history - PROSPECT PARK nrp phase I
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, or NRP, is a program that grew out of concern over signs of decline in Minneapolis neighborhoods. The Program was established in 1990 by the Minnesota Legislature and the City of Minneapolis in an effort to change the future of the City's neighborhoods, making them better places to live, work, learn and play.
The Prospect Park/East River Road (PPERR) neighborhood became involved in the program in 1993 with a neighborhood-wide meeting. A steering committee was elected with members from each of eight geographic areas and the two major public facilities in the neighborhood, Pratt and Luxton. After gathering input from the community on possible project ideas and priorities, the NRP Action Plan for the Prospect Park/ East River Road neighborhood was developed. In April of 1995, this Plan was ratified by the neighborhood. It was approved by the NRP Policy Board and then by the Minneapolis City Council in July of that year. The Action Plan had a total budget of $3,236,910. The bulk of the work of planning and implementing the resulting projects was done by neighborhood residents who volunteered their time. The following is a summary of the 41-page complete report.
Neighborhood residents hoped to preserve, improve, and expand housing in the immediate area and concentrated on the re-development of three large formerly commercial/industrial sites: Unocal Oil site (Thornton and Franklin Avenues), Kampa Tire corner, and Watkins Trucking site (both on SE 4th Street), all of which were polluted and required site cleanup.
An agreement was reached with an urban developer, Brighton Development Corporation, for re-development of the Unocal and Kampa sites. $600,000 in NRP funds were used for the construction of Bedford Townhomes on the Kampa site. This project is now complete and occupied. The East River Mews project on the Unocal site is currently under construction. This project used no additional NRP funds.
The original neighborhood action plan did not include funding for housing improvement. It was anticipated that funds remaining after the re-development of the major sites would be used for loans for improvement of existing housing. Before that could occur, a need for a specific housing improvement program emerged in the Motley area due to the University’s plans to sell homes it owned there. To help the current occupants purchase the homes, the neighborhood established the Motley Home Buyer’s Deferred Loan Program. There were few applications and the program was closed in December 2002.
Because of its location and the main traffic arteries through or near the neighborhood, there is a large amount of truck and car traffic. The neighborhood hoped to implement measures that would enhance traffic calming and safety, improve pedestrian friendliness, and reduce the negative impact of traffic through the neighborhood.
NRP funds were used to develop a neighborhood transportation plan, reconfigure two difficult intersections, reduce freeway noise, and slow traffic on neighborhood streets. Pedestrian friendliness was enhanced at Tower Hill Park by repairing and upgrading the stairs and pathway. This provided a better entrance to the park and helped to control erosion by encouraging people to stay on the paths.
Many efforts were made to protect the area from pollutants and reduce those already present. A “Good Neighbor” relationship was initiated with Pechiney Plastic Corp., which subsequently reduced its hazardous air pollutants by over 80%. Soil pollution was remediated as a part of the housing redevelopment. An acoustic study was commissioned by the neighborhood to study increased noise pollution due to I-94 re-surfacing; the Minnesota Department of Transportation mitigated the problem by grinding down the pavement and extending a sound wall. To caution residents about preventable water pollution, storm drains were stenciled with the words, “Do Not Dump; Drains to Mississippi River.” A Southeast Environmental Coordinator was hired jointly with the Southeast Como neighborhood to manage environmental projects.
Education and Human Services
Education and Human Services initiatives were among the highest priorities in the NRP Action Plan. The focus of the committee charged with overseeing this strategy was to bring educational and social service opportunities to the community through diverse efforts such as: a newly opened K-5 school, the Neighbors Educating Themselves (NET) program, regular Bookmobile stops, school-age childcare, a teen club, a Somali women and family resource program (SWIM), Care and Share Foodshelf, and Southeast Seniors/Block Nurse Program. Each of these programs was successful and together have unified the neighborhood by addressing a wide spectrum of groups and ages, with the school as an anchor.
The largest accomplishment was the renovation of Pratt and the reopening of the Pratt Community School. The original plan funding was increased through reallocation to a total of almost $1.5 million. This money was used to conduct a feasibility study, for architectural redesign, to help fund the first year of the reopening of Pratt Community School, to fund a neighborhood education worker, to add to the library and curriculum, and for exterior and interior renovation and improvement necessary for a K-5 school. Improvements included an outdoor play area, arbor, and green space for neighborhood gatherings, handicapped accessibility, energy efficiency, wiring for technology, and classrooms for grades K-5.
Safety and Security
The neighborhood hoped to reduce the potential for crime, increase citizen confidence in safety and security, and enhance the sense of community.
Some of the projects in this strategy were graffiti removal, voluntary parking stickers, increased lighting at Tower Hill Park, the organization of the neighborhood into block clubs, and increasing the amount of light on city sidewalks by trimming boulevard trees and, in many areas of the neighborhood, by replacing high-level streetlights with sidewalk lighting. The lighting project was controversial and was the only neighborhood NRP project which required the property owner to pay part of the cost. Affected property owners received approximately 20-25% assessment relief from $386,800 in NRP funds.
Residents hoped that by strengthening the appearance, resources, and public gathering spaces within Prospect Park East River Road neighborhood, more people would be drawn to live and work within the area. Green spaces were increased and improved with the help of the Garden Club at locations such as Tower Hill Park, the Franklin Oval, the East River Parkway triangle, neighborhood boulevards, Glendale, and Pratt School. Signs were installed at ten entrances to the neighborhood to identify it to those entering. Many neighborhood celebrations and activities were established and/or supported, such as the Fire and Ice Festival, Summer Concert Series, Mississippi River Cleanup, East Side Neighborhood Store, and many others. Other projects include a welcome packet for new residents, a neighborhood directory, and a kiosk at Pratt. A second kiosk will be installed this summer at Luxton Park to announce activities there. Pratt Community Center is viewed as a gateway to the neighborhood and was renovated as described in Education and Human Services.
