Urban Land Institute Report Encourages Creation of “Freeway Lid” in Rondo to Help Reconnect Saint Paul Neighborhood Long Divided by Interstate


SAINT PAUL – (RealEstateRama) — Recommendations for creating park space over Interstate 94 to link neighborhoods in the Rondo community of Saint Paul, Minnesota are detailed in a new reportfrom the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global, multidisciplinary real estate organization whose work is driven by 42,000-plus members dedicated to responsible land use and building thriving, sustainable communities.


The report’s conclusions are based on findings by a group of leading ULI members who visited Rondo in March 2018 to offer their expertise in land use and urban planning on a proposal for a land bridge, or “freeway lid” to connect the Rondo community after decades of being divided by the interstate. The ULI panel, convened through ULI’s Advisory Services Program, was sponsored by the Reconnect Rondo: More Than a Bridge organization and its partners, including the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Health, and Ramsey County.

In creating the recommendations, panelists considered the types of land uses and development that could be catalyzed by one or more land bridges, and which would be most beneficial to adjacent neighborhoods and the greater Rondo community while prioritizing inclusive economic development. Key recommendations include:

  • A significant Rondo Community Land Bridge should move forward, providing an opportunity for healing, a celebration of history and an opportunity to capture the benefits of economic development for the local community;
  • The Minnesota Department of Transportation should construct and maintain the bridge, working with partners to ensure long term funding for operation and maintenance of the bridge;
  • $6 million should be raised for the next steps of design, engineering and cost estimates; and
  • The potential opportunities for African-American leadership of the project should be embraced and encouraged, ensuring that this is an opportunity for inclusive economic development.

Their assignment built on previous advisory work regarding freeway lids conducted through ULI Minnesota, which serves ULI members in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and throughout the state.  Convened through ULI’s renowned Advisory Services Program, the panel’s visit was part of ULI’s participation in the 10-Minute Walk Campaign, a collaborative effort with The Trust for Public Land and the National Recreation and Park Association to increase access to urban parks in cities nationwide. The campaign’s goal is for all residents in the United States to live within a 10-minute walk (or half-mile) of a high-quality park.

As part of its work, the panel analyzed factors such as:

  • The benefits and constraints of each of the freeway lid concepts previously proposed by the ULI Minnesota panel;
  • The most effective way to incorporate a freeway lid into the surrounding community, including the types of land uses best suited for the revitalization effort, such as retail, civic centers, green space, incubator space, residential, and office/industrial;
  • Strategies for revitalization within surrounding neighborhoods that acknowledge the history of challenges associated with the placement of the freeway while promoting reconnections to ensure a bright future for the area and the region;
  • Priorities for implementation of a development plan, including timing and phasing;
  • Funding strategies or examples of public space management from other cities and communities that should be considered in the implementation of a development plan; and
  • Actions that Reconnect Rondo, its agency partners, and other stakeholders should be taking to ensure inclusive, equitable development and to reduce displacement.

ULI Leader Lyneir Richardson, executive director for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, served as the panel’s chairman. “ULI created a truly rewarding service opportunity for the accomplished group of professionals on our panel,” Richardson said. “The land bridge is a novel real estate project concept that has the potential to essentially create ‘new land’ and can do so in a way that will actually foster inclusive economic growth and development. I genuinely hope that the full potential of the project is achieved – green space, housing, employment and wealth creation for neighborhood residents, health, education, and cultural heritage.  If so, the Rondo community will be a national model for how government, the private sector, philanthropic and community leaders can work together to bring a big vision to fruition.”

In addition to Richardson, other panelists were: Beth Callender, principal, CallendarWorks, San Diego, California; Rodney Crim, president, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, St. Louis, Missouri; Sarah Graham, principal, Strategic Economics, Berkeley, California; Bert Gregory, partner, Mithun, Seattle, Washington; Ilana Lipsett, co-founder, PublicDesign|PublicSpace, Oakland, California; and Ben Stone, director of arts and culture, Smart Growth America, Washington, D.C.

ULI Executive Vice President Paul Bernard noted that the panel’s assignment aligned well with the goals of the 10-Minute Walk Campaign. “Thoughtfully designed parks make a positive difference in the quality of life in communities, serving as a respite, a source of civic pride, and a draw for investment activity,” Bernard said. “To that end, the freeway lid proposal holds great potential for Rondo and the greater Saint Paul area.”

Now in its 71st year, the ULI Advisory Services Program assembles experts in the fields of real estate and land use planning to participate on panels worldwide, offering recommendations for complex planning and development projects, programs and policies. Panels have developed more than 700 studies for a broad range of land uses, ranging from waterfront properties to inner-city retail.

NOTE TO EDITORS AND REPORTERS: The report detailing the panel’s recommendations will be discussed today at an event hosted by ReConnect Rondo at 4:45 pm in the Wilder Foundation’s auditorium.

About the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the institute has more than 42,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. For more information, please visit uli.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

contact: Trisha Riggs at 202-624-7086;

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