Government, community study anti-displacement with Blue Line extension project
Preventing displacement and maximizing community benefits along the planned Blue Line light rail project is the focus of an anti-displacement work group that launched in March.
The Blue Line will connect the communities of North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park to the regional transit network. The extension will serve areas with some of the region's most significant disparities in income, health and housing. It offers an opportunity to help communities build wealth in place, attract community and economic development investments, and improve lives and neighborhoods. Transportation has often displaced communities of color, forcing people from their homes to build new freeways for example. Hennepin County and its partners want to change that.
Cathy Gold, project manager for the work group, noted there's a traditional tendency for large infrastructure projects to overshadow the needs of disparity-affected communities. "These larger projects become enticing for big developments to come in and reap the rewards — and then the community gets displaced, residents can't afford to stay, businesses close, construction is a struggle. Where can we as government entities and community voicing their concerns implement real change here?"
A spark of hope
The members of the anti-displacement work group include eight representatives from government, two representing philanthropic partners — and 17 community members.
The group's first meeting was online March 10. At the end of the meeting, each member was asked to express how they were feeling at that moment. Gold said she was struck by the response of one community member, a life-long North Minneapolis resident who is a small-business owner in the neighborhood. "He talked about being 'determined,' but also said that he feels finally someone is starting to listen to the community. As a business owner, he's excited that there are people who are there to help. There's a spark of hope there."
The time is right
Gold said the time is right. "We really have the support of our board members and Metropolitan Council members — I think we all feel equally excited about it."
All meetings and other resources related to the effort will be available online on the project website.
This story reflects Hennepin County disparity reduction priorities in housing and justice.