For generations, the neighborhoods in North Minneapolis have been the targets of marginalization and disinvestment. Although not always as violent as the states in the South, Minnesota experienced its own institution of Jim Crow laws through redlining, discriminatory lending practices, and exclusive policies. These systemic practices have left our community vulnerable to numerous societal ills that hinder our community-building efforts. This culture of disinvestment continues to plague efforts and makes it for North Minneapolis development to not be held to the same standards as that in other neighborhoods - that less is just fine.
Case in point: On October 20, the City Council will consider a developer’s proposal to build 163 units of all affordable housing on the Broadway Pizza site, with no amenities for current residents, let alone 163 additional new families. This concentration of housing with no amenities perpetuates and confounds the troubles we face. There is continued action by policy makers to concentrate poverty in North Minneapolis, by allowing the development of heavily subsidized affordable housing with total disregard for the negative long-term impact. In the last 10 years, and, while every community bordering us has successfully added-mixed income mixed-use developments, North Minneapolis has been the target of developers building subsidized affordable housing unchallenged and indeed, cheered on, by our policy makers. This must stop.
The Broadway Pizza project covers a unique parcel near the river with concentrated affordable housing and does nothing creative to add the things our community needs the most, even when we ask for it. And they are taking away our only sit-down restaurant! The developers are seeking variances from stringent zoning and planning rules around height and proximity to the river in order to maximize the concentration of housing on site. Other affordable projects in different parts of the city are asked to – and do - include market-rate units along with coffee shops, stores, and full restaurants. Only in North Minneapolis, and in particular, the Hawthorne neighborhood, are these amenities overlooked.
I have lived in North Minneapolis for the last 16 years as a resident of the Hawthorne neighborhood and an additional 5 years in the Jordan community. As a banker for more than 40 years, I spent the better part of my professional life working to build economic prosperity in neighborhoods throughout North Minneapolis. I worked diligently with others to create opportunities for all to work, live, and prosper in this place we call home. I worked with developers, private and non-profit, to build housing for first time home buyers and market rate home owners. I also led efforts to finance small businesses and community facilities and, for a while, it looked as if North Minneapolis was on a trajectory to becoming a thriving, vibrant community with economic and racial diversity where people of low-moderate and middle income means were living side by side.
Only 30.5% of people in Hawthorne own their home and about 35% of people live below the poverty level in Hawthorne compared to 20% for the city of Minneapolis on average. Compare that to the 5.7% in the Calhoun Isles area and 36% in Near North. From 2010- 2018, 325 new rental units were developed in Near North, none of them were developed at market rate: all were solely affordable housing.
Let me be clear: I support an affordable housing agenda – one that includes mixed incomes and mixed uses - or we will fail at rebuilding community.
In her final argument in support of passing a major $1.87 billion state bond infrastructure bill on the House floor, Representative Kaohly Her (DFL-St. Paul) said, "racist policies and lack of investment in North Minneapolis is what has led it to the scarcity mindset and mistrust which manifests itself in ways that create poverty.”
If the city and its leaders are serious in correcting the harms that have been caused, a higher standard for development must be our foundation. A good start would be to send this proposal back to the drawing board to make it right for our neighborhood and our region.
The City Council will make its decisions before month’s end. Let them know TODAY that they must stop concentrating poverty and disregarding amenities for our neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. North Minneapolis deserves and demands more, not less, from our officials and from developers.