METRO Blue Line Extension project selects CURA to lead anti-displacement work

Date: Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with the Center of Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) to establish an Anti-Displacement Workgroup related to the design and construction of the METRO Blue Line Extension light rail. This action to invest in anti-displacement is intended to support corridor residents, businesses, and equitable development in the corridor.

“As a Hennepin County Commissioner and North Minneapolis resident, I’m excited for the transformational benefits light rail will bring to our communities,” said Irene Fernando, Hennepin County District 2 Commissioner and chair of the Regional Railroad Authority. “The new direction of the Blue Line Extension is positioned to serve among the most racially and economically diverse communities in Hennepin, while also connecting transit-reliant residents to the broader regional transit system. This will change the trajectory of what’s possible for so many of our neighbors — connecting students to education, patients to healthcare, and workers to jobs.

“To pursue this work equitably, we must also recognize that large-scale public investments can accelerate patterns of residential and economic displacement and work together to ensure this investment benefits corridor residents, prevents displacement, builds community wealth, and meaningfully addresses decades-long patterns of disinvestment,” said Fernando.

Community partners name displacement prevention as top priority

Last spring, the Blue Line Extension project began a new route identification process for sections of the corridor that were previously planned in freight railroad right-of-way. Through the project’s public engagement process, community partners voiced that displacement prevention was a top priority as development of the Blue Line Extension continues. Community and business members stated that while investment has many benefits, rising costs of housing and changing neighborhood dynamics could displace current residents and businesses both directly and indirectly from their community.

“Hennepin County shares these concerns,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde. “We recognize displacement pressures directly related to light rail projects can begin well before the line is even under construction. We want to have policies in place to support the communities that are intended to benefit from such a significant infrastructure investment before it is too late. We want to set a new national standard for how agencies work with community and other partners early to plan for and minimize pressures associated with major infrastructure investments that end up displacing the very residents those projects are intended to serve.”

Workgroup will comprise diverse perspectives

With community input, the project team designed an initial work plan, and local groups submitted proposals for the contract. A committee with corridor community and business representation selected CURA under the principal leadership of C Terrence Anderson, CURA’s Director of Community Based Research, who also oversees several community initiatives. He was previously the Equity Manager for the Metropolitan Council. He is also a resident of North Minneapolis and an active member of his community. CURA will draw from its extensive partnerships with housing and business organizations to develop anti-displacement strategies and an implementable plan over the next 18 months.

The Blue Line Extension Anti-Displacement Workgroup will be central to CURA’s work. This group will be comprised of community leaders, residents, and businesses owners potentially most impacted by the threat of displacement, as well as other experts, staff, and policymakers from Hennepin County, the Met Council, and the Blue Line Extension corridor cities of Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park. CURA plans to also seek input from more than 5,000 individual corridor residents and stakeholders over the course of their contract.

“The Metropolitan Council is committed to producing tangible results in the area of anti-displacement and seeking opportunities to heal our communities from past injustices,” said Charlie Zelle. “The Anti-Displacement Workgroup will develop implementable recommendations to prevent multiple forms of displacement and promote equitable development through the construction phase of the project and beyond. It is our responsibility as policymakers to ensure we are honoring our community members through this work and building their vision for the future.”

CURA will draw from years of study on gentrification and displacement in the northwest suburbs to generate a research report that will outline the needs found in the community, actionable policy steps, and potential funding strategies and resources. In addition to their team of organizers and researchers, CURA is partnering with Margaret Kaplan of the Housing Justice Center and Allison Bell of Bellwether Consulting.

“CURA and their team are well known in the community. Their approach to community research has helped them develop strong relationships and trust which will support thoughtful approaches to anti-displacement,” said Council Member Reva Chamblis. “We are confident that through this partnership with public, private, and nonprofit sectors and the community, we can guide development and investment centered on people who have been historically left out the development of generational transportation system investments.”

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