Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) annual meeting report


With 35 votes, the top six of seven candidates were elected to fill seats up for election on the SECIA board. Those elected were: Jake Jacobi, Tedd Johnson, Wendy Menken, Jeremiah Peterson, Stewart Smith, and Connie Sullivan.

Acting president Menken said bylaws changes were approved at last month’s meeting. Full membership is 14 members, with12 elected seats, and two appointed university student representatives. Terms will be staggered to provide long-term stability, she said.

Hearty applause by the 40 people attending the SE Como annual meeting followed Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Director Bob Miller’s report on the program’s funding crisis and a plea for program support.

Miller said the NRP concept was to empower city residents by giving them control and funds, “to make a difference in the neighborhoods.” However, the Legislature in 2001 acted to reduce income available to the program, he said, and income projections drastically reduced expected Phase II income for the two years remaining in the program, through 2009.

NRP income projections by the city two weeks ago, however, are “not as onerous as I thought,” he said. Still, reduced funds mean the program can’t fully fund housing, environmental, parks, and youth programs. The NRP policy board is “working hard to bring neighborhoods up to full funding by 2009,” he said.

Miller said the question of funds for the program will be resolved in steps, and it would probably be resolved in the next one to one-and-a-half years. The NRP board, he notes in a memo, has proposed alternative revenue plans, and said the mayor and city council could make a decision in less than 60 days.

“If NRP goes away, you’ll never see anything like it in your lifetime,” he commented, adding, “This is a unique experiment.” He pointed to the success of the SECIA solar program. In reference to NRP allocations to neighborhoods, Miller added, “How many of you would be here if you just talked?”

Responding to a question about where the pressure against the program was coming from, Miller said there are those who argue whether the city has the financial capacity for the program. Miller, however, pointed out the program obtains a big return on the investment. “We make money,” he said.

Miller said pressure also stems from the city to the question, “How much power and control do you give up to the community.” He said, “It takes some really enlightened leadership to agree they want to consider ideas from the community.”

Asked how residents can help, Miller noted that there are petitions in support of the program being circulated by others. In addition, “Let your councilmember know if you think it is a good idea or not,” he said. Miller noted that Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon has been on the NRP policy board.

Residents at the meeting voted unanimously in favor of allocating $100,000 in income from the SECIA revolving loan program. “It will keep us until the end of 2008 at the current (office) staffing,” Wendy Menken said. After the vote, board member Joan Menken said to the residents who voted, “Thank you. That’s a great staff.”

Without an allocation, a written statement said, “most of SECIA’s current functions will end before the spring of 2008, including the neighborhood office, the Neighborhood Coordinator (position), the SECIA website, and the Tidbits and the Comotion (publications).”

Residents at the meeting voted unanimously in support of a resolution to promote the most eastern routes proposed for the Minneapolis Grand Rounds parkway “missing link,” and to oppose selection of the residential routes proposed.

The resolution, presented by Livability and Housing Committee Chair Katie Fournier, states that the proposed east routes, near Highway 280, “can be designed to benefit the Mid-City Industrial Area and the Southeast Minneapolis Industrial Area, as well as providing needed green space and preserving or renovating wetlands for the betterment of the environment and the citizens of Minneapolis.”

Routes proposed for the residential part of the neighborhood, however, “would destroy homes, businesses, and institutions in the Como Neighborhood, and the adjoining Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood, as well as Dinkytown, Stadium Village and the University of Minnesota, without delivering any promised new green space,” the resolution stated.

Fournier also presented a 16-page critique of the criteria adopted by the Park Board and its citizens advisory committee for evaluating proposed Grand Rounds “missing link” routes. The critique, signed by nine Como residents, also states, “The September 18 Citizen Advisory Board meeting produced a firestorm of opposition from Como residents, a reaction that apparently surprised the presenters.”

The critique states that routes proposed through the residential area would increase commuter traffic. One route would require removal of houses in the block between 18th and 19th avenues. It states that the residential routes would “pose a serious threat to the Como neighborhood, changing it from a community to a pass-through area.” The residential routes would result in the loss of 78 or more homes, as well as businesses, the critique argues.

Fournier said that while many residents attended the Sept. 18 Park Board citizen advisory committee meeting, it would be worthwhile to also attend the meeting on Oct. 18. It will be held at the Windom Recreation Center, Pillsbury School, 2251 NE Hayes St., 6:30–8:30 p.m. Fournier commented, “We do need to maintain dignity at those meetings, even if we feel angry inside.”

Resident Nancy Johnson Black said the citizen’s advisory committee is expected to decide on removing some proposed routes at its Nov. 1 meeting. Black said the final routing decision, however, rests with the Park Board and the city council. Park and Recreation Board information about the project is available at

Joan Menken, a member of the city’s Southeast Economic Development Committee (SEED), reported that members said selection of route to fill the missing part of the city’s Grand Rounds parkway through Southeast Minneapolis was “a chance to do something unique.” This might lead to development of research facilities and jobs, she said. Menken said the Oct. 18 citizen advisory committee meeting is critical. “Northeast people would like to see it come down Stinson and down 18th Avenue,” and they would consider it, “their freeway to the U of M,” she said.

Ward Two Councilmember Cam Gordon said in a report that he continues to oppose any route for the Grand Rounds “missing link” parkway route that would remove housing in SE Como. He has urged the Park Board to concentrate on route options further east.

Acting President Menken provided a State of Como review. Committee chairs reported accomplishments by the Safety, History Group, Livability and Housing, and Environment Committee.

Livability and Housing Chair Katie Fournier reported that it has worked on the problem of front yard parking, and has worked to clear cars from the Joe Baker repair lot. Fournier said it requires monitoring. Residents should call the SECIA office if they see a problem, she said.

Board member Jake Jacobi said the environment committee worked with Globe Tool and Mfg. Co, 730 24th Ave. SE, to reduce chlorinated emissions. Jacobi reported that emissions could be reduced 92 percent, and said, “We’re just elated.” He received applause when he said that success was a basis for more accomplishments.

Menken reported for the executive committee. “We’ve gone through every audit with flying colors. We’re very much on top of our budget,” in contrast, she said, to news reports of budget problems in the Seward neighborhood.

Menken pointed to activities by the zoning and fund raising committees, and the recent successful Como Cookout that attracted 800 participants. “If you’re interested in anything, come and get involved,” she said.

Menken said the office staff plays a key role in supporting SECIA programs, and said contributions by Jennifer Lee, who recently resigned, are missed.

Menken reported that a meeting with the board of education about the future of the former Tuttle Community School building was cancelled and postponed until January. “Give us ideas of what you’d like to see in that building,” she said. Menken said the university is evaluating possible uses for the building.

Menken reported on the recent groundbreaking for housing at the former Bunge grain elevator site. She said the project is expected to be developed in three phases over five years.

Menken reported that the university, the city, and five neighborhoods are forming an Alliance organization. The Alliance was proposed in a report to the Legislature this year about the impact of the university of nearby neighborhoods and future improvements. Menken asked for ideas for a demonstration project. The Legislature appropriated $750,000 to form the Alliance and for it to conduct a demonstration project.

Board member Joan Menken noted that the Legislature also appropriated funds for projects to mitigate the impact of the construction and events at the Gopher’s TCF Bank on-campus football stadium. It is scheduled to open in September 2009. Menken asked residents for ideas for managing stadium event impacts that are not managed by the city or the university.

Community Relations Director Jan Morlock reported on the status of the neighborhood impact report, the University District Partnership Alliance, the stadium good neighbor fund, plans for operating the new stadium, Tuttle School, planning for the Grand Rounds, transportation, and light rail plans.

Morlock, who was unable to attend, said in a written report that a 17-member steering committee is being formed to create a University District Partnership Alliance. It was proposed in the “Moving Forward Together” university impact report funded by the Legislature this year. The report was prepared by the university, nearby neighborhoods, and the city to examine impact problems and prospects for improvements.

In addition, a fund management committee of the university’s Stadium Area Advisory Group (SAAG) is developing its first request for project proposals to mitigate the impact of construction and operation of the Gopher TCF Bank football stadium, Morlock reported. Income from a $1.5 million stadium budget endowment will be used for projects to “enhance and protect the beauty, serenity, and security of the neighborhoods directly impacted” by the stadium, she noted.

In 2008, SAAG and other groups will be advising the university on management of events in the stadium, which is expected to hold its first football game in September 2009, she reported. “We want the stadium and the events that happen there to be an asset to the campus and the community,” Morlock said.

Morlock said a group has been appointed by the president to see if there are university programs or operations that would be suited for space available at the former Tuttle School building.

All the potential routes under consideration for placement of the city’s Grand Rounds “missing link” parkway in Southeast Minneapolis “present challenges,” she reported. Two alternative routes that would “come through the heart of the East Bank campus, one at Pleasant Street and one at Oak Street, would present significant problems” in relation to width of right-of-way and adjacent land uses. In SE Como, the 18th Avenue/15th Avenue options “are also a concern because of the significant number of residences that would be eliminated,” she indicated.

Morlock noted that the Park Board is also investigating where additional parkland might be added in Southeast. One option has been conversion of university land to park use, she said. Land considered includes the university’s Como Student Housing Cooperative. However, “We don’t want to lose the capacity to provide this housing, and to provide it in a family-friendly neighborhood location,” she said.

Morlock reported that the university has redoubled its efforts to encourage use of transit by students and employees in light of increasing traffic congestion and the loss of the I-35W bridge. The efforts involve discounted bus passes and more park and ride capacity, including at the Quarry and the university’s parking lot on Como Avenue SE. Also, the university negotiated to add 900 parking spaces at the State Fair grounds. Free university shuttle busses run every five minutes during the day between campuses at no charge, she said.

Development of the Central Corridor light-rail transit route “is high on the list of projects with importance to the future of the campus and adjacent communities,” she said. Plans called for the line to operate in a tunnel under Washington Avenue, she said, but “there is already a push from some to eliminate the tunnel as a cost-cutting measure.” Morlock said the university is concerned that if the train operates at street level there will be significant safety and operational problems. In addition, the need to widen the street would mean removing business and other buildings, she said.

Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon invited residents to an Oct. 15 discussion of a draft of the city’s Community Engagement report. The meeting will be held at Augsburg College, Christensen Center, Minneapolis Room, 2nd floor, 7–9 p.m.

The draft includes principles, recommendations, and characteristics of organizations that are eligible to receive city resources for activities related to engaging the public, Gordon said in a written report. Gordon said to call or email him for a copy, 612-673-2202, and

Gordon said there are other meetings about the draft: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 11 a.m.–1 p.m., Central Library; Wednesday, Oct. 17, 5:30–7:30 p.m., Nokomis Park, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy, and Thursday, Oct. 18, 5:30–7:30 p.m., MLK Park Recreation Center, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S.

Councilmember Gordon reported that Habitat for Humanity received $60,000 in “gap” funding for the affordable home ownership town homes in the Project for Pride in Living’s housing development at the Bunge grain elevator site. Also, the city gave the development $758,763 in federal low income housing tax credits to support affordable housing in the development.

Councilmember Gordon said there will be a public meeting to discuss the city’s draft 10-year transportation plan and streetcar feasibility study, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6:30–8:30 p.m., Van Cleve Recreation Center. For information, see

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, Nov. 6, Van Cleve Park building. A half-hour social period will start at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting will start at 7 p.m.

REGULAR MEETINGS: 1st Tuesday of the month, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave. SE.

CONTACT: Office, 837 SE 15th Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55414, phone 612-676-1731, James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator,, website: