Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Next for Lowry Avenue?

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Housing Director

The following announcement comes to us from the city of Minneapolis website. Be warned that what follows was written by someone in government, meaning that it succeeds at being professionally worded, while making the meeting sound boring enough that people might not want to come. At the end of this announcement, I'll try and convince people otherwise:

"2nd Community Meeting Scheduled

Time: Thursday, January 28th, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Venue: North Regional Library (1315 Lowry Avenue North)

"The Lowry Avenue Strategic Plan: An Update to the Lowry Avenue Corridor Plan is a planning process initiated by the Cleveland, Folwell, Hawthorne, Jordan and McKinley neighborhood associations in northwest Minneapolis. The plan funded by NRP monies and Great Streets grants is being prepared by Cuningham Group, the planning consultant for this project. The City of Minneapolis, CPED- Planning Division, a key partner in this project is the project manager on behalf of these five neighborhoods.

"The objective of this planning process is to update the 2002 Lowry Avenue Corridor Plan by building on the established vision for Lowry Avenue. It will refine that vision and create an implementation strategy for fostering new development and attracting new businesses. The final plan will better define the composition of the three neighborhood nodes described in the 2002 plan; namely: Penn and Lowry; Fremont and Lowry; and, Lyndale and Lowry. The recommendations through this planning process will be drafted in a manner that coordinates implementation strategies for the entire corridor.

"The study area extends from the city limits on the west and the river on the east, and one block north and south of Lowry Avenue for the length of the corridor between the river and the city limits.

"The planning process will include an extensive community participation process including at least two community meetings and several focus group meetings with stakeholders. Tentatively the community meetings are scheduled for Thursday, November 19 and Thursday, January 28 at the North Regional Library."

(End of announcement from the city, begin commentary by Jeff Skrenes)

First, I corrected the announcement at the end of the city's site, that January 21 was listed as the date for the meeting, but it was rescheduled. Second, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, here's why this matters in plain English.

What happens now on Lowry is going to affect not just Hawthorne but much of north Minneapolis for decades to come. The planning meetings like this one are where the city, county, and other partners listen to what we as a community have to say, and then (ideally) put those values into action in a way that reflects what we want and benefits our community. The time to articulate that is NOW. We can hold them to it later, but the document(s) that get drawn up about the community vision are being created at these meetings.

Once again, here's the website where this is announced. Towards the bottom are links to the agendas and summaries of previous Great Streets meetings.

And yes, sometimes we as a community create these collective visions with the expectation that our goals will be implemented. Much of the time, they are. But sometimes the city doesn't quite listen to what we have to say, and we have to remind them of their commitment to uphold our values. Click here for an example of how that played out on West Broadway last year. That's why we need your attendance on Thursday night.

Finally, the announcement referenced three intersections that will be the focus of discussion. I thought I'd put up photos of what those intersections look like right now. Here's Lowry and Lyndale, which includes part of the EcoVillage project:

And here's Lowry and Fremont:

Finally, Lowry and Penn:

Now, if you made it through all of that, you've got no excuse for missing the meeting tomorrow night. That's from 5:30 - 7:30 at the North Library, 1315 Lowry Ave N. You'll see me there for certain.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Hawthorne EcoVillage to Break Ground!

Post written by Jeff Skrenes

On Thursday January 7, 2010, the Hawthorne EcoVillage will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking on its first new construction! Hawthorne residents realized early on that it would take a "pioneering spirit" to bring people into the neighborhood in light of many of the challenges we faced. Well before "green" became a buzzword in the housing industry, Hawthorne community members decided to build off of that pioneering spirit by setting a goal that the EcoVillage development would be among the first LEED-certified projects in the nation.

With a $500,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation, cluster status designation from the Northside Home Fund, the help of many partners listed above, and the vision and dedication of our neighborhood, the EcoVillage has already made a significant difference in the community. Valeria Golebiowski, a resident for over 43 years, had struggled with the rampant crime, foreclosures, squatters, and problem properties in the area and at one point was close to selling her home as a result. Thanks to the strides made through this development, her commitment to the neighborhood has redoubled. "If not for the EcoVillage, I'd be leaving," she said.

Come join us on Thursday, January 7, 2:30 p.m. for a brief groundbreaking ceremony at 400 31st Ave N, the site of the first new construction unit of the EcoVillage. We know it's cold, so a reception will follow at Farview Park nearby. A heartfelt thanks goes out to all of our residents and partners for making this day possible!