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2011 Community Engagement Grant Awards

After reviewing 43 grant applications from community organizations, the Community Engagement Team's review panel selected nine projects recommended for funding in the first round of community engagement grants, which were approved by the Policy Board.

Four corridors - Central, Bottineau, Southwest and Gateway will receive a total of up to $396,786.  Ten community organizations recommended for funding were awarded grants.

Below is a description of the community organizations and projects that will receive funding.

ADVOCATING CHANGE TOGETHER

Project title: None
Corridor:  Central
Amount: $30,000

Advocating Change Together (ACT) is a grassroots constituency driven organization, its board makeup is 90% persons with developmental and other disabilities. ACT has been around for over 30 years, established in 1979 as a reaction to organizations that were not identifying persons with disabilities as being capable of making decisions about their lives. ACT has been striving to bring justice to a forgotten community, persons with developmental and other disabilities. We take every opportunity to anticipate and react to society’s absence of inclusion for persons with all disabilities. Our main principle and philosophy comes from the statement “Nothing about us, without us”.

Project Description:

This grant will give us an opportunity to bring our information, concerns and issues plus suggestions to the many existing organizations and agencies along the Central Corridor. We will interact with nonprofit groups concerned with disabilities, for-profit organizations that serve persons with disabilities and we will of course address the local organizations not specifically concerned with disabilities but concerned with the housing, economics and safety of the area. This grant also allows us to monitor and participate in many government decisions that have been made without our input. This process will help individuals to:

  • develop skill-building opportunities for people with disabilities through participation and information gathering and distributing information to the broader community and the disability community;
  • increase representation of persons with disabilities within the community-based grassroots movement;
  • increase disability coalitions and multi-community alliances around shared systems change goals;
  • increase persons with disabilities profile as an advocate of resource for local governments making decisions around their ability to participate fully in the benefits of the community in which they live.

This will necessitate a series of meetings after we establish contacts with interested individuals. As a result, we expect to have a greater role in the future development of housing, economic development and safety along the Central Corridor.

AFRICAN CAREER, EDUCATION & RESOURCE, INC. (ACER)

Project title: Making Transit Meaningful
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $30,000

African Career, Education and Resource (ACER) is a volunteer-driven, community-based organization founded in 2008 to close the resource and information disparities within Minnesota’s communities of African descent and help those communities achieve societal and economic independence.  Located in Brooklyn Park, ACER is a subsidiary of Strengthening African Resilience for Excellence, SARX, a registered 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization.

Project Description:

ACER’s target population, African immigrants, African Americans and other minorities, residing within the Northwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities, have not participated when mainstream methods have been used to inform stakeholders along the Bottineau Corridor. Through a series of community forums, ACER will partner with the City of Brooklyn Park and its innovative Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) team to identify and engage this population to become actively involved. The goal is to move underrepresented communities from a lack of basic awareness to a state of informed and engaged community action as it relates to community input and impact along the Bottineau Corridor. Specifically, efforts will focus on C, B and A alternative segment alignments affecting Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn Park, New Hope, Crystal, Brooklyn Center and Robbinsdale.

ASIAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION (AEDA)

Project title: Organizing for Transit and Equitable Development
Corridor: Central, Bottineau
Amount: $45,000

Created by University Ave. Asian business owners in St. Paul, MN, Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) is a 501 (c) (3), nonprofit grassroots economic development organization focusing on several priority low-income Asian Minnesotan communities. AEDA provides access to resources, training, advocacy and community-driven planning. AEDA’s mission is to cultivate vibrant, diverse communities by creating economic opportunities. AEDA envisions thriving sustainable multicultural neighborhoods with strong community leadership and economic justice.  

Project Description:

AEDA will create a team of culturally competent “Community Outreach Ambassadors” to organize and engage the Southeast Asian communities along Central Corridor and Bottineau Corridor. The Outreach Ambassadors’ cultural skill sets will allow underrepresented Southeast Asian residents who speak little or no English to engage in decision-making and to identify and address issues related to the development of transit in both corridors.

