Rondo, Saint Paul, MN- Advisory Services Panel

Date: March  18 – 23, 2018

Location: Rondo, Saint Paul, MN

Sponsor: ReConnect Rondo, Minnesota Department of Transportation, ULI Minnesota, 10-Minute Walk, and the City of Saint Paul

Subject Area: Infastructure, Parks. Economic Development

Panel Chair: Lyneir Richardson, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ

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Background and Panel Assignment

An advisory services panel made recommendations to the ReConnect Rondo: “More Than a Bridge” organization and its partners on the development of “freeway lid” space to link Rondo neighborhoods adjacent to Interstate 94 with a park or series of parks that straddle the freeway. The organization’s partners include the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Health, and Ramsey County.

The visit was part of ULI’s participation in the “10-Minute Walk” campaign, a collaborative effort with the Trust for Public Land and the National Recreation and Parks Association to increase access to urban parks in cities nationwide. The campaign’s goal is for all Americans in urban areas to live within a 10-minute walk (or half-mile) of a high-quality park or green space.

Panelists considered the types of land uses and development that could be catalyzed by the freeway lids, benefiting the neighborhoods and greater community. The panel built upon previous advisory work regarding freeway lids conducted through ULI Minnesota, which serves ULI members in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and throughout the state.  As part of its work, the panel considered the following factors:

  • The benefits and constraints of each of the freeway lid concepts previously proposed by the ULI Minnesota panel;
  • The most effective way to incorporate a freeway lid into the surrounding community, including the types of land uses best suited for the revitalization effort, such as retail, civic centers, green space, incubator space, residential, office/industrial, etc.;
  • Recommended strategies for revitalization within surrounding neighborhoods that acknowledge the history of challenges associated with the placement of the freeway while promoting reconnections to ensure a bright future for the area and the region;
  • Priorities for implementation of a development plan, including timing and phasing;
  • Funding strategies or examples of public space management from other cities and communities that should be considered in the implementation of a development plan; and
  • Actions that Reconnect Rondo, its agency partners, and other stakeholders should be taking to ensure inclusive, equitable development and to reduce displacement.

Key Recommendations and Takeaways

The panel proposed three land use options that range from the creation of 350 to 1,400 housing units; 125,000 to 500,000 square feet (of commercial and community space; and 30 to 70 percent of open space. Master plan recommendations also include creating a Rondo Community Commons at Victoria; converting Victoria to a green street; and introducing bus, transit, and mobility improvements.

Key takeaways include:

  • A significant Rondo Community Land Bridge should move forward.
  • MnDOT should construct and maintain the bridge.
  • This is an opportunity for African American leadership and ownership.
  • The time is now to put resources of $6 million behind this concept to bring the idea to the next step of design, engineering, and cost estimates.

Other key ULI recommendations for ReConnect Rondo and its partners over the next 12 to 24 months include:

  • Conduct comprehensive market and financial analysis. Prepare an affordable housing strategy to identify target income levels and unit types as well as policies and programs for affordable housing production and preservation to avoid displacement. Conduct an employment analysis to identify targeted industry sectors, as well as policies and programs for job generation and workforce training.
  • Establish official boundaries for the Rondo neighborhood that will help raise awareness. In addition to simply elevating the visibility of the Rondo neighborhood, more formal boundaries will help pave the way to create overlay districts, such as a defined business improvement district (BID), a TIF district to fund community projects, and an arts and cultural district.
  • Canvass the neighborhood to develop a database of residents’ housing status, including their ability to pay rent/mortgage and home improvements, to develop a true sense of displacement risks and to develop a funding plan to assist those who need help.

In all of the recommendations, the panel recognized and considered the real concerns around gentrification and displacement that the Rondo community land bridge could create.

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