In early 2011, the Twin Cities’ leaders had already spent several years exploring issues of transit-oriented development (TOD) in preparation for the start of construction of a new light rail line. By mid-2011, leaders had a strategy for equitable TOD and had begun aligning key public sector resources to support it.
The Corridors of Opportunity (COO) initiative aims to promote sustainable, vibrant, and healthy communities in the Twin Cities region. It uses the emerging transitway system as a development focus for expanding access to jobs, affordable housing, and essential services for residents of all incomes and backgrounds.
In mid-2009, a group of policymakers representing county and regional government, the state housing agency and local philanthropy began to meet with the goal of creating an investment strategy for development along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, which will connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In 2010, the core group expanded its leadership table to include other key constituencies and secured two major awards: from Living Cities’ Integration Initiative as well as the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Grant .
Since the awards focused on similar work, in January 2011, the stakeholders formed a joint Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board to oversee both efforts. The Policy Board, made up of executive decision makers from government, foundations, nonprofits, business and community organizations, has adopted a common vision, goals, and principles for the initiative as well as a set of indicators and metrics that will guide implementation.
But the Policy Board has become more than a goal setting body. During monthly meetings, their agenda reflects ongoing work relating to their funders as well as emerging and key policy issues relating to transitway development. Board members recognize this table and these meetings as a place to start exploring and participating in mutual learning and exchange around significant issues. Having created a set of expectations and built the relationships and accountability among a set of key decision-makers, the Board has become the place where long-standing priorities can rise up and be adopted in an organic fashion.
An initial success in this area has been elevating “transit proximity” and TOD criteria in local and state public sector funding streams. In Minneapolis, the allocation of affordable housing tax credits and trust fund monies are prioritized along transit corridors. Minnesota Housing revised its Qualified Action Plan criterion this year to favor projects located within a one half mile radius of a completed or in progress transit station. Two of the Metropolitan Council’s funding programs have also been modified.
The result is that the Corridors of Opportunity initiative’s focus on equitable transit-oriented development has now been incorporated into the strategy of five government funds. This alignment will help ensure effective and efficient use of resources and enable greater impact because of the scale of resources now available. This work is not only powerful in the resources it brings to bear, but also in the steps it takes toward systems change focused on integrating land use, housing and transportation planning and funding for equitable results.
To learn more about the Twin Cities’ Corridors of Opportunity Program, visit: _ http://www.metrocouncil.org/planning/COO/index.htm _or email its director, _ Mary Kay Bailey. And, to learn about The Integration Initiative work going on in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Newark visit: _ www.livingcities.org/integration_. _