Take a genuine look back to ignite a great step forward

80% of Saint Paul’s African American population once lived in Rondo. They enjoyed friendship, culture and pride in this mixed-income community with a flourishing middle class. Rondo was a bustling place where businesses prospered. A lively neighborhood where residents danced their steps, played their games and swayed to a rhythm all their own. People worshiped together. They fell in love. They raised families. They believed in the promise of a better tomorrow for their children.

But that promise was severely threatened.

Rondo was devastated when I-94 ripped through the community. This vibrant neighborhood was shattered with the 1956-1968 construction of Interstate 94. 700 family homes were demolished. 300 businesses were closed or torn down. And to make matters even worse, inadequate compensation went to the families for their significant losses. The effects of the fateful decisions made decades ago, are still being felt today.

It’s time to make up for past mistakes. It’s time to go well beyond the pavement and create a land bridge that repairs, restores and revitalizes the Rondo community for African Americans and other residents and organizations.

Video: Remembering Rondo with Marvin Anderson. Almanac, PBS.

Interior of the Credjafawn Co-op Store, 678 Rondo Avenue, St. Paul, ca. 1950.
Interior of the Credjafawn Co-op Store, 678 Rondo Avenue, St. Paul, ca. 1950.
Saint Paul Central High School boys track relay team, approximately 1950-1960
Saint Paul Central High School boys track relay team, approximately 1950-1960
Caption goes here
Nathaniel Evans and an unidentified girl outside his Saint Paul home. Likely 1950s
A Rondo veterinarian checking an obedient Basset Hound, in Rondo, approximately circa 1950.
A Rondo veterinarian checking an obedient Basset Hound, in Rondo, approximately circa 1950.
Nettie Gardner and Rose Marie Gardner, 1937
Nettie Gardner and Rose Marie Gardner, 1937

Remebering Rondo. Video courtesy of Almanac.

Wrong is Wrong

– Rondo was literally split in half
– 700 African American owned homes were destroyed
– 300 African American businesses were destroyed
– $270 million home ownership equity gap in Rondo*

"I became emotional as I looked over the list of homes, names, businesses...that were destroyed in the name of urban renewal to build a highway. This list represents real people."

History of Rondo

City of Saint Paul

Saint Paul is incorporated as the capital city of Minnesota.

Rondeau Addition

Joseph Rondeau purchases 40 acres of land in 1858, known as the Rondo Addition. Rondeau sold the land to various real estate agents between 1859 and 1869.

Rondo Residents

Picnic in Rondo, approximately 1920-1940

The community of Rondo is an emerging and thriving community—50% of Saint Paul’s African American residents lived in Rondo, growing to 85% in the 1950s.

Property Acquisition

Saint Paul’s Housing Authority acquired land and property, and sold the property to developers.

Federal Highway Act

Congressional authorization of $1.85 billion dollars to build an Interstate system between 1957-1959—Minnesota’s I-94 project is at the top of the list to receive these funds.

Destruction of Rondo neighborhood

HIstorical photo of highway 94 under construction and tearing up the Rondo neighborhood, circa 1960s

I-94 construction resulted in the destruction of the tight knit African American community of Rondo and the loss of over 700 homes and 300 businesses.

Rondo Days

Group of residents watching Rondo Days parade on a sunny day, 2018

First Rondo Days Festival is planned and held. This annual event is a celebration of Rondo.

“Cap” Idea Emerges

First inkling of a ‘cap’ or ‘land bridge’ placed over I-94. Community challenges Metro Transit regarding no station stops in Rondo and questions the commitment to community benefits.

An Apology

Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle and Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman apologize for agency’s participation in destruction of the Rondo Community.

Rondo Commemorative Plaza

In 2016 Rondo Avenue Inc. drew up plans for a memorial plaza, and with the support of many realized the dream to rekindle the spirit of Rondo and bring people of all backgrounds together.

ReConnect Rondo is created

ReConnect Rondo leadership pose for a photo

Rondo Avenue, Inc. and Friendly Streets Initiative form ReConnect Rondo to study the potential of a land bridge.

The future
Extra Label
A better tomorrow is on the way

Beginning with Rondo Days and continuing with the birth of ReConnect Rondo, a restorative movement is well underway. Together, we will make up for past mistakes. We will create equitable opportunities for African Americans and the Rondo community. We will create a better bridge for tomorrow.

Together, we will create an African American cultural enterprise district connected by a community land bridge.​

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