvement projects. Started in 1987, the program is now in what officials call, “Phase II.”

Stacy Sorenson, a Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program staff member, said the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood will receive approximately $684,000 during Phase II for improvements.

The figure is much smaller than the $4.3 million Sorenson reported the neighborhood received through Phase I.

“I think the neighborhoods are a little frustrated with the reduced funding level and we are too,” Sorenson said.

But she said she also knows there are many neighborhoods across the country “that would love to spend $700,000.”

Elissa Cortell, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Revitalization Program coordinator, said that the association finished accepting proposals for possible improvements Nov. 2.

Neighborhood revitalization program money is generated from property taxes on new downtown Minneapolis developments, she said.

Cortell said approximately 115 rental properties in the neighborhood used approximately $600,000 on property improvements during Phase I, each receiving grants worth up to $10,000.

Besides improving many rental properties used by students, Neighborhood Revitalization Program money also helped students hire a student liaison in May, Cortell said.

“Basically, the neighborhood saw the need to improve relations between students and the other people who live in this neighborhood,” she said.

Money has been used to improve Marcy-Holmes parks, post signs for bikers, hire extra police patrols and plant trees in the community, Cortell said.

It could be months before state and local officials decide which improvements will happen during the second phase.

Cortell said some ideas include increasing funding for the student liaison, hiring more police patrols and improving pedestrian lighting on the streets.

The neighborhood might also give money to Restorative Justice, a city program that makes nonviolent offenders perform restitution in communities instead of facing traditional court penalties, she said.

In the program, offenses such as underage drinking, graffiti or public urination would be handled by the neighborhood where the crime occurred. Program participants would also avoid having the offense appear on their criminal record.

Cortell said the neighborhood association will look through Phase II proposals and try to draft a final proposal by January.

“We’ll try to hone that plan and probably put a draft up on our Web site and get input, and then have a final, special community meeting in February,” she said.

That feedback and a vote will decide which projects will happen and how much money each will receive, Cortell said. Then, a state council has to approve the proposal before any of the projects can happen

“I’m hoping by the summer of 2005, we’ll have an approved Phase II plan,” she said.

During Phase I, projects were divided into housing, crime and safety, the environment and economic development categories, Cortell said.