Project seeks grant from the University to help draw business with art

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Prospect Park’s neighborhood association is seeking funds from the University of Minnesota to improve the streetscape for local businesses.

With neighborhood businesses losing revenue during light-rail construction, the AVEmosphere project plans to use art to attract customers.

The Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association is applying for a $23,000 grant from the University’s Good Neighbor Fund to pay for the project. If approved, some local businesses and PPERRIA would contribute an additional $7,000.

The Good Neighbor Fund grant is given out by the University to improve the beauty of areas that have been affected by TCF Bank Stadium’s construction.

The University set aside a $1.5 million fund to offset the impact of stadium construction on nearby businesses in 2007. Twelve organizations recently applied for $47,000 available for this year.

AVEmosphere’s purpose is to help connect the community and help preserve Prospect Park, said Josh Purple, an artist for the project.

“Something people get a little bit nervous about would be Prospect Park losing itself in what has been called the University creep,” he said.

Prospect Park anticipates a huge flow of people with the summer sports season and completion of the light-rail station, said James Widder, an architect and AVEmosphere’s project head. The project seeks to attract this high volume of customers to the neighborhood businesses.

PPERRIA would hire seven artists and two University graduate students to collaborate with local businesses and use art projects to “create a positive environment around the future site of the new Prospect Park [light-rail] Station,” said the neighborhood’s grant application.

The current construction of the new light-rail station has caused “serious damage” to the access ways of local businesses, Widder said. But once completed, he said the station would be a benefit.

Widder surveyed 100 businesses in the neighborhood and said proximity to the school and the high visibility from University Avenue was a main draw for businesses.

University students, faculty and employees comprise most of the businesses’ customer base, he said.

The Good Neighbor Fund encourages applicants to follow a theme called “the world at our doorstep.” The theme was chosen due to the University area’s diversity.

AVEmosphere’s Many Cultures-One Earth celebration would be held during the neighborhood’s annual Pratt Ice Cream Social on June 1. The project’s finish would be marked by the inflation of a 20-foot globe created by the students of Pratt Community School.

Groups of students would be responsible for studying a particular region’s geography and culture and painting one of the 32 fabric sections of the globe.

The project would be displayed in Tower Hill Park facing University Avenue during the ice cream social.

A neighborhood committee will review the applications and submit its recommendation on April 24 to the University’s Stadium Area Advisory Group, which is comprised of business, neighborhood and local government representatives.

“It’s impossible to tell at this point how well this one is going to fare,” said Jan Morlock, a University Relations director, who will receive the committee’s recommendation.