Marcy-Holmes project plans future for Dinkytown

Using grant money from the Good Neighbor Fund, the project seeks student feedback on what they hope to see in Dinkytown.

Imani Cruzen

Some University of Minnesota students in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood received an emailed survey Wednesday as part of an effort to learn what residents want to see in Dinkytown in the future.

The project, called A Road Map for the Future of Greater Dinkytown, is a collaboration between the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, Preserve Historic Dinkytown, the University of Minnesota and others. With the help of several outside consultants and a grant from the Good Neighbor Fund, the project hopes to collect feedback about what students want out of the area. 

The survey will include questions about the types of businesses that would interest residents, what drew them to Dinkytown versus other neighborhoods and what community activities and organizations residents would like to see. 

There has been talk about the future of Dinkytown for several years, but the grant will allow for a sustained conversation, said Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of MHNA.

“Does there need to be a bigger diversity of businesses or is it okay as it is?” Lautenschlager said. “But the reality is that you have a lot of fast food, fast-casual businesses there. Is it sustainable? Perhaps, but we’re just trying to bring in experts that will talk about how this can continue to grow or how it can be stable.”

The Good Neighbor Fund was created by the University in 2007, and funds projects ranging from crime prevention to improvement of public spaces in local neighborhoods. The GNF contributed $8,650 to the program with the rest of the $20,000 coming from the MHNA and outside contributions. 

After the survey is completed, a workshop will be held on Oct. 20 to work on the creation of a road map for the area’s future, said Dave Feehan, a consultant with Civitas Consultants LLC working on the project. The survey’s impact on Dinkytown will depend on the feedback it receives.

“The first thing with any successful project is to establish … the vision. What is it that we see this area being in five years or ten years?” Feehan said. “And the second thing that’s important is we would be grossly negligent if we didn’t realize that we are sitting on the doorstep, in fact the front door, of the University of Minnesota and that a large percentage of people who live in Marcy-Holmes are either students or faculty or staff.”

The workshop will be made up largely of students, who will be involved in every step of the project, Feehan said. 

Grant Simons, a Minnesota Student Association representative to the MHNA, said the survey is expected to be out for at least month and echoed Feehan’s emphasis on student involvement in the project.

“The result will be a strong sense of common ownership and commitment to civic action to sustain a vibrant, livable, economically active community,” said Haila Maze, a former city planner working on the project, in an email sent with the survey.