To repair the harm caused by Olson Memorial Highway, the Bring Back 6th campaign seeks to reverse the impacts of racist and classist policies that dictated the highway route and shaped the current economic and environmental realities of Near-North neighborhoods along the corridor. Throughout Minneapolis’ history, intentional policy decisions helped some neighborhoods prosper at the expense of others. Redlining and racially restrictive covenants dictated where anyone considered not white could live, and where public and private investments were distributed. Lending and marketing strategies were aimed at excluding people of color, immigrants, and Jews, forcing them to locate in specific areas designated as “hazardous” or “definitely declining” by the Homeowners Loan Corporation. 

As a result, Near-North was one of the only areas in the city where people of color and Jews could own property. When highway planners decided the route for Olson Highway, they intentionally targeted Harrison and the Near-North communities for demolition–displacing residents and businesses, destroying generational wealth and devastating the existing black, immigrant, and low-income communities. Despite the repeal of explicitly racist housing policies and transportation planning practices, the effects of such decisions are still felt today in North Minneapolis and are reflected in the Twin Cities’ worst-in-the-nation racial disparities. 

Intentionally harmful government policymaking and public disinvestment created these disparities; it will take intentionally reparative policymaking and active public investment to reverse them. This is why the Bring Back 6th vision is centered in a reparative justice framework that calls for large-scale public investments and policies capable of solving the large-scale problems caused by Olson Memorial Highway.

Heritage Park Neighborhood

The Sumner-Glenwood neighborhood, located just north of downtown Minneapolis, has a history of disinvestment that spans generations. After the federal Holman Consent Decree in 1995, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority agreed to raze and redevelop 800 units of public housing, which made way for the Heritage Park community that now exists today. At the center of this neighborhood transformation sparked by that decree nearly 30 years ago is Heritage Park Apartments, a 440-unit mixed market rate, workforce, and public housing development. While the intent of this redevelopment was to create a vibrant mixed-income community, it has suffered from insufficient operating funds and capital funds to support the public housing units. Through investment in both the physical housing and the human capital needs of this community, Heritage Park can become the thriving, vibrant community that residents envision it can be. The residents of this low-wealth community have an annual median household income of less than half the median income for the City of Minneapolis as a whole, but with the strategic investment of funding in both the physical housing and human capital within the community, we believe all families who call Heritage Park home will thrive.

The key result that will come directly through this action is the stabilization of the Heritage Park neighborhood in Minneapolis. There are 440 units of mixed-income housing that make up Heritage Park Apartments, with 200 of those units being public housing and another 100 units being LIHTC affordable that are in immediate need for capital investment to preserve these units for the next generation. The preservation of low-income housing and investment into the physical infrastructure that supports and cultivates community, and a sense of belonging are critical components of any thriving neighborhood. With housing prices continuing to soar, we know that the preservation of subsidized and affordable housing is a critical need in Minneapolis, the surrounding Twin Cities and State. Without investment in the preservation of this existing affordable housing asset, the entire Heritage Park neighborhood will be destabilized, and hundreds of families will be directly impacted, and possibly displaced. The proposed uses for these funds include the rehabilitation of low-income housing within Heritage Park Apartments to ensure the preservation of low-income housing for low-wealth families

In addition to these capital funds needed to preserve this housing asset, there is a need to invest in the human capital of this mixed-income neighborhood. Nearly 70% of residents in this neighborhood lost employment during the pandemic, while at the same time, dozens of youth transitioned into young adulthood without a career plan. Urban Strategies Inc. is looking to expand the successful Green Garden Bakery youth social enterprise so more youth can be trained and gain real work experience, and also launch a new apprenticeship program for residents to gain skills and experience in property management, maintenance and landscaping through a unique partnership with Heritage Park Apartments.

Make Harrison Whole Again Demands

For decades, residents and community members in Harrison Neighborhood have been asking for protections and reinvestment. The METRO Blue Line Light Rail Extension proposal was set to address historic injustice and safety issues. The light rail project was promised to bring much needed safety improvements, public transit service, affordable housing, and amenities that would benefit the community. This disappeared when the Blue Line Extension was reoruted, leaving Harrison, Heritage Park and other Near-North neighborhoods with a gap. 

