Portion of North Minneapolis selected for federal Promise Zone designation

The White House announced Tuesday that Minneapolis has become part of President Barack Obama’s Promise Zone initiative — an effort to revitalize areas of concentrated poverty throughout the country. 

The city’s Promise Zone includes neighborhoods in North Minneapolis — portions of the Webber-Camden, Folwell, McKinley, Jordan, Willard-Hay, Near North and Harrison neighborhoods.

Promise Zone communities get the chance to work with federal government partners on plans to improve economic and educational opportunities and reduce crime, among other things. Five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members also work with the communities to recruit and manage volunteers to work on Promise Zone projects.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said Minneapolis has received national attention for its efforts to focus on equity.

“Now that we have been selected for the Promise Zone, we’ll be equipped with more of the support and resources we need to build a better and brighter future for North Minneapolis, which means a better and brighter future for all of Minneapolis,” she said.

The city’s community-driven goals for the North Minneapolis Promise Zone include reducing racial inequities in public services and institutions that contribute to conditions in the neighborhoods; curtailing gun violence and strengthening community relations between residents and law enforcement; improving cradle-to-career outcomes for residents; building a more inclusive economy; creating jobs through transit development and business growth incentives; and promoting stable housing, according to statement released by the city.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said he’s seen first-hand the potential of a Promise Zone designation as former mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

“A zip code should never limit the hopes that folks have for themselves and for their children,” he said in a statement released by the White House. “We’re proud to be working with a wide-variety of local leaders to strengthen neighborhoods and unlock doors of opportunity that have been closed for far too long.”

Other communities that have been selected as Promise Zones include areas in Camden, N.J.; Hartford, Conn.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Sacramento, Calif.; St. Louis/St. Louis County, Mo.; the Pine Ride Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, S.D.; and the South Carolina Low Country.

The White House established Promise Zones in San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif; the Southeastern Kentucky Highlands and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in January 2014.

Congressman Keith Ellison applauded the news of Minneapolis’ new Promise Zone.

“Minnesotans believe we should give support to families who need it most, which is exactly what the Minneapolis Promise Zone is all about,” he said. “The announcement today means the federal government will invest to expand the capacity and success of our robust local network that works to provide opportunities for youth, expand educational opportunities, and promote peace and safety. I raised my family in North Minneapolis and I’m proud to see our neighborhood get the critical investment it needs.”

In mid-November 2014, some City Council members questioned the need for the designation when city leaders were working on crafting the Promise Zone application.

During a discussion on the application, Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) said she would rather see local community leaders and city employees step up to the plate to address problems on the North Side. She said more needs to be done to deal with vacant properties and improve school outcomes.

In a statement released by the city Tuesday, Johnson sounded more positive about the initiative.

“The Promise Zone plan that we’ve developed builds on and aligns our efforts to address the persistent unemployment, crime, housing blight, and poor educational outcomes in the area,” she said. “The goal of the entire program is to create a Promise Zone that is a thriving, vibrant and economically viable asset to the people who live and work there, as well as for the rest of the city.”

The latest round of Promise Zone communities were selected from 123 applications in 36 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

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At a glance: proposed North Minneapolis Promise Zone

Where: Portions of the Webber-Camden, Folwell, McKinley, Jordan, Willard-Hay, Near North and Harrison neighborhoods.
Population: 38,559
Overall poverty rate: 40.33 percent
Highest Census tract poverty rate: 58.6 percent
Employment rate: 78.16 percent
Vacancy rate: 13.81 percent
Crime: The area includes more than one-half of the city’s violent crime hotspots. 

(Source: City of Minneapolis)