Group makes final plans to represent U neighborhood

The University District Improvement Association plans to focus on students, business needs.

Eric Swanson

A group will meet tonight to discuss final plans to form a University neighborhood association.

The University District Improvement Association, a registered nonprofit group, said it is committed to forming the last Minneapolis neighborhood, which will focus on the needs of students and University-area businesses lacking official neighborhood representation.

Currently, Minneapolis does not officially recognize the University District Improvement Association as the neighborhood association for the University area. The area does not have association representation.

To help obtain official status, board members met with Neighborhood Revitalization Project Director Bob Miller on Monday to discuss details for becoming a neighborhood association. Meeting the project’s requirements is important for the association to get the city’s official recognition, Miller said.

“So far, they are on the right track,” Miller said. “The (University-area) always was a neighborhood, but they didn’t have representation. For the first time, they will.”

Without representation, it is not possible to receive the revitalization project’s funding to improve roads, businesses and homes. Once the city officially recognizes the neighborhood, it can apply for funding like other local neighborhoods, Miller has said.

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer said he supports the push for the neighborhood.

“There are all sorts of things that this University neighborhood would solve. The stadium is one of them,” he said.

Dyer said he believes a student-based neighborhood would probably support issues important to students.

The neighborhood could help change the redistricting of voting lines, which have divided the University in the past, Dyer said.

He also said Neighborhood Revitalization Project funds could be used to make street improvements, including crosswalk timers at major intersections.

Before any further steps are taken, the group must first organize general membership and sign up volunteers to head various committees during the summer, said Ron Leischeid, a University District Improvement Association board member and University alumnus.

“It will lay kind of dormant over the summer when the students are gone,” he said.

Although it will not be completely inactive without students, the organization will become fully active again in the fall, hopefully as an official neighborhood association, Leischeid said.

During the summer, the group plans to petition local neighborhoods for possible land annexation, he said.

“We are going to ask Prospect Park if the area (near the University) would be a better fit with us,” Leischeid said.

Another major decision for the group is to see how the University fits with the group, which will be discussed at future meetings, he said.

“We need to see if they are to have a seat at the table or not,” Leischeid said, referring to a voting seat on the neighborhood board.

Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association officials said they do not have a stance on the possible petition to annex land to be included in the University neighborhood.

“We are just not dealing with that now,” said Florence Littman, who is on the Prospect Park zoning and planning committees.

Future meeting dates for the University neighborhood group have not been set.