To address these harms and the rapid gentrification in the neighborhood, Harrison Neighborhood Association has been seeking a public commitment from MnDOT, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and the Met Council on the following demands: 

  • $1 million investment in Harrison Neighborhood Association’s (HNA) Home Improvement Grant program to assist low-income homeowners in maintaining the habitability of their homes.
  • $1 million investment in HNA’s Down Payment Assistance Fund to assist residents in achieving homeownership.
  • $1 million investment in a Harrison Rental Assistance Fund.
  • Implementation of the infrastructure improvements outlined in the Van White and Penn Avenue Station Area Plans, which includes sidewalk improvements, the construction of a community pavilion and picnic area at Van White Park, new heated bus shelters and lighting improvements throughout the neighborhood.
  • A moratorium on the sale of Harrison’s four city-owned garden lots to ensure continued community access to fresh and healthy produce.
  • A commitment of 300 project-based public housing vouchers to be applied to new housing development projects within the Harrison neighborhood, ensuring units are affordable to residents at or below 30% of Area Median Income.
  • A commitment on the part of the Met Council to work with HNA and Harrison community stakeholders to develop a community-serving grocery store at 260 Fremont Avenue North.
  • Tax forgiveness or tax waiver for low-income Harrison homeowners who cannot afford their increased property taxes and special assessments in order to assist them in avoiding tax forfeiture of their homes and the loss of generational wealth opportunities.
  • Funding for Heritage Park maintenance fund.

As part of the Bring Back 6th vision, we continue to organize on the following policies and benchmarks:

Using Public Land for the Public Good

The Bring Back 6th campaign opposes the sale of public land for private profit. Any publicly-owned land vacated through the highway removal process should remain publicly-owned and be developed as mixed-use public housing and commercial space. 

Expand Public Housing 

  • While policies like rent control (see below) provide a much-needed mechanism for controlling rent increases in the private rental market, the best way to ensure long-term housing stability and affordability is to build more public housing. 
  • Over half of Minneapolis’ low-income tenants and over a third of Minneapolis’ moderate-income tenants are considered “cost-burdened,” meaning over 30% of their income is spent on housing. 
  • Public housing is not only attainable for low-income residents but also guarantees affordability by capping rental payments to 30% of the tenant’s actual monthly income, thereby ensuring tenants are not cost-burdened.
  • The Bring Back 6th vision seeks to rebuild public housing units that were destroyed by the Hollman consent decree of 1998 which demolished 770 units of public housing and displaced over 400 families from the Near-North communities along Olson Highway. 

Publicly-Owned Commercial Real Estate 

  • Commercial space developed on vacated highway land should remain publicly-owned and provide low-cost lease opportunities for local entrepreneurs and small business owners.  

Community Gardens 

  • City-owned community garden lots provide much-needed access to fresh and healthy produce as well as space for residents to build community connections. Unfortunately, these city-owned garden lots are under constant threat of sale for private development. 
  • Bring Back 6th seeks to protect existing community gardens as a public health asset by advocating for a moratorium on the sale of city-owned community garden lots within the 6th Avenue North corridor. 

Equitable Community-Driven Development

Development of privately-owned land within the new 6th Avenue corridor must benefit existing residents and serve the needs of the Harrison and Near-North communities. 

Inclusionary Zoning

  • Inclusionary zoning is a common policy both locally and nationally for promoting mixed-income housing. Developers of new multifamily housing are required to include a certain percentage of affordable units in their buildings and put long-term affordability protections in place. 
  • Minneapolis’ current inclusionary zoning policy does not require developers to build enough affordable units for low or moderate-income renters. The requirement of 8% of units at 60% AMI or 4% of units at 30% AMI has produced very few affordable units within the Harrison neighborhood. Of the nearly 1,000 units of housing built, under construction, or currently proposed in Harrison since 2018, roughly 50 are affordable for the median Harrison household earning $34,000/year.  
  • The Bring Back 6th vision calls for an inclusionary zoning policy that would require at least 30% of all new housing units developed on privately owned land to be affordable to and occupied by households with an income at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI) with affordability requirements guaranteed for a minimum of 30 years. 

Residential and Commercial Community Land Trusts

  • Community Land Trusts provide perpetually affordable residential and commercial ownership opportunities by acquiring land and removing it from the speculative, for-profit real estate market. They are a means to ensure long-term affordable housing, prevent displacement, and foster community control over land and housing resources. Training programs, technical assistance grants, and capacity-building resources should be offered to help expedite scale.
  • The Bring Back 6th campaign advocates for expanded government funding for Community and Commercial Land Trusts to enable the acquisition of privately owned land within the 6th Avenue corridor and to prioritize homeownership and commercial property ownership opportunities for local BIPOC residents, entrepreneurs, and business owners.

