Land bridge proposed over I-94 to reconnect Rondo neighborhood

The construction of I-94 more than 50 years ago cut straight through the Rondo community in St. Paul. This weekend, an effort to reconnect the neighborhood takes another step.

Neighborhood leaders want to build a land bridge or "freeway lid" over I-94 to reunite the community severed by the highway.

“Here’s enough land for us to develop economic opportunities, improve the health, job creation, wealth creation,” said Marvin Anderson, chairman of the board of ReConnectRondo and one of the founders of the annual Rondo Days celebration.

Anderson is so connected to the Rondo neighborhood, his name is on a street sign.

“It was a community that like a village in one sense,” said Anderson. “If I did something wrong here, by the time I got home four blocks away, my mother would know about it. Because people knew and looked out for each other.”

He carries memories of what came before the construction of I-94 and what came after.

“This is what was left, this what you see,” said Anderson. “This has been for 50 years and it’s a nightmare.”

The construction displaced hundreds of homes and businesses in St. Paul, forever altering the heart of the city.

“Can a land bridge bring that back?” said Anderson. “The land bridge is an idea, it’s a concept, it shows what’s possible when a community can come together.”

MnDOT is working with ReConnectRondo to explore the idea as MnDOT develops its plans for the overhaul of I-94 through St. Paul.

Beginning Sunday, the Urban Land Institute will be in St. Paul with its experts interviewing community members and assessing what can actually be built.

ULI Leader Lyneir Richardson, executive director for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will serve as the panel’s chairman.

“We’re excited to bring ULI’s expertise to Saint Paul,” Richardson said in a statement. “We’ll be considering a broad spectrum of challenges and opportunities in this community to determine a set of recommendations that best address its immediate and long-term needs for both linkage and revival. Rondo’s future can be greatly enhanced by park space that serves as connective tissue bringing residents together, improving neighborhood livability, and boosting economic growth.”

“Really consider whether or not we can do housing, job creation, wealth creation, improve the environment,” Anderson said.

It’s a step that could help start to close a gap.

“This is what the land bridge represents: the opportunity for a lot of people to think about something good! And it’s redemptive,” said Anderson.

There wil be a public reception at Union Depot, 240 East Kellogg Boulevard, #70, on Monday, March 19, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is also invited to the presentation of the panel’s recommendations on Friday, March 23, at 9 a.m. at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, 270 North Kent Street.

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