Sheridan Neighborhood Phase I NRP Plan Review - Draft 02/2004
History and Overview of the Plan
The Sheridan Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) plan was written by the NRP Committee of Sheridan Today and Yesterday (STAY). STAY was the neighborhood organization that preceded the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO). In 1995, the STAY NRP committee mass-mailed post cards to neighborhood residents. These postcards contained a short survey asking residents to list their neighborhood priorities. Also that year, the committee organized an NRP kick-off meeting to discuss the results of that survey and to solicit more information about the concerns of neighbors. Based on the information collected from these sources, the committee identified four major areas of neighborhood concern: (1) housing, (2) crime and safety, (3) business and (4) youth.
Over the next two years, a number of focus groups were held to discuss these issues and develop strategies to address them. This work was collected and presented to the neighborhood at a Town Meeting in 1997. The Sheridan Neighborhood NRP plan was approved at this meeting by a neighborhood vote and the implementation of the plan began under the guidance of STAY.
In 1998, a new group of residents formed the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO). These residents started SNO because of their dissatisfied with a hiring decision made by STAY. By the end of the year, SNO was the official neighborhood organization of Sheridan, and took over the implementation of the NRP plan.
The primary focus of the Sheridan Phase I NRP plan was on housing. Sheridan’s Phase I NRP allocation was approximately $2 million, and about 75% of these funds were targeted in the area of housing. About half those housing funds were originally targeted toward housing demolition programs, but since the plan’s approval all the demolition funds were re-allocated to other purposes, from home and business fix-up programs to a down-payment assistance program.
It was partly due to the success of the NRP Phase I plan that housing demolition funds were no longer needed. Beginning in the late 1990’s, Sheridan’s home values rose faster than the city’s average, and the neighborhood’s hardy and historic housing stock came to be viewed as highly desirable. Because of the NRP fix-up funds disbursed, Sheridan’s housing looks better than it has in years. The NRP funding has had a spin-off effect, and other homeowners did improvement work without the assistance of neighborhood funds.
A new Pierre Bottineau branch library is also a sign of the NRP plan’s success. This project may not have happened without the NRP funds contributed by the Sheridan and Saint Anthony West neighborhoods. Sheridan allocated $100,000 to help fund amenities for this library, which is now successfully operating in the former Grain Belt Wagon Shed and Millwright Shop.
Although it is now still empty, the Ritz Theatre promises to be another success of the Sheridan NRP plan. The theatre has been vacant since the early 1980’s. Sheridan NRP funds made possible a re-use study that showed that the theatre would work for a new tenant, and additional NRP funds will be spent to help transform the building into the home of the Ballet of the Dolls dance company. In all, $155,000 of Sheridan’s Phase I NRP funds will go into the theatre project.
The NRP plan also led to the formation of a new neighborhood organization, SNO, which has worked hard to bring new life and involvement into the Sheridan Neighborhood. Events like the annual SNO Ball and SNO Big Deal have helped to build community in the neighborhood. These events pay for themselves, and should certainly be part of a "Community Building" section of the Sheridan’s Phase II plan.
This review was put together by the Sheridan NRP Committee, which is the body that administers the neighborhood NRP plan. A town meeting was held in June 2003 to review the Phase I plan and take comments on it. Surveys were passed out and neighborhood comments about the plan’s projects were solicited. The review was then written by several contributors and collected into this document. Additional information was gathered from surveys sent out by the Housing Resource Center, the organization that administers Sheridan’s loan programs.
The Plan and Its Progress
The Sheridan Phase I NRP plan was divided into five sections: (1) Housing, (2) Crime and Safety, (3) Youth, (4) Business, and (5) Implementation. What follows is a look at the various projects in these sections, and how these projects have been implemented or modified.
NorthEast Home Ownership Resource Center
The Northeast Housing Resource Center is located at 909 Main Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413. This Center resides in 1250 square feet of modern office space. Current staff includes five full-time employees: Program Coordinator, Program Assistant, Construction Manager, Assistant Construction Manager and a Architect.
The Housing Resource Center, a program of the Greater Minneapolis Housing Corporation (GMHC), provides housing and home improvement services and resources to any resident within the Minneapolis Area. They currently administer thirteen NRP Programs in six Minneapolis neighborhoods, the MHFA Fix Up Fund, the MHFA Rehab Incentive Program, the MHFA Rental Rehabilitation Program, the CPED (MCDA) CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Deferred and Revolving Loan Programs, as well as MHFA Rebate Programs in St. Anthony and Columbia Heights.