Local Business Incubator Program

  • Bring Back 6th supports the creation of a government-funded program to help local entrepreneurs and small business owners establish and grow their businesses and utilize the economic opportunities created by a renewed 6th Avenue North.
  • Grants, low-interest loans, and technical assistance to small businesses should be readily available. 
  • Funds should be prioritized for local BIPOC businesses and entrepreneurs to repair the deep historic disinvestment that communities along the corridor have faced from all levels of government.
  • Government funds should be leveraged to assist businesses in ensuring that their spaces are fully accessible and ADA-compliant.

Anti-Displacement Policies and Tenant Protections

All too often, public infrastructure improvements in areas of historic disinvestment lead to the displacement of existing residents and businesses. Displacement tends to follow gentrification but sometimes proceeds it, like when a new transit project and infrastructure is promised to a community. To ensure that the benefits of highway removal and a revived 6th Avenue North accrue to current residents, we need to enact strong anti-displacement policies and tenant protections.

Rent Control

  • A strong rent control proposal that reins in the greed of corporate landlords, developers, and land speculators, caps rent increases to no more than 3% a year, applies to all units regardless of age or size of building, and prohibits vacancy decontrol will help keep Harrison and Near-North renters in the community and ensure that, after years of disinvestment, current residents get to benefit from the infrastructure improvements and new investments that will accompany highway removal. 

Eviction Moratorium & Just Cause Policies

  • In 2018, Volunteer Lawyers Network and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid conducted a study that found 79% of tenants who were receiving full legal support in an eviction case were people of color or mixed-race families. Black and Brown families, poor, and individuals with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by evictions.
  • Enacting an eviction moratorium can provide relief to tenants who cannot afford the rising costs of housing today, preventing detrimental effects such as houselessness and the long-term impacts of having an eviction on your record. This policy can serve as a crucial intervention in breaking the cycle of housing instability, allowing tenants to recover financially.  
  • Just cause eviction ordinances eliminate a landlord’s ability to terminate a tenant’s lease at will and instead require landlords to give a justifiable reason for not renewing a tenant’s lease. In addition to other efforts of anti-displacement strategy, to enact just cause is to slow the process of gentrification that motivates landlords to evict current tenants to seek wealthier renters at higher prices. Just cause policies also protect tenants who assert their rights to report unsafe living conditions or participate in tenant organizing. 

Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Agreement (TOPA)

  • Tenant Opportunity to Purchase gives tenants the right to purchase their building when their landlord decides to sell. This can prevent displacement, as markets continue to have rising rents and limited affordable housing options. In a recent study conducted of the learnings from TOPA in DC, there were 16,224 affordable units developed or preserved through TOPA.  
  • Decades of redlining and racial covenants in Minneapolis prevented BIPOC residents from becoming homeowners and the results of those policies are reflected in our wide racial gap in homeownership rates. 
  • Increasingly, affordable homeownership opportunities are being stripped away from would-be BIPOC homebuyers as corporate investment firms buy up single-family homes and convert them to unaffordable rentals. TOPA can curb real estate speculation by giving tenants a first right to purchase, reducing the likelihood of properties being flipped or redeveloped in ways that displace existing residents.
  • Bring Back 6th supports a strong TOPA policy that applies universally to all units regardless of the size of the building or number of rental licenses held by the landlord seeking to sell the property and that allows tenants to sell or assign their rights to another buyer.

Inclusive Hiring Goals

The Bring Back 6th project should include construction labor hours of 30% women and 48% people of color, with one-third of the total workforce recruited from the surrounding neighborhoods of the Bring Back 6th project corridor. Furthermore, at least 10% of the project labor hours should be conducted by people with a disability and substandard wages for disabled workers must be eliminated.

  • Hennepin County currently has a benchmark of project labor hours 20% women and 32% people of color. Given the specific neighborhood demographics of the Bring Back 6th Olson Memorial Highway project corridor, we should set a higher bar than these goals.
  • In 2019, Governor Walz signed an executive order tasking Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) to develop best practices for the recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities.
  • These goals are needed to ensure that project job opportunities actually benefit the local neighborhoods and spark a diverse workforce that can advance our region’s effort to increase diversity on construction projects.
  • Accountability should be built in to ensure contractors and agencies deliver on these goals. A recent Star Tribune report showed that no penalties are currently in place for failing to meet inclusive hiring goals and that participation goals are rarely met.
  • Investment in workforce partnership is needed to achieve these goals. Construction workforce training programs already exist across the Metro. MnDOT and project partners must adopt best practices for attracting and retaining diverse candidates in the trades, including listening to local communities’ experiences with workforce programs and employers.
  • Project labor agreements and community benefits agreements should be utilized to establish fair wages, benefits, and other terms of employment. Community benefit agreements can connect employers and unions with local community members and organizations to align labor and community interests. 
  • MnDOT should also support local construction business owners as a strategy for developing the local workforce. Construction businesses owned by women and people of color are best positioned to mobilize diverse workforces and change the industry. 
  • Partnering with existing small business support organizations and lenders can also help diverse entrepreneurs build their capacity for growth.

