Survey and focus groups identify Downtown location as top plus, with safety and no grocery store top concerns
As part of formulating their Phase I Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Plan, the North Loop Neighborhood Association has completed a $4,000 survey/focus group to discover who North Loop neighbors are and what they value. Tom O'Neil, president of Market Research Partners, completed the survey and focus groups for North Loop. According to O'Neil, North Loopers are "of higher income, educated, very urban, cultured and interested in the arts. There are a lot of young professionals who work Downtown. There are also a fair number of empty nesters or retirees who have moved to North Loop for the unique housing and to be close to Downtown and the river."
North Loop covers Downtown west of 3rd Avenue North, and the riverfront west of Hennepin Avenue south to Washington Avenue.
The mail survey found that 83 percent of respondents earn incomes of $50,000 or more and very few have young children. Most live in townhomes or condominiums that they own. The average home value is $338,350. The average rental price in North Loop is $1,288 a month.
Survey respondents ranked location as what they liked best about the neighborhood, followed by historic character and arts and entertainment.
Asked what needed attention, survey respondents ranked safety first, followed by restaurants and area businesses.
In the four focus groups -- each averaged 15 participants -- safety was less of a concern. Retail needs were more prominent -- the lack of a grocery store and an influx of chain restaurants elbowing out existing local independent retailers.
The focus groups also talked about services in the neighborhood, a neighborhood vision, neighborhood livability, and neighborhood identity and organization.
O'Neil said about neighborhood vision that neighbors enjoy the current character of the North Loop.
"They like the historic warehouse urban character, and they want to make sure that as the neighborhood develops and continues to grow that whole identity and character is retained," O'Neil said. "There's a lot of concern that new development has the right architecture and scale to it, that new development doesn't create traffic problems and unsafe intersections. They like what they have now for the most part and want to make sure that is retained as it goes forward."
O'Neil found that the North Loop does not have a strong identity yet, as it is still an emerging neighborhood.
"People don't feel there is this sense of neighborhood identity that they would like. We explored ways of organizing the neighborhood, promoting the neighborhood, and creating events that would help raise awareness of the neighborhood," O'Neil said.
According to O'Neil, the North Loop Neighborhood Board can use these focus group and survey results to identify specific strategies in their NRP plan. NRP is a two-decade program that lets neighborhoods direct some local government spending. Unlike most neighborhoods, North Loop hasn't spent much of its Phase I (first decade) money; the program's second decade is in doubt.
"With neighborhood identity, one of the strategies might be to create an annual event that residents and businesses can participate in that raises awareness to the broader community of the North Loop," O'Neil said. "I think North Loop residents like their neighborhood. A lot of people felt it could become a self-sustaining urban neighborhood with a lot of residents and a lot of neat shops and businesses."