Elliot Park

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Elliot Park

Elliot Park Neighborhood History

Elliot Park is one of the oldest neighborhood communities in Minneapolis. It began over 140 years ago as one of the settlements that sprang up around the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi. Its proximity to the industries that were built up around the Falls made it popular for Swedish immigrants who were drawn to this area. Sections of Elliot Park along 8th Street were platted for the building of houses, stores, and churches as early as 1856, only four years after the founding of Minneapolis.

The late 1870's and 1880's saw important developments in the neighborhood. Cottage Hospital opened on 6th St. and this began to establish Elliot Park as one of the leading medical areas of the city. The area's first public school, Madison, was also established in the neighborhood.

In 1893, the neighborhood gained its most prominent land mark when Dr. Joseph Elliot, an area physician, donated his farm land to the city. This land is now Elliot Park, and another land donation created Steele Park - Minneapolis' first two parks. The land area around Elliot Park was named after its generous donor and the name remains the community's designation today.

By the 1890's, the rapid growth of Downtown and the fact that Elliot Park was the only Downtown neighborhood with its own parks made it a fashionable area to live in. Large mansions sprang up along Park Avenue. However the area changed as Minneapolis grew rapidly between 1900 and 1920. Rising land values began to spur the construction of apartment buildings. High-density apartment buildings were built near-downtown and Elliot Park became an area of brick and stone three story apartments with a burgeoning commercial area along Chicago Avenue. Some of these new apartment buildings, such as the Rappahannock condominiums and the Roselle apartments, are now among the oldest apartments buildings in the Twin Cities.

After 1920, population growth began to slow and decline set in during the Depression of the 1930's. The abundance of high-density housing made Elliot Park a haven for working class and low-income residents. Many of the stately mansions of the 1890's were converted to multi-family dwellings. The rapid expansion of the Twin Cities suburban areas in the 1950's and 1960's came at the expense of inner-city neighborhoods and also meant that new roadways had to be built to transport people efficiently throughout the area. Residential sectors at the eastern and southern edges of Elliot Park were gutted for freeways Interstate 94 and 35W. Freeway construction in the 1960's also displaced numerous area businesses, substantially changing the neighborhood's character. Between 1950 and 1970, the population of Elliot Park had dropped by 54% and the neighborhood was home to an increasingly transient population.

By the 1970's, Elliot Park had become one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, beset with economic and social problems as 53% of the community lived below the poverty line. By 1980, the median income was $5,557 and the unemployment rate was almost 13%. Home ownership was virtually non-existent. Of the residents, 95% were renters and many were living in units with non-resident owners. The housing stock deteriorated due to inadequate maintenance and real estate speculators who did not re-invest in their buildings. A high percentage of renters received public assistance. Transience was also high: 60% of the residents living in the neighborhood less than three years. Poor health was widespread, as was chemical dependency and the high incidence of infant mortality. Juvenile delinquency was high and crimes against property and persons were frequent manifestations of the community's instability.

However, dedicated neighborhood residents organized to address these problems and turn their neighborhood around. In 1976, Elliot Park residents established Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. (EPNI) to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood. Their mission was to conserve the existing housing stock and participate in any decision-making that would substantially affect the neighborhood's future. They sought to promote neighborhood revitalization and the delivery of needed services for residents of every age and economic situation. EPNI also set out to expand employment opportunities and to promote economic development and cultural activities that celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood.

The community's revitalization accelerated in the 1980's as EPNI set up the Neighborhood Improvement Company (NIC which renovated or built over 500 units including housing for seniors, Section 8 renters as well as moderate income co-ops and condominiums). Elliot East condominiums and Old Town Inn Town (an equity co-op) were beautifully restored and protected as a housing resource. A new recreation center building was built and dedicated in Elliot Park in 1984. Catholic Charities opened a drop-in center offering hospitality and other services for the neighborhood's more needy members. In the mid-1980's Dolly's Bar, a longtime neighborhood nuisance, was closed down because of neighborhood organizing and was replaced with Buri Manor, one of the nine properties built or rehabilitated in the area by Central Community Housing Trust (CCHT) since 1985. A locally designated historic district was also established in the neighborhood to further protect and preserve the area's heritage as one of Minneapolis' oldest and most architecturally diverse neighborhoods.

With the establishment of NRP, Elliot Park was not selected by lottery for early participation but did receive Transitional funding for the restoration of the Hinkle-Murphy mansion with a $100,000 loan in 1991 and $150,000 in matching grant streetscape improvements, including the creation of the Brian Coyle Community Gardens, in 1992. During this period, EPNI worked with the Minneapolis Police Department and CCP-SAFE to establish EP-COPP, the City's first community policing substation. However, the community organization also experienced a crisis of confidence about its organizational focus and mission, marked by high staff turnover and Board infighting. This ended with the hiring of Loren Niemi as Executive Director and a renewed commitment by the Board to a comprehensive gestalt which focused on the continued development of Elliot Park as an economically and racially diverse urban village.

