Low-level lighting to provide community sense of safety

The “U Light Up the Night Block Party” provided prizes and information.

JP Leider

Residents, area businesses and other community members gathered Thursday in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood at Fifth Street Southeast in Dinkytown for this year’s “U Light Up the Night Block Party.”

In addition to providing free food and prizes, the event, hosted by the Panhellenic Council – the governing body of sororities – served a few other purposes, said Kat Baugher, the event’s organizer and executive vice president of the council.

“First and foremost, (it’s about) bringing safety and awareness to residents in a fun way,” she said. “It allows us to bring students and residents and officials together on a casual and friendly level that we can interact and get to know our neighbors at the start of the school year.”

The other reason for the event, Baugher said, is to inform residents and others about the recent push for low-level lighting.

Approved Friday by the Minneapolis City Council on a 13-0 vote, the project calls for the use of $212,000, funded through a special tax assessment to install low-level lighting on 15th Avenue Southeast, on the outskirts of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Dinkytown.

Low-level lighting will increase the residents’ sense of security, Baugher said, as they will be able to see where they’re going and will be more visible.

In addition, any would-be assailants would be more identifiable with better lighting, she said.

Ben Bienert, a biomedical engineering sophomore who is new to the neighborhood and fresh from the University residence halls, said he was pleased with the block party.

He also said safety is an issue for the neighborhood.

“There are so many people here,” he said. “Whatever the city can do is needed.”

Although Bienert said he has never felt threatened walking home, he said he can understand why some do.

“The biggest problem is not knowing where to go,” he said.

After a few brief speeches, Baugher introduced Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas. Zerby has worked with the Panhellenic Council on the low-level lighting issue over the past two years.

“It is so good to see all of you out here,” he said after accepting a commemorative plaque in recognition for his work with the Panhellenic Council. “Tonight is about safety and community.”

In addition to public and University officials, members of the Minneapolis police and fire departments, as well as University police, were present.

Baugher said that because most people look at police as “rule enforcers,” it’s important to get to know them in a friendly setting.

Dinkytown businesses also participated in the event; several handed out free food, trinkets or information, while others donated prizes for a drawing that followed the night’s speakers.