Urban anchors: Augsburg leads movement to sustain vibrancy, vitality of Twin Cities

by: Jay Walljasper
This is an excerpt from a story that appeared in Augsburg College's Spring 2013 magazine Urban Anchors on April 9, 2013. Read the full story.

Augsburg recently became one of a dozen anchor institutions—ranging from Allina and HealthPartners to the University of Minnesota—that were first to sign on to the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership, a joint effort funded by the McKnight Foundation to strengthen communities along the light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Pribbenow pointed out the immense economic and civic potential of nine medical facilities and seven colleges in the corridor that together account for 67,000 jobs, 115,000 students, and 100 current or planned capital improvement projects totaling $5 billion.

Eric Muschler, the McKnight Foundation program officer involved with the project, noted that Augsburg’s long involvement in the West Bank community offered inspiration for the overall Anchor Partnership. “[Augsburg has] been thinking about this longer,” he said.

“This is not do-gooderism,” Pribbenow stressed. “This is moving beyond the charity model. We have real interests that are at play with the neighborhood. For us, this is about our students. It contributes to their education, their safety, and a vital urban environment where they live. This is not just what we give to the community, it’s about our shared interests and mutual benefits.”

Five years ago, Augsburg took a leading role in the creation of the Cedar-Riverside Partnership, where stakeholders including West Bank businesses, Fairview Clinics-Riverside, University of Minnesota, neighborhood organizations, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County explore new ways of working together in the neighborhood. Pribbenow currently serves as the partnership’s chair.

“At first the group was all about safety,” Pribbenow said, noting how partners raised funds to increase security at a community center, supported a neighborhood crime prevention group, and helped plan a community safety center that opened at a nearby housing complex.

“If you talk to the police department, they will tell you that all of this work by many institutions and community organizations has improved the safety and vitality of the neighborhood in a surprisingly short amount of time.”

That initial success showed everyone what could be accomplished cooperatively. The group’s attention then widened to the coming Central Corridor light rail line. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin told the group, “If you get this right, it will undo the damage that was done” when Interstates 94 and 35W essentially walled off Cedar-Riverside from the rest of the city.

“This work is about resurrecting a neighborhood,” Pribbenow noted. “Cedar-Riverside could become a destination for the whole region.”

That’s also a goal of the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership: to make sure that adjacent neighborhoods capitalize on the transformative benefits of this nearly $1 billion public investment.

Read the full story including an outline of the Partnership's four major initiatives focused on strengthening Central Corridor communities.