The project “Creating the Future of Greater Dinkytown” is Phase II of a vision and implementation plan for the “Greater Dinkytown” community, defined as the Dinkytown business district and the Marcy-Holmes East Side Character Area of the neighborhood.
This multi-year project, begun in 2018, has been driven by the stated vision “Greater Dinkytown—the area east of 35W to 15th Avenue SE, and from the river to the BNSF railroad—where homeowners, landowners, renters, organizations, and businesses feel a strong sense of common ownership and commitment to civic action to sustain a vibrant, livable, economically active community.”
Its stated goal, over three years, is “Working with all the groups in the vision statement, as well as stakeholders in and around Greater Dinkytown—including the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA), Preserve Historic Dinkytown (PHD), the Dinkytown Business Alliance (DBA), the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), the Greek Alumni Council, and the City of Minneapolis—to establish a vibrant, sustainable organization that can provide a path toward and maintain the vision.”
The Greater Dinkytown community comprises the eastern portion of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and the historic Dinkytown business district. For decades, this area has been the focus of speculation and planning in the face of constant change. This has intensified over the past decade, when the area experienced an unprecedented scale of growth and redevelopment—a change in zoning and intensification of student housing development within the boundaries of and adjacent to the Dinkytown commercial district. The change in zoning has shifted the balance of residential and business interests and created new, shared safety, economic, and social concerns.
At present, the Dinkytown business district within Greater Dinkytown is also in a period of transition, with the disappearance of longtime tenants, the much greater scale of new residential buildings, and the plans for new retail competition nearby. At the same time, the retail industry as a whole is contending with shifts in consumer preferences and the rise of new selling channels. Effectively responding to all of these changes requires a far more nuanced understanding of existing conditions and dynamics, as well as broader trends and trajectories, and an approach not included in other studies—that of including students and residents in developing and implementing solutions.
One of the primary goals of the project is to build a web of interconnection of interests between the commercial and Marcy-Holmes East Side residential districts. The project addresses the need for a stronger sense of shared ownership of and responsibility for the sense of community, safety and livability, and economic vitality of Greater Dinkytown area as a sustainable, rather than a one-
Phase I: The Road Map for the Future of Greater Dinkytown
The purpose of Phase I, supported by a 2018 Good Neighbor Fund Grant, was to (1) provide an environment to explore common goals and concerns, issues, and opportunities; (2) develop a joint vision for Greater Dinkytown including as many interests as possible; and (3) further possibilities for campus-community collaborations and partnerships.
The Consulting Team for Phase I, led by Civitas Consulting LLC, undertook a visioning process that built upon the Marcy-Holmes 2014 Master Plan and other previous studies. The team comprised:
Haila Maze, urban planner and former City of Minneapolis Senior Long-Range Planner, who worked on the 2014 Marcy-Holmes Master Plan and the Dinkytown Commercial Historic District study and designation.
Two specialists, Dave Feehan and Michael Berne, whose work focuses on “university town” environments and community development organizations.
In addition, the team recruited stakeholders and residents to form:
A Working Group—consisting of representatives from MHHA, DBA, PHD, and the University of Minnesota—to help develop the survey and design the workshop.
An Outreach Committee—representing MSA, the Greek Alumni Council, the Dinkytown religious community, Riverton Community Housing, with MHNA, PHD, and the DBA—to distribute the survey and recruit workshop participants.
Phase I activities that have been completed include an analysis of past studies, a survey for a 10-year vision for Greater Dinkytown, community outreach to students and residents, a one-day workshop to develop the vision and Road Map, and a follow-up survey of the workshop participants. The Project Report/Road Map has been drafted and will be presented to the broader community this spring, followed by incorporation of community feedback and finalization of the Road Map. Finally, a Vision Implementation Committee will be established, with members drawn from the Outreach Committee, students and student residents, and other stakeholders.
Support for a new vision for Greater Dinkytown is evidenced by over 300 people who responded to the survey and a group of residents, business owners, and students who participated in the workshop and affirmed in a follow-up survey that it was a success. Phase I has produced the beginning sense of community that includes students, resident and business interests, and a
consensus regarding the direction Greater Dinkytown should take in the next five to 10 years.