Universal Design

People’s ability to get around is largely determined by the environment that is built for them. If standards and practices continue to be designed for the “average” person, we are creating barriers for people with different abilities. Universal design aims to shift the burden from the individual to the community and make the environment work for everyone.

All project design features should be fully accessible and comfortable for all ages and abilities and should abide by the principles of universal design. Standards for pedestrian facilities, roads, and other services adopted should incorporate features such as:

  • Curb cuts and adequate widths to accommodate wheelchairs and other special needs. 
  • Special projects and funding to reduce barriers and upgrade facilities to meet new accessibility standards. 
  • Public transit vehicles and stations are designed to accommodate wheelchair users, parents with strollers, hand carts, and other baggage. 
  • Complete streets policies to ensure roads are designed to serve diverse users and uses, including people of all abilities.

Construction Impacts

  • A fund should be established to support existing businesses along the project corridor throughout the project construction process
  • MnDOT, Metro Transit and all project partners should collaborate to ensure that transportation access along and cross the corridor, whether by walking and rolling, biking, public transit or driving, is preserved for local residents throughout the construction process
  • In advance of the project start date, a plan for mitigating these impacts should be developed and presented to the public
  • This plan must include a specific focus on the potential impacts on disabled residents within the project corridor

Municipal IDs

  • Providing municipal IDs can promote public safety for our most vulnerable communities, which include unhoused residents, youth, low-income elderly, and undocumented residents. Lack of identification is a huge barrier to resources from both public and private entities. 
  • Fear around the lack of identification can inhibit undocumented residents from interacting with law enforcement when they are victims of crime or workplace violations like wage theft.

Zero Fare Transit

  • A new rapid transit line with dedicated lanes along 6th Avenue North would significantly expand transit access for residents along the corridor
  • This transit line should be used to pilot zero-fare transit, also known as fare-free transit, to encourage ridership, eliminate transportation barriers and address inequities in fare enforcement, as has been demonstrated in cities like Kansas City and Boston
  • Fare enforcement is often used as a pretext to stop and harass Black, brown and Indigenous transit riders. Data has shown that Metro Transit police issue citations at a higher rate to people of color, while white transit riders are much more likely to receive a warning.
  • Transit fare enforcement costs far more than the value of the fines that are issued
  • Investing in public transportation access by eliminating fares is a far better use of tax dollars than criminalizing the access of those who cannot afford it
  • The new transit and connecting lines should be fully accessible and designed to close the gap in public transportation access for people with disabilities

Public Engagement & Community Consent

  • All project information and updates should be communicated to local residents and businesses via a variety of mediums and all major languages along the corridor
  • Public comments should be actively solicited throughout the project process in a manner that is accessible and understandable to all, including accessibility best practices that allow for all members of the community to participate. These include but are not limited to: ASL and language interpreters as needed, alternative forms of communication for non-speakers, closed captions and physical accessibility as needed. 
  • MnDOT project staff should not use leading or confusing questions during public engagement and should fully explain all of the potential project alternatives and the costs and benefits associated with them
  • Public comment sessions should be more frequent and should be held during varying times of the day and week to make it easier for working-class people to attend. 
  • Project leadership and staff should make themselves available for public forums and comment sessions at the request of community groups and advocacy organizations
  • A community working group should be created to oversee the engagement process and ensure that the project is effectively meeting community needs. Membership should include advocacy organizations that work on issues of transportation, housing, accessibility or disability justice and environmental justice, neighborhood organizations from the project corridor and community members. Membership should be representative of the project area in race, income and disability.
  • 100% of the households in the project area should be contacted in writing and electronically in advance of key project deadlines, including the selection of the preferred alternative. Written notice should be written in plain language to allow for ease of understanding and accessibility. 
  • Through this engagement, project staff should achieve and be able to publicly demonstrate a minimum 60% approval rate from a population representative of the project area in race, income and disability before selecting a preferred alternative.