West Bank canvasses for new area plan

Leaders and area youth are asking local residents about their needs.

Sadman Rahman

Leaders on the West Bank are visiting community members’ homes to find out how residents want to see the area grow.
The West Bank Community Coalition will start canvassing the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood next week in hopes that resident comments will help them form an improvement plan come December. 
Some argue city leaders haven’t put much effort into solving issues in the University of Minnesota-area neighborhood. WBCC Executive Director Mohamed Mohamed said his group will hire a private planning consultant instead of reaching out to the city for help.
So far, the group has sent out a survey online and to residences, using questions developed by the University Center for Integrative Leadership’s Cedar Humphrey Action for Neighborhood Collaborative Engagement.
The survey asked residents to identify changes they want to see in the area, Mohamed said, and showed that community members want to see more green space in 
the area. 
Some community members are glad to see community feedback being used to create change in the neighborhood, like Janet Curiel, who teaches English as a second language for underserved populations in Cedar-Riverside at the Brian Coyle Center.
“As a member of the community, it appears that the city of Minneapolis is constantly ignoring the needs of the people,” Curiel said.
She said adding green space and community gatherings, as well as fewer high-rise complexes, would help bring the community together.
Center for Integrative Leadership associate director and CHANCE coordinator Merrie Benasutti said the community should also look to bettering their youth programs.
CHANCE students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have worked with Cedar-Riverside leaders in the past to improve street lighting and promote area businesses, and they plan to get involved with the WBCC when their strategy is finished.
Benasutti said she hopes canvassing will help the coalition learn more about the area’s needs.
“Hopefully they’ll hear more from the residents,” she said.
Mohamed said the group will conduct several rounds of canvassing before discussing the results at a meeting at the end of the month.
“We’re taking a more traditional approach,” he said. “Meeting people where they’re at.”
A group of young community residents will also help door-knock and receive a stipend, Mohamed said.
WBCC will present the results to the community and board members and pick specific issues in the neighborhood to target, he said.
A complete plan will be presented at the board’s meeting in December, and implementation will start in 2017.