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From Corridors of Opportunity to the Partnership for Regional Opportunity

Launched in January 2011, the Corridors of Opportunity (COO) initiative brought together top leadership from state, regional and local government, philanthropy, non-profit organizations, and business interests, focused on accelerating the build out of the region’s transit system while promoting adjacent development that advances economic vitality and benefits people of all incomes and backgrounds.

Co-chaired by Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh and Lee Sheehy, Program Director of Region & Communities at the McKnight Foundation, the COO Policy Board unanimously agreed to continue its efforts into 2014 in order to focus on opportunities to implement new practices and embed system change within organizations.


Following COO’s model, The Partnership for Regional Opportunity will bring together many of the same leaders along with several new partners, to enhance the region’s competitiveness by:

  • Improving the economic prospects of low-income people and low-wealth communities
  • Promoting high quality development near existing assets (e.g. employment centers, transit ways, and commercial and industrial corridors)
  • Advancing a 21st century transportation system.

PRO members are committed to implementing the vision by:

  • Aligning resources, programs, and policies for implementation
  • Creating integrated solutions with cross-sector participation
  • Using partnership meetings to advance accountability for goals and transparency 

PRO Work Areas:

Co-Chairs: Repa Mekha, President & CEO, Nexus Community Partners; Jim McDonough, Ramsey County Commissioner

Co-Charis: Lee Sheehy, Director, McKnight Foundation; Mike Langley, CEO, Greater MSP

Co-Chairs: Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager; Jonathan Sage-Martinson, Central Corridors Funders Collaborative





Funding from Sustainable Communities supports metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation and infrastructure investments. In particular, the program encourages participating communities to consider the interdependence of:

  • Economic competitiveness and revitalization
  • Social equity, inclusion and access to opportunity
  • Energy use and climate change
  • Public health and environmental impact

The lead agency for administering this funding is the Metropolitan Council. The Corridors of Opportunity work includes:

  • Detailed development strategies in five emerging transitway corridors: Northstar Commuter Rail, Southwest Light-Rail Transit (LRT), Cedar Avenue BRT and the Bottineau and Gateway Corridors
  • Demonstration projects that can be replicated along Central Corridor
  • Technical studies and policy tools
  • Overarching strategies and analyses, such as community engagement and outreach
  • Direct investment in catalytic projects and supporting plans and policies

HUD Program Overview (16 pages, PDF)

Detailed Project Work Plans (166 pages, PDF)


Living Cities—a collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest philanthropic and financial institutions—designed the Integration Initiative to support cities that are fundamentally reshaping their communities and policies to meet the needs of low-income residents.

The participating metro areas, including Minneapolis/St. Paul, are required to incorporate these strategies into their work: 

  • Building a resilient civic infrastructure, one table where decision-makers from across sectors and jurisdictions can formally convene and work together to define and address complex social problem
  • Moving beyond delivering programs and instead focus on transforming systems such as transportation, health, housing and jobs
  • Bringing disruptive innovations into the mainstream and redirecting funds away from obsolete approaches toward what works
  • Supplementing traditional government and philanthropic funding streams by driving the private market to work on behalf of low-income people

The McKnight Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation are the co-lead agencies for the Living Cities Integration Initiative. Work funded with Living Cities resources falls into the four areas summarized below.

Affordable Housing Preservation and Mixed Use/Mixed Income TOD Investment

Family Housing Fund, Twin Cities Community Land Bank, and Twin Cities LISC will preserve and create affordable housing along the Central Corridor and fill funding gaps for catalytic mixed-income, mixed use projects along Central and Hiawatha. $1.125M in grant funds will support this work.

Small Business Assistance

Neighborhood Development Center and Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers will provide small business assistance, façade matching grants, and loan products for businesses that want to expand or purchase their building to create anchors and showcase the potential for ethnic and minority-owned businesses along transit corridors. $450K in grant funds will support this work.

Southwest LRT Investment Framework & Integrated Planning

Urban Land Institute-Minnesota, Hennepin County, corridor cities and other partners will guide and implement the Southwest LRT corridor investment framework and demonstrate replicable best practices of a cross-jurisdictional public-private partnership model. $255K in grant funds will support this work.

Project Management, Evaluation, and Policy Change

The Saint Paul Foundation will manage the initiative locally, supporting policy and system change work and program evaluation. $940K in grant funds will support this work.


  • 400–600 units of transit-accessible affordable housing (rental and owner-occupied) created or preserved.
  • 100 small businesses along transit corridors receive some combination of technical assistance, façade improvement grants or new loans to support business growth.
  • Public sector resources and strategies for housing, economic development, workforce training and community building strategies are better aligned and leveraged along transit corridors.
  • New inter-jurisdictional and cross-sector investment frameworks will identify and secure financing for community-supported improvements while leveraging private sector investment.
  • Identify, understand and institutionalize best practices in transit development to create a “new normal” for the region.