The Center’s three main areas of focus are: housing program administration; free construction management services and a clearinghouse on housing related information.
The Housing Resource Center administers Sheridan’s NRP Housing Programs, and the Business Fix-Up Loan Program. In the Phase I plan, a specific strategy funded Sheridan’s contribution to the operation of the Resource Center. Now, the Resource Center receives 6% of the fund pool for each of the programs that it administers to cover its administrative costs.
Deferred Loan/Grant Program
This program is known best as the Sheridan "Fix and Paint" program. The Deferred Loan Program provides matching funds to participants for exterior home improvements to encourage and stimulate private investment in property; increase confidence in and livability of the Sheridan Neighborhood; and improve housing conditions so that the overall visual impact within the Sheridan neighborhood is improved.
The program provides matching funds up to a maximum of $5,000 per household. In several cases, the matching funds have been provided through the Sheridan Revolving Loan Program (see below.)
This deferred loan is interest free. After five years of continued ownership the loan is totally forgiven (deferred).
Eligible improvements include: painting, structural and foundation problems, stucco, siding, fences, doors/windows, energy efficient exterior improvements, roof, sidewalks, garages, driveways, retaining walls, decks, porches, and permanent landscaping.
Each year that it has run, this program has received about three times the number of applications that can be funded. Because of this, a lottery is held to determine priority of applications. The success of this program has led to three plan modifications that have allowed it to be funded on a yearly basis. The originally NRP plan called for a program every two years. An NRP plan modification in 2002 continued the funding of this program from 2003-2005 at $100,000 per year.
Owner Occupied Revolving Loan Program:
The objective of this program is to provide an additional incentive for neighborhood residents to maintain and improve Sheridan's housing stock, while allowing the neighborhood to recapture these funds to be used for projects of value to the community in the future. This program serves to compliment the Deferred Loan Program (matching grants) by allowing greater latitude in the scope of allowable improvements. This program funds both interior and exterior improvements. Residents repay their loans at a 4% interest rate, which insures a pool of funds for future home improvements. The program has the added benefit of not relying upon an annual lottery to determine eligibility, thereby allowing homeowners to move ahead with improvements more expeditiously.
The program has met with such success that SNO allocated more than $135,000 in additional funds after the initial pool of $250,000 was put to work in the community by the end of 2002. In the year 2000, the SNO board voted to raise the maximum loan amount per household to $15,000. The original maximum loan was $10,000. This change was made in light of the rising cost of major home rehabilitation work.
Cop on Every Block Program
This program, originally funded at $346,500 in the NRP plan, was never used. This finding was re-allocated subsequently to other housing programs. The Cop on Every Block program allocated up to $50,000 per property to purchase and demolish a house. The lot would then be offered to a Minneapolis police officer. The officer would then finance the construction of a house on that lot.
Sharply rising housing prices in the neighborhood made this program virtually unworkable. The program was also put together at a time when Minneapolis residency was required for Minneapolis police officers. This is no longer the case.
Duplex Conversion Program
This program was also never used, and its funding was re-allocated to other housing purposes. The program provided a deferred loan up to $5,000 to assist a homeowner to convert their duplex into a single family house. A citywide housing shortage that followed the approval of the Sheridan NRP plan, and city goals of increasing density, made this program less desirable.
Downpayment Assistance Program
This is a new program that was built out of the Duplex Purchaser program in the original NRP plan. This new expanded program provides up to $5,000 in down-payment assistance to potential purchasers of housing in Sheridan.
The original Duplex Purchaser program provided down-payment assistance to neighbors purchasing a duplex property. This program did not attract interest, and so it was expanded to include single family, triplex and fourplex buyers in 2002. It was expanded to help to address the rise in housing prices in the Sheridan neighborhood, and to help promote housing affordability. It is a brand new program and has not been fully tested.
This program was set up to provide matching funds to pay for Inspections Department demolition of abandoned houses in Sheridan. The neighborhood had no candidates for the program, and these funds were re-allocated to other housing programs in 2002.
