POSTED: October 24th, 2012 • Latest News

The Community Engagement Team’s Grant Review Committee reviewed every submission for the 2012 Outreach and Engagement Grants. The panel recommended 10 projects for $323,000 in funding in the second and final round of community engagement grants. The selected projects represent four transit corridors: Central, Bottineau, Southwest and Gateway. These recommendations were approved by the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board. See a chart of recommended projects by corridor.

African Career, Education and Resource, Inc. (ACER)

Project title: Making Transit Meaningful 2
Project Category: Received 1st Round Funding
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $30,000

African Career, Education and Resource (ACER) is a volunteer-driven, community-based organization founded in 2008 to close the resource and information disparities within Minnesota’s communities of African descent and help those communities achieve societal and economic independence.

Project description

ACER will focus the second phase of its project on engaging business owners, youth and apartment residents from underrepresented groups in the northern and northwestern suburbs.  ACER’s engagement message will target African immigrants and African Americans through a series of community forums, small group meetings and media publications.  ACER will partner with the City of Brooklyn Park to reach this population. At the end of this phase, a large representation of African immigrants, African Americans and other people of color will have actively participated and contributed to community forums and workshops to be better informed and more engaged about transit issues that affect their communities and individual lives. There will be heightened public awareness and increased understanding translated into sustained support and informed action by the target audience around transit issues.

Cleveland Neighborhood Association

Project title: Bus Shelter Workshop Toolkit and Outreach
Project Category: Capacity Grant
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $10,000

The Cleveland Neighborhood Association serves the residents in the Cleveland Neighborhood of North Minneapolis.

Project description

CNA will use this capacity-building funding to organize underrepresented residents around transportation equity issues by engaging them in the decision-making process using innovative outreach tools, built in collaboration with partner Works Progress, to build long-term involvement of residents in the Cleveland Neighborhood t.  CNA will engage transit-dependent, low-income, people of color in the Cleveland neighborhood through a “bus shelter workshop toolkit” to inform them about transit development (LRT, Street cars, bus, etc.) and connect them with the neighborhood organization to empower those residents to have a voice in the decision-making process.

Harrison Neighborhood Association

Project Title: Transit Equity Partnership Phase 2
Project Category: Received 1st Round Funding
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $45,000

Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) is a racially diverse community in North Minneapolis. The Transit Equity Partnership consists of three organizations controlled by underrepresented communities committed to creating a transit system that equitably benefits the diverse racial, cultural, and economic groups that have been harmed by a century of discriminatory planning decisions that have marginalized and isolated our communities in North Minneapolis. Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) is the lead organization in the partnership. Both HNA and Heritage Park Neighborhood Association (HPNA) are place-based organizations that have multi-cultural leadership, working on multiple issues. Loa Assistance Center of Minnesota (LACM) is a refugee organization serving primarily Lao community members throughout the state but geographically concentrated along the Bottineau line.

Project description

The Transit Equity Partnership is an effort to overcome a century of discriminatory urban planning that has resulted in disinvestment, lack of opportunity, isolation and marginalization of those living in North Minneapolis. TEP will do this by using a racial justice framework to build a common understanding between diverse communities.  The focus of this round is to ensure that the community-developed equity agenda is a priority in neighborhood, local government and area property owner decision-making going forward. This will be done in the following ways: (1) By training existing leaders and recently emerged leaders on how to advocate on behalf of the recently developed community position, (2) Forming a Van White Station Stop Stakeholders group  (3) training and preparing resident leaders to advocate for their community in upcoming DEIS process  in the county-sponsored Health Impact Assessment process, (4) development of community priorities and positions for Bottineau line between Van White and Penn Avenue, and (5) connecting local leaders to corridor-wide efforts and processes.

Masjid An-Nur

Project title: En-LIGHT-enment
Project Category: Capacity Grant
Corridor:  Bottineau
Amount: $10,000

Masjid An-Nur serves the most densely populated area of Minnesota in North Minneapolis. Masjid An-Nur is home to an organization called Al-Maa’uun. This organization focuses its efforts on providing neighborly needs and stands as a vanguard against poverty and injustice. It serves as a catalyst and partner, supporting the human dignity of individuals and families and improving their lives and the communities in which they live and serve.

Project description

This project is an LRT awareness and education campaign for the North Minneapolis community served by Masjid An-Nur and Al-Maa’uun. By educating the community about issues such as social, environmental and access equality, the project aims to empower individuals from this often overlooked community to become a part of the planning and decision-making process for the Bottineau LRT Corridor. The project has two concise goals: 1) To create an aware and educated North Minneapolis community about issues surrounding the planning, development, and implementation of LRT in North Minneapolis, and 2) to empower individuals who otherwise would not be involved from North Minneapolis to serve as community advocates with LRT leadership, ensuring long-term involvement with the Bottineau Corridor line.

