In the heart of Minneapolis’ Somali community, tenants of the Cedar High public housing complex gathered by the dozens Monday night to hear how the city planned to better keep them safe.
The answer: a 6-foot high fence, new key fob access and 17 security cameras.
To a standing-room-only crowd of residents, Mayor Jacob Frey, Council Member Abdi Warsame and representatives from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority detailed their plans for an $825,000 security upgrade around the four-building complex.
The project, which will be funded through the housing authority, came in response to years of concerns from residents who say it’s been too easy for intruders to enter their community and hurt or steal from them.
“It’s not a perfect solution, but we do think that it will help in safeguarding the residents of this complex, many of whom have experienced fear and some actual assaults due to the fact that this complex is so open,” said Mary Alice Smalls, a regional property manager who oversees those buildings. “We would like to make it a lot harder for people to assault our residents inside this building and inside this campus.”
Built in the 1960s and ’70s, the Cedar High Apartment complex comprises four apartment buildings located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood near the corner of Cedar Avenue and 6th Street S., across the street from the Ralph Rapson-designed Riverside Plaza high-rises. The 539 units, mostly single bedroom, are largely occupied by the area’s Somali community, and the meeting was translated in English, Somali and Korean.
Several residents expressed concerns that the complex has been open to unwanted guests who want to prey on its large population of elderly people. One man said his car has been broken into repeatedly in the parking lot, including last week, and asked the city to provide better security while it’s constructing the updates. Another said the scariest part of her day is walking to the nearby light rail.
Greg Russ, executive director of the Housing Authority, assured the tenants that the authority is invested in its mission to keep them safe.
“This is our job — to preserve these buildings, to keep these homes intact, to work in partnership with the city and others to make sure that these properties are here today and far into the future,” he said.
Frey, who has identified affordable housing as his number-one priority in his first term, said in an interview that the security upgrades came in response to community activists raising concerns about safety.
“These changes are happening because public housing residents spoke out and called for change in betterment of their situation,” Frey said. “So they really deserve the credit in spearheading this initiative.”
At the meeting, Frey earned loud applause by giving his opening remarks in Somali. He said a commitment to making housing affordable also means making sure “every single person has a safe and affordable place to go home to at the end of the day.”
The mayor thanked members of the crowd for raising concerns that drove the security project and invited tenants to call his office with more input on how to make them safer. He also vowed to continue working with the Somali community.
“You’ll be seeing a lot of me over the next several years,” he said.
Construction on the project is scheduled to being in July and will takes about eight weeks.