Purchase and Demolition Program
This program resembles the Cop on Every Block program. It was also never utilized. It provided up to $50,000 to purchase and demolish an exiting house and then offer the lot to a new owner who would purchase the lot for $1.00 and then finance the construction of a new house on that property. Rising real estate costs in the neighborhood, and a new awareness and desirability for the neighborhood’s historic housing stock, made this program less desirable, and the funds were moved to the housing programs that funded rehabilitation.
Absentee Owned Property Improvement Program
This is a revolving loan program that was set up similar to the program for Owner Occupied Properties. It provides housing fix-up funds to owners of rental property, but has only been used only twice. It has the same interest rate and funding guidelines as the Owner Occupied Program. The SNO Board has discussed merging the two Revolving loan programs into one program open to both owner-occupied and absentee owned properties, but no action has yet been taken.
Neighborhood Satisfaction with Loan Programs
The Housing Resource Center, which administers the Sheridan Housing Loan programs, sends out an evaluation form to program participants. Of the 38 evaluation forms sent in by Sheridan program partipants, all recorded a positive experience with the Center and the housing programs. Several stated that they would not have been able to make the repairs without the program. Other comments included the satisfaction of seeing several houses on their blocks fixed up, and the overall neighborhood looking better.
One person commented that the process was slow, and another commented that few people on her block were chosen in the lottery for the Paint and Fix program. One person asked for a database of contractors with customer comments available on line and in print.
Crime and Safety Section
Implement Crime and Safety Initiatives
This program provided funding for a staff person to do crime and safety organizing in the neighborhood. These funds and some of the funding from the Implementation section paid for two staffpeople hired by STAY during the first year of the NRP plan. It was neighborhood response to the personalities of the first staff person that prompted many neighbors to start a new organization, SNO, which has since worked as a volunteer-only group.
The staff people hired by STAY worked on organizing around a crime issue, and also worked with the youth employment program (see the later section). The staff people did not implement the crime and safety programs that are listed next in the plan.
Equipment for Block Clubs
This program funded crime-fighting equipment for block clubs. The intention was that the Crime and Safety staff person establish this program, oversee this equipment and check it out to neighbors. The program was never set up, and in 2003 the funds were moved to the Eastside Co-op and Community Health programs in a plan modification.
Increase Tenant/Landlord Involvement
This program was to be administered by the Crime and Safety staffperson. It was a call to increase outreach to tenants and landlords. The program was not funded, and was never implemented.
Enforce Existing Ordinances
This program, originally set up as a directive for the Crime and Safety staffperson to work closely with the police, was utilized by SNO to fund bike patrols in cooperation with the Bottineau Neighborhood Organization. The Bottineau and Sheridan neighborhood provided $9,600 each to fund this program.
The bike patrols worked during the summers of 1999-2001. Several residents and businesses were put on a list of locations for the officers to stop at when they were riding. Neighborhood bars were a special concern in the Sheridan neighborhood.
The program was well-liked by residents, but the officers went out at unpredictable times. Marie Marino of the Bottineau Neighborhood said that neighbors commented that they wondered how much time the police actually spent in the neighborhoods. Part of their bike shift did involve riding from the Second Precinct to the neighborhoods, and considerable time was spent on duties outside Bottineau and Sheridan. If the program is re-established in subsequent years, Marino recommended working more closely with the police so that neighbors know when they are in the neighborhood.
Matching Grants for Motion Detectors
This program was designed to provide funding for the installation and purchase of motion detector lights. Running the program would have been one of the duties of the Crime and Safety staffperson. The program was never set up and the funds were re-allocated to the Eastside Co-op and Community Health Program in 2003.
This program was set up in 2002 to help fund the Minneapolis Bicycle Plan bike route signage in Sheridan. The program is waiting while city staff determine a unified design for bike route signage for the city. Other uses of these funds include bike racks for neighborhood businesses. This use will be investigated when planning for 13th Avenue NE begins.
Community Health Program
In 2004, Sheridan joins the Community Health Program (CHP), which was started as a partnership between the Logan Park and Saint Anthony East neighborhoods in their NRP Phase I plans. This program offers health services to residents through a health outreach worker. Sheridan has asked that this outreach worker especially focus on seniors, children, and recent immigrants in the neighborhood.
A Sheridan resident will serve on the board of directors of CHP to help guide the program in Sheridan with the help of the staff of the organization. The Holland Neighborhood recently voted to join this collaborative, which promises to be a great example of cooperation between Northeast Neighborhoods.
