Architectural rendering courtesy Design by Melo and Visuals by James via ReConnect Rondo
The federal government has granted the St. Paul nonprofit Reconnect Rondo two million dollars. The money will fund planning for a proposed land bridge over Interstate 94.
The $2 million grant comes from the federal government’s new Reconnecting Communities program, whose goal is to “reconnect communities cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.”
The ReConnect Rondo project is a work-in-progress idea to piece back together the Rondo neighborhood, which was torn apart when Interstate-94 was built between 1956 and 1968. The plan is to build a massive land bridge over the interstate, complete with parks and community buildings.
This project is more than about a bridge, this is about using transportation resources to leverage community building - socially, culturally and economically,” Executive Director of the ReConnect Rondo Project Keith Baker said. “This project is a catalytic mechanism for greater prosperity for African Americans in Minnesota.”
The federal grant will help fund preliminary work for the planning of the landbridge. The State of Minnesota has committed $6.9 million to the project so far.
“This is a signal that we’re on the right track on the national level. There was only a billion dollars dedicated to this [federal] Reconnecting Communities pilot program,” Baker said. “And for us to have our application fully funded is a really promising signal.”
Baker said the preliminary work, which includes environmental studies, is going to cost $13-15 million. Estimates for construction have reached up to $460 million.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has made the reconstruction and revival of the Rondo community a priority during his time in office. The city is moving forward with a proposal that would pay descendants of the destroyed Rondo neighborhoods up to $100,000 each to help buy a home.