Northside Residents Redevelopment Council

Project title: Northside Bottineau Transitway Organizing
Project Category: New Applicant – Implementation
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $30,000

Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC) is the oldest neighborhood organization in Minneapolis. NRRC has an active transportation committee that focuses on access to public transit for underrepresented populations. Northside Transportation Network (NTN) was formed in 2010 out of a joint public meeting organized by Harrison Neighborhood Association and NRRC. Along with neighborhood residents, NTNs core group also includes the participation of these organizations: Harrison Neighborhood Association, Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, West Broadway Business & Area Coalition, City of Lakes Land Trust, MICAH, ISAIAH, and Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, MN Center for Environmental Advocacy and Transit for Livable Communities.

Project description

To secure tangible community benefits for North Minneapolis residents, NRRC and NTN will facilitate extensive outreach to engage underrepresented communities. The ultimate goal is to create a more unified North Minneapolis resident-lead participation in the Bottineau Transitway planning process, which will lead to clearly identified goals related to leveraging economic development, jobs, affordable housing and access to a metro-wide transit system. Efforts to reach these goals will include collaboration with Asian Economic Development Association, Asian Media Access, and Lao Assistance Center, Masjid An-Nur, North Point Health and Wellness, Minneapolis Urban League, Harrison Neighborhood Association, Heritage Park Neighborhood Association and other local groups, businesses and institutions. Success for this project is a Bottineau Transitway planning process that respects and incorporates the passionate, intelligent and experienced involvement of North Minneapolis’ underserved residents and organizations. This active involvement will result in transit services that serve our community. The successful transit service will become a catalyst for employment, economic development, affordable housing and will contribute to a vibrant, economically successful North Minneapolis.

Union Park District Council

Project title: Building Skyline Tower Power
Project Category: New Applicant – Implementation
Corridor: Central
Amount: $28,000

Union Park District Council (UPDC) is a nonprofit organization that serves the Merriam Park, Snelling Hamline and Lexington-Hamline neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Corridor LRT in Saint Paul.  UPDC’s mission is to “provide a forum for people in District 13 to participate in decision-making and in actions to improve the quality of life and bring about positive change in our neighborhood.”

Project description

Skyline Tower is an affordable housing high-rise apartment building located one block south of University Ave between the Hamline and Lexington LRT stations. It is home to around 1,000 people, mostly East African immigrants. Decisions are currently being made about the Central Corridor that will impact this neighborhood and its residents for decades. However, most Skyline Tower residents have not been involved in LRT decision-making processes because of several barriers, including the language spoken at meetings, lack of transportation to meetings, and literacy issues regarding flyers, newsletters and email updates. “Building Skyline Tower Power” will connect the underrepresented immigrant population of Skyline Tower to decision-makers along the Central Corridor by hiring a Skyline resident to be a community organizer, who will work with the Skyline Tower Leadership Team, share resident perspectives, and communicate priorities and needs for Central Corridor development.  This project will allow a way to more effectively engage Skyline Tower residents as the decision-makers and organizers for their own community along the Central Corridor, with the knowledge and support of the UPDC and the Advantage Center available to help them achieve their goals. With a Skyline Tower resident on Union Park’s staff to support the STLT, Skyline Tower residents will be fully involved in the project’s implementation and successes.

Eastside Prosperity Campaign

Project title: Engage East Side Phase 2
Project Category: Received 1st Round Funding
Corridor: Gateway
Amount: $25,000

Eastside Prosperity Campaign is a coalition of organizations on the East Side of St. Paul that works with cultural specificity to engage underrepresented communities around transit, with a focus on the Gateway Corridor.

Project description

The first phase of Engage East Side work concentrated on core areas of education, community surveying and data dissemination, transit-related research, community events, and making connections with planners, key stakeholders and elected officials. Moving into year 2, the coalition will continue to educate East Side residents, many of whom are not aware of the Gateway Corridor nor any of the other transit planning that is happening. The project will pull together a resident leadership group to represent the community to the various transitway decision-makers (Gateway Commission, Washington and Ramsey Counties, the Met Council/Transit, and City Planning Departments). The project will offer ongoing capacity-building efforts (leadership development, organizing training, etc.) to prepare the group for this role. Success for this project is to create an established community platform to involve residents in future development opportunities.

Native American Community Development Institute

Project title: Anpetu Was’te Cultural Arts Market
Project Category: New Applicant – Implementation
Corridor: Hiawatha
Amount: $35,000

Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) is a nonprofit organization that partners with American Indian communities to build and execute 21st century community development strategies; it is a mission and approach geared to gaining inclusion of community members’ voice and input. The project partners, Ventura Village Association and Seward Neighborhood Group, are resident-based organizations, representative of community member constituency.

Project description

Anpetu Was’te Cultural Arts Market is a gateway and market in the American Indian Cultural Corridor at the Franklin Avenue light rail station that connects two neighborhoods. After years of hard work, the American Indian community officially opened the American Indian Cultural Corridor in 2010. The half‐mile cultural corridor—the only urban American Indian corridor in the country—is located at the Franklin Light Rail station, minutes from downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America and the airport. Over 10 million light rail passengers pass the cultural corridor annually; however most do not visit the corridor. Anpetu Was’te Cultural Arts Market creates a unique gateway and market that welcomes people to the cultural corridor at the light rail station, connects two neighborhoods and serves as a community gathering space.  An unused central median of Franklin Avenue will be developed into an art and food market with space for arts vendors, food trucks and seating. Additionally, a plaza for performances will be reinforced with community public art. The Cultural Arts Market catalyzes development of a vibrant community economy along the corridor and bridges the current disconnect between communities and transit use.

Neighborhood Development Alliance

Project title: Robert Street Transitway Alternatives Analysis Study
Project Category: New Applicant – Implementation
Corridor: Robert Street (not one of 7 CoO corridors; but eligible)
Amount: $20,000

Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDA) is a 23-year old nonprofit development corporation providing primarily housing development services on St. Paul’s West Side. The West Side Community Organization (WSCO) is an action oriented, neighborhood-based non-profit organization empowering our residents to participate in and advocate for solutions to West Side community issues.

Project description

This project will ensure that underrepresented West Side residents participate in Dakota and Ramsey Counties’ 2-year planning process: the Robert Street Transitway Alternatives 2 Analysis Study. The counties met with representatives from WSCO and NeDA and agreed that a community engagement strategy targeted at new immigrants and low-income residents was a priority.  Project activities will include conducting research on past planning studies in the area; outreach to neighbors through individual door knocking; meeting with resident and church groups; establishing an ongoing communication strategy to keep the neighborhood informed on plans, meetings, etc. Success for this project will be that the Alternatives Analysis incorporates the resident’s concerns, wants and needs into the plans. Specifically, the project will identify clear-cut recommendations emerging from the study regarding improved east-west connections and improved linkages to the Central Corridor.

New American Academy

Project title: SW Corridor Immigrant Opportunity Outreach & Engagement Phase 2
Project Category: Received 1st Round Funding
Corridor: Southwest
Amount: $40,000

The New American Academy (NAA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 that provides multiple programs and services to immigrants in the Twin Cities, predominantly Eden Prairie residents. NAA is located in the city of Edina, but serves as the only Somali-led institution operating in the southwest area of the Twin Cities’ region including Edina, Eden Prairie, Hopkins, and Saint Louis Park. The organization is dedicated to serving the East African population in this area through a combination of programs including: work in education, citizenship, housing, mentoring and tutoring, employment, civic engagement and citizen participation.

Project description

Eden Prairie and cities along the Southwest LRT Corridor are experiencing a growing and vibrant population increase of new immigrants from East African and other ethnic immigrant community members who are resettling from other cities in our region and across our state.

After the first year of capacity-building for this project, NAA’s next steps for the 2012-2013 second-year grant period will focus on implementing specific goals, visioning and long-term strategies that were discussed and/or proposed for second-year follow-up, steering committee action, and other implementation recommendations, that will benefit the southwest corridor impacted by this project. Success indicators will involve: (1) provision of equal opportunities and elimination of disparities for the underrepresented beneficiaries, (2) economic growth and competitiveness,  (3) convergence and synergy of collaborative partnerships,  (4) creation of benefit-earning permanent employment/career opportunities for disenfranchised beneficiaries, and  (5) creation of affordable housing development units.

La Asambela de Derechos-Civiles

Project title: Emancipation Campaign: Corridors to Freedom
Project Category: Capacity Grant
Corridor: Bottineau, Cedar, Southwest
Amount: $10,000

La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles is a faith-based organization in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud that builds leadership and acts in collective power to change the politics that affect the destiny of our people.

Project description

Through the Emancipation Campaign of Corridors to Freedom, La Asamblea will organize Latino faith community members at St. John the Evangelist (serving residents of Hopkins along the Southwest Corridor), Saint Alphonsus (serving resident of Brooklyn Park along the Bottineau Corridor) and Church of the Risen Savior (serving residents of Apple Valley and Lakeville along the Cedar Avenue Corridor). La Asamblea will host public forums, conduct community surveys, provide leadership training for community members and organize meetings between residents and decision makers. The Latino community is an underrepresented constituency at decision-making tables due to institutional racism and an oppressive immigration system. This project aims to bring Latino immigrants to the table to develop a collective vision around the corridors and make their voice heard to ensure they benefit from decisions that affect their lives. This project will result in increased access to job opportunities, a safe mode of transit for immigrants, the preservation of existing affordable housing along the corridors and the development of new affordable housing.

