Thursday, January 7, 2010

Today We Only Stand At The Front Door Of The Future--More Images And Video Of The Hawthorne Eco-Village Groundbreaking...

Above, former Hawthorne Neighborhood Board Chair Peter Teachout talks about facing down crime in the Eco-Village.

Photo By Megan Goodmundson

A group photo of individuals who were very involved in the Eco-Village effort, including residents and public officials.

The green door pictured in the photo has a bit of a story behind it...

Originally, one city official had an idea to obtain a salvaged door at a local used building components business, but Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes thought it would be more frugal and environmentalist to obtain a used door without cost which, really, wasn't good for anything but a prop, anyway. He got such a door from the "Hawthorne Princess," an incredible bargain of a house owned by Realtor Connie Nompelis, currently on vacation in swampy, oh-so-uncomfortable Honduras.

I might add there are PLENTY of such bargain houses in this rapidly-revitalizing model of a neighborhood.

After the symbolic groundbreaking--shoveling a path in the snow to the door--it was Council Member Diane Hofstede who personally laid out the welcome mat.

Meeting at Farview Park after the ground-breaking, where it was much warmer, 4th Precinct Commander Mike Martin talked about the incredible turnaround in the Eco-Village. According to Martin, members of gang units don't like to pull duty in this area, because it is TOO BORING. According to Martin, a lot of things went right to create the quick and startling 18-month success in the Eco-Village. He said even the bad guys did what they should have done: they packed and left.

Personally, I have to wonder if there weren't some private heart-to-heart talks with the bad guys, with stuff said like, "You DO NOT burn the truck of the neighborhood chair ON MY WATCH, (expletive)."

Whatever it was we collectively did, it worked, and hopefully we can figure out that magic formula and replicate it all over North Minneapolis and beyond.

Council Member Diane Hofstede gives credit to residents who were involved in the long, difficult struggle to turn the neighborhood around. Diane is always a classy dresser, but today she looked especially sharp.

I couldn't help but notice a minor factual error, made with the best of intentions: Diane mentioned my car "getting burned." Actually, it was Peter Teachout's truck that burned. As for me, I've had a total of ten tires slashed, one vehicle window busted, and one incident of my vehicle being stolen. (That theft also included a busted window) But my vehicle has never been torched. I would never bother to mention this except that I don't want to get credit in public for enduring something that did not, in fact, actually happen.

Due to how closely Jeff Skrenes, Peter Teachout and myself worked to turn the Eco-Village around, sometimes our different sets of facts would get mixed up in the minds of various pepole. For example, today I was asked how "all my kids" were doing. I only have one child, my son Alex, but Peter has FOUR children.

Community Development and Economic Planning (CPED) Housing Director Tom Streitz delivers remarks. One can't help but be reminded of that old saying, "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." Today, we didn't really need to worry about that saying.

Today, Eco-Village resident Pam Patrek--whose home might be described as a peaceful island surrounded by vacant lots--gave identical gift baskets to Jeff Skrenes and myself which included (naturally) some homemade Polish sausage.

Jeff Skrenes took some of his sausage and cut it up to share at the gathering. At Jeff's prompting, I told the story of how this sausage sustained us in our long, gritty efforts to turn around the Eco-Village, often eaten in celebration when yet another decrepit property would get demolished. The sausage itself might very well be the key to the "magic formula" which produced such overwhelming success in such a historically short period of time.

Eat, eat! we told those gathered. Eat the magic sausage. It's great cold!

Here, I'll show you--!

Jill Keiner--who is Hawthorne's point of contact with the City of Minneapolis--talks to Steve Brandt of the Star Tribune about the turnaround happening in North Minneapolis. I heard the name "T.J. Waconia" come up.

Photo By State Rep Linda Higgins

Me posing with Tom Streitz, who is a faithful reader of this blog. Thanks, Tom.

Today was a great day. However, the Eco-Village is not just an end in itself, but intended as a model and a seed which will kick start deeper and broader neighborhood revitalization.