Phase II: Creating the Future of Greater Dinkytown
We are requesting a grant from the Good Neighbor Fund to sustain the momentum established in Phase I and to implement Phase II of this project: Creating the Future of Greater Dinkytown. Dave Feehan of Civitas Consulting LLC, the consulting group that led Phase I, along with urban planner Haila Maze, will be engaged to facilitate the Working Group and Vision Implementation
Committee, and plan for a community development and design (CDC) organization. Civitas has a
strong track record with community organizations and university business districts, and has
historic links to Greater Dinkytown.
Project activities will include the following:
• The Consulting Team and the Working Group will work with the Vision Implementation Committee to deal with such issues as safety, housing, and social needs, and to engage with the commercial area. They will develop a community engagement plan, recognizing Greater Dinkytown’s transient character, and build on the vision articulated in the Phase I workshop.
The plan will include increasing community engagement activities and addressing the
- How should the shared vision that resulted from the workshop and community event be further developed and communicated?What will the Asset Map—defining key persons, associations, institutions, and organizations connected with Greater Dinkytown—look like?
- What are the roles of the various stakeholders and what is the process/mechanism for how they will work together?
- Are there opportunities to create community, connecting people who can build grassroots- level community and initiating change based on ideas from the survey and workshop?
- How should we determine the direction for the way the various stakeholders can work on a more inclusive and meaningful community for Greater Dinkytown?
• The Consulting Team and the Vision Implementation Committee will work with students and student residents to develop three to four identifiable community-building projects such as an expanded farmers market, yoga and/or tai chi program in Marcy Park, an annual Ethno- Cultural Festival built around international or minority students (e.g., an Asian and/or African-American Festival). These projects will support inclusiveness and diversity, with students taking the primary role in planning, marketing, and implementing the projects. A good example of such a program is the partnership between Western Michigan University students
and Downtown Kalamazoo Inc., where annual student-organized events have brought more students and others into the business district and have given students and residents a sense of ownership.
• The Consulting Team will Identify and establish longer-term financial support and a vehicle for stakeholder management of a “vibrant, sustainable organization” supporting the enhancement of civic and commercial life in the Greater Dinkytown portion of Marcy-Holmes.
The first stage of the CDC will be a business district management entity, which will be initiated in the current project and will be implemented in Phase III.
This entity would take responsibility for the management, marketing, and maintenance of the business district, and for working in conjunction with MHNA and other resident groups to ensure collaboration between the residential area and the business district. Without this business district management organization, very little is likely to happen in terms of achieving the vision.
Rather than creating a completely new entity for this first stage, the intent is to build on the DBA, and help convert it to a self-managed special services district (SSD). The Consulting Team and DBA are in discussions with the City of Minneapolis with the intention of initiating the conversion process as part of Phase II. As the DBA transitions from essentially a merchants’ association to a management corporation, it would work on existing problems, such as improving parking, planning events, and catalyzing retail.
Civitas will sub-contract with a qualified local consultant to deal with the question of funds to develop a CDC organization for Phase III. Examples of funding sources would be foundations, SSD assessments, in-kind assistance from the University, Great Streets program assistance from the City of Minneapolis, or an organization similar to the Northeast Investment Co-op.
For over 100 years, Greater Dinkytown has played a special role in the lives of students, alumni, and in the life of the University as a whole. It is both a gateway and a crossroad, as demonstrated by its location, geography, and history. It exists to serve the University community, and has evolved over time to continue to meet that role.
Marcy-Holmes’ initiative to restore the identity of “Greater Dinkytown” to the residential and historic business districts—and to create an organizational infrastructure to support it—provides a critical opportunity for collaboration of all community members in the future of Greater Dinkytown. The University of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis must recognize that Greater
Dinkytown is a unique asset that needs the concerted support of all entities in order to achieve the vision presented in the Road Map and fulfill its vital function.