Driving up Penn Avenue from Highway 394 to North Minneapolis, one sees blocks afflicted by poverty and blight. Crumbling infrastructure, boarded up businesses, and foreclosed homes line what is one of the city’s most travelled residential corridors.
Yet, along this tract of distressed cityscape remains great pride—residents determined to make life better in the community and entire neighborhoods focused on replacing pockmarked buildings with revitalizing and sustainable development.
Since 2012, communities have had a partner in efforts to redevelop the Penn Avenue corridor: The Penn Avenue Community Works program has worked to revitalize impoverished communities, attempting to accelerate neighborhood improvements with targeted initiatives fostering neighborhoods’ vitality.
Change has not been immediate. Anyone who lives, works, or travels along Penn Avenue can attest to that. Some developments, however, may have promising effects on area neighborhoods:
Front Yard Fix Up Program. This program gives residents the opportunity to beautify properties and help deter crime. Enhancements of up to $5,000 can be made to improve exterior painting, windows, doors, landscaping, lighting, and porches or decks.
Low- and moderate-income families in owner-occupied homes are eligible for no-interest forgivable loans. In effect, no payments need be made if an owner stays in the home for five years. Residents with total household incomes of up to $102,960 are eligible, and applications are due by September 1.
The Homebuyers Assistance Program. This program offers up to $3,000 of financial assistance to help with down payments and closing costs to buyers of homes in the Penn Avenue corridor.
Again, residents with total household incomes of up to $102,960 are eligible for no-interest forgivable loans. No payments need be made if a new owner stays in a home for five years. Applications are also due by September 1.
Queen Avenue Bicycle Boulevard. For Northside cyclists the best route option is often to wind and wend a way through side streets with less car traffic. A recently funded project to create a bike boulevard on Queen Avenue signifies a significant improvement for those who commute or recreate on bikes.
A federal grant of $1 million, along with $250,000 of local funding, will enable the construction of a bicycle boulevard designed to improve cyclists’ access in North Minneapolis. A big focus: Increase residents’ transportation options while lessening vehicle traffic in the area.
The route is set to extend five miles along Queen Avenue, connecting with bike routes on Lowry, Plymouth and Glenwood Avenues, and a planned Olson Memorial Highway cycle track.
These potential improvements to the Penn Avenue corridor are significant, but not enough according to residents or local officials. Also on the list of proposed enhancements: better mass transit and Penn Avenue streetscape improvements.
Such amenities are in the works as Metro Transit’s C Line bus rapid transit (BRT) is scheduled to become a reality in the coming years. Dedicated stations and fewer local stops should reduce commute times for those working downtown or other areas. Many neglected greenspaces along the Penn Avenue are also set for improvement.
Anyone interested in providing input on improvements along the Penn Avenue corridor are encouraged to learn more and comment at hennepin.us/residents/transportation/penn-avenue-community-works.