Sarah Linnes-Robinson, executive director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA), has more than two decades of experience in neighborhood organizing.
She has been involved in several projects benefitting Kingfield since she joined the organization in 1997 — everything from a project wrapping utility boxes with art to helping launch the Kingfield Farmers Market.
Here are highlights from a recent interview with Linnes-Robinson.
Q: What are some of Kingfield’s greatest strengths, in your opinion?
Kingfield’s greatest strength is its engaged and energetic neighbors who are both brave and committed to doing direct outreach and pushing boundaries on projects.
Q: What are some of the major projects/priorities for the neighborhood organization right now?
KFNA is having a really exciting year! We are working on a number of projects that we have been talking about for years, which are finally happening. This includes the development of the vacant lot at 36th and Nicollet into housing that aligns with KFNA’s redevelopment guidelines for both density and affordability, dedicated bike lanes on both Nicollet and 46th Street, and the rebuilding of the 40th Street pedestrian bridge over I-35W. The bridge project was also selected to include an artist designed railing, an element that KFNA has been encouraging for over a decade to make sure the bridge is a welcoming connection between neighborhoods, even if it does span a freeway.
Besides these development-driven projects, KFNA is assisting with the completion of the new Nicollet Avenue artwork this spring. As part of the City’s Art in Public Places program, KFNA is organizing two community mosaic workshops with artist Lori Greene to create tiled wings for the new Nicollet “bird benches” (designed by artists Ben Janssens and Marjorie Pitz.)
We will also be hosting our second Kingfield PorchFest on June 16, the eighth Kingfield Garden Tour on July 14, and co-hosting the 3rd Nicollet Open Streets event on Sept 18. In our free time we have volunteers completing the construction of our community outdoor bread oven outside of our office at The Center for Performing Arts.
Q: What would be an ideal day in the neighborhood for you?
The most perfect day in Kingfield is National Night Out—for the KFNA Board this day is like Christmas! NNO in Kingfield is the perfect mash-up of local businesses, engaged residents and dedicated and outgoing board members.
On NNO KFNA has partnered for the past decade with Sebastian Joe’s, our neighborhood commissary, to create a unique Kingfield-centric ice-cream flavor. This year we are expanding the partnership to include Five Watt Coffee and are already jointly master-minding a super special 2016 flavor. Prepare to blown away by this icy-creation—like our 2009 flavor “Nicollet Pothole,” which remains a Sebastian Joe’s bestseller. We are expecting this very “Kingfield” taste will be around for a long time!
KFNA’s ritual on NNO is to bike the new flavor around to every registered block party (of which there are always more than 50 of them!) and take the time to chat with neighbors on their home turf (literally). We always end the night wiser, more connected and a bit stickier! This is the ideal day in Kingfield Neighborhood.
Q: What are the major issues/challenges facing Kingfield?
Much of the work that KFNA has done over the past 20 years has been funded by the city, but a lot of time has been spent over these decades fighting for not only our piece of the pie, but for our organization’s survival.
Thus, KFNA’s major issue is securing consistent, and sufficient, funding. The money the organization receives from the city is about half of what is needed to run the basic organization and regularly this funding is called into question. Although projects and events leverage hundreds of volunteer hours they still cost money to put on. KFNA continues to organize them, however, because they engage and excite neighbors, which helps build our community and contributes to the feeling that Kingfield is a ‘successful’ neighborhood.
In a large city like Minneapolis, where neighborhoods are the size of many small cities, neighbors may not necessarily realize that having an active neighborhood organization both build community as well as advocate for their interests is a huge asset that helps neighborhoods stay connected and influential.
Really all that is needed to run the basic organization and allow the organization to spend its time implementing more projects versus grant writing is a $20 donation per household. Does this sound like a pitch? Well, it is! Find your local neighborhood association online, click donate or mail them a check, and enjoy your next ‘free’ newsletter, email update, PorchFest event or park social worry-free that you have done your part to make it possible!
Q: How can people get involved in the neighborhood?
Getting involved in KFNA is really easy. Either you can search our publications and find something you care about and just contact us about how to be involved, or you can come to KFNA with your idea of what you would like to do in the community. Many of Kingfield’s most enduring (and endearing!) projects started with a citizen suggestion and KFNA backing including the Kingfield Farmers’ Market, our plethora of painted murals, the 38th & Nicollet HOURCAR hub, our communal bee hives and many other projects.
More information on all of the projects mentioned in this article can be found on the KFNA Facebook page at Kingfield Neighborhood Association, or our website at kingfield.org where you can also by sign up for our weekly email list, or find out how to follow us on Twitter or Instagram. You can also email KFNA Staff at email@example.com