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


Minneapolis, Minn. 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.”

We have heard from many community members asking what the Blue Line Extension LRT may look like in their neighborhood. This video will show several examples of how LRT can fit into existing neighborhoods and environments.

Moving the Blue Line Extension forward

The Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County recently released revised route options for the planned METRO Blue Line Extension which will connect communities from Downtown Minneapolis northwest to Brooklyn Park.

Based on technical considerations, community input, and past project work, we believe these routes present the best opportunities to deliver a light rail project that maximizes community benefits and connects even more people to jobs, education, healthcare and other key destinations. They are also consistent with the project principles adopted by the Corridor Management Committee in December 2021.

These routes are intended to advance a conversation many years in the making with the goal of identifying a single community-supported route by the end of this year to advance through official design and review processes. 

A map of the study areas of the new Blue Line Extension alignment

What to expect in 2021

 

We will move at the speed of trust. The release of the revised potential routes is a first step in a much larger process before construction of the Blue Line Extension begins. Over the coming months, project partners will be active in your community, attending neighborhood meetings and conducting direct outreach. We are working with 17 community and cultural organizations to support a robust engagement process and ensure all voices are heard.

The project’s goal is to identify a single community supported route option by the end of 2021. We will continue to work closely with communities to align technical and engagement work as well as identify station locations. 
Following the identification of a single community supported route, environmental review and engineering work will begin. This can be a long process and construction of the line is still likely many years away. 

The success of the Blue Line Extension Project dependends on community support, so project leaders want to hear from the community about the new routes, potential station locations, important destinations, and what they want to see from their transit system.

Maximizing benefits to community, preventing displacement

The METRO Blue Line Extension creates exciting opportunities to advance community visions for investment and economic development that can help residents and businesses build wealth in place and improve quality of life. Major infrastructure investments can also raise concerns about displacement of residents and businesses. Project partners hear these concerns and take them seriously. We are committed to working together with communities to maximize benefits that transit can bring.

These are critical and complex issues that require a wide variety of partners coming together in good faith to think creatively.‚Äč Work is already underway to identify existing resources and tools that can support businesses and residents today. Stakeholders and partners will also work over the coming months to identify additional needs and gaps, and implement strategies that support equitable development, community wealth-building and address market pressures that can lead to displacement.

Hennepin County Bottineau Community Works

Hennepin County’s Bottineau Community Works program is a collaboration between the county, corridor cities and other public partners. Since 2015, Bottineau Community Works convened cities and other partners to coordinate planning, policy and infrastructure improvements that support equitable development and meet community goals and desires.

In 2021, policymakers will reconvene the Bottineau Community Works Steering Committee to align resources, explore best practices and identify actions to help maximize the community and economic development benefits that light rail can bring.

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Project staff are available for conversations and presentations to your community/neighborhood/business groups. To request a presentation, email sophia.ginis@metrotransit.org.

2020 News

Project partners announce new direction for METRO Blue Line Extension 

 

In August 2020, after years of unsuccessful discussions regarding colocation of light rail transit and freight rail, Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council felt like it was the time to work with agency and community partners to explore opportunities to advance this critical project without using freight railway right of way.

The communities this project will serve, Brooklyn Park, Robbinsdale, Crystal, Golden Valley and Minneapolis, are the most diverse in the metro area and have the highest rates of transit-dependent households. People in these communities continue to be harmed by historic patterns of systemic racism that are compounded by a lack of transit and transportation infrastructure. Now, in the face of multiple crises disproportionately impacting communities of color, transformational investment is more urgent than ever.

We are optimistic that moving this project in a new direction presents an exciting opportunity to revisit and improve the METRO Blue Line Extension project to serve even more people and destinations, while maintaining as much of the existing alignment as possible.

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