Regents discuss revamping University District Alliance

The organization was formed in 2007.

Kelly Busche

Ten years after launch a neighborhood partnership program, the University of Minnesota is considering some changes.

The University’s Board of Regents discussed expanding the University’s community relations across all campuses — including re-assessing the University District Alliance — at a meeting this month, in response to changes in the school’s environment and leadership.

The UDA, established in 2007 as a response to TCF Bank Stadium construction, is a partnership between Minneapolis city leaders, neighborhood organizations, business associations and University groups. 

“We’ve been at this for 10 years. We’re going to want to have some conversations about … what works, what isn’t working,” said Brian Swanson, assistance vice president of finance and strategy for University Services. 

Swanson said the first step in creating change is talking with leaders of member organizations to assess UDA needs, formalizing plans based on those conversations. 

Erick Garcia Luna, director of the University’s Community and Local Government Relations, said at the meeting that expansion efforts aim to build trust with local governments and communities in order to advance the University’s goal of a “vibrant, welcoming and safe” environment. 

Community leaders have seen the UDA’s value dwindle in recent years, Garcia Luna said at the meeting. In response, University officials are initiating discussions about neighborhoods’ interest in UDA and its benefits. 

The alliance has been quiet recently, said President and CEO of the Prospect Park Association Vince Netz.

“I think the whole group has known for a while that [we] needed … a reboot,” Netz said.

He said Prospect Park had a “contentious” relationship with the University in the past, citing developmental pressures on the neighborhood’s western boundaries. However, the relationship with and communication from the University have improved lately, he said.

“I think there is a value … for the neighborhoods to have a place to get together and talk about the … issues and opportunities working on the boundary of the U,” he said.

At the meeting, Regent Peggy Lucas said the UDA’s budget and University’s communication with the UDA have “been anemic at best.”

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the University [to] be involved in these neighborhoods,” Lucas said at the meeting.

Swanson said he doesn’t expect the UDA’s role as a discussion forum will be altered, despite potential changes. 

“There’s great value in having a forum where all the groups get together and talk about issues that are of common concern, common interest. And the [UDA] serves that role very well,” Swanson said.