At a block club leaders meeting on August 16 at Northpoint Health and Wellness Northside Center, residents voted to write a letter of support for the mission, work, history and role of Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC). The action followed discussions of two previous meetings at which the role and future of the 37-year-old neighborhood development organization was in question. In July, the block club leaders meeting heard a report of a committee meeting the previous month in which Bob Miller, director of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), announced Minneapolis city government's disfavor with NRRC. He said that the payables, credit issues and lack of revenue pose big problems for NRRC. Miller also said that NRRC should have approached the city years ago and asked the city to negotiate out of the project that has been the biggest drain on the agency -- the Penn Plymouth Shopping Center. When previous owners defaulted, the city took control of the property and project and asked NRRC to take it over. So should the city bear some responsibility for the project's lack of success? Miller said that NRRC bought the property for $1. He said that NRP put over $1 million into the project, and that the terms of the loans have been renegotiated four times over the past twelve years. Pugh-Sullivan has been at NRRC, however, six years and all the renegotiations Miller referred to took place before her being hired as agency head.
The University of Minnesota has made an offer the buy the center at a price NRRC representatives say is fair, and that will allow NRRC to retire all debts associated with the Center and other debts as well. There is a sticking point, however. Minneapolis agreed to forgive about half a million dollars in loans if certain other loans were retired last month. The University deal creates the means to repay the other loans, and if the city were acting in good faith, allows NRRC to trigger the loan forgiveness clauses built into the large loans. With the large loans forgiven, NRRC could pay all other creditors, including neighborhood businesses that provided goods and services to NRRC and NRRC projects.
Bob Miller is asking the city not to forgive the loans, a move that guarantees that the organization will be further crippled, even after the successful sale of property to the University of Minnesota.
Pugh-Sullivan and other Northside leaders say that attitude is part of the problem. There is a solution at hand, and the city should support NRRC in this decision and with the forgiveness, Pugh-Sullivan said.