The Knight Foundation has selected 16 winners of a challenge that provides funding for projects to enhance life along the Green Line light rail corridor in St. Paul.
The challenge, which is in the first of three years, will provide $530,000 to these 16 projects this year. Knight has pledged $1.5 million for the three-year program.
Among this year’s winners are library wi-fi, a BBQ space, jazz projects, transforming the I-94 bridges, expanding the Night Market in Little Mekong, cultivating urban farms and promoting Green Line ridership by seniors and youth with disabilities.
The program received 579 applications. Selected community members narrowed down the finalists and helped the foundation pick the winners.
Said Polly Talen, Knight Foundation program director for St. Paul:
“We are thrilled with the vision, reach and range of these first winners, and happy that the challenge prompted so many people to engage with their community and contribute. These projects promise to make important contributions to life along the Green Line.”
The first-year grant winners, in alphabetical order, are:
- AuSM on the Town – A Social Skills Opportunity for Individuals Ages 14-26 with Autism
Autism Society of Minnesota, $6,000
To encourage teens and young adults with autism to ride the Green Line, the Autism Society of Minnesota will provide hands-on experiences with public transportation and activities along the corridor. Through the organization’s On the Town summer program, participants will learn to use the light rail line. They then move throughout the community, building their social and independent living skills while contributing to St. Paul’s Green Line businesses.
- Better Bridges for Stronger Communities
Friendly Streets Initiative, $60,000
To make St. Paul’s urban landscapes more visually remarkable and memorable, the Friendly Streets Initiative will lead a community input process to transform the bridges and walkways over and under I-94. The goal is to significantly improve the beauty and function of all eight bridges with community-led artistic placemaking and wayfinding installations, as well as improved walking and bicycling facilities. Project leaders will work collaboratively with St. Paul, Ramsey County and Minnesota Department of Transportation planners to ensure effective planning and use of resources.
- Big Daddy’s BBQ Outdoor Community Space
Big Daddy’s BBQ, $15,000
To bring back a neighborhood gathering spot, the legendary Big Daddy’s BBQ will turn a space adjacent to the University Avenue and Dale Street light rail station into a green community gathering space with a family picnic area, outdoor barbecue smokers and staging for music events. The project aims to increase economic activity, building community and establishing Dale and University as a welcoming, family-friendly destination.
- Borrow the Internet
Saint Paul Public Library, $49,700
To increase Internet access in neighborhoods adjacent to the Green Line, the St. Paul Public Library will loan out Wi-Fi hotspots through Rondo and Merriam Park libraries. The hotspots provide free Internet service that can be used 24/7 in any location. They will allow students and patrons who do not have Internet access outside of library hours the ability to connect with vital digital learning resources and tools.
- Cultivating the Green Line
Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, $59,500
To transform 625 Dale St. in the Frogtown neighborhood into a beautiful anchor farm, Stone’s Throw Urban Farm will expand the site to include a year-round greenhouse, two hoop houses and pedestrian-friendly gathering spaces. The site will serve as a hub and host to innovative urban agriculture focused on reinserting food production into the city. The farm will showcase the economic viability of farming in the city and promote economic activity along the Green Line.
- Diversifying Neighborhood Organization Boards to Increase Effectiveness
Jun-Li Wang, Board Repair, and Frogtown Neighborhood Association, $15,250
To diversify the membership of St. Paul’s District Councils, Board Repair and the Frogtown Neighborhood Association will work with the councils to develop new leaders of color who represent the racially and economically diverse neighborhoods of the Green Line. Through analysis of the council’s membership process and outreach strategies, as well as ongoing coaching to create more welcoming and accessible processes, the councils will become more responsive and thriving entities.
- Frogtown Farm Mobile Pizza Picnics
Frogtown Farm, $12,600
To build bridges among diverse community members, Frogtown Farm will invite community members to a series of mobile pizza picnics where participants can gather to envision and co-create the future of the community farm. Through these picnics, which will include a traveling brick pizza oven, Frogtown Farm will build bridges among diverse community members, promote a sense of ownership of its new public park and farm, and inform the farm’s future growth.
