Affordable housing along Central Corridor in the “land of 10,000 plans”


“We are the land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 plans,” said Steve Cramer, executive director of Project for Pride In Living (PPL), speaking of the Big Picture Project, the latest initiative to focus on affordable housing in the Central Corridor. Cramer expressed hope that the project might create consensus for everyone involved, as he attended a July 20 community forum.

The forum introduced a project that could coordinate the efforts of development organizations, government entities, community associations, and finance organizations to develop affordable housing near the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit. Affordable housing is housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s annual income. The Central Corridor light rail transit line, currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2014, will run from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis along University and Washington avenues.

The forum was sponsored by the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Twin Cities LISC is a non-profit organization that provides financing and technical expertise to community development projects. About forty people from community associations, financial lenders, local governments, and community development organizations attended the forum held at the Profile Event Center at 2630 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis.

Speakers at the forum included Minneapolis City Councilmember Cam Gordon, Gretchen Nicholls of Twin Cities LISC, Community Development Specialist Ryan Curren of the City of Seattle, Haila Maze of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, Luis Pereira of the Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development, Kate Speed of Twin Cities LISC, and Elizabeth Wampler of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.


 In the “land of 10,000 plans”

2009 – Developing affordable housing strategies along the Central Corridor … The city of St. Paul is trying to “manage growth and change” that is expected to arise from the future Central Corridor Light Rail transit line, Nancy Homans, policy director to Mayor Coleman, told a group that gathered as part of a monthly discussion series hosted by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota on Friday, September 18. …

2010 – Looking for a road to affordable Central Corridor housing  … As light rail’s arrival in the Central Corridor nears, community organizations, individuals and stakeholders are brainstorming about how to preserve affordable housing along Washington and University Avenues. … 

Gretchen Nicholls explained that the purpose of the Big Picture Project is to develop a cohesive strategy among all actors involved in developing affordable housing along the Central Corridor. The Project aims to involve all of those participants in creating that strategy and hopes that all of those actors will buy into and pursue that strategy. She said that current plans for affordable housing development along the Central corridor are fragmented and that the Big Picture Project seeks to create an overarching plan for the region.

Curren said that he helped develop affordable housing along a light rail line in Seattle and explained the part of the need for planning is that there are tensions when developing affordable housing along transit corridors such as a region-wide need for affordable housing but adverse reactions from local communities that do not want affordable housing projects in their area.

Project for Pride in Living (PPL) which is already developing two affordable housing projects along the Central Corridor and is looking to create more. PPL Executive Director Steve Cramer said that the Big Picture Project may help with two problems. He first explained that it will be hard to meet everyone’s expectations for affordable housing along the Central Corridor and that ultimately they may not all be met. He gave an example of goals of two stakeholders that are at odds, saying that a goal of community development is often to increase housing density, but current residents in neighborhood do not want increased density. The Big Picture Project, he said, will hopefully make the final development more closely meet all of those expectations.

Last Wednesday’s community forum was the culmination of the first stage of the Big Picture Project which will continue through two more stages. Nicholls explained that the first stage was to gather information about current plans for affordable housing along the Central Corridor and about cases of development along similar transit corridors from around the country. This information was shared at the forum event on July 20. The second stage will be to review strategies for creating affordable housing along the Central Corridor. This review will take place at another community forum on August 24 at the Wilder Foundation, and at a series of neighborhood workshops in August and September. The final stage will be to select a comprehensive strategy for creating affordable housing along the Central Corridor and to get governments, community developers, private lenders, development partners, and community partners to buy into that strategy.

 Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.