Seward atttracts diverse residents


Longtime residents say the population of University of Minnesota students in the Seward neighborhood is growing, and they’re not surprised.

The neighborhood, contained by Interstate 94 to the north, the Mississippi River to the east, 27th Street East to the south and Hiawatha Avenue to the west, is home to about 7,000 residents.

It is known for its diverse population, environmental activism, self-sufficiency, left-leaning politics, extensive history and neighborly feel.

“It feels like a small town within the patchwork of the Twin Cities,” said Korla Masters, a religious studies senior at the University who lived in Seward from age 9 until last year.

Masters still frequents the neighborhood to visit her family, and said she has seen a rise in the number of University students living in the area.

She added that there are plenty of reasons the neighborhood would appeal to students, including its close proximity to the University and a variety of restaurants, shops and other forms of entertainment.

Masters said there are several popular hangout spots in the neighborhood, such as 2nd Moon Coffee Café, Birchwood Café and Tracy’s Saloon and Eatery.

The neighborhood’s atmosphere and location may be attractive to some student renters, but those looking for a party house better look elsewhere, residents said.

“If your whole intent is to party and trash things, that’s just not going to work,” said Mary Mateer, a former University student and Seward resident. “We won’t put up with it.”

In 1977, Mateer rented a room in the basement of a Seward house for $62.50 a month. Mateer said she loved the neighborhood so much, she decided to stay.

Mateer bought the house on 34th Avenue South and lives there today.

Mateer said she lived in other neighborhoods around the University, none of which seemed to be a good fit.

“When I found this I was like, ‘I’m in heaven here,’ ” Mateer said. “It was such a good neighborhood that I just wasn’t going to leave.”

While the neighborhood is made up mostly of families, Mateer has seen an increase in University students moving into Seward since 1977.

Though the neighborhood isn’t densely packed with student housing, Seward Community Coordinator Mike Rollin said there are plenty of resources for students who choose to live in the area.

There are about 70 businesses located in the neighborhood, said Jim Welna, president of the Seward Civic and Commerce Association and owner of the neighborhood’s widely known Welna II Hardware store.

The store, located on East Franklin Avenue, is a combination of a hardware and general store. Like many other businesses in the area, it aims to cater to the needs of local residents, Welna said.

“There’s a real interest in people being able to shop in the community, to keep the dollars in the community, and to shop where people that are working in the stores live in the community,”

Welna said. “It also allows people to be more conscious of not wasting energy by having to travel outside the neighborhood.”

The store loans out wagons to customers to carry their items home, and also offers free delivery.

Welna said he appreciates the presence of college-aged students in the neighborhood, and he currently rents the apartment above his store to University and Augsburg College students.

“The whole atmosphere of the community is enhanced by having a number of students living in a variety of places in the community,” Welna said.

Residents added that people looking to buy or rent in the neighborhood shouldn’t be scared off by the January shooting at the Seward Market.

“It was very much an isolated incident,” Rollin said.

Masters added that Seward residents take action when a crime occurs within the neighborhood.

“There’s a very strong community response anytime there’s any sort of violent crime,” Masters said. “When that kind of stuff happens, the community really turns out and says that this isn’t OK anywhere.”