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos En La Lucha (CTUL)

Project title: Good Job Opportunities in Corridor Development
Project Category: Capacity Grant
Corridor: Interchange, Bottineau, Southwest
Amount: $10,000

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Luchas (CTUL) is a low-wage Latino immigrant-led organization that is organizing for fair wages and working conditions for all workers in the Twin Cities metro area.

Project description

The key to promoting sustainable, vibrant and healthy communities is ensuring that development leads to good jobs that pay living wages. There are three components of the project: research, education and outreach, and action and engagement.  CTUL will involve low-income Latino immigrants in planning, decision-making and implementation processes around The Interchange, and proposed connecting lines, to ensure that new jobs created are good jobs.  A large percentage of CTUL members live in South Minneapolis and work in the surrounding suburbs, many working at jobs along the proposed Bottineau and Southwest corridors. CTUL will use project funding to set up structures ensuring the long-term involvement of its constituency in corridor development.

Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH)

Project title: Interfaith Housing, Transit and Equitable Development Organizing
Project Category: New Applicant – Implementation
Corridor: Bottineau, Southwest
Amount: $30,000

Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH) organizes communities of faith throughout the metropolitan region around the vision that everyone, without exception, has a safe, decent and affordable home.

Project description

This project brings together the members and resources of four organizations: Zion Baptist Church, Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, Discussions that Encounter, and MICAH, around the shared goal of engaging residents of North Minneapolis with supporters from communities along the Southwest and Bottineau transitways to engage community members on the Northside to assure that development decisions benefit everyone in the community. For the past 6 years, MICAH members from throughout the region have been working in communities along transit corridors to ensure that development along all these corridors benefits the whole community and include a range of housing and economic equity opportunities. Success for this project will be a diverse group of leaders from the neighborhood leading the campaign and winning on policy priorities that will create new and preserve existing affordable housing, protect current homeowners with low incomes from displacement due to increased property taxes, provide well placed transit options for the neighborhood and generate economic opportunities.

POSTED: August 22nd, 2012 • Latest News

Members of the Community Engagement Steering Committee made presentations to the Metropolitan Council Committee of the Whole that outlined their input into the agency’s Thrive MSP 2040 plan, which will outline a regional development framework for the Twin Cities over the next several decades.

Asah Aliweyd of New American Academy (pictured, left), Rick Cardenas of Advocating Change Together (pictured, right) and Anne White of District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis each made a presentation outlining their vision for the region’s future.

Check out what they had to say:

POSTED: August 22nd, 2012 • Latest News

The Community Engagement Steering Committee was organized by the Community Engagement Team to ensure underrepresented communities are a powerful voice in creating an equitable regional transit system. In March, the steering committee made a series of recommendations to Metropolitan Council Chair Haigh, Metro Transit staff, and Southwest LRT project staff about how to improve our region’s practices for creating and working with Community Advisory Committees. These officials are reviewing the recommendations and considering ways to implement them on the upcoming Southwest LRT project.

Read the recommendations >

POSTED: July 18th, 2012 • Latest News

As part of their Outreach and Engagement Grant, the West Bank Community Development Corporation and Somali Action Alliance put together The goal is to involve residents and community members in planning for the Central Corridor LRT. The web site also includes case studies from other communities around the nation that have dealt with displacement and gentrification concerns in transitway planning. Check it out!

POSTED: June 29th, 2012 • Latest News

Asian Economic Development Association began organizing Asian small businesses along the Central Corridor in 2006. Understanding the potential negative impact that the future light rail could have on small businesses along University Avenue during the construction of the CCLRT, AEDA started to build the capacity of small businesses along the corridor through business retention programs, technical assistance, branding, marketing and advocacy. In addition to engaging business owners along the Central Corridor, it has also started to expand its work to North Minneapolis to work with Southeast Asian residents along the Bottineau Transitway.

Although AEDA has enjoyed some success in its community organizing and engagement efforts, it acknowledges the barriers in organizing underrepresented communities who are ‘invisible’ to decision-making processes throughout the Twin Cities metro region. Seeing an opportunity to deepen its engagement efforts through the Corridors of Opportunity Outreach and Engagement grant, AEDA launched the “Organizing for Transit and Equitable Development” project to further engage the underrepresented Southeast Asian communities along the Central Corridor and Bottineau Transitway.