ASIAN MEDIA ACCESS

Project title: Asian Pacific Community Network (APA ComMNet)
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $30,000

Led by Asian Media Access, the Asian Pacific American Community Network (APA ComMNet) coalition has worked together since 2005 and consists of many partners (see below table for a list of partners, roles and responsibilities), as well as youths, parents and community members, to actively challenge the existing cultural and linguistic barriers regarding engagement on state and local initiatives, and access to information and services for health and well-being issues in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Project Description:

The project will utilize media and technology for engaging communities, institutions and businesses, especially under-represented Asians along the Bottineau Corridor, in voicing their opinions and needs related to the line and livability in the area, which will improve analyses, plans and designs processes, fostering economic and civic vitality for marginalized communities.

AURORA ST. ANTHONY NEIGHBORHOOD DEV CORP (ASANDC) & JUST EQUITY

Project Title: Historic Rondo
Corridor: Central
Amount: $60,000

  • Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC); ASANDC was founded in 1980 to serve and organize residents of the Aurora/St. Anthony neighborhood to bring neighbors together to address issues of crime and neighborhood nuisances through the organization of powerful block clubs, resident-led neighborhood watch groups and large, successful protests of unwanted businesses. It is located in Saint Paul in the historic Rondo community between I-94 and University Ave. In 2001, ASANDC further expanded to include the entire Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods in its area of service. ASANDC has been responsible for the development or rehabilitation of 180 units of quality affordable housing and continues to create affordable developments to serve our community. Its mission is to foster positive relationships within and between the neighborhoods we serve and to support their members in effecting the quality of life in their communities.  
  • JUST Equity: A regional network of African-American racial equity proponents who analyze the underpinnings of race/ethnicity and class within development dynamics to organize and advocate an improved quality of life for an African-American constituency historically excluded from development benefits. Disparities across multiple sectors (i.e. housing, jobs, economic development, transportation, land use...) are examined to craft innovative development strategies that support community well- being and wealth building.

Project Description:

ASANDC’s long established Power of 1 + 1 Resident Leadership Program and JUST Equity’s supported Preserve and Benefit Historic Rondo Committee (PBHRC) will partner to launch the Historic Rondo/Equitable Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Campaign. Our campaign will train low-income and African American resident leaders residing throughout St. Paul’s ward 1 to leverage transit oriented development projects to further advance a Rondo Renaissance vision that allows for the preservation, enhancement, restoration and healing of our community’s cultural economy and longstanding neighborhood fabric into the future of University Avenue and the surrounding area.

Within this grant, the role of ASANDC is to incorporate the Power of 1 + 1 Resident Leadership Program into Central Corridor-related work and provide development expertise to an overall Equitable TOD strategy.

Within this grant, the role of JUST Equity is to support a culturally-centered development perspective and grow the efforts of the PBHRC through the Power of 1 + 1 leadership expansion.

EAST SIDE PROSPERITY CAMPAIGN

Project Title: Engagement Grant along Gateway
Corridor: Gateway
Amount: $40,000

The project is lead by the East Side Prosperity Campaign as coordinator with partners in

  • the American Indian Family Center
  • the Hmong American Partnership
  • the Culture Wellness Center
  • Casa de Esperanza and
  • District 4 and 5 Councils. 

As the Gateway Corridor project is in the “Alternatives Analysis” phase we feel it is a perfect time to engage underrepresented communities on the East Side. Other corridor projects were not given this opportunity for early engagement, and we recognize that the potential for equitable development increases with early and consistent resident input. To that end, we have gathered a strong coalition of culturally specific organizations and placed based community organizations. Each of these participant organizations will carry out cultural and neighborhood specific engagement activities that will reach into the major underrepresented communities of the East Side. The Gateway Corridor Commission has informed us that the key moments for input for the “Alternatives” phase will be January-February 2012. Therefore, we will have to act fast and use already existing programs to reach residents early on and later expand our efforts.

Project Description:

Through regular community meetings and outreach, educate residents and organizations about the Gateway Project, including opportunities, challenges, timeline and decision points. Increase the opportunities for a diverse group of residents’ and organizations’ to participate in decision-making for East Side transit development, including the Alternative Analysis decisions. Identify leaders from diverse communities to form a Community Advisory Committee and work with government staff and policy makers to inform decisions and guide the development of activities. Coordinate East Side Gateway engagement activities with other ongoing engagement activities along the Gateway Corridor. Facilitate a residents’ vision of the East Side and how transit development fits that vision.

