No pain, no gain to remake downtown

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As Gov. Schwarzenegger in his previous careers would say, “No pain, no gain.” So it is with the dramatic changes coming to downtown Minneapolis transportation. MARQ2, the re-construction of Marquette and Second Avenues, is now entering it’s final and most challenging phase that will eventually bring about the most intensive remake of Minneapolis downtown transportation in decades.

By the end of the year, buses heading down transit lanes on Marquette and 2nd Avenues won’t need to wait behind other buses picking up passengers. When traffic stops, buses will be able to switch to a second transit lane. This will eliminate unnecessary stops and speed up commutes. City construction crews will be busy this year rebuilding and adding second bus lanes to Marquette and 2nd Avenues, from 1st Street to 12th Street. They’ll  add wider sidewalks, better bus shelters and improved streets-capes for pedestrians.

Once MARQ2 is finished, express buses will move from Nicollet Mall to Marquette and 2nd, reducing peak bus routes on the mall by 35%. Fewer and quieter buses on Nicollet Mall will make shopping, strolling and dining on the mall even better. MARQ2 is just one of the major downtown transportation projects that will become reality this year. Other improvements include converting Hennepin and 1st avenues from one-way to two-way streets and new bike lanes on 1st Avenue; operation of the Northstar Commuter Rail line and an extension of the Hiawatha LRT; and extending the Hiawatha LRT Bicycle Trail to bring the trail into downtown to connect with 3rd and 4th streets.

City awards $6.5M to rebuild foreclosed homes

     Mayor Rybak and the City Council Friday awarded $6.5 million to rehab homes in neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosure. This is part of $14 million that the City received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Minnesota to support the City’s strategy to reinvest in these neighborhoods.

     An abandoned home or a foreclosed home requires repair in order to be re-occupied. This funding will be used to help local, non-profit developers cover the cost difference between the development cost (purchase price and the cost of rehab) and the sale price of reclaimed foreclosed homes. The properties will then be sold or rented to income-qualified tenants, bringing people back on the blocks in communities hardest hit by foreclosure.

Minneapolis helps fight Red River Flood

Minneapolis employees from Emergency Preparedness, Animal Control, and the Fire Department are providing their expertise and assistance in Moorhead, which faces spring flooding that is expected to become even more serious in the coming days.

Emergency Preparedness Director Rocco Forte is among the group of Minneapolis staffers who are helping in the Red River Valley as the flooding danger grows. Since Monday, three Emergency Preparedness staff members have been in Moorhead helping coordinate evacuation planning. In addition, a Minneapolis Animal Control agent and truck were deployed to Moorhead Thursday to assist in pet evacuation and rescue efforts. Beginning Saturday, four additional Emergency Preparedness staff, including Director Rocco Forte, will also travel to Moorhead. Forte will work out of the Clay County Emergency Operations Center that has been opened to deal with the flooding.

Minneapolis Emergency Preparedness is part of a metro area Incident Management Team that pools together emergency preparedness and planning experts from around the metro who can be called upon to assist in emergency situations. As part of the Incident Management Team, staff from Minneapolis also assisted during flooding in Iowa in 2008.

Foreclosures continue to fall in Minneapolis

According to city records, the number of foreclosures in Minneapolis fell for the fourth month in a row. November, December 2008, and January, February 2009 have all had fewer total foreclosures than those months had the year before. These numbers are further proof that the foreclosure crisis has hit its peak in Minnesota’s largest city.

While government alone can’t fix the huge market failures that led to so many foreclosures, the City of Minneapolis has been at the forefront fighting this challenge since the first signs of the foreclosure epidemic began more than two years ago. Over this time, Minneapolis’ comprehensive effort to fight the foreclosure crisis has centered on three main strategies: prevention, reinvestment, and repositioning. Preventing a foreclosure from happening is the most effective intervention we can make. It costs far less to prevent a foreclosure than to fix a foreclosed property. Minneapolis has helped hundreds of homes avoid foreclosure by:

  • Working with the Home Ownership Center to hold housing fairs with prevention counselors and direct negotiations with lenders.
  • Using the City website, 311, and utility bill inserts to connect borrowers to prevention counseling services.
  • Providing funding and staff for professional pre- and post-purchase home ownership counseling.