Along the Central Corridor, AEDA and the business leaders in the community wanted to create a business and cultural district that would not only bring in business during the construction season on the light rail, but would also be a key destination in the Twin Cities for years to come. In establishing Little Mekong, Va-Megn Thoj, the executive director of AEDA, shares that they had to look at other models throughout the region and across the nation to see how other cultural communities had created similar districts. In addition, AEDA had to be intentional about engaging the businesses along the corridor and did so by conducting focus groups to find out what they wanted.

Although the retention of businesses was the goal in creating Little Mekong, Va-Megn felt that it also served to preserve the character and cultural communities along the corridor.

“The light rail transit project is a transformative thing in our community. We want to be able to control that process as much as possible so that it does not take over our community,” he said.

In North Minneapolis, AEDA is working with the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota to support their efforts in ensuring that the Bottineau Transitway benefits the surrounding community. Together AEDA and Lao Assistance are working to develop an engagement model and define a campaign that will increase the voices and power of the Lao community. Nancy Pomplun, AEDA’s director of community building and organizing, says that AEDA and Lao Assistance are careful to make sure that the work in the community is actually being led by the people in the community. AEDA and LACM staff only provide technical and resource support.

Although its engagement in North Minneapolis has been concentrated on the Bottineau Transitway, AEDA realizes that this effort is not just about the transitway, but the development and enhancement of the whole community. AEDA wants to see transit play a pivotal role in improving the lives of individuals and families, but it also acknowledges the place for deeper community development including parks, waterways and neighborhood safety. With these things in mind, AEDA is convening residents and organizations to help create a common vision for the community.
Since receiving a Corridors of Opportunity Outreach and Engagement grant, AEDA has noticed progress in engaging its community. Along the Central Corridor, businesses are more aware of what is going on with the LRT construction and there is broad support for Little Mekong. In North Minneapolis, people from the Lao community are beginning to step into leadership positions. Of this success, Nancy shares, “Lao community members are talking to and firing up other community members about the opportunity for change and are identifying ways in which the community would like to see North Minneapolis better developed to meet their needs.”

Va-Megn believes that AEDA’s engagement efforts along these emerging transitways is not just about outcomes, but also about process. “Are people being heard?” he asked. “This process is giving people who are historically underrepresented an opportunity to participate.”

Nancy echoed this sentiment, sharing that the Lao community has often felt lost in the community engagement process in the past. “Although efforts to include the Lao community members in transit planning have been made,” she said, “language and cultural barriers have prevented them from having an active role.”

The partnership between AEDA and Lao Assistance will help to overcome this cultural barrier by hiring a Hmong organizer who will engage residents in the community. This will allow Hmong residents to share their needs and wishes for their community in their own language, and will help them have a stronger voice.

With the Outreach and Engagement Grant, AEDA has been able to achieve these outcomes. This grant has supported the organization’s efforts to engage the underrepresented communities along the transitways. In addition, this Corridors of Opportunity initiative has given AEDA an opportunity to learn engagement models from other organizations that have also been funded through this grant program. Va-Megn said, “Beyond the work itself, it is about connecting with others and communicating what works best. All of us working together have a lot of leverage, and together we can be effective in changing inequitable policies.”

Here’s to AEDA for the great work you are doing in engaging underrepresented communities along the Central Corridor and Bottineau Transitway.

POSTED: June 29th, 2012 • Latest News

The Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) line will be a high-frequency train that will provide more transit access to residents from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. If it is built right, it also has the potential to connect residents to other opportunities in areas such as housing and employment.

Understanding the benefits that this project could bring, Asad Aliweyd, a Somali immigrant and the executive director of New American Academy, knew that communities of color and immigrant communities had to be involved in the development and decision making process of this project. NAA is a constituent-driven organization whose programs and services respond to the needs, concerns and unique circumstances of Eden Prairie’s Somali immigrant population As a result of this work, Asad believed that if representatives of this community were not involved in the planning of this project, that their needs and aspirations would be overlooked. When he realized that their leadership indeed was lacking on this major transportation investment, Asad saw an opportunity and started to mobilize his community.

Funded by a Corridors of Opportunity Outreach and Engagement Grant, Asad and his colleagues at NAA launched the Southwest Corridor Immigrant Council. The SCIC recruits the underrepresented community in the southwest metro area, who are disproportionately people of color and immigrant, to be key decision makers in the formulation, visioning, implementation, and evaluation of the SWLRT project. In recruiting SCIC members, NAA was intentional about making sure that the leadership was diverse and represented different constituencies. As a result, the council includes business leaders, a daycare owner, a college student, a youth program director, mothers, elders, a high school senior and someone who is physically handicapped. By having such a diverse leadership base, Asad feels that they will be able to influence and educate more people in the community. This also ensures that those who are most disinvested are instrumental partners in the engagement and decision-making process.

