The little neighborhood of Cleveland on Minneapolis' North Side experiences big flooding whenever it rains too hard or fast. For decades, neighbors around 35th and Xerxes avenues N. have collected photos of themselves standing in waist-high water, with upturned garbage bins floating through the alleys and manhole covers blown off as water rushes downhill through too-small pipes.

Their garages and retaining walls are rotting, their sidewalks and yards subsiding. People with multiple sump pumps in their basements say it's still not enough to keep things dry. Some have been complaining to the city since the 1990s, but little has changed.

"I have funny videos of the previous neighbor's kids canoeing down the road," said Giovanna Johnson, who lives in a corner house with the front steps hollowed out by repeated flooding. "The bad part is when that happens, all the trash from the trash cans fall over and then goes up into our yards."

Finally, help could be on the way. Minneapolis recently updated its flood modeling and has shifted away from a complaint-based system in which the neighborhoods with more wealth and political capital were likely to get help first — even if other areas of the city were facing more severe problems.

Now, the city's priority list is informed by data that suggest that flood-prone areas of the north Minneapolis neighborhoods of Jordan and Cleveland are in the most critical need of better storm water management. The city's ranking for projects now takes into account the amount of flooding, the potential for water quality improvements, the age of infrastructure and social vulnerability.

"I realize that this process took a long time, but it was challenging before we had these metrics," said Paul Hudalla, senior engineer for Minneapolis Public Works. "Now that we have this process, it really helps us to be able to say we're doing this project first because there's a logical order for everything."

Public Works has earmarked about $20 million for flood mitigation work around 35th Ave. N. and put in a $5 million grant application with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Planners toured the neighborhood with residents earlier this month and aim to propose storm water management and street reconstruction conceptual designs by this fall. Construction starting in late 2025 may be completed by 2027.

Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw said she practically had to swim across Cleveland to do door-knocking during her election campaign.

"People were like, 'Now what are you going to do about it?'" she said. "I get it that there's other parts of the city that [are] prioritized ... but people always say things like equity and how we want to do better for the North Side. And it's like, okay, this is one thing you can do better for the North Side."

The core reason for 35th Avenue's flooding is a lack of storm water storage. Narrow pipes can't hold enough of the runoff that surges across the densely populated residential neighborhood between 37th Avenue, where Minneapolis replaced paved streets with a greenway and underground basins about 15 years ago, and Robbinsdale's Crystal Lake.

The city can't just build a bigger pipe to service Cleveland because that could exacerbate flooding for homes on the edge of Crystal Lake. The neighborhood's limited green space also presents a logistical challenge. Many cities designed their parks to retain storm water, but the nearby Victory Memorial Parkway happens to be a sprawling World War I memorial with its own cultural significance and there could be sensitivities about using it like a glorified retention pond.

"A lot of things play into all the decisions," said Bridget Osborn, a water resource engineer with HR Green, a third-party consultant hired to explore different flooding mitigation features that could be built. "So we're trying to figure out what is possible, where can we store water and what locations [are] going to be the most impactful?"

It's going to take time to redesign above and below the street, but residents say they are relieved to see the project kick off.

Grace Spears said the drought of recent years may have been worrisome for many Minnesotans but was a reprieve for her block. Whenever a heavy storm hits, all the neighbors spring into action, moving their cars up the hill, clearing street drains of debris and shouting at passersby not to drive through the lakes that form in the street because they could get stuck. Once floodwaters recede, the whole neighborhood comes out to collect trash and pressure wash the sidewalks, clearing the mud and leaves that coat everything.

"Everybody wants the neighborhood to stay nice and clean, so it's really frustrating when it happens and is just such a nightmare," Spears said. "For the first time ... I actually feel like this is going to get taken care of."

The city is now constructing additional flood mitigation work around 27th Avenue N., which involves upsizing 2,500 feet of storm sewer pipe between Penn and James avenues.