Cedar-Riverside gets new neighborhood group after funding issues

The new group will streamline neighborhood funding and governance, community members say.

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018.

Will Tooke

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018.

by Emma Dill

After months without a central neighborhood association in Cedar-Riverside, a newly restructured community group will meet next week for the first time. 

The Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program and the West Bank Community Coalition had competed for City funding in past years. Now, a restructured version of the CRNRP will serve as the sole community organization in the neighborhood. Board members and City officials say the new group will bring together residents and make funding less contentious.

In the past, the separate groups caused confusion within the neighborhood, said David Rubedor, director of Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations.

“The organizations were frequently in conflict with each other … and it was confusing for neighborhood residents to know which organization was dealing with what neighborhood issue,” Rubedor said.

Restructuring the group will make neighborhood governance a “one-stop shop” for City funding and local concerns, said Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame.

The West Bank Community Coalition stopped receiving City funding last spring while the previous version of the CRNRP closed last summer to restructure, temporarily eliminating funding. Work to revive the group began in December.

“We worked with a number of community leaders to really talk about a reset of this organization, to use basically the shell of what was known as the Cedar-Riverside NRP to start and really support an organization,” Rubedor said.

In December, the group elected a 14-member board that included both longtime community leaders and newcomers. 

“This board is a good board. I’m very confident that everyone is coming to the table with good intentions of where we want to go,” said Board Chair Mary Mellen. “Nobody’s paying us; it’s all volunteer. So, you have to have really a good heart for the community.”

The neighborhood group will begin with a focus on youth programming, community education and safety, Mellen said.

First-time board member Fartune Del said safety is a top concern. Del joined with other Somali mothers last fall to voice concerns about neighborhood violence after a man was shot and killed near the restaurant she runs on the West Bank. 

The five Somali mothers on the board want to advocate for violence prevention and safe neighborhood spaces for youth.

“There’s no space for the youth to hang out,” Del said. “That leads them to go out on the streets to do criminal activity or do drugs. We are looking to have more influence on programs.”

Mellen said she believes the board mirrors the neighborhood’s diversity.

“I think we have a good representation. If it gets a little lopsided, I’ll be the first to bring it up,” she said. “We have to be inclusive and we have to be transparent.”

The group’s first order of business will be establishing a task force that will hire an executive director. When the group is up and running, the City will start providing funding again.