The SCIC is responsible for several activities. It hosts focus groups comprised of underrepresented communities and other representatives of various sectors along the Southwest corridor, and assists them in forming short- and long-term action plans for their communities. It guides these focus groups and helps them to identify businesses and residents along the corridor that will be impacted as a result of the development. SCC also identifies areas that have the potential to expand access to jobs, affordable housing, and economic development particularly for people of color, low-income communities and people with disabilities.

In addition, SCIC has been intentional about partnering with the government and city officials, business leaders, and the surrounding faith community. By partnering with other leaders in the community, NAA feels that their project will have more buy-in and will be more successful. Asad believes that forming these alliances beyond their immediate community will increase their ability to influence policy makers and other leaders.

According to Asad, this level of engagement with the community and key decision makers would not have been possible without funding from the Outreach and Engagement grant. NAA was one of 10 organizations who received a grant during the first round of funding. These grants are made to organizations working along emerging transitways to involve underrepresented and marginalized communities in participation, decision-making and leadership around transit corridor planning through the Corridors of Opportunity initiative. Through the work of SCIC, Asad and other leaders at NAA are making sure that these communities along the SWLRT corridor have an opportunity to play a key role in the planning and implementation of this project.

Here’s to New American Academy for the great work you are doing along the SWLRT corridor.

POSTED: May 23rd, 2012 • Latest News

Walter Wright, project director of the Greater University Circle Community Wealth Building Initiative at the The Cleveland Foundation, writes about the Twin Cities’ community engagement initiative and how Cleveland is shaping its efforts. Read about it in The Catalyst >

POSTED: May 22nd, 2012 • Latest News

In 2011, the Community Engagement Team worked with a community grant review committee to recommend 10 community engagement grants across four transit corridors. These projects will help on-the-ground community groups  to engage and involve residents in the planning process along developing transit corridors.  While still in the early stages, these projects have already built bridges between corridor managers and local government entities, and drawn hundreds of people to discussions about what they want the future of their communities to be.  The deliberate focus on engaging and involving people from traditionally underrepresented constituencies is changing the story of engagement and equity in our region.

One of the elements that we committed to in our work plan was a commitment to iterative evaluation. After completing the first round of community grant review, we worked with Wilder Foundation to design an evaluation of the grant review process with two big questions in mind: 1) was the process effective and 2) was the process credible.  The folks at Wilder interviewed people all along the spectrum of the grant process, from organizations who did not apply for grants, to organizations who applied and did not receive grants, to those who did, to review committee members, to  Policy Board members.

The evaluation study found that the people interviewed shared:

  1. A strong community belief in having a community review committee.
  2. A sense that the information provided and the CET’s assistance throughout the process was helpful, and that the timing and sequencing was useful in understanding the committee’s decisions
  3. A sense that the process was strongly grounded in the values of corridors of opportunity and the CET.

The evaluation also revealed several areas for improvement and clarification in the process. These included a desire for:

  1. More clarity about the specific review criteria. To address this, the proposal review criteria were included in the grant guidelines released for the 2012 funding cycle.
  2. More  clarity about the conflict of interest policy that grant review committee members adhere to. The conflict of interest policy has now been added to our Grants page for all stakeholders to view.
  3. Early, ongoing and transparent information sharing with the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board and staff. The CET always strives to provide current and transparent information to the Policy Board, but we are improving and reinforcing some of our pratices this year. The Policy Board will receive a copy of all documents related to the grants process. All grant proposals — those recommended for funding and those not — will be shared with the Policy Board in 2012. The Policy Board will also receive copies of the conflict of interest policy and a detailed explanation of how committee members recused themselves from decisions when a conflict of interest arose.

Overall, The evaluation revealed a strong sense that the the grant process was viewed as both effective and credible. With the modifications we are proposing for the 2012 funding cycle, we hope to address the few concerns that were raised about last year’s process. For more, please read the full evaluation conducted by Wilder Research.

POSTED: April 23rd, 2012 • Latest News

When Wynfred Russell first learned about the Bottineau Transitway project, he saw an opportunity for his community. The transitway not only promised more transit options, he realized, but also potential new development and employment opportunities for people living along the Bottineau Corridor. Yet there were not any people who represented his community sitting at the decision-making table for this significant project.

Wynfred, a Liberian immigrant, is the executive director of African Career, Education and Resource, Inc. (ACER), a nonprofit organization working to end the disparities in resources, health and information facing people of African descent in Minnesota. He began talking with his board of directors, and together they decided to launch the Making Transit Meaningful project to raise awareness of decisions being made about the Bottineau Transitway and to mobilize African immigrants, African Americans, and other communities of color to become active voices on transit issues that impact their everyday lives. ACER soon began partnering with the city of Brooklyn Park  to host a series of community forums that engage leaders in the community, enabling them to begin to look at transit in a more comprehensive way. For Wynfred, this is important because transit serves as a vital connection to quality health, employment opportunities, business development, education and affordable housing.

