Knight Green Line Challenge to benefit St. Paul’s Central Corridor neighborhoods

Above: A farmer’s market along St. Paul’s Green Line.

“What’s your dream for life along the new Green Line?”

That’s the question Knight Foundation posed to the 1,000 civic leaders and community members at Saint Paul River Corp.’s third annual Great River Gathering Thursday night. There were plenty of responses, a clear indication there are no shortages of hopes and dreams in this community as we prepare for the opening of this major public transportation investment.

The question wasn’t posed to simply pique the interest of the crowd; rather, it was the stage-setter for the announcement of Knight’s Green Line Challengea three-year, $1.5 million investment in projects to make St. Paul’s Central Corridor neighborhoods even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit.

As co-founder and investor in the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, Knight is keenly aware that there are many dreams for life along this new Green Line and that numerous groups are working hard on corridor-wide strategies to create the right conditions in which those dreams can become a reality. This challenge is intended to help make even more of those dreams come true.

As Knight Foundation Vice President of Community and National Initiatives Carol Coletta told folks at the Great River Gathering, the intent is to build on the energy and work already underway along the Green Line by supporting projects that are rooted in the community and primed to contribute to its success. Importantly, the challenge builds on the city’s Central Corridor Development Strategy, the vision for these neighborhoods developed with extensive community input.

The challenge will launch in conjunction with the opening of the Green Line in June, with applications accepted from June 24 to July 24, 2014. The Saint Paul Foundation will manage the challenge in partnership with Grassroots Solutions and Knight Foundation. I am thrilled to be working even more closely with the terrific and invested Saint Paul Foundation staff; it’s a logical and truly exciting extension of our work together on the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

And here’s the really great part: Any individual, business or nonprofit can apply to the Knight Green Line Challenge. The only requirement is that the project must take place in and benefit at least one of six St. Paul neighborhoods along the Green Line: Downtown St. Paul, Frogtown/Thomas-Dale, Hamline Midway, St. Anthony Park, Summit-University or Union Park. On top of that, the application is short.

With this challenge, we are looking for a broad set of ideas. Proposed projects may spur economic activity in one of the commercial districts or bring people together in unique spaces; others may make the area more walkable or bikeable, attract new interest to a neighborhood or spark innovation along the Green Line in unexpected ways.

The project team is working with community outreach partners to encourage a diversity of challenge applicants. Partners include African Economic Development Solutions, Asian Economic Development Association, Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp., District Councils Collaborative, E-Democracy, Midway Chamber of Commerce, Neighborhood Development Center, St. Anthony Park Community Council, Springboard for the Arts, and St. Paul Smart Trips.

The Knight Green Line Challenge is Knight Foundation’s newest investment in St. Paul. Adapted from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge in Macon, it was designed with learning from The Saint Paul Foundation’s Minnesota Idea Open and Knight’s extensive experience with the Knight News Challenge and Knight Arts Challenge. Speaking of, the Knight Arts Challenge, which expanded to St. Paul this year, just closed its application period earlier this week. Stay tuned for details.

While applications for the Knight Green Line Challenge won’t be accepted until June 24, details and tips to help prepare are available at The site also offers helpful answers to questions you may have. You also can sign up to receive updates and reminders when the challenge opens.

In the words of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, “The Knight Green Line Challenge is community engagement at its best.” So dream away, and make plans to submit your best project ideas this summer.

Polly Talen, Knight Foundation program director in St. Paul and co-chair of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative