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Feature

Mark Johnson standing by Cedar Avenue.

West Bank Business Association president Mark Johnson on Cedar Avenue. The association was one of seven to receive a grant from the U's Good Neighbor Fund.

Being a good neighbor

By Pauline Oo

June 18, 2008

This time next year, it'll be a lot easier to navigate around the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, aka the West Bank, which has a past as colorful as a bag of jelly beans. A new "wayfinding" project led by the West Bank Business Association will result in about 13 multidirectional signposts offering the most direct routes to such places as the University of Minnesota's Barbara Baker Center for Dance and Ted Mann Concert Hall, the Cedar Riverside LRT station, the Bedlam Theatre, and Augsburg College.

The association has received a $10,000 grant from the Good Neighbor Fund for this undertaking. The University created the fund in July 2007 with $1.5 million from the Minnesota Legislature designated for the residential and business communities that would be affected by the University's new TCF Bank Stadium. The Twin Cities campus is adjacent to five Minneapolis neighborhoods--Cedar Riverside, Marcy Holmes, S.E. Como, Prospect Park, and the University neighborhood (including Fraternity Row)--totaling some 35,500 residents, or just under 10 percent of the population of Minneapolis. The three business districts within those neighborhoods are Stadium Village, Dinkytown, and Cedar Riverside/West Bank.

This year, there were 13 applications for the Good Neighbor Fund; seven projects were picked to fit within the $69,000 available. (That amount will vary each year based on the annual earnings of the $1.5 million endowment.)

A five-member committee--with representatives from three campus-area neighborhoods, one business association, and one student organization--selected the winning projects, which run the gamut from creating more lanes for safe biking and walking to encouraging sports fans to patronize local businesses. Greater consideration was given to projects that could mitigate game-day impact, positively affect a broad geographical area over a longer period of time, and promote a consistent identity or approach across some or all of the neighborhoods.

"The [Good Neighbor Fund] spurred our two projects," says Renee LePreau of the St. Anthony Park Community Council. "Without it, we wouldn't have the money for them."

The council will use its $13,900 grant to study how to improve the bicycle and pedestrian route along Territorial Road and Franklin Avenue where they cross over Highway 280, which forms a barrier between the Minneapolis and St. Paul sections of the Twin Cities campus.

2008 Good Neighbor Fund recipients

Bridging the Gap: Pedestrian, Bike, and Traffic Calming Plan
St. Anthony Park Community Council, $13,900

South St. Anthony Park Banner Project
St. Anthony Park Community Council, $4,303

Wayfinding Project
West Bank Business Association, $10,000

Welcome Student Initiative
Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, $1,300

Clean Sweep 2009
Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, $3,810

Boulevard Tree Planting
Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, $5,500

Community Mitigations, Research and Recommendations
Southeast Como Improvement Association, $30,000

To learn more about each project, see University Relations. Application forms for the next round of funding will be available in January 2009.

"This was a grant we applied for with Prospect Park, which also extends across 280," explains LePreau. "Our goal is to create neighborhood cohesion by making it a lot easier for people in St. Anthony Park and Prospect Park to get back and forth across the highway and also to allow people [biking and walking] access to the stadium between the campuses because there'll be more [vehicle] traffic when the stadium opens."

The council's second grant ($4,303) will go toward welcome banners in south St. Anthony Park. The banners will be similar to those in the north, strung on streetlights along Como Avenue.

"[With the new stadium], there's an opportunity for us to make it a positive experience for the neighborhood," says Mark Johnson, U alum and president of the West Bank Business Association.

"The West Bank is really going to be a place where people could come, especially from the west and south, to park and take the light rail over to the stadium, or they could walk over if it's a nice day. And then come back after the event and go to one of the restaurants, or if they feel like seeing a play or listening to music. The West Bank has the largest concentration of music venues between Chicago and the West Coast."

When it opens in September 2009, TCF Bank Stadium will be the first on-campus football stadium for the University of Minnesota in more than two decades. Fundraising is currently under way for the $288.5 million structure; so far, $74 million has been raised toward the goal of $86 million in donations and sponsorships.

For more about TCF Bank Stadium, see the stadium Web site.