Central Corridor Investment pool surpasses $10 million mark; Funders Collaborative looks forward to 2012-13

By Funders Collaborative, December 20, 2011

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative will head into the new year with close to $5 million available to invest in the Central Corridor during 2012-13. The latest round of pledges from its members pushes the total raised to just over $10 million since the group was formed in 2008 to ensure that residents, leaders and business owners are involved in and benefit from the investment in and around the light rail line connecting the Twin Cities.
“Through our Catalyst Fund, we’ve awarded close to $4.5 million to inform, engage and support community partnerships that are helping to build strong neighborhoods along the new rail line,” said Polly Talen, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Funders Collaborative co-chair. “The efforts are working – and have drawn in an additional $48 million for related work in the Corridor area and region.”
The Funders Collaborative surpassed the $10 million mark with new, $250,000-plus per year commitments from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, McKnight Foundation, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Ford Foundation and The St. Paul Foundation.
The Catalyst Fund investment model aims to encourage residents, leaders and business owners to learn about Corridor issues together, develop solutions that address shared goals and then work together to implement innovative, high impact projects. The effort focuses on working across the public and private sectors – and across geographic boundaries – to engage groups that have not typically been included in policy making and implementation.
Most of the Catalyst Fund grants have supported and been aligned with broad-based working groups building corridor-wide, shared solutions for affordable housing, business and economic development, contractor and workforce inclusion, job access and development of an investment framework to maximize the impact of public, private and non-profit sector investment in the Corridor.
Grants have ranged from $2,500 toward a consultation on creating manufacturing jobs in the Corridor to a $500,000 contribution to the Ready for Rail loan program helping small businesses prepare for construction.
The working group that has received and coordinated the largest share of funding, with $1.4 million so far, has been the Business Resources Collaborative (BRC), which was created to encourage businesses to prepare for construction and be in a position to thrive once the Central Corridor line begins operation. The BRC and its members have together coordinated over $10 million of new investment benefiting businesses along the Corridor.
Another major initiative is The Big Picture Project, which is helping to coordinate investments in affordable housing. So far, the project has brought together 24 participants from government, finance, development and community groups to look at how affordable housing can be preserved, developed and financed throughout the Corridor.
“We’re not just engaging the traditional participants in traditional policy areas,” said Ann Mulholland, vice president of grants and program at The Saint Paul Foundation and Funders Collaborative co-chair. “For example, we invested $75,000 in Springboard for the Arts to support Irrigate, an artist-led community development project that aims to engage artists and community members to create a cultural corridor along the line.
“A community grows and prospers where people share a strong attachment to place,” she said. “In the next two years, the Funders Collaborative will be focused on supporting inclusive, community-based projects that fit the focus of these working groups.”
About the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative
The Funders Collaborative is a coalition of 13 local and national funders who came together to ensure that the adjoining neighborhoods, residents and businesses broadly share in the benefits of public and private investment in the Central Corridor Light Rail Line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Members include:  Annie E. Casey Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation, Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Living Cities, Inc., McKnight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota, The Saint Paul Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and Travelers Foundation.
Irrigate Photo Credit: Zoey Prinds Flash 

Erik Takeshita, Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Betsy Altheimer, Springboard for the Arts
Joe Spencer, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s Office
Laura Zabel, Springboard for the Arts
Carol Coletta, ArtPlace
Jun-Li Wang, Springboard for  the Arts