Articles by

Polly M. Talen

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    Selby Avenue Jazz Fest (2009). We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2014 Knight Green Line Challenge. Sixteen innovative project ideas will share an award of $530,000 in the first year of this three-year, $1.5 million contest. related link "Knight Green Line Challenge names 16 winners in its inaugural year" - Press release (101414) We are so pleased with the vision, reach and range of the 16 winners, selected from an amazing 579 applications. Their ideas offer great promise for making communities along the new Green Line even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit. Together, they will spur economic activity, bring people together in unique spaces, attract new interest to neighborhoods, and make areas in the Central Corridor more walkable and bikeable. Our thanks to The Saint Paul Foundation for being Knight Foundation’s partner in administering the challenge. We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2014 Knight Green Line Challenge. Sixteen innovative project ideas will share an award of $530,000 in the first year of this three-year, $1.5 million contest. We are so pleased with the vision, reach and range of the 16 winners, selected from an amazing 579 applications. Their ideas offer great promise for making communities along the new Green Line even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit. Together, they will spur economic activity, bring people together in unique spaces, attract new interest to neighborhoods, and make areas in the Central Corridor more walkable and bikeable. Our thanks to The Saint Paul Foundation for being Knight Foundation’s partner in administering the challenge.
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    Above: Polly Talen takes questions in a town hall meeting about the Green Line Challenge. Just a couple months ago we asked the community for their best project ideas to make the neighborhoods along the new Green Line even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit. A remarkable 579 people, organizations and businesses shared their passion and projects with us. Today we’re announcing 48 finalists in the Knight Green Line Challenge.  Related Links "Knight Green Line Challenge names finalists" -- Aug. 26, 2014 press release Knight Green Line Challenge home page Our panel of 11 local readers—from a variety of communities and sectors—carefully reviewed the submissions before arriving at this list. We set out to attract projects from all neighborhoods along the Green Line. We wanted organizations, small businesses and individuals to apply. It was important that the projects truly reflect the people who live and work in St. Paul. And they do. From an expanded open-air night market in Little Mekong and Frogtown to a year-round community gardening effort, from a youth apprenticeship program in green transportation to an art exhibit of the faces and voices along the Green Line, the finalists proposed a range of ideas to benefit St. Paul neighborhoods. We’re thrilled with the results.
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    Photo: St. Paul's new Green Line. Credit: Jonathan Pellgen on Flickr. Today marks the final day of the 2014 Knight Green Line Challenge. We’re accepting applications until midnight tonight. Thanks to everyone who already applied and to those of you putting the last touches on your applications. The response to the challenge has been tremendous; we’ve seen such enthusiasm at the Q&A sessions and partner events, in phone calls and visits to knightgreenlinechallenge.org, and through the applications themselves. We have been gratified by how many people are eager to find ways to make St. Paul’s Central Corridor neighborhoods along the Green Line even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit. After the challenge closes tonight we will share the applications with a terrific team of community readers who will make recommendations to Knight and The Saint Paul Foundation, which administers the challenge. On Aug. 26, we will notify all the applicants and announce the finalists, who will be asked to submit more details about their projects. Stay tuned for that big news.
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    The St. Paul Green Line. Photo (cc) by Michael Hicks via Flickr. After years of planning and construction, it’s thrilling to see the new Green Line trains flowing smoothly and carrying thousands of people to locations between the downtowns of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It’s equally thrilling to see people connect to and explore the many diverse neighborhoods along the new 11-mile light rail route. Now, Knight Foundation is pondering what would make these Central Corridor neighborhoods in St. Paul even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit? That’s the question at the heart of the Knight Green Line Challenge, which begins accepting applications Tuesday, June 24. Applicants have until July 24 to submit their project idea. Finalists will be notified no later than Aug. 26, 2014, with winners announced in October 2014. Any individual, business or nonprofit can apply. 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.
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    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 Challenge, a 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.
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    Mural by Dimm Media on Señor Wong's Restaurant in downtown Saint Paul created as a part of the Irrigate project, photo courtesy Springboard for the Arts. The calendar may say it’s spring, but we Minnesotans know it is not yet advisable to put away our boots or snow shovels. Just 10 days ago, I found 5 inches of new snow on my car—argh! Despite the fact that our daffodils aren’t peeking above the ground yet, there is other new growth sprouting. And Knight is very much at the center of this.  This week marks the opening of the Knight Arts Challenge in St. Paul. Through May 5, everyone is encouraged to submit innovative ideas at knightarts.org. The criteria are simple: The idea has to be about the arts; it has to take place in or benefit St. Paul; and you will have to find funding to match the grant if you win. Your initial idea only has to be a maximum of 150 words; there’s no long, formal proposal just to find out if your idea is competitive.  The Knight Arts Challenge is a wonderful example of how Knight maximizes its impact as a national foundation with deep local roots. The Knight Arts Challenge has been very successful in three other Knight communities—Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia—and now it’s coming here, to grow in the fertile soil of St. Paul.
