Actions needed as well as words to a new North

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“Creating value through diversity,” is the new motto for North Minneapolis devised through the Northside Marketing Task Force. It sure beats “a rough and tumble Minneapolis neighborhood” as the most recent callous media characterization of a Northside intersection would have it.

The North Side, like other areas that have used paid-for and free positive publicity to combat easy-copy broad-brush media batterings, does need a common mantra that every resident, business person, and organization representative can get behind. Perception is reality, in many cases.

Opinion: Actions needed as well as words to a new North

North Minneapolis also needs the actual good stories such as those Mike Christensen, Community Planning and Economic Development for the City of Minneapolis, recounted at the “Journey Towards a New North” event on Nov. 10. Those include the purchase of the former Delisi’s property (West Broadway and Penn avenues) by Stuart Ackerberg, who is already earning kudos for refurbishing the 1101 West Broadway building that brought City-County Credit Union to West Broadway, and the Coloplast company being close to locating on the North Side.

North Minneapolis also needs some measure of unity behind resolutions to very real problems.

There’s a great tendency to spend time building new structures which, many believe, if they are just perfectly built, should solve all problems. Well, we’re human, nothing’s going to be perfect, and it’s going to take too long and too much of our sanity.

To the new board of the Northside Marketing Initiative, may we suggest that serious consideration be given to leveraging the resources of existing organizations and not too much focus on a separate, funded and staffed structure.

To other organizations, may we suggest that the North Side’s two most glaring real and perceived problems be addressed with new eyes: Those problems are crime and foreclosed properties.

The marketing campaign has, in our opinion, a real role in this. So do the police and so do social service organizations, schools, churches and community groups.

Suppose a several-block area is identified, where several homes per block are vacant and/or in foreclosure. Perhaps coincidentally or causally, the crime rate is high. Suppose the city, for-profit and non-profit housing developers could “triage” the housing stock to see what’s fit for human habitation, what’s needed to make it so, and what needs to be torn down and replaced.

Suppose every participating organization agreed to provide services needed to stabilize or move out the occupants of every residence identified as “trouble.” Suppose police agreed to extra patrols or other preventive measures that made the remaining residents feel safe.

Then suppose the marketing campaign, like the land rushes of olde, publicized all the good things about living in North Minneapolis in general, and real estate agents got behind this specific area and pushed to get viable residents and/or responsible rental investors owning and situated in the now-vacant homes. Once a tract of residents was “protected” from the problems that now exist, another series of blocks could be tackled.

“That’s social engineering – who would decide who goes and who stays?” would be the cry from various people who might have a point.

Didn’t it happen to some extent in an adjacent suburb that had huge problems with concentrations of crime in their concentrated rental areas? A public relations campaign was part of the approach, law enforcement and regulation of housing was another.

In an article in the Spokesman/Recorder, 5th Ward Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels has called for the black working and middle class to buy up the temporarily underpriced homes and return to make North Minneapolis a thriving African American community supporting the arts and a vibrant economy. He also detailed a tremendous list of what’s right with North Minneapolis.

It would be nice if the public relations campaign could do so much good that the free marketplace could do its thing and have problems go away. The solutions are somewhere along a continuum of actions that can give North Minneapolis a slogan that’s by no means empty. It’s not empty now, but the sustained creation of value through diversity will require both words and actions.

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