Elliot Park Neighborhood Profile

Elliot Park neighborhood is a residential community adjacent to and south of downtown Minneapolis. It consists of 45 blocks that are developed with a variety of mid to high density residential, institutional, and commercial uses. According to the 1990 census, 5,678 people live in Elliot Park, which is a 7% increase from the 1990 census figures. Almost three-fourths (73%) of the neighborhood is white, 19% is African American, 3.5% is Native American, and 3% is Asian. However, these figures do not adequately reflect the dynamic nature of the community either in terms of ethnic make-up or total population. The 1990 census data does not reflect the large number of Somali immigrants who have moved into Elliot Park since 1990. It has been estimated (by the Confederation of Somali in Minnesota) that between 600-1000 Somali are now living in Elliot Park. As a result, the percentage of non-whites in Elliot Park may actually be closer to 35-40%. The vast majority of the neighborhood’s population is adults, with 84% of the residents age 20 and older. According to the Minneapolis School Board the registered number of school-age children is only 240, attending 59 different schools and programs. The majority of children under 20, or 59%, live in single-parent, female-headed households according to the Urban Coalition.

Elliot Park is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. Neighborhood median household income is $11,646 based on MCDA Citizen Participation data which compares with a city-wide median income of $24,000. Although the neighborhood's over-all poverty rates are still above those for the city, they have decreased since 1980. The rate of families below the poverty level in Elliot Park has decreased from 35% in 1980 to almost 23% in 1990. The percentage of all Elliot Park residents below the poverty line was 35% in 1990, down from 41% in 1980 according to census data.

Transience is still a fundamental characteristic of the community with an average of 30-35% of the population moving from their unit every year. This is above the city-wide rate of 16% in 1991.

The neighborhood contains 343 residential structures, with a total of 3,367 units of housing. The overwhelming majority of the housing (90%) is located in 118 buildings of five units or more which contain 3,061 units and the vast majority of the neighborhood's housing stock is owned by non-residents. There are 22 buildings developed with 3 or 4 units, for a total of 76 housing units. Eight of these 22 buildings are owner-occupied. There are 37 duplexes with 74 units of housing and fourteen of the 37 duplexes are owner-occupied. There are 27 single-family detached houses and only 3 are owner-occupied. The rate of owner-occupancy is highest among buildings developed as condominiums and co-ops. There are 129 units of condo/co-ops, and the majority, 79, are owner-occupied. Only three percent of the total number of units, 108, are owner-occupied.

The condition of the neighborhood's housing ranges from substandard to above average, with 355 housing units, or 10%, classified as sub-standard according to MCDA data. The vast majority of Elliot Park's housing stock, 89%, was built before
1920. In 1992 there were 47 structures in the Elliot Park Neighborhood that were in substandard condition, or 14% of all residential buildings. The rate of substandard residential structures in the Elliot Park Neighborhood is just above the citywide rate of 10 percent.

Although it is located on the edge of Downtown, Elliot Park has few businesses and no real commercial service district. Historically, the corner of 14th Street and Chicago Avenue had been the commercial center of Elliot Park, once having a
drugstore, a grocery store, a diner, a mini-mart, light industry and a restaurant/bar. But today, much of this corner is vacant. In 1994, the Chicago Avenue mini-mart closed and the drug store moved to 11th Avenue, which had become a business district, housing the relocated drug store, a Dairy Queen, a mini-mart, and a restaurant. There is also a block of mixed commercial and off-ice uses along 7th Street between Portland Avenue and 5th Street.

The Elliot Park neighborhood has two of Minneapolis’ oldest parks, it signature, Elliot Park on 8th Street, and Franklin Steele Park located at 16th Street and Portland Avenue. These are the city's oldest parks. The Elliot Park Recreation Center in Elliot Park serves as a strong neighborhood focal point for social and recreational activities for all residents. It provides youth activities including sports, field trips and educational activities. Senior Citizen activities such as field trips and choruses are also available at the park. However, the lack of a gymnasium has been a serious impediment to offering expanded recreational activities. Currently, Elliot Park also has two community gardens established and maintained by EPNI and neighborhood residents.

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Elliot Park's built environment has a significant historic texture and distinctive architectural characteristics. The Ninth Street Historic District is a locally certified historic district. It consists of residential structures located along sections of Ninth Street and Tenth Street, which are among the oldest apartment buildings in Minneapolis and were all built between 1886 and 1915. One unit has the distinction of being John Paul Getty's birthplace and other architectural gems also still stand. Two neighborhood structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: The Church of First Christian Scientist on 15th Street and the Hinkle-Murphy mansion located at 619 South 10th Street. Another structure, the Band Box Restaurant, located at the corner of 10th Street and 14th Street, recently received recognition as a Minneapolis historic landmark.

Elliot Park is also home to many institutional uses. North Central Bible College, a private educational institution with an average of 1100 students, has been in the neighborhood for almost 50 years. Hennepin County Medical Center, and five churches along 7th Street, form a strong institutional seam in the neighborhood which has served as a barrier to encroaching commercial development and supported the residential character of the neighborhood south of 8th Street. Augustana is a large retirement and nursing home facility that just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Many health-related and community service organizations are also located in the neighborhood, including Eden House, the Minnesota Aids Project, the House of Charity, Catholic Charities Branch III, and the Senior Resources Center


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