HARRISON NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION

Project Title: Transit Equity Partnership
Corridor: Bottineau
Amount: $45,000

Harrison neighborhood is a racially diverse community consisting of 40% African Americans; 28% White; 17% Southeast Asian (Lao and Hmong); 9% Latino and 5% Somali and other. The median household income is a little more than 25,000. Heritage Park is 35% Somali, 30% African American, 11% Native American, 5% Ethiopian, 4% Latino, 6% Asian and 3% White. The median household income is approximately $16,000. There are 25,000 Lao in Minnesota, 70% live in Hennepin County of which 30% live in North Minneapolis.

The Transit Equity Partnership consists of three organizations controlled by underrepresented communities committed to creating a transit system that equitably benefits the diverse racial, cultural and economic groups that have been harmed by a century of discriminatory planning decisions that have marginalized and isolated our communities in North Minneapolis. Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) is the lead organization in the partnership. Both HNA and Heritage Park Neighborhood Association (HPNA) are place-based organizations that have multi-cultural leadership, working on multiple issues. Loa Assistance Center of Minnesota (LACM) is a refugee organization serving primarily Lao community members throughout the state but geographically concentrated along the Bottineau line.

Project Description:

The Transit Equity Partnership is an effort to overcome a century of discriminatory urban planning that has resulted in disinvestment, lack of opportunity, isolation and marginalization of those living in North Minneapolis. TEP will do this by using a racial justice framework to build a common understanding between diverse communities.  The project will utilize workshops, presentations and community story-telling to build the capacity of grassroots leaders to engage and speak for themselves and their communities, co-create community positions that reflect the hopes and needs of all constituents and ensure that decision-makers are responsive to the community. Specifically, project participants will work to ensure the equitable redevelopment of a 30 acre parcel of land, owned by Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, next to the Van White LRT Station Stop on Olson Highway. The TEP will also work ensure a high level of community participation in the Bottineau DEIS using the gathered input and the positions developed and approved by community.

INTERCONGREGATIONAL COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATION

Project title: Blake Road Neighborhood Discussion Circles
Corridor: Southwest
Amount: $30,000

The Blake Road Corridor Collaborative (BRCC) is a partnership of community and governmental organizations including: the city of Hopkins, Hennepin County and the Hopkins School District.  Key partners include the Intercongregation Communities Association (which is the lead agency and fiscal agent of the BRCC), Twin Cities LISC, the Hopkins Police and Community Development departments, several local businesses and social service agencies. The BRCC engages with neighborhood residents and local business owners/managers to undertake projects related to improving safety, supporting positive activities for youth and improving neighborhood infrastructure, all aimed at improving the quality of life in the Blake Road neighborhood.

The Blake Road neighborhood is a mile by one-half mile area in the northeast portion of Hopkins. The neighborhood contains approximately 1,400 housing units, which are primarily rental, and the population has become increasingly diverse. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the residents are foreign-born. There are close to 40 languages spoken in the Hopkins School District which is indicative of the diversity of the Blake Road neighborhood with residents from countries such as Somalia, India and Mexico.

Project Description:

The Blake Road Corridor is slated to be a station area for the Southwest LRT line and is in close proximity to the new Cargill Corporate Campus, which will house over 3,000 jobs. Featuring largely medium density housing that serves low-income families, the area is positioned for dramatic redevelopment and gentrification. Some of the policy decisions that will unfold in the near future, include: preservation of affordable housing; investment in infrastructure for alternative transportation (transit, bikes and pedestrians); strengthening natural amenities (Minnehaha Creek and park systems); and designation of land uses.

This project will address the disconnect in communications between immigrant communities, mainstream residents and government representatives through the use of discussion circles, community-building projects, shared governance within the Blake Road Corridor Collaborative (a public private partnership in Hopkins) and ties with the Joint Community Police Partnership.

