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CURA, 1000 Friends of Minnesota, and Humphrey Institute Launch Community Growth Options

February 11, 2008
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The McKnight Foundation recently awarded two complementary grants to project partners 1000 Friends of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to fund Community Growth Options, a joint project to help Minnesota communities address the challenges of rapid growth. 1000 Friends of Minnesota, a statewide nonprofit membership organization working on connections between development patterns, the health of our communities and the environment, received a two-year grant of $1.5 million to work with 10 rapidly growing Minnesota communities. CURA and the Humphrey Institute received a two-year grant of $400,000 to engage urban planning faculty and graduate students in research that will serve both the participating communities and the educational community.

The McKnight Foundation grants support the first two years of a planned six-year demonstration project that will focus on the specific needs of rapidly growing Minnesota communities. Community Growth Options will work with 10 communities to help foster greater choices in how they grow. Through direct financial assistance, Community Growth Options will support selected communities in their work with local planning firms to develop a shared vision for their community, create and revise ordinances to support that vision, and develop implementation procedures and the technical infrastructure to make these local visions come alive.

“The funding of this project by the McKnight Foundation represents an important shift in how Minnesota plans for its future,” says Jeff Heegaard, executive director of 1000 Friends of Minnesota. “At the conclusion of the six-year project, we will have demonstrated a process whereby growing communities can develop their vision and then implement that vision to ensure the healthiest future for their community—one that addresses livability, local identity, physical well-being and planned open space and conservation.” Ideally the project will foster and sustain long-term demand for a balanced growth approach to community development in the participating communities.

In addition to the financial assistance the selected communities will receive, they also will have access to educational programming and tools that most small communities could not otherwise afford. The University partners in the project will help identify tools and techniques to manage growth on the edge of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area in ways that make development more sustainable, environmentally responsive and economically efficient. The project partners also will learn from the participating communities and refine best practices that can be reproduced in cities and counties across the state.

“Communities at the metropolitan edge generally welcome assistance that helps them identify the problems and possibilities that come from growth, and that helps citizens and decision makers plan for the long term and respond to immediate issues and pressures,” says Jim Solem, CGO advisory committee chair. “The University of Minnesota can be a great resource in this regard if the assistance can be structured to meet the needs of local communities. Community Growth Options will provide the right combination of resources and people to really help growing communities understand and respond to the issues that lie ahead.”

Faculty and graduate students who participate in the project will also benefit directly from the collaboration. “The Community Growth Options program provides a wonderful teaching, research and outreach opportunity for the University,” says professor Ed Goetz, director of the Urban and Regional Planning program at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. “Our students will be able to supplement their classroom experience with direct involvement in the growth challenges facing communities on the rapidly developing fringe of the metropolitan area. Faculty will have the opportunity to pursue research with direct applicability to the needs of edge communities. And communities will benefit from the expertise, energy and insights of University students and faculty.”

Community Growth Options will officially begin in March 2008, when interested communities are invited to submit proposals to participate in the project. Ten communities will be selected to take part in the six-year process. The full Request for Proposals will be posted on the 1000 Friends of Minnesota web site at www.1000fom.org once the RFP is finalized. Communities that would like to apply for the program or receive more information about the process are encouraged to contact Lisa Bigaouette, associate director, 1000 Friends of Minnesota at 651.312.1000 or cgo@1000fom.org.

1000 Friends of Minnesota: www.1000fom.org

Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA): www.cura.umn.edu

Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs: www.hhh.umn.edu

McKnight Foundation: www.mcknight.org