Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wants to develop, celebrate and more widely share the city’s ethnic and racial diversity by designating several cultural corridors. That’s an idea worth supporting because it could benefit not only the neighborhoods and those who live and work there, but every city taxpayer.
Included in the mayor’s 2020 proposed budget is a provision to designate six “cultural districts’’ — W. Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis, Central Avenue in Northeast, Cedar-Riverside, Franklin Avenue, E. Lake Street and 38th Street. The areas were chosen by the mayor, several council members and community groups.
Under the plan, the districts would receive $550,000 for improving lighting, street cleaning and litter pickup and $200,000 for building facade improvements. Large art projects and events celebrating the culture of the areas would receive another $200,000.
That nearly $1 million is a relatively modest amount to be divided between six parts of the city. But it could go a long way toward sprucing up areas that have concentrated populations of immigrants or African-Americans and American-Indians. The program could help make the neighborhoods safer, more inviting destinations for residents and local and out-of-town visitors.
Another part of the mayor’s proposal would allocate $350,000 to Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism nonprofit. Those funds would help market and promote the districts to major conventions and other national or international events. That effort could help sell the city to organizers of big events. And in an era in which many workers can do their jobs from anywhere and increasingly decide where to live based on amenities, restaurants and other cultural options can be attractions.
“If we’re able to set the foundation, if we’re able to ensure that the streets are clean, and are properly lit … it gives a sense of both pride and real practical ownership in these districts by the communities that have made them wonderful to begin with,” Frey said in an interview with the Star Tribune. “That is a bigger driver for safety than anything else.”
An additional component of the plan is the creation of a $2.5 million fund that would provide no-interest loans for business owners in “racially segregated areas with concentrated poverty” to purchase properties they are now leasing. That could help business owners stay put as property values rise and threaten to price them out of their neighborhoods.
The strategic investment holds promise and could provide a critical boost to neighborhoods and individuals that have historically faced barriers to economic success — including covenants that locked them out of land ownership, as well as employment, housing and banking discrimination.
If the cultural districts have less poverty and more successful businesses and property owners, they’ll generate additional tax revenue. And that’s a boon for all city residents and property owners.