Twin Cities Has its Planning Act Together

Last week, a consortium led by the Metropolitan Council received a $5 million planning grant — awarded through U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) new $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program — to “support planning along the region’s growing network of transit corridors.”

That’s good news for the Central Corridor, since the grant will support, among other things, community engagement, local implementation capacity, and planning specific to the Corridor, including $740,000 for:

  • Workforce development that connects residents, employers and training
  • Expanding district heating to homes and commercial/industrial buildings along the line
  • Keeping multi-family rental housing affordable through energy efficiency upgrades
  • Managing stormwater with new parks, trees and gardens that also support transit oriented development.

The grant is also a testament to the public officials, businesses, residents and nonprofit agencies involved with the Central Corridor Light Rail project, which is increasingly being seen as a model of collaboration and visionary planning for other transit corridors here and across the nation. As Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough said, the grant positions the Twin Cities “to be ahead of other communities that can’t get their act together.”

In fact, the Met Council grant was the largest (along with Salt Lake City and Seattle’s Puget Sound Regional Council) among the 45 awards selected from 250 applicants.

Perhaps most important, the Sustainable Communities Program reflects a growing recognition that policy and investment related to housing, transit, employment, energy efficiency, healthy lifestyles and economic development should be connected because the issues are so interrelated — especially for lower-income families and neighborhoods. Advancing such thinking and investing “beyond the rail” is vital to improving multiple bottom lines — the lives of people, the health of neighborhoods, and the economic strength of the region.

In addition to the Met Council, the consortium included Minnesota Housing, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, the City of Minneapolis, the City of Saint Paul and the McKnight Foundation.

The Funders Collaborative was founded to encourage this kind of sustainable planning, region-building vision and smart investment. We are proud to be a member of the team that supported the application, and we’ll keep you updated on what the grant means for the Central Corridor in the years ahead.