However, even if there was not another single foreclosure in Minneapolis, we would still have a crisis on our hands due to the thousands of foreclosures that have already devastated our neighborhoods. That’s why we need to remain focused on reinvesting and repositioning neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosures.

A beacon of change in north Minneapolis

 

    I was so excited to deliver my State of the City speech today at Coloplast, a shining example of the kind of long overdue change that’s coming to north Minneapolis. Get this: Coloplast is a Denmark-based global medical device company that recently moved its North American headquarters onto the west shore of the Mississippi River in north Minneapolis! They’ve built a beautiful new $35 million campus (with construction workers from the northside) that will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified Silver, will include one of the company’s three global Innovation Centers, and will house approximately 500 employees in sales, marketing, research and development. Plus they have an greement with the City to hire lots of north Minneapolis residents.

     Coloplast has operations in 30 different countries, but right here in Minneapolis they are reinventing the Upper River and the surrounding neighborhoods of the northside. This incredible place is now an avenue for local residents to become employed at one of the most successful medical device companies in the world. 

     Anyone who doubts what a global economy can do for Minneapolis should drive by the new Coloplast builing on West River Road just north of Plymouth Avenue. Minneapolis’ business and city leaders have tried for decades to move a major employer into north Minneapolis and it finally happened because of a company from Denmark. Thank you, Coloplast, for showing us that the global economy can be a world of opportunity right in our own back yard!

To learn more about the excitement behind Coloplast coming to north Minneapolis, check out the great article about it in Finance and Commerce.

More people starting new businesses

According to City of Minneapolis records, new business start ups are on the rise; often a positive trend during tough economic times as people who’ve lost their job decide to go out on their own. During the week of March 6th, 72 business start-ups were registered with the City. Fortunately, there’s almost no better place to start a business than Minneapolis. Two reasons: money and guidance.

The City offers many different unique and innovative small business financing tools ranging from $1,000-$10 million, including low interest loans, gap financing, capital acquisition loans and façade improvement grants. Along with financing, City staff from more than a dozen different departments are coordinated through Minneapolis Development Review to help entrepreneurs and business owners navigate the ins and outs of starting a new business: how to get financing, where to locate, what you need to build, or how to craft a marketing and business plan; they’ll even help you make your business greener. With help from the City of Minneapolis, you too could see your dream business come true!

Youth violence continues to fall

With the arrest Wednesday by Minneapolis police of a 15-year-old in connection with the shooting that left two kids wounded, attention has once again shifted to the City’s efforts to prevent youth violence. What a relief to see KARE 11 take on this story by starting with the facts. Police records show that juvenile violent crime is down 26 percent so far this year compared to the same time last year. This is especially positive news given that last year was the second year in a row that juvenile crime decreased in Minneapolis.  As KARE 11 points out, crimes committed in schools are also down 62 percent so far this school year, including everything from assault and disorderly conduct to weapons cases.

This continued drop in juvenile crime follows a year of coordinated efforts to respond to youth violence with tough enforcement, while also working to get at the core issues behind youth violence. In January 2008, Mayor Rybak laid out a blueprint for action to prevent youth violence, with 34 action items to connect every youth with a trusted adult, intervene at the first sign that youth are at risk for violence, restore youth who have gone down the wrong path, and undo the culture of violence in our community. Tangible progress has been made on all 34 action items identified in the plan and work continues to more forward.

Our primary goal is zero youth homicides and we will not rest until that happens. We need everyone in this community to understand that youth violence affects each of us and each of us has a role to play to keep our children and youth safe.  –Mayor R.T. Rybak

The City’s Youth Violence Prevention task force produces regular reports and posts progress on-line for the public to read. The most recent quarterly report was recently posted on-line; it reviews activities and progress in the last quarter of 2008.