Regents delay

by Colleen Winters

The expected approval of planning for a new dance building at the Board of Regents’ meeting Thursday didn’t happen.
Neither did a rejection.
In fact, the building wasn’t voted on at all.
“We decided to dance around that item,” said Regent Thomas Reagan.
The delay is the result of a neighborhood meeting held Wednesday evening in the West Bank area where members of the West Bank Community Coalition and the Old Neighborhood Caucus voiced concerns about the proposed building.
“It requires community support,” said Vice President JoAnne Jackson, “and we had not gotten through all the support mechanisms and the review of the community. We just ran out of time.”
If approved, the $4.3 million building would be built on the corner of 21st and Riverside avenues, where a parking lot now sits.
Ann O’Loughlin, coordinator of institutional relations, said members of the neighborhood feel the University isn’t taking their concerns seriously.
“The concerns of the community are the same as they’ve been for the last 30 years,” said Minneapolis City Councilwoman Joan Campbell, who attended the meeting.
“They mostly have to do with parking, the encroachment of the University into their neighborhood, and the lack of communication — always bringing things to the neighborhood at the last minute,” she said.
If the new facility is built, there will be 23 fewer parking spaces in the neighborhood, Campbell said.
So the community is asking the University for more parking spaces and to be included in the decision-making process, she said, adding that University officials need to be more responsive to the needs of the four neighborhoods surrounding the campus.
Liz Vanmiller, chairwoman of the Old Neighborhood Caucus, said there was concern about how the University interfaces with the neighborhood. “The Carlson School of Management going up is like a big wall,” she said. “The concern is that they just turn their backs on the neighborhood.”
Although the residents at the meeting didn’t like Carlson’s design, Campbell said the design for the dance building is “quite lovely.” On March 11, a model of the building will be shown to community members at another meeting.
And University officials are expected to vote on the planning of the building at the next regents’ meeting in a couple months, Jackson said.
But while University officials are tiptoeing around the issue, dance students continue to leap and twirl on floors deemed unsafe for dancing.
“We’re not happy,” said Linda Shapiro, outreach coordinator for the dance program. A press conference scheduled for Thursday to unveil the model of the building was canceled at the last minute.
The new building will have safe floors for the dancers and more practice and performance space, said Marge Maddux, head of the dance department. The wood-covered concrete floors of the Norris Hall gymnasium currently used by dancers can cause injuries, she said.
But Shapiro said the delay is thought of as a temporary setback.
“The next step is to explain to the community what this building is, and that we’re not taking anything away from them. In fact, we’re giving them a lot in terms of a beautiful building with grounds that are beautiful to look at and accessible,” she said.
Maddux agreed. “We just need to mend fences,” she said, “and show them what dance and the building and our relationship to the Cedar-Riverside area is all about.”