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Together, community developers can ensure that all residents of our region have the opportunity to attain and keep a high quality of life. But to do this we must be bold.
On November 13, 2019, hundreds of community development leaders joined together to not only celebrate how far our sector has come and to recognize exemplary projects and people, but we also shaped a conversation for our future. A conversation rooted in speaking truth to power in the practices and history behind the deep racial and wealth divisions persistent in our communities.
We heard from our keynote Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, who is well known for his racial economic inequality analysis particularly as it relates to the racial wealth divide. His presentation can be found here.
Twin Cities leaders applied Dedrick’s perspective to a local analysis. Panelists included: May Xiong, Vice President of Career Readiness Project for Pride in Living, Shannon Smith Jones, Executive Director of Hope Community, and moderator Laurel Zabel, Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts. After this honest conversation and Q&A with audience members, it was time to recognize the people and projects that have been addressing these inequities and progress locally in the community development field.
An evening of celebration, connection, hugs, and lots of laughs.
Recognizes a program that demonstrates significant impact in helping individual residents on the path to financial stability. Sponsored by Wells Fargo
Over the past four years, the International Institute of Minnesota has served more than 800 New American students in its Medical Careers Pathway and Hospitality Careers Pathway with financial, employment, and income support counseling, helping to improve credit scores, and match people with job opportunities. The Institute supports its mission by also providing linguistically and culturally accessible services that enable every New American to work toward achieving full community participation and self-sufficiency.
“When New Americans are provided with the support they need to find family-sustaining employment and to move up the career ladder, not only do they benefit, but also their neighborhood and work communities benefit from the kindness and generosity and cultural beauty which New Americans share with their adopted country.”
Recognizes a program or project that leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest and achieve physical, social and economic impact.
The Little Mekong Night Market is the Twin Cities’ unique street market festival located in the heart of the Little Mekong District, a cultural and business district with some of the most unique shops and best restaurants to experience the authentic flavors of Southeast Asia in the Twin Cities. In 2012, the Asian Economic Development Association branded a 5-block stretch of University Avenue into the Little Mekong Cultural District. Since the 1980’s this area has been a commercial hub for Southeast refugees who settled in Frogtown and Rondo. Today, the Little Mekong Cultural District strives to prevent the displacement of small businesses and residents with low income, and to create a vibrant Southeast Asian arts and cultural corridor. Since its launch, the program has attracted over 250,000 new visitors to the area and earned $2 million for artists and small businesses.
“Our goal is to bring thousands of people from near and far to the heart of Little Mekong to experience the district’s singular blend of Southeast Asian cultures ‘with a Minnesota twist.’”
— Va-Megn Thoj
Recognizes a program that stimulates economic and business development.
The Rondo Community Land Trust + Community Housing Development Corporation (CLT/CHDC) Selby Milton Victoria Project is the first commercial land trust of its kind in the Twin Cities—working to permanently stabilize the rents for commercial spaces, increase commercial vitality, and bring more African-American owned businesses to the area. The Rondo neighborhood has faced discrimination and disinvestment for decades. In the late 1950’s the commercial heart of St. Paul’s largely African-American Rondo neighborhood was demolished in the construction of Interstate 94. Today, the residents of Rondo are working to create those gathering places again and ensure small minority-owned businesses can afford space when rapidly rising rents and speculative real estate development threatens to displace them.
“This model provides long-term affordable rental space for small and locally owned businesses, targeted towards African American owned businesses, to become established and grow, and will not force them out by raising rents as the neighborhood changes.”
Recognizes a commercial/community real estate project that has contributed significantly to the enhancement of the community.
Project for Pride in Living (PPL) builds the hope, assets, and self-reliance of individuals and families who have lower incomes by providing transformative affordable housing and career readiness services. PPL’s newly renovated Career Center building at 1021 E. Franklin Ave. has enabled PPL to double its workforce training offerings—doubling its impact to give low-income residents the training they need to obtain long-term employment. Additionally, this project is a pillar example of the power in public and private partnerships. The project was part of a $12.4 million capital fundraising campaign, and received $6.86 million in New Markets Tax Credits funding, ultimately resulting in the creation of more than 16,000 square feet of new employment training space.
“It is projected that Minnesota will have a shortage of 400,000 workers by 2024. The success of the Twin Cities is dependent on having trained, diverse, experienced job seekers, but it’s clear this shortage is not going to be resolved by itself; the new Career Center uniquely positions PPL to activate a new wave of skilled, diverse jobseekers that will benefit our entire community.”
