Mayor Rybak’s State of the City: North Minneapolis is Key to Growing City
Mayor calls for investments in safety, housing, jobs, reconnection and youth; announces plans for new green housing, new technology center, reforesting neighborhood
April 11, 2012 (MINNEAPOLIS) — In his annual State of the City address, Mayor Rybak called North Minneapolis the key to growing Minneapolis.
In the speech, entitled “One Minneapolis, Growing North” — delivered at the renovated Capri Theater on West Broadway, the site of his 2006 State of the City speech and now a regional destination — Mayor Rybak said that it matters to the rest of the city if North Minneapolis is growing: more people living in North Minneapolis means more property taxes are collected to pay for vital services that benefit everyone, and more customers for businesses mean more vibrant commercial corridors for everyone.
However, recent census figures show that while Minneapolis’ population overall remained flat in the last decade, North Minneapolis alone lost 11 percent of its population. This loss “hurts all of us.
“If the city wants to grow, the key will be North Minneapolis,” Mayor Rybak said, pointing to the “big opportunity” that currently exists there to add residents and “grow fast.”
He added that “the recipe for growing North Minneapolis is straightforward: invest in safety, housing, jobs, connection and youth.” In that context, he made several announcements:
- Green Homes North. The Mayor announced plans for a new housing program, called Green Homes North, to build 100 new green homes in North Minneapolis on City-owned vacant lots over the next five years. Green Homes North will build sustainable homes to green standards using local minority and women contractors and workers, and locally-sourced green products. It will target areas of North Minneapolis where neighborhood stabilization is most needed.
The Mayor announced that Minnesota Housing has committed $500,000 to Green Homes North and invited other potential housing investors to join in this initiative.
- Impending groundbreaking for new jobs technology center. Mayor Rybak announced that nonprofit Emerge Community Development is ready to move to groundbreaking on a new technology-focused workforce-development center for youth and adults in North Minneapolis, to be housed in the historic North Branch Library on Emerson Avenue.
- Reforesting neighborhood with new flowering trees. Mayor Rybak announced that the City has secured an anonymous, $50,000 grant to reforest the neighborhood, which lost thousands of trees in the 2011 tornado, by providing flowering trees to North Minneapolis residents.
In his State of the City address, the Mayor marked the results of years of focus on North Minneapolis and highlighted challenges going forward.
Safety. Mayor Rybak praised the progress in lowering violent crime since 2006, which by the end of 2011 was down 41% citywide and 45% in North Minneapolis. He noted that some categories of crime are up in 2012, however, and warned against “any sense of complacency” about these gains.
Housing. Mayor Rybak highlighted the City’s neighborhood-stabilization efforts: intensively focusing resources on North Minneapolis housing clusters once affected by crime and the foreclosure crisis; preventing foreclosures in a neighborhood that was devastated by the crisis; acquiring, rehabbing or demolishing blighted properties; and attracting new homeowners to redeveloped homes. He also pointed to signs that the housing market is recovering: foreclosures are down 50% citywide since 2008, and Minneapolis is leading the metro region in permitting new units for the sixth year in a row.
Jobs and economy. Mayor Rybak hailed the work of Minneapolis employment and training programs, which since 2006 have placed 6,916 people in jobs, 40% of them from North Minneapolis. But even though Minneapolis’ economy is recovering from the recession faster than other cities, the recovery is not evenly shared: while the City’s overall unemployment rate is now 5.3%, the lowest since the start of the recession, African American unemployment in Minneapolis stands at 20%.
This longstanding gap is “morally wrong and potentially economically ruinous,” Mayor Rybak said. To address it, the City of Minneapolis is taking several steps, including:
- Extending the RENEW program, which trains and places low-income individuals in green jobs. Of the nearly 600 people who have received RENEW training so far, 52 percent have been African American.
- Recently increasing the City’s goals for minority workforce participation in City contracts to 32 percent, in order to reflect the City’s population that is now more than 30 percent non-white.
- Beginning a new internship program for college students called Urban Scholars, which will bring young talent into City Hall starting this summer to work in key policy areas and begin building careers in public service.
Transit and reconnection. Mayor Rybak pointed out that while North Minneapolis is close to Downtown, the Mississippi River and Wirth Park, “when you are here you could not feel further away from all three.” He called for better connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city through transit improvements, notably a modern streetcar on West Broadway, and announced that the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council have agreed to submit a joint application for federal funding to study it. He also called for a number of near-term improvements to the bus system in North Minneapolis.
Mayor Rybak also hailed the construction of the Van White Bridge, which will begin this year and will connect Heritage Park to Lowry Hill. “North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis: I’d like to introduce you to your neighbor,” he concluded.
Youth. MayorRybak cited the success of the STEP-UP summer jobs program, which has been held up as a national mode. Since 2006, nearly 12,000 young people — 45 percent of them from North Minneapolis — have found work in high-quality STEP-UP jobs. He also thanked the Dayton Administration for an $850,000 grant that will support more than one-third of the 1,800 STEP-UP internships available this summer. He pointed to other positive signs for North Minneapolis youth: the $28-million Promise Neighborhoods grant that the Northside Achievement Zone won from the Obama administration late last year, and the fact that enrollment in public schools in North Minneapolis is up by more than 100 students this year.
Tornado recovery. Mayor Rybak also paused to consider North Minneapolis’ recovery from the tornado of May 22, 2011 that damaged 3,700 properties and took two lives.
“I felt like a lot of us had been pushing a huge rock up a very big hill — then just as we were getting near the top, we slipped and rolled right back to the bottom where we started,” he said.
But those “worst of days … brought out the best in so many: thousands of individual acts of neighbors doing remarkable things for neighbors and strangers. And thousands of volunteers from outside the city poured into North Minneapolis to help. … There were no factions. No agenda. One North Minneapolis pulling together.”
Since then, 2,800 repair permits with a value of $28 million have been issued, and repair or demolition of 92 percent of the most heavily affected properties is underway or has been completed.
Mayor Rybak concluded his address by saying, “North Minneapolis may not be the simplest or easiest place to live or work, but it is filled with people with remarkable strength. When these strong people in this complex place all pull in the same direction, they have done great things. And there is much more to come.”
Published Apr. 11, 2012