City designates Northside Green Zone

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The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park Board have announced intentions to examine how parklands benefit the community. A major focus: environmental equity.

Two new areas of Minneapolis have been designated by the city as Green Zones. In these areas, efforts will be taken to address air quality, soil contamination and water pollution. Additionally, officials plan to promote green jobs and clean energy.

On the Northside, a Green Zone has been designated covering the McKinley, Hawthorne and Near North neighborhoods. Over the coming years, the city aims to improve health and support economic development in these areas that “face the cumulative effects of environmental pollution as well as social, political and economic vulnerability.”

The city has six primary goals for Green Zones:

Clean up soil and water. Industry has had a major environmental impact on the Northside. Manufacturing, especially, has contributed to the degradation of soil and water. The city is aiming to redevelop brownfields, which are areas once occupied by industry that need to be tested for contamination and restored. These would be community-identified sites and provide living-wage jobs for local residents.

Improve air quality, livability and pollinator habitat. Planning includes the planting of trees and pollinator-friendly vegetation that would serve to reduce storm water runoff, water pollution and air pollution. Also, residents are to be provided with greater opportunity to access clean energy and improve energy efficiency.

Improve air and environmental quality in business and transport. The chemicals produced by industry in the area severely impact residents’ health. Auto emissions, of course, also contribute to air pollution. The city is looking at how to reduce the use of harmful chemicals and increase energy efficiency while balancing the need for business.

Increase green jobs and career opportunities. The city would like for environmental efforts in the Green Zone to largely be carried out by area residents. Plans are in the works to identify business and nonprofit partners who can train and employ people from the area. Local hiring will be incentivized.

Improve affordability, availability and quality of housing. A home can be the source of many ailments. Lead, radon, mold and asthma triggers can all harm health. In the Green Zone, the city will work to improve the environmental quality of rental properties while making home ownership and cooperative housing a reality for more residents.

Provide access to healthy, affordable food. Organizations producing food locally would be partnered with to create a large-scale, sustainable system of growing, producing and distributing healthy food. The city would also promote community gardens and explore new modes of membership in co-ops and markets.

A wide variety of factors were considered in determining which parts of the city would be designated Green Zones. Environmental factors included air quality, soil contamination, parklands and food access. Equity considerations such as poverty, disability status and educational attainment were also weighed.

In addition to the area established on the Northside, another Green Zone has been designated in South Minneapolis. That area encompasses the Cedar Riverside, Midtown, and Phillips neighborhoods.

To learn more about the city’s newly designated Green Zones, visit ci.minneapolis.mn.us/sustainability/policies/green-zones.