Today we only stand at the front door of the future.


Ryan Hogan (Folwell) said...

I commend the efforts of Hawthorne residents, but I cannot help but notice that every person pictured in both the groundbreaking media is white. If this an effort from the ground level up as the Strib reports it, it would make sense to me that the demographics of our Northside communities would be represented in the restructuring of our Northside communities. Little here shows they are. Please prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point Ryan. While I too applaud the work of Hawthorne residents, I am sometimes afraid that the word "revitalization" becomes a place holder for gentrification.

John, how do Hawthorne residents think about revitalization as it relates to north MInneapolis being a mixed income multi-ethnic community? What strategies are you all using in Hawthorne to ensure that all residents benefit not just the white ones?

Johnny Northside said...

Go to the first video I posted of the groundbreaking and watch the portion of the video where I pan around to capture the crowd. There are black individuals in the crowd. I also witnessed black individuals back at Farview Park when we had more speeches and refreshments.

Black individuals are also involved on the Hawthorne Neighborhood board and have been for, gee, decades. This Eco-Village groundbreaking happens as a result of YEARS of work by the board and city officials. It didn't happen just overnight. Other forms of diversity besides race were represented at the groundbreaking, too.

Thanks for trying to throw cold water on our neighborhood event event but your cold water froze in mid-air.

MeganG. said...

Ryan's comment reminds me of so many I have heard over the years of activism in NoMi - as if he is insinuating that the event should be postponed, delayed, halted or otherwise derailed because a certain quota wasn't met.

And my reply is always something like "this event was advertised to the open public, those who wanted to show up, showed up, we can't NOT continue with the event just because a certain portion of the population isn't participating in the exact ratio to the real demographics"

But as John said, the event was widely representative of many demographics, the room at Farview Park was packed, standing room only, I had to stand outside in the park building lobby area.

Neeraj Mehta said...

Good points john and megan. Though sometimes it isn't enough to just "advertise" in the open. Often because of the way our systems have worked themselves out historically, we must put in place more targeted and sometimes more culturally relevant ways of attracting a variety of people across race, class and even geography. What makes north minneapolis great is our diversity, so lets keep it that way!

Ryan, there are a lot of great things happening over north and many if not most are working hard to ensure that lots of people are involved and benefit.

For example, within the eco village I'm sure the housing built will be able to assist a variety of people.

North Minneapolis is a culturally and racially diverse place. For it to remain a vibrant and healthy place, revitalization will have to utilize these as strong assets to build upon, not to disregard

Kevin said...

A point of clarification:

I don't think you can really say this project has come about because of "years of work of the board and city officials". This project had its beginnings in the Housing Committee and continued with the Eco-Task Force of which I am a member. Everything from defining the project area to what should be built, how it should be built, the whole notion of "going green" and every other minor detail was worked out by this task force. Yes, the board had ultimate authority as to what we recommended, but I really can't think of a single recommendation they didn't approve.

Through the years (I really can't remember how many it's been), we've had members come and go - from all minority groups. A couple of us stuck it out, others decided not to do so. For whatever reason, those remaining members are white and I'm not going to feel guilty about that. The work hasn't been easy, it's been a huge time commitment and it's been tedious at times with no direct benefit to us since we don't even live close to the Eco Project area.

We have a standing open invitation to everyone, of any ethnic group to join us if they wish, but we can't force people to do so if they don't want to. It's their decision to make.

Anonymous said...


There is a reason. Just because someone can come up with a "witty" rebuttal to blow you off and brush your comment aside, doesn't mean your thought doesn't merit deeper pondering ...

A. Friend

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...


You are spot on with your comments regarding how the project has been driven by the community and not a top-down imposition by the city or other development partners. I stressed that point repeatedly at the Hawthorne Huddle earlier in the morning, to the various reporters I spoke with during the day, and also at the event itself.

I have much to say on the issue about proportionate demographic representation of the community as a whole at various events, but that particular train of thought is long enough that it will likely result in a full post commentary.

