A Q&A with Martine Smaller, Executive Director of Northside Residents Redevelopment Council
The Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC) is our Change Matters partner for April. We recently talked with Executive Director Martine Smaller about the history of NRRC and their recent renovation of a 100-year-old house for their headquarters and creation of a Demonstration Site for Healthy Urban Living.
CAN YOU SHARE A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS HISTORY OF NRRC AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT?
The Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC) is the neighborhood organization for the Willard Hay and Near North neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. After a rebellion along Plymouth Avenue in the late ‘60s, Willard Hay and Near North residents organized themselves to address the ills in their community that were previously ignored by the local, state, and federal governments. Through the years, NRRC’s focus has been creating and maintaining affordable housing, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, and creating and steering development in our community.
WHY DID NRRC CHOOSE TO RENOVATE AN OLD HOUSE FOR ITS OFFICES?
When NRRC acquired the property at 1303 Golden Valley Road, this house had been vacant for several years and was dilapidated. Constructed in 1900, the house still had original woodwork throughout it and many historic architectural features. Converting it into our office space allowed NRRC the autonomy to office in a location that we owned and to demonstrate the value of restoring a home. We actively support preservation of old homes whenever possible.
WHAT INSPIRED NRRC TO CREATE A DEMONSTRATION SITE FOR HEALTHY URBAN LIVING?
The inspiration for the Demonstration Site for Healthy Urban Living was the desire to accelerate the reality of a healthy future in North Minneapolis and other urban environments. At NRRC, we know it is possible to live in an urban setting that is healthy and where residents live in harmony with the Earth. In order to do this, residents need more information about sustainable, “Earth protecting” initiatives such as rain barrels, water cisterns, solar panels, pollinator gardens, rain gardens, and how to create more opportunities to access local food such as vegetable gardens, gardening in a greenhouse, and tending chickens. North Minneapolis is filled with innovative and caring people, which makes it the perfect location for this one-of-a-kind endeavor.
Our goal for our Demonstration Site is to be a national model on how urban residents incorporate environmentally sustainable initiatives in their homes and yards. Specifically, we want to see residents live in concert with the Earth rather than punishing Mother Earth for allowing human survival.
HOW DOES THE PROJECT’S FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY TIE IN WITH THE MISSION OF NRRC?
Sustainability is primary to NRRC’s mission. NRRC was created to sustain Northside residents’ housing and economic opportunities. Our residents have learned how to sustain our community and our Northside culture under a variety of circumstances. Living and leading an environmentally sustainable lifestyle is a natural expression of this work.
Along with our Demonstration Site for Healthy Urban Living, NRRC is also working hard to create more affordable housing in our community and financial products creatively structured to meet the diverse financial needs of residents in our community.
HOW CAN CO-OP SHOPPERS SUPPORT YOUR WORK?
We encourage co-op shoppers to think big in their efforts to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. The preservation of clean water and the elimination of plastic are two critical issues for NRRC. Minneapolis is a dynamic city filled with forward-thinking residents. Why can’t we ban the sale of plastic water bottles and the use of plastic bags in our city? Consider what steps we all can take to be a completely green, eco-friendly city and then champion those steps within your networks.