Pierre Bottineau Library Support
The original NRP plan funded computers for the original Pierre Bottineau Library. These computers would have special software to help youth in career development. When the possibility of opening a much larger branch library in re-used Grain Belt Brewery complex buildings arose, this program was expanded considerably to help make that project happen.
Several planning meetings were held in 2000 to determine neighborhood contributions to the library. The SNO board added $80,000 to the original computer allocation to fund additions to the library’s collection, more computers, displays for artwork, bicycle racks, a local history section, and many other amenities. The library opened in 2003 and is now the neighborhood’s cornerstone.
Youth Employment Service Program
This program was a partnership with the Minneapolis Employment Training Program (METP) to provide gainful experiences for youth between the ages of 11 and 18.
According to Chip Wells of METP, this program operated during the summer of 1999 and was similar to other programs they operated in other neighborhoods in the 1990’s. A group of youth worked cleaning streets and sidewalks and other similar jobs. The funds went to pay the youth, and also may have gone to purchase such materials as brooms and trash bags. The youth worked with the staff person of Sheridan Today and Yesterday, and the funds were spent while the NRP plan was held by that organization.
Neighborhood response to the program was somewhat good, though one respondent suggested working with a neighborhood-based organization, like Eastside Neighborhood Services, if the neighborhood were to carry out such a program in the future.
Multi-Neighborhood Community Center
This program was set up to contribute funds to a community center that was originally proposed for the Jackson Square area of the Holland Neighborhood. This center was never built, and this funding was moved to the Pierre Bottineau library project.
Sheridan School Parking Improvements
This section was added to the plan to provide funding to repair the parking lot at Sheridan School. The School Board had already completed the work when they asked the neighborhood to add this project to the NRP plan. If the neighborhood had known about this project earlier, they could have contributed additional NRP funds to add extra amenities to the project.
Ritz Theater Restoration
The Ritz Theatre has been vacant since the early 1980’s, and addressing its important site on the 13th Avenue business corridor has long been a priority of the neighborhood. In the original NRP Phase I plan, STAY set up a program that would either provide funding for an organization that had the resources to rehabilitate the theatre, or, that not occurring, provide funds to demolish the building.
Soon after the formation of SNO, the Ballet of the Dolls dance company (BOD) took an interest in rehabilitating the Ritz Theatre as their performance home and offices. An initial study funded by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA) was promising, and so the SNO Board voted to release the initial $75,000 in the NRP plan to further the work of BOD to make the theatre their home.
These initial funds were used by BOD in for pre-development work. The funds were used by a BOD consultant, Sutton and Associates, to pay for a parking study and plan, a budget and databases for the project, and architectural plans, among other uses. In 2003, neighborhood residents voted to reallocate an additional $80,000 to fund the first stages of capital improvements to the theatre building. These funds will be used to stabilize the structure. In the meantime, BOD has already raised substantial additional funds to begin the rehabilitation work on the theatre.
Business Exterior Improvement Loan Program
The plan was put together by the SNO business committee over the course of about a year working with the Housing Resource Center. The goal of the Commercial Exterior Fix-Up Revolving Loan plan is to supply incentive to commercial property owners in the Sheridan neighborhood to enhance the appearance of their property.
Incentive is in the form of a 0% interest loan for up to $10,000 (more if approved by the SNO board) to be paid off in 5 years. The idea is that the enhancement of commercial properties in the neighborhood benefits the whole neighborhood by helping all property values to appreciate rather than depreciate. The plan was approved by the SNO board and administered by the Housing Resource Center. The program is still fairly new, and publicity about the program to the business community has been slow, but has been growing with the recent re-establishment of the Sheridan Business Committee.
Eastside Co-op Support
In 2003, Sheridan residents voted at a Town Meeting to re-allocate NRP funds to help support the Eastside Food Co-op. The $33,625 would be provided as a loan to help the Co-op with capital costs to construct their home. Sheridan is one of five neighborhoods providing NRP support to this project, which is located outside of the Sheridan neighborhood at the corner of Lowry and Central Avenues. The Co-op opened in November 2003.