MeganG. said...

Neeraj, thanks for adding your voice, and I totally agree about alot of it. Those that know and work closely with me know how much I myself have actually struggled to do outreach for various events, and frustrated when more people don't participate. I sometimes chalk it up to the fact that here on the northside, the activists are spread thin and can't be everywhere, especially not to a ceremony in the middle of the day.

I didn't put in any work on this eco-village, but Ryan's criticisms struck close to me because I have had same criticisms over and over and over, and it just feels like "hey, great event, I'm sure you worked hard but you didn't quite work hard enough or didn't do good enough because the 'x' population wasn't represented as it should be".

And it's like, ok, there's only so much each individual can do, so how about you pitch in and help work on getting the demographics to the event.

Perhaps I'm just being defensive of all these great people that worked so hard to get something like this eco-village going, that it just chaps my hide to have someone say "it wasn't good enough because xyz".

I guess it would feel much different if Ryan was part of that group and he was saying "we did great, but next time I want us to work harder at xyz".

So, to bring this back around to a positive note - what are some suggestions of readers out there to get higher participation of ALL demographics of the community?

MikeT said...

The notion that there was something wrong with a project because not enough people of a certain demographic didn't show up, and that is somehow the fault of the people who did show up is really, in my view, silly. If you miss the bus, is it the fault of the people who didn't?

There is no shortage of things that need to be done on this side of town, so grab a neighbor and a pair of work gloves and get busy. Don't wait to be wooed with an engraved invitation or whine about not being included after the fact.

Get on the bus.

Anonymous said...

@ Megan G. -

Brava! I agree that there is often a complaint that community events are not representative of the community. I have done knock-and-talks, multi-language fliers, and other similar efforts. And yet, often the turnout is disappointing. For all of those who are unhappy about the demographic turnout at community events, please, JOIN an organization. Tell us what we need to do differently. Seriously, and with no sarcasm font, we do actually want to know.


MeganG. said...

@AKL - yes, I agree! We actually DO want to know how to get more people, of all demographics, to participate.

Heck, I have paid money to run classified ads in community news papers, and still end up with 35 people deciding who gets to be a director of the neighborhood organization.

That's why I created The 2010 Challenge. This year, if all of us pledge to meet 20 new neighbors, and recruit 10 of them to come to an event or a meeting - then we'll have made big strides in moving NoMi forward.

The 2010 Challenge. Meet 20 new neighbors. Bring 10 of them to a neighborhood function.

Game on!

Neeraj Mehta said...

I think there are a lot of reasons why some people choose to get involved in neighborhood change efforts and why other don't. There are cultural, personal, systemic, economic and probably many more reasons for any given individual.

There is a tremendous value for North Minneapolis future to find ways that regardless of your ethnicity and class your voice is represented.

I want to see a North Minneapolis that builds its social, human and cultural capital simultaneous to its physical and economic capital.

I want to see a North Minneapolis where community ownership transcends simply whether or not you own a house or not.

But to do so will take efforts (like Megan's 2010 challenge), but also sacrifice.

I want those who have lived and called north Minneapolis home through all of its' challenges and disinvestment to be able to benefit from the calm after the storm. Not just new folks who come in for sweet housing deals and new economic vitality.

But don't get me wrong we need that too.

It's the million dollar question how you do both!

A responsible redevelopment framework to community redevelopment lies in the intentional braiding of strategies that focus on people, place, and opportunity.

A responsible redevelopment process empowers residents of the existing community to play a meaningful role in the redevelopment process and respects their rights.

Responsible redevelopment results in diverse, mixed-income communities that feature a “right to return” for former residents and that include high-performing schools and healthy living features that improve the quality of life for all residents.

Pond-dragon said...

There was a Peace Vigil at 38 & 6th Ave N yesterday, quite a few of our African American community, not so many of our Anglo Saxon community.
"Is there a message about ground level demographics?"