ACER’s efforts are already yielding results. Mshale, an African immigrant newspaper, covered ACER’s most recent forum, a mobile guided tour of the Bottineau Transitway, the Cedar Avenue transitway and the Hiawatha LRT. Although only around 30 people attended the event, Mshale’s article about the tour has been read more than 10,000 times. Wynfred says this shows that people are going back to their networks and sharing what they learned, and he hopes that subsequent events will stimulate the same amount of reaction.

Here’s a video ACER produced about the bus tour:

Although early in the project, ACER already sees that people are starting to understand the implications of this transit project. Prior to the tour, the Bottineau Transitway was just an abstract idea for much of the community.  But the tour provided an opportunity for people to see the potential for what the Bottineau transitway could look like. As a result, residents began to understand the need to be involved in both the planning and implementation processes so that development does not happen to them, but with their input and involvement.

ACER was one of 10 community groups to be granted funding from the Corridors of Opportunity Outreach and Engagement grants. These grants are made to organizations working along emerging transitways to involve underrepresented and marginalized communities in participation, decision-making and leadership around transit corridor planning. For ACER, the Corridors of Opportunity initiative has made a difference in allowing the community to see itself as being a part of the transit planning process like never before. In addition, this initiative has given people a chance to see how policy decisions ultimately affect their lives. By being at the table, they will be able to play a role in the creation and implementation of those decisions, and to capitalize on employment and development opportunities that will emerge as a result of this project.

ACER’s model of community engagement in transitway development can serve as a model for the rest of the Twin Cities region. Historically, communities of color, immigrant communities and low- income communities in the region have been left out of policy and land-use decisions. As a result, they often miss out on economic opportunities that the rest of region enjoys  in terms of employment opportunities, affordable housing, health care and employment. However, when these communities  are brought to the decision-making table, they are given an opportunity to voice the needs and wishes of their community, which is a critical first step in reducing these disparities.

Here’s to ACER for the good work you are doing in engaging underrepresented communities in the development of our region’s transitways!

POSTED: November 1st, 2011 • Latest News

The Community Engagement Team is pleased to announce the 2011 recipients of the Outreach and Engagement grants! These grants were recommended by a community Grants Review Committee and were approved by the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board.

The Corridors of Opportunity Outreach and Engagement grants are intended to support innovative and effective placed-based initiatives that engage and involve underrepresented and marginalized communities (low-income, communities of color, immigrant communities, persons with disabilities) in participation, decision-making, and leadership roles around transit corridor planning and implementation. Grants were awarded to 10 community organizations working along four transit corridors. Organizations and projects receiving funding were:

1. Advocating Change Together

ACT is a grassroots constituency-driven organization, established in 1979 as a reaction to organizations that were not identifying persons with disabilities as being capable of making decisions about their lives.  This grant will allow ACT to bring its information, concerns issues and suggestions to the many existing organizations and agencies along the Central Corridor.

2. African Career, Education and Resource, Inc. (ACER) ACER is a volunteer-driven, community-based organization located in Brooklyn Park and founded in 2008 to close the resource and information disparities within Minnesota’s communities of African decent and help those communities achieve societal and economic independence. Through a series of community forums, ACER will partner with the city of Brooklyn Park and its innovative Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) team to  move underrepresented communities from a lack of basic awareness to a state of informed and engaged community action as it relates to community input and impact along the Bottineau Corridor.

3. Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA)

Created by University Ave. Asian business owners in St. Paul, AEDA is a  nonprofit grassroots economic development organization that provides access to resources, training, advocacy and community-driven planning. AEDA will create a team of culturally competent Community Outreach Ambassadors to organize and engage the Southeast Asian communities along Central Corridor and Bottineau Corridor.

4. Asian Media Access

Led by Asian Media Access, the Asian Pacific American Community Network (APA ComMNet) coalition has worked together since 2005 to actively challenge the existing cultural and linguistic barriers regarding engagement on state and local initiatives, and access to information and services for health and well-being issues in the Asian American Pacific Islander community. The project will utilize media and technology for engaging communities, institutions, and businesses, especially under-represented Asians along the Bottineau Corridor, in voicing their opinions and needs related to the line and livability in the area, which will improve analyses, plans and designs processes, fostering economic and civic vitality for marginalized communities.

5. Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation  & JUST Equity

Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC) was founded in 1980  to foster positive relationships within and between the neighborhoods we serve and to support their members in effecting the quality of life in their communities. JUST Equity is a regional network of African-American racial equity proponents who analyze the underpinnings of race/ethnicity and class within development dynamics to organize and advocate an improved quality of life for an African-American constituency historically excluded from development benefits. This campaign will train low-income and African American resident leaders residing throughout St. Paul’s Ward 1 to leverage transit-oriented development projects to further advance a Rondo Renaissance vision that allows for the preservation, enhancement, restoration and healing of our community’s cultural economy and longstanding neighborhood fabric into the future of University Avenue and the surrounding area.

6. Harrison Neighborhood Association

Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) is a resident-led, multi-cultural organization committed to community organizing and racial equity  to create a prosperous and peaceful community that equitably benefits all of Harrison neighborhood’s diverse racial, cultural and economic groups. The Transit Equity Partnership consists of three organizations controlled by underrepresented communities committed to creating a transit system that equitably benefits the diverse racial, cultural and economic groups that have been harmed by a century of discriminatory planning decisions that have marginalized and isolated communities in North Minneapolis.

7. Intercongregational Communities Association

The ICA will be funded for the Blake Road Corridor Collaborative (BRCC), a partnership of community and governmental organizations that engages with neighborhood residents and local business owners/managers to undertake projects related to improving safety, supporting positive activities for youth, and improving neighborhood infrastructure, all aimed at improving the quality of life in the Blake Road neighborhood in Hopkins. This project will address the disconnect in communications between immigrant communities, other residents, and government representatives through the use of discussion circles, community-building projects, shared governance and ties with the Joint Community Police Partnership.

8. New American Academy

The New American Academy (NAA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 dedicated to serving the East African population in Eden Prairie through a combination of programs including: work in education, citizenship, housing, mentoring and tutoring, employment, civic engagement and citizen participation. NAA plans to conduct workshops and community forums to educate the Somali community in the southwest area about the pending Southwest LRT line.

9. West Bank CDC & Somali Action Alliance

West Bank CDC (WBCDC) was created in 1973 by Cedar Riverside neighborhood residents to democratically control the affordable housing and commercial buildings created by those neighborhood residents through collective action, cooperation and political activism. Somali Action Alliance (SAA) was formed to expand racial and social justice and to build power in the Somali community through collective action. One of the most pressing concerns among members of these communities relate to gentrification and displacement pressures that might follow completion of the Central Corridor line, particularly for immigrant-owned businesses. This project will focus on exploring how a portion of the tax increment financing (TIF) plan can be directed to mitigating these impacts.

10. East Side Prosperity Campaign

The East Side Prosperity campaign is a coalition of organizations and institutions on the East Side of St. Paul working to enhance current engagement practices and building a comprehensive, community-wide mechanism for resident participation. As the Gateway Corridor project is planned, the Prosperity Campaign believes that it is urgent to prepare and engage underrepresented communities on the East Side.The campaign has gathered a diverse coalition of culturally specific organizations and placed based community organizations to focus on planning and engineering decisions for this corridor. Partner organizations will carry out cultural and neighborhood specific engagement activities that will reach into the major underrepresented communities of the East Side.

In the spirit of transparency, all grant requests are available for public viewing. To view full grant requests from any of the organizations who requested funding, please contact Susan Hoyt at

Thank you to the Grants Review Committee for working with the Community Engagement Team to develop these funding recommendations!

  • Russ Adams, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, CET member (multiple corridors)
  • Isabel Broyld, U 7 project manager, Neighborhood Development Center (Central Corridor LRT)
  • Monica Bryand, Headwaters Foundation for Justice (multiple corridors)
  • Saeed Fahia, Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota (Central Corridor LRT and Southwest LRT)
  • Ariah Fine, Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (Bottineau LRT)
  • Dawn Goldschmitz, East Side Neighborhood Development Company (Gateway Corridor)
  • Pakou Hang, independent consultant, Headwaters Foundation Social Change committee member, Wellstone Action trainer (multiple corridors)
  • Katie Hatt, former aide to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (Hiawatha LRT)
  • Malik Holt-Shabazz, Harrison Neighborhood Association,  Headwaters Foundation Social Change committee member (Southwest LRT and Bottineau LRT)
  • Linda Hymes, Minnesota Tenants Alliance (Southwest LRT)
  • David Kang, Asian Media Access (multiple corridors)
  • Margaret Kaplan, Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, CET member (multiple corridors)
  • Irna Landrum, Summit-University Planning Council (Central Corridor LRT)
  • Mona Langston, Housing Preservation Project (multiple corridors)
  • Neeraj Mehta, Nexus Community Partners, CET member (multiple corridors)
  • Repa Mekha, Nexus Community Partners, CET member (multiple corridors)
  • Va-Megn Thoj, Asian Economic Development Association (multiple corridors)
  • Ali Warsame, West Bank Community Coalition (Central Corridor LRT and Hiawatha LRT)