- Frogtown Website Construction Company
Digital Empowerment Academy and Twin Cities Media Alliance, $21,800
To teach Frogtown youth the digital skills necessary to compete in today’s marketplace, the Digital Empowerment Academy and Twin Cities Media Alliance, in collaboration with Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ, will offer a training program serving small businesses in the area. The project will help underrepresented youth develop their digital literacy and leadership skills by learning how to create websites and Facebook pages for neighborhood businesses and community organizations. The program will benefit both youth and businesses/organizations that need a stronger Web presence.
- More Jazz on Selby
Selby Avenue Action Coalition c/o Rondo Community Land Trust, $15,000
To create a strong African-American cultural corridor, the Selby Avenue Action Coalition will encourage and host a yearlong series of events focused on jazz music. The goal is to create a jazz cultural corridor along Selby Avenue between Dale and Lexington in the Rondo neighborhood, bringing thousands of people to the area for entertainment, dining and shopping. The series will kick off with the 2015 Selby Avenue Jazz Fest and conclude with a community block party.
- No Litter Bugs
Stephanie Stoessel, member of Summit-University Planning Council, $5,100
To improve the streetscape along University from Western to Victoria, the Summit-University Planning Council and City of St. Paul Public Works and Environmental departments will encourage residents to use trash receptacles that feature artwork from students at Maxfield Elementary. The project is intended to raise community-wide appreciation for a clean streetscape and increase attention to responsible disposal of waste as well as students’ pride and ownership in their community.
- Saint Paul Night Market & Little Mekong Plaza
Asian Economic Development Association, $45,000
To showcase the community’s economic, cultural, and social assets, the Asian Economic Development Association will expand the open-air street market in the heart of the Little Mekong cultural district, providing support for vendors to increase the market’s economic impact. In addition, in partnership with Hmong American Partnership and St. Paul Riverfront Corp., the association will transform an unusable building and parking lot into an interim cultural plaza on the southwest corner of University Avenue and Western.
- Seniors Exploring Locally by Light Rail
Neighborhood Network for Seniors, $20,000
To increase ridership of the Green Line by seniors, Neighborhood Network for Seniors, a block nurse program working to help seniors stay in the homes they love, will provide outreach, training and encouragement to help this community of people learn how to use the Green Line. Volunteers and Neighborhood Network staff will offer ongoing classes and tours of the Green Line to seniors to help them learn to navigate and safely ride light rail line. Tours will highlight businesses along the way, encouraging patronage of St. Paul’s Green Line businesses.
- Sustainable Spaces
Model Cities of St. Paul, Inc., $75,000
To strengthen the cultural vibrancy of the community, Model Cities, in collaboration with Forecast Public Art, University of Minnesota Department of African-American & African Studies and Minnesota Historical Society, will incorporate public art elements into two mixed-use developments adjacent to the Victoria Street station. The art will commemorate the rich history of Rondo and African-American railroad workers who played an integral role in the civil rights movement and union organizing. Public art components will include pocket parks, outdoor interpretive art exhibit, indoor mural and an indoor reading room.
- The Four Seasons Public Art Wayfinding Project
Four Seasons Elementary School and Nathan Kellar Long, $3,700
To connect the Fairview Green Line station to the neighboring areas, students and teachers at the arts magnet Four Seasons Elementary School will create wayfinding art to lead people from the Fairview light rail station through the Iris Park neighborhood to the school and Merriam Park businesses. The wayfinding sidewalk art, street art, or simple signs and sculptures will encourage people to explore the area around Fairview station in an easy and fun way and soften the commercial feel of the area.
- University Avenue Clean Team
ALLY People Solutions, $50,000
To ensure an attractive, safe and green University Avenue and to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities, ALLY People Solutions, a nonprofit day training and habilitation program, will increase its Clean Team crews from three days per week to daily from April through October. While strengthening the employment skills and leadership abilities of people with disabilities, the Clean Team expansion also will promote local economic activity by making University Avenue a beautiful and welcoming environment.
- The Victoria Theater Arts Initiative
Denise Mwasyeba, Tyler Olsen, Sam Buffington, Fres Thao, MK Nguyen, Keith Johnson, Lucienne Schroepfer, Aaron Rubenstein, $75,000
To celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood, highlight new talent and engage audiences from within the city and beyond, the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative will design and implement a community-driven revitalization process. The process will include architects, artists and community members who will work to transform the long vacant Victoria Theater at 825 University Ave. into a viable, inspiring cultural destination along the Green Line.