Locals drive revival funds

Southeast Como residents have several options to influence NRP spending.

Kevin McCahill

The Southeast Como neighborhood has half a million dollars to spend and officials are asking residents their opinion of how it should be done.

The money has been granted to the neighborhood by the city of Minneapolis and the Neighborhood Revitalization Project, which provides funding to every city neighborhood so residents’ issues are met by the people involved with them.

NRP is funded through specialized tax revenue.

The program has two phases; the first started in the late ’90s and the second began last year.

In the first phase, Como received $2.97 million. This year, the neighborhood will receive $556,000. The amount of money is based on the neighborhood population and poverty rates, said Jennifer Lee, resource coordinator of the Southeast Como Improvement Association.

In order to get the money, neighborhoods must follow a process, first surveying the residents for input. They will also hold town meetings to discuss how the money should be spent. The first town meeting will be Nov. 1 at Van Cleve Park.

Lee said the meeting will be used to select a steering committee that will decide how money is spent. Positions are open to all residents.

A survey, which will help the committee decide what is important, is available at the SECIA office or online at www.secomo.org.

“It’s a survey for what people liked the first time around and for any new ideas they have,” she said.

Lee said students are encouraged to participate.

“It’s a lot of money,” she said. “The more people we hear from, the better plan we can come up with.”

Students living in the neighborhoods offered some thoughts on how the money should be spent.

Andrea Campbell, a retail merchandising senior, said she would like to see more police in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. She said there are many parties around her building, and a stronger police presence would help her feel safer.

Nick Kisialiou, an electrical computer engineering graduate student, said the neighborhood was in good shape, but would like to see some money spent on the roads and additional parking.

According to guidelines, 70 percent of the money must be spent on housing, most often in improvements and loans.

The other 30 percent will be spent at the discretion of the neighborhood. In the first phase, the neighborhood spent money on park and school improvements.

The Minneapolis City Council accepted second-phase plans for Marcy-Holmes to allocate $683,948.

The money will be spent for housing improvement and assistance along with Marcy School improvements, Dutch elm disease treatment and litter prevention. Prospect Park received $347,866.

The planning aspect of the program could take up to a year, Lee said, so the money likely will become available next fall.

Whether students plan to stay in Southeast Como after graduation or not, Lee said they still should voice their opinions.

“This is where they are living right now,” she said. “Their input counts right here, right now.”

Stacy Sorenson, an NRP employee who works with the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods, said $400 million was originally given to the NRP project. The money was broken into two phases, but after legislative cuts in 2001, approximately $41 million of the $131 million earmarked for the neighborhoods has come in.

Sorenson said the NRP hopes to put the decision-making in the hands of each neighborhood.

“The idea was that neighborhoods rather than bureaucrats should have a role as to where funds are used,” Sorenson said.

Ward 2 Councilman Paul Zerby is behind the NRP project.

“It’s done a lot of good things over the years,” Zerby said. “The theory behind it is that the people who live and work in an area know most intimately what the needs are.”