Business, Jobs & Employment
The neighborhood hoped to sustain and increase the economic viability of businesses and the number of job opportunities for residents. To this end, the Prospect Park neighborhood has representatives who meet regularly with the following groups: University of Minnesota University Relations Office, SEBA (Southeast Business Association), St. Anthony Park Neighborhood Association, and University United, and are in contact with the Como, Marcy-Holmes, and Seward neighborhoods.
Although a Business, Jobs and Employment committee never formed there have been a number of accomplishments. The Glendale Residents Management Corporation (GRMC – currently known as Glendale Residents Organization, GRO) developed and managed an initial jobs readiness project. The Southeast Economic Development (SEED) committee, comprised of representatives from all three SE Minneapolis neighborhoods, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, the University of Minnesota, and many city departments, was formed to help plan for the area north of University Avenue adjacent to the University of Minnesota, known as the Southeast Minneapolis Industrial Area (SEMI). The committee worked with consultants to produce a Master Plan for SEMI and an Alternative Urban Area-Wide Review (AUAR), which will serve as an Environmental Impact Statement for development in the area as the Master Plan is implemented.
Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture (PARC)
A variety of groups have overseen the funds in this section of the NRP Plan, which aimed to provide educational and recreational opportunities, support performing arts and cultural preservation and participate in park development. The History Committee wrote and published a history of the neighborhood. The Tower Hill Park Committee worked to beautify and increase safety at Tower Hill Park, and has taken on the additional challenge of preserving the historic buildings and green spaces within the neighborhood boundaries. The Luxton Park Council provides funds, organization and coaches, and support for Luxton Park’s staff and programs. Pratt Council and Pratt Community Education support youth programs both at Pratt and Luxton, especially Summer Splash. Funding was provided for staffing and equipment at Luxton Park, including fishing equipment, computers and computer supervision, sports equipment, books and craft supplies, and youth programs.
Administration and Staff Support
As a part of its NRP Action Plan, PPERRIA chose to maximize use of volunteers and committees/groups to oversee projects and to minimize paid staff and office support. As a result, only approximately 4% of NRP Plan funds (or 7% when funds from other strategies involving staff are added in) have been earmarked for administration. This figure is low when compared with other neighborhoods with full-time paid staff and which rent or own office space and equipment.
There were many minor reallocations over the span of the NRP Action Plan due to changing conditions, priorities, needs, or feasibility. This was anticipated by NRP at its inception and there are specific steps mandated by NRP for any neighborhood wishing to move dollars from one strategy to another. PPERRIA carefully followed these steps.
A significant reallocation vote was taken at a neighborhood meeting in February of 2003. An overwhelming majority of the 191 residents in attendance voted to reallocate a total of $606,268, with the majority going to renovation of Pratt School. As of March, 2004, these funds have all been contracted.
Survey and Results
A survey written by students from the Carlson School of Management was conducted during the month of November, 2003 in an effort to evaluate neighborhood reaction to NRP. As of the Nov 30, 2003 deadline, 75 completed surveys were submitted. All survey responses were anonymous.
The majority of the respondents, over 80%, were familiar with the NRP program, notified of planning meetings and satisfied with the communication of NRP programs; only 45% were involved with the NRP planning and implementation. Written comments ranged from satisfaction with the communication process, involvement by neighbors, and the projects carried out to dissatisfaction with NRP, the city, and/or the neighborhood people involved.
Seven projects were specifically named in the survey. Listing those seven projects from the highest rated to the lowest, they were: 1) Pratt Community Center Renovation/Improvements, 2) Improved Sidewalk Lighting, 3) Tower Hill Park Improvements, 4) Care & Share Foodshelf, 5) Neighborhood directory, 6) Intersection redesign, and 7) Luxton Park Computer Classroom. Pratt Community Center was the project with the highest approval rating, both in numerical responses and in written comments; 92% of the respondents were aware of the project, 81% were aware of NRP’s role, 85% were satisfied that NRP funds were used for this project and 68% were satisfied with their ability to be heard in the planning. For the Improved Sidewalk Lighting project, about 90% of the respondents were aware of the project and NRP’s role, 84% were satisfied that NRP funds were used, and 79% were satisfied with their ability to be heard in the planning. The written comments showed that there was controversy in the planning process. There was less awareness of the Tower Hill Park improvements and the Luxton Park computer classroom.
When asked what other projects NRP has accomplished that they were aware of, 25 respondents listed a total of 17 projects. There were 31 positive comments on specific projects and 2 negative. When asked for any other comments, the 18 responses varied greatly. They ranged from highly praising NRP, its impact on the neighborhood, and the efforts of many neighbors to wishing to eliminate NRP.
The last question asked for suggestions for future programs. There were 31 responses to this question, many of which concerned the neighborhood’s appearance (landscaping/green space, railroad tracks, power lines, lighting), housing, support for neighborhood groups and institutions (Pratt, SE Seniors, Luxton, Glendale, Care and Share Foodshelf), and traffic and noise issues (sound walls, traffic calming, work on intersections, parking). Also mentioned were community building events, community learning and historic designation. One respondent wanted to abolish NRP.
The raw survey results are available on this website.