$2M grant is approved through the “Reconnecting Communities” portion of the infrastructure law


U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum press release

The monumental task of resuscitating St. Paul’s Rondo community took a major step forward this week when the federal government announced it is committing $2m to fund planning, studies and analysis as part of the project’s eventual master plan. This move is helping to fuel optimism by the effort’s advocates that a growing portion of the land bridge and neighborhood’s surrounding economic development may well be supported by federal funding.

U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, along with U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, have been actively championing efforts on behalf of Rondo’s economic revival at the federal level. McCollum’s office received the funding news from the Department of Transportation, and shared the news with ReConnect Rondo. The City of St. Paul is a co-applicant.

Rondo is one of about 950 disadvantaged communities throughout the nation that were economically crippled due to the construction of the federal highway system, and the enacted infrastructure legislation set aside $1b earmarked specifically to aid those impacted city neighborhoods. Though Rondo residents have been incubating the idea of a land bridge to help catalyze economic development in their neighborhood for years, the organization was ideally situated to take full advantage of the newly passed infrastructure law and available transportation dollars.

“The timing was fortuitous,” said ReConnect Rondo Exec. Dir. Keith Baker, “but it is also incredibly validating to see the federal government take responsibility for the lasting harm rendered on communities all these years later with hard dollars that can materially help us today in our effort to springboard into a more healthy and planful future.”

“ReConnect Rondo’s neighborhood-led vision is important,” said U.S. Rep McCollum, “and will create opportunities for community empowerment and economic growth. Most importantly, it allows for reconciliation and healing for a community that was cruelly ripped apart, and I am honored to have helped facilitate bringing these funds to the Fourth District.”

The $2m is matched by $500,000 of City funds and State dollars previously committed by the state legislature in 2021.

The $2.5m budget will be used for environmental impact analysis, neighborhood traffic analysis and modeling, and community outreach to fully involve residents in determining what action, if any, is needed to address the effects of creating new land over I-94. The dollars will also aid in the coordination of plans between the land bridge and MnDOT’s “ReThinking I-94” initiative, especially those involving environmental impact and traffic.

ReConnect Rondo is unique in its role as a community-based organization to lead a land bridge project, making it the first such restorative development effort in the nation that is led by its community members. Its goal goes beyond the land bridge by creating an African American cultural enterprise district to catalyze economic growth throughout Rondo and its adjacent neighborhoods by attracting federal dollars, business investments and other funding sources, while also putting into place innovative community safeguards and sustainability measures such as anti-displacement provisions along with community investment tools and policies to assure that prosperity returns to Rondo elders, descendants and current residents. The MN State Legislature approved $6.2m of pre-development funding in 2021. This, along with a MET Council Livable Communities Development member-directed federal award to support restorative development and a “net zero” multi-use development project prototype, have all helped moved Rondo’s vision towards reality.

INTERVIEW ACCESSPlease go to the RCR media kit on the website for full bios, graphics and fact sheets on the project. RCR ED Keith Baker is available for comment as is Congresswoman McCollum and Mayor Carter via Josh Kohnstamm for RCR (joshkohnstamm@gmail.com / 651 470-7163) Kamal Baker for Mayor Carter (kamal.baker@ci.stpaul.mn.us 763-381-1335) and Amanda Yanchury for Congresswoman McCollum (amanda.yanchury@mail.house.gov 202-597-1228)

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ReConnect Rondo Technical Advisory Team:

  • David Juliff, Be Civil, Inc.
  • Khani Sahebjam, SRF Consulting Group
  • John Maczko, SRF Consulting Group
  • Kent Arhenholtz, Kaskaskia Engineering Group
  • Brenda Thomas, KLJ, Inc
  • Marcus Thomas, Bolton & Menk
  • Scott McBride, Bolton & Menk
  • Marcell Walker, Bolton & Menk
  • Veronica Burt, 600 Strategies, Inc.
  • Björgvin Sævarsson, YORTH Group
  • Katie Eggers, YORTH Group
  • Jim Erkel, Retired Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA)
  • Brian Isaacson, Ramsey County
  • Diem Van Groth, Strategic Consultant