15th Avenue might see more lighting

Neil Munshi

The dimly lit sidewalks of 15th Avenue Southeast could see a brighter future if Minneapolis officials approve a push by Marcy-Holmes neighborhood residents.

University officials are working with the neighborhood’s residents toward a goal of providing pedestrian-level lighting along the street from Fifth Street Southeast to Como Avenue Southeast.

For now, the situation is at a standstill while officials wait for a report on citywide lighting standards and the effectiveness of low-level lighting as a crime deterrent, said City Council member Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas. The report will go under committee discussion in the next few weeks, Zerby said.

“It is my view that it just stands a good chance of adding a preventative measure,” he said. “I think darkness favors crime.”

Members of the neighborhood association asked Zerby to try to work out a compromise with city engineers, said Ardes Johnson, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association board member. Conduit and wiring for the lighting was installed during construction on the street during summer and fall as a result.

Zerby said the city established a moratorium on low-level lighting in the wake of mounting concerns and a few lawsuits after such ornamental lighting was installed in other neighborhoods in the city.

“I think the bottom line is there were concerns about, as is so often the case, money,” he said.

Property owners along 15th Avenue Southeast will have the cost of installing the lighting added to their real estate taxes, Zerby said. The city will cover maintenance and operational costs, he said.

According to a draft of the city’s street-lighting policy, landlords on whose property a light is installed will pay approximately $150 a year for 20 years.

The University, as a tax-exempt institution, is not obligated to pay for lighting on its side of the street, said Sue Weinberg, the University director of real estate. The University plans on paying $75,000, an estimated one-third of total costs, which corresponds to approximately one-third of the affected area.

“We feel it is important to provide good pedestrian-level lighting along 15th Avenue Southeast,” she said. “Although we are not legally required, we have offered to contribute $75,000 Ö because of the importance of a safe environment around our campus.”

Natalie Bell, a marketing sophomore, lives on 15th Avenue Southeast and said that although a charge on property owners would probably increase rent, there were times when she felt unsafe on the lowly lit street.