Brooklyn Park: Engaging residents to develop an inclusive vision

Posted In: Communities, Housing, Parks, Planning, Transportation
Date: 10/13/2016

This is the first in a series of articles that highlight issues and opportunities facing individual communities in the metropolitan area as they prepare to update long-range comprehensive plans to the year 2040.

A land of pioneer settlements in the 1850s, then potato farms and rural home sites, the city of Brooklyn Park grew rapidly starting in the 1960s, along with other young communities surrounding Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Located north of Minneapolis on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Brooklyn Park is now the fourth largest city in the metro area, with more than 80,000 residents. The city is expected to grow by another 18,000 or so by 2040, according to Metropolitan Council forecasts.


- Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in northeastern Hennepin County
Population - 80,215* - 4th largest city in the Twin Cities metro area
Households - 27,222*
Jobs - 28,408*
Top 5 Employers - Target (corporate North Campus), Caterpillar, North Hennepin Community College, Hennepin Technical College, Medtronic
Notable feature - Edinburgh USA Golf Course, one of the top public golf courses in the U.S
 - 47 miles of trails, including Rush Creek and Shingle Creek trails
 - 67 parks, including Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park (west side of Mississippi River)
Major highways - North/south: Hwys. 169 & 252, East/west: I-94 & Hwy. 610

*Metro Council estimate as of April 1, 2015

Light rail expected to spur development

Partly driving that growth will be residential and other development near the Oak Grove Station, the northern-most stop on the proposed 13-mile Bottineau light rail transit (METRO Blue Line Extension). The station is adjacent to Target Corporation’s North Campus, where about 3,700 people currently work. Service from Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis is expected to begin in 2021.

Five of the 11 light rail stations will be in Brooklyn Park, with development to be planned around each of them. Once completed, the light rail line is expected to expand access to more than half a million jobs in existing light rail corridor communities.

Brooklyn Park residents are racially and ethnically diverse, increasingly so since about 1990. “The 2010 Census showed that 50% of our residents were people of color and roughly 21% of them foreign-born,“ Cindy Sherman, city planning director. Twenty years before, 90% of the city’s population was white.

“These significant demographic changes had divided our community—by income, race, economics and language, even among various African groups,” Sherman said. The city was facing higher crime, diminishing property values, and a lagging community spirit.

Bringing residents together to shape the city’s future

Residents share their ideas for the future of Brooklyn Park at one of a series of visioning meetings the City hosted. (Photos courtesy City of Brooklyn Park)As they looked to the future, city officials saw the potential of bringing residents together to clarify the community’s challenges and learn what aspirations residents had for themselves and the whole community. While acknowledging the problems, the strategy moving forward was to build on the strengths and potential of the community.

The city sponsored a series of community cafés — conversations among residents about the community’s future, facilitated to draw out participants’ perspectives and ideas.

“We didn’t lecture. We listened,” said Sherman. The discussions took place on different days and times to encourage participation. The city offered to provide transportation and child care. “This became our new model for community engagement.”

From there, a team drawn from the community, the city, and the school district distilled the feedback into a vision statement that signaled inclusiveness, opportunity and pride to all segments of the community. This effort led to the hiring of two full-time and two part-time staff dedicated to community engagement and the grassroots formation of official neighborhoods in 2014.

Strengthening a two-way relationship with residents

Brooklyn Park’s Police Department hosts an annual fishing tournament for youth.Last year, the city launched a new round of community engagement—“Brooklyn Park 2025”— incorporating additional proactive techniques to encourage participation. “The outreach we did for our previous initiative led to what we’ve done with Brooklyn Park 2025,” said Mayor Jeffrey Lunde. “Over time, we’ve been able to strengthen a two-way relationship with our residents.”

Here, the result was a community vision “in detail,” with six new city goals and related community priorities describing the Brooklyn Park of 2025. Among the topics covered: parks, transit, housing, transportation, retail, public events, employment, business development, sustainability, public health, crime, safe neighborhoods, police relations, taxes, diversity in city leadership, geographic-income-racial disparities, and inclusiveness.

Next steps are underway to review the proposed plan with the community, and then approve it as a blueprint to move ahead. In coordination with this effort, the city will be developing a 30-year comprehensive plan, required of all metro area communities at least every 10 years under state law and reviewed by the Metropolitan Council.

“A lot of the hopes and expectations we heard from residents from our Brooklyn Park 2025 outreach will find their way into our 2040 comprehensive plan,” said Jay Stroebel, city manager.

“We heard residents say we need access to more job opportunities. We’ll be planning for that with the Bottineau light rail line and future growth around the stations. We also heard that parks and recreation sites are important and need to evolve with our changing population.”

The hope and expectation, he said, is that all these individual pieces, working together, will bring about the community’s vision: “Brooklyn Park, a thriving community inspiring pride where opportunities exist for all.” 

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Posted In: Communities, Housing, Parks, Planning, Transportation

Tags: equity

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