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How Can Two Cities Develop the Area Between Them?

June 20, 2014
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How Can Two Cities Develop the Area Between Them?
The Twin Cities have a new connection via light-rail. The Northstar train runs north through the yard toward Fridley station. Michael Hicks/Flickr
The Twin Cities' newest light-rail line plans to rejuvenate the Central Corridor.

With all the reports of a lack of funding of infrastructure and transit projects nationwide, the Twin Cities have some good news to share.

Last Saturday, they celebrated the opening of a third light-rail line: the Green Line.

The nearly $1 billion transportation project is touted as more than just an engineering project to connect the vein that pulses from St. Paul to Minneapolis — it’s the city’s biggest foray into economic revitalization yet.

The Green Line initiative is the result of more than three decades of planning — returning the vacant lots and blighted 11-mile stretch between the two cities back into the bustling corridor it once was during the early part of last century. Known as the Central Corridor, the Green Line’s route will provide public transit from the state Capitol through the area of immigrant-owned, small businesses and to the University of Minnesota’s campus.

But the project is more than just a means of transportation. Both city mayors contend the goal is to develop the stretch between St. Paul and Minneapolis, attracting new residents and businesses, underscoring that improved infrastructure can lead to growing neighborhoods, the National Journal reports.

A variety of developers and contractors have already spent $2.5 billion in construction and redevelopment on 121 projects over the last five years within a half-mile of the Green Line, according to local planning agency the Metropolitan Council.

But community members are also pitching in with planning. The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (CCFC), comprised of 12 local and national foundations, has spent $10 million on strategy, planning, and funding initiatives throughout the corridor. In fact, the CCFC, the St. Paul city government, and the Metropolitan Council have doled out more than $3.5 million in loans to more than 200 small businesses in the area.The CCFC is also working with developers to create affordable-housing and assist students with housing and internships along the route.

The CCFC projects the Central Corridor will require 70,000 new housing units and $7 billion in development in the next 30 years with the addition of the Green Line, CCFC director Jonathan Sage-Martinson says.

The key to revitalization is transit-oriented development, or creating self-sustainability through commercial and residential development that hinges on good public transit,  according to the MinnPost.

“The experience across the country is that creating successful transit-oriented development takes not just transit, but the real commitment to create successful places,” said Adam Harrington, director of Service Development at the Metropolitan Council. “With the Green Line, we are really living that out.”

Along with new development, the Green Line has given many communities a boost in marketing and debuting each as cultural destinations. Part of Saturday’s grand opening included different celebrations at each stop, put on by each community.

“Transit is fundamentally about connecting — connecting one neighborhood to another, one city to another, a working mom to quality child care, a college student to classes, baseball fans to the stadium, and employers to their employees, ” said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. “Implementing a comprehensive transit vision makes us stronger, healthier and more connected metro region.”

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