Maximizing community benefits
METRO Blue Line Extension seeking members for Anti-Displacement Workgroup
December 20, 2021 — The METRO Blue Line Extension project is seeking applications from community members for a new Anti-Displacement Workgroup. Members will help guide anti-displacement strategies and policy development by providing personal insight, local expertise, and direct connections to communities impacted by the project.
The group will be comprised of community leaders, residents, and business owners potentially at risk of displacement, as well as other experts and staff from key nonprofit, philanthropic, and agency partners, including Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council, and corridor cities.
The workgroup will be convened and led by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), under the principal leadership of C Terrence Anderson, CURA’s director of community-based research.
“We have the chance to help make sure current residents along the planned Blue Line Extension are not displaced as a result of this important investment in their community,” Anderson said. “CURA has a long history of community-based research and community organizing to reimagine public policy to deconstruct a history of inequity and help marginalized communities realize and own a vision of healing and prosperity. We also bring a breadth of recent experience studying the causes and effects of displacement in the Twin Cities. I believe meaningful participation from the community is key to the long-term success of this workgroup. I encourage anyone interested to apply and look forward to beginning this important work.”
CURA, in partnership with Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council, will work with community and partner stakeholders to evaluate the potential for current and future displacement related to planning, construction, and operation of the Blue Line light rail in North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park. The workgroup will develop and recommend actionable policy recommendations and strategies to ensure the Blue Line Extension project minimizes displacement in the communities it is intended to benefit, while maximizing opportunities for communities to build wealth in place and realize new potential for inclusive prosperity and vitality.
Irene Fernando, Hennepin County District 2 Commissioner and chair of the Regional Railroad Authority, stated, “The Anti-Displacement Workgroup is an opportunity to be at the forefront of community investment in this corridor. We’ve seen the potential for light rail projects to drive investment in communities and the Blue Line Extension will serve communities that continue to experience stark disparities stemming from historic disinvestment and institutional racism. This group is an opportunity for community members to co-design policy and have their experiences inform programming that will ensure current corridor residents experience the lasting benefits of light rail.”
Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle stated, “The Metropolitan Council is committed to seeking community-designed solutions to potential displacement from the METRO Blue Line Extension. The Anti-Displacement Workgroup is a first for our region and stands to set a new standard nationally for how communities and agencies can work together early and throughout major infrastructure projects. Our goal is to ensure the very people these projects intend to benefit are not unduly impacted by these large, transformative projects. I am looking forward to the recommendations from the workgroup and recognize as policymakers it is our responsibility that we are honoring our community members through this work and building their vision for the future.”
The Anti-Displacement Workgroup will include 21 initial members, with representation from community members, government staff, as well as staff from foundations and philanthropic organizations serving the project area. The group’s composition will be designed for broad representation of interests around the project, with a collection of members that can speak to the tensions around the project and advise on the best ways to engage diverse constituencies, as well as implementers that can assist the group in making achievable recommendations.
Jeff Lunde, Hennepin County District 1 Commissioner, stressed the importance of anti-displacement work across the proposed route. “Anti-displacement efforts will be vital for the success of this project along the entire line. If done right, it will connect Districts 1 and 2 residents to the rest of the Twin Cities region, facilitate community-led redevelopment, and be an opportunity to address historic disinvestment rooted in racism. However, light rail projects also bring risks that can only be mitigated via coordinated policy recommendations for Districts 1 and 2. I am proud to have pushed for this initiative in partnership with Commissioner Fernando. While our districts experience different challenges and have different development landscapes, we share the goal of having this project benefit current residents.”
Met Council Member Reva Chamblis added: “The long-term success of these important transit projects relies on strong community support. Throughout the METRO Blue Line Extension Project planning, I heard the concerns from the community about how the project may adversely impact neighborhoods and the fear of being displaced from their homes and businesses. I applaud the project's willingness to hear and address these concerns. I am confident the Anti-Displacement Workgroup will provide real, actionable solutions to minimize displacement, and sufficiently address community concerns for this once in a generation investment into our community.”
Members of the workgroup are asked to commit to 12 to 18 months, depending on the needs of the work. Ideal candidates will bring personal experience in the community as residents and businesses that could be potentially impacted by displacement or as experts or advocates of affordable housing, community wealth building, and economic development.
The application period for the Anti-Displacement Workgroup is now closed.
Blue Line Extension project selects CURA to lead anti-displacement work
September 22, 2021 — Hennepin County Board of Commissioners took action to approve a contract with the Center of Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) on September 21, 2021, 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. 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 Irene Fernando, Hennepin County District 2 Commissioner and chair of the Regional Railroad Authority.
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 displacement prevention was a top priority as development of the Blue Line Extension continues. Community and business members shared 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. 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,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde. “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.”
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 Manger for the Metropolitan Council. He is also a resident of North Minneapolis and an active member of his community. CURA will draw from their 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, Metropolitan 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.
Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle stated, “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. 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 Metropolitan Council Member Reva Chamblis. “We are confident that through this partnership with public, private, and non-profit 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.”