2011 Exploring Innovation Mary Keefe

Presenter: Mary Keefe, Executive Director, Hope Community, Minneapolis, Minn.


Session participants took a journey with Mary Keefe from Hope Community, a place-based CDC, as a devastated neighborhood was revitalized using novel approaches. Participants were enlightened with the elements of the story—the plan, the opportunity fund, overall project funding, community engagement strategy and funding, stabilization of older property, and the role of asset management. Keefe described interrelated aspects of these different elements, as well as the impact of growth and increasing visibility.

Major Theme

Hope Community is located in the Phillips neighborhood about a mile from downtown Minneapolis. In the early to mid-1990s, the neighborhood had about 200,000 residents and 250 vacant homes. Businesses were leaving and the city was not interested in investing in the neighborhood. This is the point at which Hope Community decided to change its mission to community revitalization. Hope focuses on one building at a time and community engagement.


  • Hope provides residents with safe, decent and affordable housing without the fear of gentrification.
  • Extensive listening and engagement of community residents has been one of the primary focuses for Hope Community. Hope engages about 500 people annually, involving over 2,000 people to date. The listening sessions provide residents an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas about what they want for their neighborhood.
  • Partnerships and individual private donors have been critical to Hope's success; they've received about $800,000 from over 500 individual donors. These private contributions have allowed Hope to leverage public dollars; the private monies allow for more innovation and flexibility.
  • Before Hope started any community revitalization efforts, they worked hard to speak to many neighborhood residents and potential partners, knowing that selling their creditability was the first step before starting any projects.
  • Hope Community is about building relationships.

Memorable Quote

  • "It's important to not just talk the talk, but really make things happen. Don't make promises you can't keep."
  • "Don't view individuals as broken and needing to be fixed."
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