In Praise of Ventura Village

This article may sound like I’m currying favor, or being really self-serving, but I want to praise what I see in the Alley and in Ventura Village.

When I started writing articles for the Alley five years or so ago, I didn’t really expect anyone to read them. I thought this was a small neighborhood newspaper that sat in racks at the local grocery stores and were recycled when the next edition came out. I have been proven wrong many times over. I don’t know how many times people have commented to me about something I wrote, and I still find myself thinking, “You actually read my article? Why?” It turns out A LOT of people are really interested in what happens in their own neighborhood and want to engage with each other, both through print and in person.

I shouldn’t be that surprised. I like reading the Alley myself, even though I don’t live here. I don’t read every article, but I love hearing about the incredible diversity of the neighborhood. It would be easy to drive through Ventura Village and not notice the Swedish Institute, or the Minneapolis American Indian Center, or Norway House, or the Somali Mall, or the churches,
or the activities in the parks … the list goes on. For such a small area of the city, Ventura Village has a lot happening, and the Alley stays on top of it all.

Of course, that list only covers the everyday activities. This neighborhood is the scene of a lot of news, from violence, to encampments, to facilities that dump pollution on the residents. I know that is a negative list, but Ventura Village doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves from the City or others who see it as a convenient spot to locate inconvenient problems. The Alley helps us stay informed as each challenge arises.

From what I’ve seen in the last six years, Ventura Village is very good at meeting those challenges. It doesn’t always win, but it always puts up a great fight. The Neighborhood Association knows an amazing amount about city funding and who to talk to at City Hall. As the Chair, I get to hear so much from the other Board members and residents in general. I would never have agreed to take the Chair if these great people hadn’t already been doing what they do, because they have a clear vision for what they want to achieve and what they want the neighborhood to be. I also hear about the youth sports programs, the street beautification projects, and so much more that the residents take upon themselves because they want to live in a great place.

We are all aware of the challenges that Ventura Village faces, from the violence at Chicago and Franklin, to the drugs and sex trafficking that moves around the neighborhood, to getting the respect and cooperation of City departments. Ventura Village isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it works a lot harder at it than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.

by Marti Maltby, Director Peace House Community – A Place to Belong

This article originally appeared in “The Alley,” the newspaper for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.