by Frederick Melo, Pioneer Press. Originally published March 16, 2018.
Construction of Interstate 94 through St. Paul in the 1950s and 1960s upended the Rondo neighborhood, forever separating what’s now Summit-University with a deep highway trench.
Maybe not forever.
Organizers behind the ReConnectRondo initiative have kicked off a week’s worth of community panels, a dinner, reception, tours and outreach opportunities with land use and real estate experts from the Urban Land Institute.
The goal is to better inform the work of the Minnesota Department of Transportation as it studies where to potentially close the trench-like gaps created by I-94 more than half a century ago.
Across the country, highway planning often hit low-income and high-minority communities hardest.
A highway lid, or “land bridge,” across I-94 could cover the interstate for a few blocks somewhere between Lexington Parkway and Western Avenue, most likely around Dale Street. Similar efforts have capped freeways in cities such as Duluth to San Francisco.
Years of planning lie ahead.
The week’s worth of events began Thursday with a regular meeting of the ReConnectRondo initiative at the Rondo Library at Dale Street and University Avenue. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., organizers will discuss housing and gentrification.
On Sunday, the Urban Land Institute will begin looking at strategies for developing the proposed land bridge across I-94.
A free public dinner is planned Sunday at the Wilder Foundation, though reservations are required.
Speakers include former state law librarian Marvin Anderson, chair of ReConnectRondo, Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Jean Kane, chair of ULI Minnesota, and Lynier Richardson, chair of the ULI Advisory Services Panel.
A public reception takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Union Depot Red Cap Room, 240 E. Kellogg Blvd.
The ULI experts will begin a series of hour-long interviews with residents, business owners and other interested groups on Tuesday. ReConnectRondo has helped select the participants.
From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. March 23, the panel will wrap up the week by discussing potential strategies at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, 270 N. Kent St. More information is online at ReConnectRondo.org.