Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cobb Cook Park housing proposal proceeds despite public resistance

Residents packed into the Hibbing City Council meeting Wednesday, June 5. Just over 10 people left after the swearing-in of three police officers, though a majority stayed, presumably to learn more about the Cobb Cook Park proposal.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Residents packed into the Hibbing City Council meeting Wednesday, June 5. Just over 10 people left after the swearing-in of three police officers, though a majority stayed, presumably to learn more about the Cobb Cook Park proposal.

The public has largely responded negatively to the plan to turn a Hibbing neighborhood park into 52-unit workforce housing to replace aging public housing.

HIBBING -- Residents spoke out about plans to build affordable housing on the site of Cobb Cook Park at the Hibbing City Council meeting Wednesday, June 5.

If the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Hibbing receives highly competitive funding from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, it plans to build 52 workforce-housing rental units to partially replace the blighted 72-year-old Haven Court Apartments, also known as Greenhaven Apartments.

The 2.5-acre Cobb Cook Park is one of 15 neighborhood parks in the city, and the city is trying to cut down on its park stock.

While the plan has been discussed at city meetings, the larger public only recently learned of it, and the response has been largely negative. A Hibbing resident scheduled a “Help Save Cobb Cook Park” event for Sunday morning on Facebook.

Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Hibbing Executive Director Jackie Prescott addresses the Hibbing City Council on June 5, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Hibbing Executive Director Jackie Prescott addresses the Hibbing City Council on June 5, 2024.

Nearly 40 people attended the Council meeting. Before public comment, Hibbing HRA Executive Director Jackie Prescott spoke about why the project is needed and shared some details, including amenities like a playground, half a basketball court and 12,800 square feet of green space, about the size of one-fifth of a football field.

Prescott said those would all be open for the public and Cobb Cook residents to use. She also explained that multiple sites were considered for development over the years, but the centralized location and neighborhood environment score higher in the HFA’s funding selection process. The Hibbing HRA’s last four funding applications were unsuccessful.

Prescott said she’s happy about the opportunity to be able to let people know the Cobb Cook plans.

“I recognize that people were upset, and there were questions not answered. As we move forward and if things were to turn into being funded, we would have more public engagement,” Prescott said.

Hibbing resident Ryan van Dyke addresses the City Council on June 5, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Hibbing resident Ryan van Dyke addresses the City Council on June 5, 2024.

Three Hibbing residents spoke in opposition to the plan, including Ryan van Dyke, who lives next to Cobb Cook Park. He told the Council the park is the only green space on the west side of Hibbing, and his kids play there nearly every day.

“We don’t want this in our neighborhood, OK? I’m sorry, but that’s the way we feel,” he said. “... I feel like we weren’t asked about it. If we had been asked about it, surveyed, maybe there’d be a different feeling right now, but we feel like it was just dropped on us.”

In an interview after the meeting, he also expressed concern about increased noise and traffic and other things he said come with public housing.

“I’m not trying to be ... putting a stigma on it, but it’s true. I mean, anywhere that you put it up you can look at any city. The crime rates, we feel, go up, bad things happen,” he said.

A.M., a Greenhaven resident who asked to be identified by her initials, said the residents were struck by the social media responses to the Cobb Cook plans.

“It was saddening to know how the people of Hibbing thought about us,” she said. “That we were basically criminals, people on welfare, that the new move was going to disrupt their neighborhood and basically, really kind of disgusting comments about the people here.”

She said the Greenhaven residents are “normal human beings.” They’re hardworking families facing the same economic challenges as everyone else. Nearly every resident is employed and many work multiple jobs. They have an old-school neighborhood relationship, sharing cups of sugar and having weekly barbecues.

A.M. said the housing itself is falling apart. She spent close to three minutes listing issues: the basements flood when it rains, everything is cracking or crumbling, the paint chips and peels and a child fell out of a second-story window because the screen had fallen off.

“Housing prices are so astronomical in Hibbing that we just honestly can’t afford to move out of these buildings,” she said.

Despite the issues, people enjoy living at Greenhaven because of the community, A.M. said. They're still excited about the Cobb Cook plans, even with the negative public response.

“We deserve to have better windows, we deserve to have better doors that aren’t falling apart, we deserve to have safer homes, we deserve to – we deserve to live in better conditions,” she said.

The Hibbing City Council voted later in the meeting to sell Cobb Cook Park to the HRA for $1, though the agreement is contingent on the state funding. The HRA will find out in December if it is selected.

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.