Reconnect Rondo Project Puts St. Paul Dangerously Close to Doing Something Innovative And Cool

Photo by Tony Webster

ST PAUL — Earlier this month, representatives for the ReConnect Rondo project spoke with Minnesota’s House Transportation committee to propose a landbridge over 1-94. While the project is an incredible opportunity for revitalizing the once prosperous neighborhood of Rondo, it also puts St. Paul in danger of doing something innovative and possibly even cool. 

“When they first started talking, I was like, ‘whoa, slow down!'” said one House Transportation Committee member. “You want us to take St. Paul into the 21st century with city planning rooted in restorative justice? That’s wild, and in St. Paul, we’ve never done anything wild.” 

At the time of I-94 construction in the 1960s, the Rondo neighborhood was a mixed-income community that housed over 80% of St Paul’s Black residents. Highway construction destroyed over 700 homes, 300 Black-owned businesses, and caused a $270 million dollar home ownership equity gap that continues today.

The landbridge, which could provide housing for over 500 families and major economic opportunities for Black St. Paul residents, is a direct threat to St. Paul’s reputation as the boring half of the Twin Cities. 

“When you look at other cities that have done landbridge projects, such as Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Park freeway cap, it makes sense.” said long-time Summit Hill resident Terri McKinnon. “But I don’t know if St. Paul has the style necessary to handle such futuristic development.”

At press time, several St. Paul Council members were worried they might need to purchase leather jackets in order to complete such a cool project.