When I moved to my present home, more than 25 years ago, someone told me that the neighborhood was “really” Desnoyer Park, but that “the city calls it Merriam Park.” Now the city calls it Union Park, an expanded definition that combined the “old” Merriam Park, Lex-Ham and Snell-Ham neighborhoods into one long east-west stretch. When I began editing TCDP, more than five years ago, indignant readers frequently corrected articles, insisting that Marcy-Holmes was NOT part of the University neighborhood, and that what we referred to as the Northeast neighborhood didn’t even exist.
Today the Daily Planet has pages for more than 80 Minneapolis neighborhoods and 18 St. Paul neighborhoods. A computerized routing system places neighborhood news and events on each neighborhood page, along with maps, calendars, legislators, schools, and lots of other neighborhood info. Our diligent neighborhood correspondents file stories about what’s happening in their neighborhoods, and anything that has an address entered in the location field shows up on a neighborhood page.
We want the neighborhood pages to be a quick stop for news about your neighborhood. Is it working? If you live in Columbia Park in Northeast Minneapolis, for example, do you click here for your neighborhood news from Columbia Park? Or do you include Waite Park, Marshall Terrace, Bottineau, Windom Park, Audubon Park, Holland, Logan Park, Sheridan, Beltrami, and St. Anthony (east and west) when you think of “my neighborhood?”
If you live in the 40-block Cleveland neighborhood in North Minneapolis, will you be equally interested in news from the neighboring Victory, Folwell and Jordan neighborhoods? And who really distinguishes between Downtown East and Downtown West?
The city of Minneapolis also defines larger “communities,” which include several neighborhoods. These are Camden, Near North, Northeast, University, Central, Calhoun-Isle, Phillips, Powderhorn, Longfellow, Southwest and Nokomis. Are these “communities” a better fit than the smaller “neighborhoods?” The answer may depend on where you live. For example, I suspect that residents of Seward are likely to be more passionately attached to Seward neighborhood, and less likely to feel they are part of the “Longfellow community.” On the other hand, some Northeast folks assure me that the whole of Northeast is one big neighborhood.
St. Paul neighborhoods are bigger, so it’s easier to believe that people identify with Hamline-Midway neighborhood, though they may be likelier to call it Midway. Some folks insist that the city is really “St. Small,” though I think they’d probably be able to identify their neighborhood, or maybe their elementary school or parish. Back in the day, neighborhood schools shaped neighborhood identity. Now, with reduced busing and greater emphasis on neighborhood schools, will that identity become stronger?
E-Democracy has a variety of neighborhood forums, including Near North Sumner Glenwood and Nokomis East, which have boundaries that may feel right to people who live there, but don’t quite fit city definitions.
Neighborhood identity becomes more prominent when neighbors pull together in the face of a natural disaster, or pull apart in battles over zoning or transit corridors or street medians and bike lanes. Though few of us vote, neighborhood councils are elected, work on issues, and make decisions.
Where’s your neighborhood? What’s news in your neighborhood? And what should be in the news that isn’t being reported?