Another great rating for Minneapolis

Minneapolis was recently ranked #5 on the MSN Real Estate “Most-Livable Bargain Markets.” The 100 largest U.S. metro areas were evaluated to determine the 10 most livable areas indicated by low unemployment, shorter commute times and a concentration of entertainment and cultural activities. Affordability was defined by the ratio of median income to median home price.

This is great news for our city. These are also things that we already know about Minneapolis but ratings and studies like this just reiterate the importance of continued investment in our city. And though times are tough economically, Minneapolis clearly has a lot to offer. As we continue to invest in public transit, job training and workforce development and the arts, the Twin Cities will become even more livable.

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Northstar commuter rail is here!

The next few days are going to be incredibly exciting for Minneapolis. On Monday, Northstar, the state’s first commuter rail line, will officially be in service!  After more than a decade of hard work and effort, the trains are ready to go and begin carrying commuters all the way from Big Lake, through Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Fridley, right into downtown Minneapolis. 

The Northstar Line will soon make it easier than ever to travel to and work in downtown.  It is going to allow more people in the Metro area to come and experience everything that Minneapolis has to offer without a congested, stressful commute.

I myself am going to celebrate the opening of the line this weekend.  Tomorrow at 10:30 am, I’ll be speaking at the grand opening festivities at Target Field station.  The event is open to the public and I encourage you to come by and celebrate!  Guests are going to be able to watch the very first in-bound train come in from the 5th Street Bridge.  And Monday morning, I will be greeting the very first riders as they arrive to Minneapolis on the first commuter trains making the route. I am energized about the prospects of Northstar rail – a great addition to the metro area!

New center will help homeless youth with work, housing

Ground will be broken today for Nicollet Square, an innovative $9.2 million model of supportive housing and employment to help young adults transitioning out of homelessness or foster care to become independent and economically self-sufficient. The project, located at 3700 Nicollet Avenue, is one of seven projects in Minnesota selected for federal stimulus funds from the Tax Credit Exchange Program. Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation is the developer.

The project received $5,486,922 in stimulus funding from the Tax Credit Exchange Program and $977,584 in funding from the City of Minneapolis Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The project also received stimulus funding from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program to provide supportive services to help youth maintain their housing stability.

“This is an excellent use of stimulus dollars to not only create good jobs right here in Minneapolis, but to also respond to a significant and unacceptable problem which is homelessness,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “By providing jobs and housing to this population, we’re making a strategic investment in the future of our city by investing in our young people. This is one of the best investments we can make.”

The redevelopment, located on the site of the vacant Werness Brothers funeral home and parking lot, will provide 42 studio apartments and onsite supportive services provided by YouthLink. The building design also includes a coffee shop/bakery on the first floor, operated by Cookie Cart, to provide immediate entry-level employment for Nicollet Square residents.

“This redevelopment project means more activity on the block and more eyes on the street,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8). “It also brings together three great organizations to provide youth with the support they need. And, we’re also happy to have the Cookie Cart, an amenity for the neighborhood, open in South Minneapolis.”

The project, while under construction, will yield approximately 143 jobs in the construction field.

Groundbreaking Celebration

Date: Thursday, November 12

Time: 4:30-6:00 p.m.

Program: 5:00 p.m.

Location: 3700 Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis.

A victory for helping jobless people get back on their feet

Not long ago, I posted about the need to give jobless Minnesotans more time and more help by extending unemployment benefits. Thanks to the hard work of our Minnesota delegation in Congress and President Barack Obama, unemployed Minnesotans will now have an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits while looking for jobs.

Originally legislation was drafted to provide an extension of benefits to those states with an unemployment rate of 8.5% or higher which did not include Minnesota. Because our state unemployment rate is slightly lower, it seemed to me that Minnesotans were being punished for the fact that our state is fairing a little better than the rest of the country. We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and now more than ever, people need extra help; especially if we want to prevent future economic hardship for Minnesota families and get this economy moving again. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate, with the backing of Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, adopted a broader plan that covered all 50 states universally – the plan which ultimately became law last week.