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    Photo credit: Flickr user Joey Lax-Salinas. We are at an exciting moment in St. Paul. There are less than 84 days until the new Green Line light rail service begins on June 14. This is a moment I have been anticipating for more than seven years, but I know others have been waiting for decades. Already the trains are being tested along the line, which will run between St. Paul and Minneapolis, past the state Capitol, the University of Minnesota and other colleges and schools, hospitals and health care clinics, more than a thousand small businesses, and dozens of neighborhoods. I get goose bumps every time I see a train go by, and not just because of our frigid temperatures. Why has this light rail line become so important to me, this community and Knight Foundation? This billion-dollar infrastructure investment is a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform a city—to create stronger businesses, more vibrant neighborhoods and more beautiful urban spaces—along the spine of St. Paul, also referred to as the Central Corridor in the city’s master plan. But even more important, the ripples of this work can be felt throughout the region, and across the country. The light rail line has become a national model for how philanthropy can capitalize on major transit investments to create “corridors of opportunity” for small businesses and residents to attract both private development and young professionals who are especially eager to live near transit and thriving business districts that celebrate culture and diversity.  
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      St. Paul is on the national radar this week as The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative’s annual stakeholder event made the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities update. The collaborative is a group of local and national funders that strongly support the Central Corridor Light Rail Line that will connect Minneapolis and St. Paul because it offers opportunities to strengthen the regional economy and makes the surrounding neighborhoods better places to live, work and access opportunity. An excerpt from the HUD update notes: “In the Twin Cities the HUD team joined a gathering of 200 community leaders and foundations to celebrate the progress of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Mayors Coleman and Rybak joined Sue Haigh, chair of the Met Council, a HUD regional grantee, to spotlight efforts to support local businesses and create strong neighborhoods throughout the corridor.” As the Central Corridor light rail project moves closer to completion, the Corridor’s “beyond the rail” initiatives are beginning to take shape and are transforming into action.  This was reinforced by presentations during the event from working groups that focused on issues like affordable housing, business development, contractor and workforce inclusion, a public/private investment framework and job access. The 2012 Progress Beyond the Rail report, which focuses on how trends are taking shape, is available online. The Central Corridor light rail is now halfway complete, a milestone covered earlier this week by CBS Minnesota, Fox9.com and the Star Tribune. The project is scheduled to be completed and fully operational by 2014.
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    The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and its many partners are looking forward to the arrival of Charles Landry in the Twin Cities this week.  Creating 21st Century Intercultural and Creative Cities is taking place all this week (May 6-11) and will include a series of events and activities featuring Landry.   A prolific author, engaging speaker and hands-on consultant, Landry has worked with cities across the globe to provide expertise on building intercultural and creative capacities. He has advised communities on topics such as green urbanism, using imagination and creativity for urban change and tapping into ethnic and cultural diversity for economic development. The creative city concept from his highly acclaimed book, The Art of City Making (2006) along with The Creative City: A Toolkit for urban innovators, has spurred a global movement to rethink the planning, development and management of cities. The public is invited to understand how art, culture and diversity can accelerate both economic and social growth ­– critical elements in strengthening the Twin Cities as world-class region. Most of the events are free but may require an RSVP.
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    Photo Credit: Flickr user Jeremiah Peterson  I spotted a wonderful convergence of two things which Knight is passionate about, namely community foundations and its Soul of the Community research.  The current issue of the Giving Forum features community foundations and uses Knight’s Soul of the Community research to set up how important it is that community foundations focus on the quality of life in a particular geography. The research showed a significant, positive connection between residents’ emotional bond to a place and local economic growth.    Giving Forum is the online and print publication of the Minnesota Council on Foundations that covers Minnesota philanthropy news by and for grantmakers, givers and nonprofits.  The article includes work of the Saint Paul Foundation and Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, both of which have rallied around the importance of addressing the key drivers of community attachment identified by the Soul of the Community: social offerings, openness, aesthetics and education.