Who is the Skyline Tower Leadership Team?

“I like to help people so they can get better, so they can live the life they want to live,” said Hadi Khalif, a member of the Skyline Tower Leadership Team, when asked why he joined the group. The Skyline Tower Leadership Team (STLT) is a group of residents that is focused on creating positive changes for their community inside and outside of Skyline Tower. STLT began about a year ago with the help of an intern from the Union Park District Council (UPDC). Since Skyline Tower is located in their district, UPDC wanted to empower Skyline residents on issues in their community, such as green space, affordable housing, and the Central Corridor. The intern from UPDC began working with a group of elders, who eventually led her to the group of residents that make up STLT: Hadi, Zeinab, Esmael, and Ahmed. Continue Reading

A head start in St. Paul: Model Cities’ Central Corridor development plan

As planning begins along the Central Corridor, Model Cities wants to get a head start. Their latest project, which is in the first developing stages, is a mixed-use project that will include affordable housing along Central Corridor on University Avenue. According to the CEO of Model Cities Dr. Beverley Hawkins, they are looking at addresses 773-785 on University Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Dale Street, which are currently vacant. So far they have site control of two of these sites, 773 and 785, which they have acquired through their own funds. Model Cities is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) based in St. Continue Reading

Community engagement in metro transitway projects: Hearing it, not seeing it

On November 17, the Community Engagement Team for a new $5 million HUD grant (see sidebar) held an information session about the grant for the community that was less than informative.On October 14, HUD awarded the Metropolitan Council a $5 million grant, which is part of a nationwide $100 million HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant to create sustainable communities by integrating affordable housing, the environment, and transportation.According to the Met Council press release, the grant is to be used to create “optimal development” along five major corridors: Southwest Light Rail Transit, Bottineau, Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit, Northstar Commuter Rail and the Gateway Corridor. In the press release the Met Council said it will look to the current planning around the Central Corridor as an example, focusing on energy efficiency and affordable housing.The information session was full, but mainly attended by organizations that were already involved with the transitways, including Mark Vanderschaaf from the Metropolitan Council and very few community members. Russ Adams from the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability said they hope to hold meetings at more convenient times in the future (the meeting was at 1:30 p.m.), so more people would be able to attend.The session began with a panel from the three organizations that make up the Community Engagement Team (CET): Russ Adams with Alliance for Metropolitan Stability (AMS); Margaret Kaplan with the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing (MCNO); and Repa Mekha with NEXUS Community Partners. They began by discussing the basics of the grant and how it is to be used to build sustainable communities along the five major corridors, which was awarded to the Metropolitan Council to promote sustainable communities along the 5 major corridors. They discussed how, while they have no decision-making power, their role is to be the voice of the community for the policy board of the project, which is headed by the Metropolitan Council. Continue Reading

Move up and move on: Hussein Samatar’s take on Riverside Plaza

I sat down with Hussein Samatar on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Mapps Coffee, across the street from the African Development Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Samatar is the director of the African Development Center (ADC), which he founded to help new immigrants adjust to Minneapolis and gain financial success. Samatar emigrated to Minneapolis 17 years ago from Somalia and is active in the Cedar-Riverside community. He was just elected to the Minneapolis Board of Education.  Samatar began the interview commenting on the title of the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s series on Riverside Towers: “High-rise ghettos or urban villages”. He said the word ghetto is “extremely loaded and misplaced … Continue Reading

The view from Middlebrook Hall to Riverside Plaza

Middlebrook Hall, located on 22nd and Riverside Avenue, is the only West Bank University of Minnesota student housing. When new students arrive, they find themselves in a rich but unfamiliar cultural milieu, a densely urban and multi-cultural neighborhood that sometimes seems dangerous. 

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Worlds away, blocks apart: Student’s journey from Riverside Plaza Towers to the U of M

Ryan Colbert, a first year student at the University of Minnesota, can see his childhood in the distance. Growing up in the Riverside Plaza Towers for the first twelve years of his life and now living on the West Bank again as a student in the U of M’s Middlebrook Hall dorm, he has seen multiple aspects of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. In this interview, Colbert offered his unique perspective on the neighborhood.

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Minnesota Latino voters organize, restaurant says no to Emmer

Last week, a Latino restaurant owner told Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer that he didn’t want Emmer’s business. Oscar Reyes, owner of Las Mojarras restaurant on Lake Street, received a call scheduling an event for Saturday October 23 at his restaurant. Reyes was unaware that this event was a campaign rally for Emmer until he began receiving angry phone calls from Latino community members. They asked why he was hosting an event for Emmer, and cited Emmer’s previous anti-immigration stances. After learning what the event was, Reyes cancelled it. 

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Mailing it in: Absentee voting for students and other Minnesotans

It is tough for a student who attends college out of state to try and decide where he or she should vote. Should they make their voice heard in their hometown or their college town, an area that is affecting them in the present? When several University of Minnesota students not native to Minnesota were asked where they were voting, all four of them replied that they were voting absentee in their hometown.Amanda Noventa lives in the Twin Cities, but she’s a Brazililan citizen. Read her story of travelilng 400 miles to cast an absentee ballot in this year’s Brazilian presidential election.The students’ reasons varied. Kyle Symanski, a U of M sophomore from Chicago, said that he wasn’t going to vote in Minnesota because he did not plan on residing in Minnesota after college. Continue Reading