This story was originally published on July 6, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was a thriving African American neighborhood in heart of St. Paul, destroyed by development. Now, there’s new hope Rondo will rise again.

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In the 1950s, Rondo was in the center of it all: business, entertainment, art, faith and fun. Marvin Anderson grew up there.

“Every day you walked out there you could see how people were able to overcome the limitations that this society imposed on them, and built something they could call their own,” Anderson said. “Everybody was very proud.”

But it all came crashing down in 1956, after some politicians decided Interstate 94 would be built right through the area — taking out housing for about 61% of the residents.

“I miss the people of Rondo, the interaction that I would have with them,” Anderson said.

And now there’s news the old neighborhood could be new again. The new state budget gives more than $5 million to build a land bridge that would go over I-94, covering five blocks, from Chatsworth Street to Grotto Street.

(credit: ReConnect Rondo)

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Keith Baker heads up ReConnect Rondo, a project he’s been working on for years.

“We can imagine a play space, we can imagine a place where community celebrations happen, we can imagine housing units, we can imagine retail,” Baker said.

He has been spearheading this project for years. With the greenlight, he says his main priority is to listen.

“We think that we have to reach every single household to really ask them, ‘What are your concerns? What are the opportunities?’” Baker said.

The plan is to use community members as the developers, and to align re-development so that it won’t push people out, but will encourage them to stay.

“It’s about self-determination. It’s about ownership. More than anything it shows possibility,” Baker said. “It shows outcomes that translate directly to people.”

It will take a while to finally repair the path of destruction, with construction not slated to start for another seven years. The cost to build the full bridge would be about $458 million.

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ReConnect Rondo is looking for partnerships in construction and in housing assistance. Click here for more information.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield