Reconnecting a Bisected Neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota

Original Article Posted: http://wwwurbanland.uli.org

ULI Advisory Services has presented their recommendations on a proposed Rondo Community Land Bridge in St. Paul—a project that is intended to build both a physical and symbolic bridge for the Rondo neighborhood. The proposed land bridge would cap Interstate 94 for several blocks between Lexington Parkway to Dale Street, while creating an opportunity to redevelop about 20 acres (8 ha) of land for new development in the urban neighborhood.

The panel’s recommendations are aimed at putting together a framework of detailed next steps to move the vision for the Rondo Community Land Bridge forward into the pre-development phase. ULI’s panelists recognized from the start that this would be an impactful project for the city of St. Paul and the African American community with supporters who have embraced the theme that this project is “more than a bridge.”

When plans to construct I-94 were taking shape in the mid-1950s, the decision was made to route the interstate through Rondo, which at the time was home to 85 percent of the city’s African American population. The interstate literally split the neighborhood in two, displacing more than 600 homes and places of business in the process.

ReConnectRondo is a neighborhood group spearheading the effort to make the bridge a reality. In the process, the organization aims to bring healing to the community, acknowledge the local culture and heritage, and create a new legacy to unite and elevate the neighborhood through economic development.

“What happened to Rondo shouldn’t have happened. We are here as a living testament and memory that if government and the community work together, the possibilities are immense,” says Marvin Anderson, chairman of ReConnectRondo. The organization was one of several sponsors for the ULI Advisory Services visit along with other partners that include the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of St. Paul. The visit also is 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 Park Association to increase access to urban parks nationwide.

“We believe that a significant Rondo Community Land Bridge should move forward. We think this is a remarkable opportunity to create 20-plus acres of new land that will be a significant economic development project for the region, for the city of St. Paul, and for this Rondo community,” says Lyneir Richardson, ULI leader and executive director for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University.

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