NEW AMERICAN ACADEMY

Project title: SW Corridor Immigrant Opportunities Outreach & Engagement
Corridor:  Southwest
Amount: $30,000

The New American Academy (NAA) is a 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization founded in 2008 that provides multi-programs and services to immigrants in the Twin Cities, predominantly Eden Prairie residents. NAA’s immigrant clients/beneficiaries help determine the programs and services that the agency implements for them on their path toward self-reliance and economic self-sufficiency. NAA is located in the City of Edina, but serves as the only Somali led institution operating in the southwest area of the Twin Cities’ region including Edina, Eden Prairie, Hopkins and Saint Louis Park. The organization is dedicated to serving the East African population in this area through a combination of programs including: work in education, citizenship, housing, mentoring and tutoring, employment, civic engagement and citizen participation. In addition, NAA opens its space to the community, serving as the only Somali based community space in the neighborhood.

NAA forms active, working relationships not only with its resident stakeholders, but other nonprofits, businesses, school districts (such as the Eden Prairie School District), philanthropic sector (such as the Eden Prairie Foundation) and government entities (such as Hennepin County and the City of Eden Prairie).

Project Description:

Eden Prairie and cities along the Southwest LRT Corridor are experiencing a growing and vibrant population increase of new immigrants from East African and other ethnic immigrant community members who are resettling from other cities in our region and across our state.

NAA plans to conduct workshops and community forums to educate the Somali community in the southwest area about the pending Southwest LRT line and to sustain the organization’s work in other areas such as affordable housing, economic development and workforce development as it relates to the rail’s development and implementation. The organization also intends to use the funds to alleviate any concerns or misconception people may have about the construction and operation of the line. 

NAA has been actively engaging local public leaders in the past few years by conducting meet and greets and voter forums with the city mayor, county commissioners and other city council members. The organization continues to negotiate community benefits with the city at every opportunity and has placed and plans to continue working with the city to place leaders of color on key city committees and councils. The leaders within NAA are widely recognized by public officials in Eden Prairie and Edina.

NAA’s next steps are to outreach to, identify and recruit low income as well as disenfranchised but resolute immigrant participants who will assert leadership and civic engagement roles for this project. The project intends to form a Southwest Corridor Immigrant Council to formulate and implement specific goals, visioning and long-term strategies that will benefit the NAA constituencies living along the southwest corridor.

WEST BANK CDC & SOMALI ACTION ALLIANCE

Project title: Don’t Pass Us By Project
Corridor: Central
Amount:  $47,086

  • West Bank CDC (WBCDC) has a real investment in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood (467 units of affordable housing).  It has broad experience in organizing grassroots campaigns – it brings a technical expertise in community development activities along with years of organizing experience using an inclusive process. Three major goals for the organization: preserve affordable housing, community based economic development and organizing residents to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood
  • Somali Action Alliance (SAA) was formed to expand racial and social justice and to build power in the Somali community through collective action. SAA, a Somali-led organization, has extensive experience organizing their community on education issues, civic engagement and in Central Corridor planning issues. Three primary focuses are: community organizing, voter engagement and leadership development

The process for community engagement under this grant request was developed over a six month period in weekly meetings among the Dania Partners (a broad collection of organizations that represent tenants, businesses, immigrant and other cultural constituencies in this Minneapolis neighborhood. Underrepresented communities will take the lead in the implementation process, with SAA managing the outreach and engagement process. 

Project Description:

The project partners recognize that there is a continued need for a coordinated community response to the coming economic and logistical changes related to Central Corridor LRT development. 12 developable parcels have been identified in the Washington Ave. “trench” surrounding the new Central Corridor West Bank station. The parcels have government “site control,” meaning that community groups will have ample opportunity to influence planning and development decisions. One of the most pressing concerns among members of the community relate to gentrification and displacement pressures that might follow completion of the Central Corridor line, particularly for immigrant owned businesses. This project will focus on exploring how a portion of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan can be directed to mitigating these impacts. A creative “value capture” initiative could help finance new neighborhood assets such as a new youth center or to secure affordable new retail space for immigrant businesses.  Other goals of the project include exploring land banking strategies, jobs programs related to corridor construction and joint development opportunities (public/non-profit).

A Road Map of the engagement process has been developed, with several phases which will include 15 localized info/outreach sessions at places people naturally congregate in the community. There will also be at least 5 more highly structured information/listening sessions held in local institutional meeting places. A video documentation strategy will also be deployed in the recognition that story telling is a more traditional form of communication among many cultures, and because in some cases community elders may not be literate in their native languages. The project intends to establish a representative Community Round Table that unites the neighborhood around community-based planning for Central Corridor development.