Northside Neighborhood Wants to be a Drive To, Not a Drive By

The crowd was all smiles and celebratory handshakes during a gathering to honor the late Minneapolis City Council member Van Freeman White. A project started over twenty years ago is finally coming to fruition-a bridge that will connect the Northside of Minneapolis to it’s Southside. It will be named in his honor.

Neighbors, community members and politicians all hope that this will bring jobs and much needed development.

The construction of the I-94 and 394 freeways effectively walled off North Minneapolis upon it’s completion in the 1960′s. Mayor RT Rybak complained about the division between the two parts of the city during his State of the City Address earlier this year and promised to make connecting North and South Minneapolis a priority. The groundbreaking on Van White Memorial Bridge seems to be a step in that direction.

Van Freeman White was Minneapolis’ first African-American City Council member. Keith Ellison called him a pioneer for other African-American leaders who now hold public office, including himself and Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Van White was a lifelong Northside Minneapolis resident. He spent much of his time lobbying for economic development and other community projects-including the Willard-Hay Neighborhood Park. Even though the project was not complete in time for his children to play in, he knew it would be enjoyed by his grandchildren. He was right. Congressman Keith Ellison said that this is exactly the forward thinking that went into building this bridge. It will enjoyed by generations to come.

“This bridge will be traveled on by the next generation. Even though it’s not built now. It will last.”

Residents of the Harrison Neighborhood are also excited by possibilities the bridge will bring. Vicki Moore says it will bring jobs and change the perception that this neighborhood is a pass-by on people’s way to the western suburbs.

“This is an anchor and an edge for us. And it’s just the beginning,” says Moore.

Other Harrison residents are hoping to attract the action of local craft beer brewer Surly. Petitions were passed around during the groundbreaking to gather signatures of support. The local neighborhood association plans to deliver them to the company. A fellow Harrison resident described his neighborhood as a perfect spot for such a brewery. They hope it will provide jobs and opportunities for other businesses to invest in what he called an already, “surly neighborhood.”

This story was produced with the help of Averil Bach.

Here’s a map of where the Van White Memorial Bridge will be built:


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Location of Proposed Van White Memorial Bridge in a larger map

Allison Herrera

Allison Herrera, originally from San Luis Obispo, Calif.,  studied media and Spanish at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where she earned her bachelor s. Since moving to the Twin Cities, she has been a news producer for KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio, communications coordinator for Twin Cities Public Television's arts series MN Original, and producer for the Association of Minnesota Public and Educational Radios Stations for the series MN90: Minnesota History in 90 Seconds.

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