Today I am grateful that Congress heard our request to extend benefits for all 50 states and President Obama signed the legislation into law. Now jobless Americans in all 50 states have the option of collecting extended unemployment benefits while looking for work. The legislation also extends the first-time homebuyer tax credit program through next spring enabling first-time homebuyers to continue receiving an $8,000 tax credit on their new homes. These are exactly the things we need to get the economy moving again and to get the people of Minneapolis the help they need.

We’re seeing improvement in the economy daily and even more so, we’re seeing hope. Revitalization in north Minneapolis with the “5 Points” Building; breaking ground for the Mill District City apartments in downtown; and new developments like the hydropower facility and the relocation of the Craft Council to Minneapolis are evidence that despite the current economic climate, people are still investing in our city and creating jobs. And this legislation is another source of hope and just what we need to encourage continued economic recovery.

Minneapolis Police Awarded for Reducing Juvenile Crime

Yesterday the Minneapolis Police Department was recognized for the significant and notable progress that has been made in the city to reduce juvenile crime.  The Webber Seavey award is presented annually to police agencies and departments worldwide who make extraordinary contributions to the quality of life in local communities.  This year, I am proud to say that the Minneapolis Police Department has received that honor.

Presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in conjunction with Motorola, the award was accepted by Chief Dolan for the department’s Juvenile Focused Policing initiative.  Put in place in 2006, the initiative sought to address cooperation among stakeholders, investigation and prosecution of crime, intervention with low level offenders and putting officers into the school environment to provide a meaningful resource for students and staff.

The success of Juvenile Focused Policing, in conjunction with other city-wide initiatives such as the Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence, has produced a dramatic drop in crime.  In the three years following the implementation of the police department’s program, the city has seen a nearly 1/3 reduction in juvenile part I arrests and a similar reduction in juveniles as suspects.

It is wonderful to see the success in Minneapolis recognized and the MPD is congratulated on receiving this prestigious honor.

American Craft Council Relocates to Minneapolis

As America is recovering from the current recession, Minneapolis is growing and is open for business.  Last week we announced that the American Craft Council, a major organization that has been headquartered in New York for nearly 66 years, has decided to relocate to the more favorable business climate here in Minneapolis.  We in the city are ready to welcome them with open arms.

The Craft Council will formally open their new offices in Minneapolis next July and will be the newest members of the incredibly robust and already vibrant arts scene we have here in Minneapolis.  The metro region is home to the third-highest number of museums in the entire country.  Nearly 9,000 people work in the non-profit arts and culture sector in our city and the number is growing.

As part of their relocation, the council plans to bring their library, the nation’s largest collection of print and visual materials regarding American craft, right here to its new space.   Minneapolis will soon be home to more than 6,400 books, 7,000 exhibition catalogs, 700 bound volumes of leading periodicals, and an accompanying database, all of which will be open to visitors.  This is very exciting.

In addition to the impressive collection and contribution to the arts scene, the Craft Council will bring jobs and attention.  They regularly put on juried craft shows, conferences & education programs, and publish a magazine. I’m thrilled that the American Craft Council has decided to join the culture landscape of Minneapolis.  They are going to be a great addition to our community.

Minneapolis Named America’s Safest City

In the past several years, crime in Minneapolis has dropped dramatically.  With things like “The Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence” and proactive policing, crime has declined and is being prevented.   Violent crime, in particular, has been reduced by double-digits and is at the lowest level in nearly a decade.  People are beginning to notice that the city is safe once again.

In part due to those figures, last week Forbes.com ranked Minneapolis as the safest metropolitan area in the country.   In having its number one ranking, the area scored in the top 10 in all four categories of the study: low crime rate, workplace fatalities, traffic-related deaths and natural disaster risk.  The Forbes.com article profiles a young family choosing to move to Minneapolis and describes the crime rate as “shockingly low”.

While we do still have a long way to go, the title and this honor is most definitely something that residents of Minneapolis can be proud of. View the Forbes.com list of America’s Safest Cities here.