This section provided funds to make the Sheridan NRP plan into reality. The majority of the funds were spent to pay for the staff people that STAY hired. When SNO took over the plan, they used these funds primarily to fund some multi-neighborhood collaborations. Some funding went to establish MEND (Mississippi Eastside Neighborhood Development), an organization to work on issues shared by the Saint Anthony West, Sheridan, Bottineau and Marshall Terrace neighborhoods, the four Northeast Neighborhoods that border the river. Additional funds helped to pay for a Marshall Street study and plan. This effort plans for the future of this shared street near the river. This plan was developed under the guidance of MEND.
From Phase I to Phase II
Many of the priorities and projects in the Phase I plan should be carried over into Phase II. Housing repair will always be an issue in Sheridan because of the age of its housing stock, much of which was constructed prior to 1900. Housing affordability is a new issue that has arisen since the Phase I plan was approved, and will need to be dealt with in new ways for Phase II.
Crime and Safety will continue to be an issue as well, as will finding ways to work creatively and effectively with the police department and block clubs. The Pierre Bottineau Library and the new Eastside Neighborhood Services Center, built with assistance from Bottineau NRP funding, provide new venues for creative youth programs that should be carried over into Phase II.
Business should become a larger issue in Phase II. The neighborhood’s commercial core on 13th Avenue should be the subject of an in-depth planning process to strengthen the street between the Grain Belt complex and the Ritz Theatre. The possiblity of housing developments along Marshall Street will also have an impact on the business community. Planning for Sheridan’s other corridors, University Avenue, Broadway, and 2nd Street, should be made with guidance from the city of Minneapolis master plan, which calls for density of housing and mixed use projects on such corridors.
The original NRP plan left out many other areas, some of which have been addressed by subsequent plan modifications. Areas like health and transportation should rise in importance in Phase II. Public transit, a resource relied upon by many under-represented neighborhood residents, should be addressed creatively by neighborhood planning. The City of Minneapolis Master Plan, which had not yet been adopted when the Phase I plan was created, should also be utilized to help guide neighborhood planning efforts.
Sheridan’s NRP Phase II plan should also strive to be something closer to a comprehensive planning document. Since its Phase I plan was approved, Sheridan has become much more appealing to developers, and having a strong and comprehensive neighborhood vision to present to them will strengthen the neighborhood’s role and say in these subsequent developments.
Sheridan’s Phase II plan should also work to better reflect many of the neighborhood’s newest residents, the new immigrants who are helping revitalize the entire city. Special efforts should go to reach out to them, and to develop programs that will make the neighborhood work better for them. Sheridan’s Phase II plan should also look back at the neighborhood’s origins, and begin a process of gathering history to document the neighborhood’s earlier immigrant stories, so that we can learn from the past and build a better future.
Today, the Sheridan neighborhood is a better place to live because of the successes of the NRP Phase I plan. The housing programs especially have resulted in a visible difference in the look of the neighborhood, and this is a view that is shared widely. The focus on housing has resulted in a rethinking of our urban neighborhood in the ten years that NRP has existed. Prior to the plan, neighborhood housing efforts were primarily oriented around demolishing old structures that were considered worthless or "blighted," and to reduce the housing density of the neighborhood. Today, renovation, restoration, maintenance and improvement of physical properties has replaced the urge to demolish these older structures, which are now viewed more as historic and desirable assets. There now exists a greater sense of pride in the unique flavor of Sheridan neighborhood, and much of that comes from its unique historic character.
Pride in Sheridan is most clearly demonstrated by community involvement and volunteerism on a scale not seen previous to NRP Phase I. Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO) meetings are well-attended and lively affairs. Various newly formed neighborhood committees are able to make use of meeting space provided by the new Pierre Bottineau Library and Eastside Neighborhood Services Building, projects funded under the Phase I plans of Sheridan and Bottineau neighborhoods, respectively. Volunteer committees organize community-building events, publish a newsletter and web site, conduct outreach, enhance the business environment of Sheridan, and conduct all the business related to NRP. SNO also has committed representatives who report back regularly from connected organizations, committees and institutions. Many other volunteers help to set up, operate and clean up neighborhood meetings and events. SNO has existed now for five years, and has accomplished all its work through volunteerism and cooperation, and without a paid staff person.
The sense of community that has been grown in the Sheridan neighborhood since the first NRP Plan was written will be carried over to Phase II. It is our hope that the Sheridan NRP Phase II plan will be a visionary document that will guide the neighborhood and the city to build and preserve a better Sheridan neighborhood.