A community push to reconnect an historic African-American St. Paul neighborhood is getting national support.
This week, the Urban Land Institute joined the nonprofit ReConnect Rondo to discuss plans for a land bridge.
ReConnect Rondo is leading the charge to cap Interstate 94 between Lexington Parkway and Dale Street. The cap would create land for housing, businesses and green space.
But more importantly, it would bridge the Rondo Neighborhood, divided by the interstate 52 years ago.
“The Rondo land bridge is so significant because it’s the Rondo community doing it,” said Walter L. Smith III, executive director of ReConnect Rondo.
Smith says the advent of Interstate 94 through St. Paul led to the destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses.
Now his organization is working on a feasibility study on the land bridge. He hopes they’ll complete it by the end of summer.
But all of the work could take years to complete.
“We have a small community that is literally bringing national attention to the city of St. Paul,” Smith said. “Bringing in urgency on restoration and reclamation in an area devastated by transportation policy decisions made years ago.”
Smith says he’s amazed to see government agencies, philanthropists and the diverse community come together.
“I think it’s cool to bring all of it together and bring everybody in St. Paul together,” said Billy Bergeron, co-owner of Capitol Guitars on Selby Avenue.
Bergeron’s shop opened in 2016, after it was priced out of downtown St. Paul. He says any kind of infrastructure that brings the city together is good.