Recognizes a housing project that has contributed significantly to the enhancement of the community. Sponsored by Family Housing Fund
The Louis is a 70-unit affordable housing community located in Minneapolis’s Prospect Park neighborhood, providing homes for 200 people and directly responds to the neighborhood’s dearth of affordable housing. The vision behind The Louis emerged from the Prospect Park 2020 plan to inspire growth within the Towerside district, prioritizing density, and affordable housing. Nearly a quarter of the apartments at The Louis serve residents at 30% of area median income with 10 homes offering project-based Section 8 vouchers, and seven homes serving formerly homeless single mothers and their children. In total, 38 apartments serve individuals and families earning 50-60% of area median income. As one of the first affordable housing developments in the Towerside district, The Louis is a key part of the community’s push to become more diverse, inclusive and rich in culture.
“The Louis exemplifies what public-nonprofit-private partnerships can accomplish, with the help of neighborhood leaders, developers, and city officials to impact a revitalizing neighborhood whose support has made the Prospect Park community come to life.”
Recognizes an organization that contributes significantly to the enhancement of the community.
Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia is a vanguard of community transformation. The organization is built from the ground up and its strategy and vision is led by the tenants who are most directly affected in the fight to assert rental rights and resistance to poor rental housing conditions. In the last year alone, Inquilinxs has helped return roughly $12.5 million back into tenants’ pockets from abusive landlords. Inquilinxs brings together tenants to collectively decide how to better their living conditions. With power in numbers, these "asambleas" have organized rent strikes in the North and South Sides of Minneapolis, built a community of more than 1,000 renters to push back against abusive landlords, and deeply impacted the Housing Court of Minneapolis.
“We hope to reshape the narrative of community development by reframing housing as a people's issue instead of an issue that seeks to turn a profit off human life.”
Recognizes an outstanding early- or mid-career community development professional who is making a significant impact in the community.
Rose Teng is the Public Policy Director for the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD). The Minneapolis resident has consistently left her mark—not only on the field of community development, but on the Twin Cities community as a whole. Her leadership has been felt in affordable housing policy, in mentoring emerging leaders, and in elevating the voices of people and communities that are too often overlooked.
In all of Rose’s work, whether at MCCD, the Emerging Leaders in Community Development, or Make Homes Happen, she is driven by the power of collaboration. She is a natural connector who uses her networks to galvanize resources for those who need them most.
“The work that we are doing collectively, I hope, is providing opportunities for more people to be part of the field and have their voices heard in advocacy and the entire community development process—ensuring more housing stability for all of our community members.”
— Rose Teng
Recognizes an outstanding early or mid-career community development professional who is making a significant impact in the community.
Nawal Noor knows it is possible to create social enterprise businesses that effectively address economic disparities—because she’s doing it. She is the Founder and CEO of Noor Companies (NŌR) a Social Enterprise that performs mission-based work in construction, real estate development and community engagement.
This groundbreaking leader launched a successful business building affordable housing, one that employs and trains workers historically left out of real estate development and construction projects. Nawal was the first East African developer and general contractor in Minnesota, but has her sights set on scaling her model even further.
“I want to scale, model and create inspiring solutions to entrenched economic disparities, as well as establish a financing institution or lending model for those who find traditional financing tools incompatible with their core values and Islamic religious beliefs.”
— Nawal Noor
Recognizes an individual who has had an outstanding career and significant impact in the community.
Jim Erchul is the executive director of Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services and he leads with an unwavering commitment to the field of community development. Since its inception and through 2018, Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services has been directly responsible for the rehabilitation, new construction, and assisted purchase of 3,730 affordable housing units, primarily in the City of St. Paul, Minnesota’s East Side neighborhoods, at a total cost of $347,287,997.
Jim’s creativity in response to the foreclosure crisis became a national best practice, and he continues to innovate across the field of community development. His collaborative style is evident as he works at the intersection of real estate development and economic development—always making time to share lessons from his years of experience.
“Everything we do comes from the insights and vision of our residents and Board of Directors. It’s their wisdom and dedication that makes the difference in our work.” — Jim Erchul
Recognizes an individual who has had an outstanding career and significant impact in the community.
Nieeta Presley is the executive director of Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, and has a long track record of building authentic relationships for the betterment of the community. Even as her work continues, her legacy is secure, with countless examples of the tangible results she’s helped deliver in housing, commercial and community space—Frogtown Square, Western U Plaza/Flats/Retail, University Dale Apartments, and MCASA Single family homes, just to name a few. Under her leadership, Nieeta has partnered with other community organizations to launch Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOMECo) to reduce disparities in home ownership and asset-building and led the creation of the Rondo Arts Cultural Business Heritage District, which strives for a renaissance of community ownership and economic opportunity. Nieeta works tirelessly for her community to reclaim a sense of place for future generations.
“We must continue to push for alternative redevelopment plans that build wealth, improve resident quality of life, and lift people out of poverty yet not out of the neighborhood.”
— Nieeta Presley
Together we have built a robust ecosystem that has produced some of the most sophisticated community development in the country and created real results for people and neighborhoods.
It is now up to all of us to move boldly into a future that brings prosperity to all residents by closing the persistent and pernicious racial and economic gaps across our region.