With NRP’s closure, city department takes over funding neighborhoods

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Bob Miller looks at the 20 years he spent as director of the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program with pride.

“One of the beauties of that program was the fact that I could look at an awful lot of stuff that was done in the last 20 years in our neighborhoods and say that was incredible,” Miller said.

The program closed its doors in mid-December after the Minneapolis City Council approved transferring NRP’s assets to the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations department.

NRP was established by the state Legislature in 1989 to allocate funds from increased property tax revenues to Minneapolis neighborhoods. The plan was to distribute $20 million over 20 years.

But by 2011 there was still leftover money because not all neighborhoods submitted plans for the program to fund. The city decided to pull the plug, replacing NRP with its own program, to the dismay of many.

Senator Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, a member of the NRP policy board for many years, said he was sad to see the program end and blamed its demise on politics.

“The idea that there were these funds that the city was not in control of was a problem for a lot of people,” he said.

Miller said there was a clash between council members and neighborhood groups.

“I think the fact that neighborhoods were making a lot of decisions that many politicians did not agree with was a big factor and created a lot of problems,” he said.

 The city vowed to continue to fund new neighborhood programs development through NCR, using $10 million left from NRP.

Miller said he believes the NCR will make good on its promise of funding the neighborhood groups. But he said NCR has already started making changes to the way the money is distributed.

For example, it removed the restriction on the percentage of the money that could be used for administrative costs, Miller said.

City Councilman Cam Gordon said he has been getting ready for the end of the program but has mixed feelings about its closure. He said the City Council should have found a better replacement.

“I wish it had been handled a lot better and we had a smoother transition from NRP into the new system we have developed to support neighborhoods,” he said.

But the loss is not significant for everyone.

“To us, it really doesn’t mean that much that it’s gone, because the NCR and the city have taken over that role. It’s a slightly different program, but it still funds neighborhood organizations,” said Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Bean said she realizes a lot of other neighborhood groups don’t feel the same way and that there was a big push by other groups to hold on to the NRP program.

“A lot of other groups were strident, but we’re a little more pragmatic and will work with whatever the current program is. We’ve had a good experience with NRP and with NCR so far as well,” she said.