One Minneapolis, growing north

For Minneapolis to grow — and for us all to grow into One Minneapolis — North Minneapolis must grow.

That’s the message I delivered Wednesday at my annual State of the City speech, called “One Minneapolis, Growing North”, which I gave at the Capri Theater on West Broadway, the same place I gave my State of the City in 2006. The transformation of that beautiful facility into a regional destination is a great symbol of North Minneapolis.

It matters to all of us if North Minneapolis is growing: more people living in North Minneapolis means more property taxes that fund vital services that benefit everyone; more neighbors looking out for each other mean a safer city for everyone; and more customers for business mean more vibrant commercial corridors for everyone.

Unfortunately, North Minneapolis is not growing. While some parts of the city grew strongly in the last decade, North Minneapolis’ population declined by 11%.

So if we want to grow as a city — and we should grow into the city of a half-million residents that we were 60 years ago — the key will be North Minneapolis.

The recipe for growing North Minneapolis is straightforward: investing in safety, housing, jobs, connection and youth. We’ve made great progress on those fronts in recent years, and in order to meet the challenges we still face, I announced some exciting new initiatives.

Safety. Violent crime is down 45% in North Minneapolis since 2006. Some categories of crime are up this year, but we have fought too hard to make this city safer and will not be complacent.

Housing. We have helped stabilize North Minneapolis: we have helped prevent foreclosures, rehabbed hundreds of blighted properties, and attracted new homeowners to redeveloped homes. Foreclosures are dropping, down 50% last year compared to 2008.

I also announced plans for a new program called Green Homes North, a partnership with Minnesota Housing to build 100 new green, sustainable homes in North Minneapolis on vacant City-owned lots in the next five years, using local labor and locally-sourced green materials.

Jobs and economy. Minneapolis does more to train workers than almost any other city: since 2006, we have placed nearly 7,000 people in jobs, 40% of them from North Minneapolis. But our recovery is not evenly shared: while the City’s overall unemployment rate is now the lowest since the start of the recession, African American unemployment in Minneapolis stands at 20%.

We are doing more to become One Minneapolis: we are extending our RENEW program that has placed many people of color in green jobs, dramatically increasing the City’s goals for minority participation in City contracts, and beginning a new City internship program focused on college students of color.

Transit and reconnection. North Minneapolis must be better connected to the rest of our city and region. One step we are taking is to study a modern streetcar on West Broadway that will spur business vitality and new jobs on that valuable commercial corridor. And this year, we will see the construction of the Van White Bridge that will cross I-394 and connect Heritage Park to Lowry Hill.

Youth. Our STEP-UP summer jobs program has put nearly 12,000 young people in good jobs since 2006 — 45% of them from North Minneapolis — and we are keeping it up, employing 1,800 more youth this summer.

I also announced that nonprofit Emerge Community Development will soon break ground on a new, technology-focused, workforce center for youth and adults in the historic North Branch Library on Emerson Avenue.

My State of the City speech on Wednesday was the first since a tornado hit North Minneapolis last May 22, damaging 3,700 properties and killing two people. Amid the devastation, the tornado brought out the best in so many: thousands of neighbors doing remarkable things for each other, and thousands of volunteers pouring in to help. That was one North Minneapolis pulling together.

We are recovering: 2,800 repair permits have been issued, and I announced that we have secured a grant to reforest the neighborhood with flowering trees in honor of Rob McIntyre, a neighborhood resident who died while trying to help his neighbors clean up from the tornado.

North Minneapolis has made progress and while it still faces challenges, its greatest asset is its remarkably people. When they all pull in the same direction, they have done great things, and all of Minneapolis has benefitted. And there is much more to come.

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