World Cultural Heritage District (WCHD)
On June 5, 2001, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) gave notice of intent to prepare for the Central Corridor (originally proposed in 1981). As part of its public involvement efforts, RCRRA held nearly 80 meetings with Central Corridor stakeholders. (See Central Corridor History)
In 2004, the Minneapolis Regional, Saint Paul Area and Midway Chambers of Commerce formed the Central Corridor Partnership to unite business, government, labor and non-profits to accomplish one goal: build an LRT line on time and on budget. This was their second attempt to build business support for the Central Corridor, after they failed to do so in the 1990’s.
In late 2005, Ramsey County, the City of Saint Paul and the district councils (individually and through the District Councils Collaborative) began paving the way for the $840 million transportation project along Saint Paul’s University Avenue. Finally, on April 21, 2006, the RCRRA released the Alternatives Analysis and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS provided “information about the design, benefits, and costs of proposed transportation improvements.” It also allowed “for the examination of social, economic, transportation, and environmental impacts that may result from the implementation of the project.” That June, the Metropolitan Council announced University Avenue as the “locally preferred alternative” for the transit way.
Early on, the impact this major change to the city’s infrastructure would have on ethnic populations along the line – especially businesses – were top issues for many individuals and organizations along the new route. Dr. Bruce Corrie, a professor of economics at Concordia University, was one of those concerned. He saw the LRT construction as an opportunity for the existing ethnic businesses to grow from the influx of new customers. Having consulted with the Saint Paul RiverCentre and the Saint Paul Convention & Visitors Bureau (now called Visit Saint Paul) on the potential of the “diverse” meeting and convention market, he saw that a neighborhood of ethnic tourism assets could have an impressive impact on the city’s treasury.
In 2006, Dr. Corrie convened dozens of like-minded neighborhood stakeholders, business owners and elected officials. They organized the World Cultural Heritage District Steering Committee and called for a resolution designating an area of University Avenue as the World Cultural Heritage District. A number of neighborhood organizations and individuals endorsed the resolution, and the concept became part of Saint Paul’s Central Corridor Development Strategy in 2007.
Dr. Corrie and many neighborhood-based stakeholders assembled often over the next few years to define and execute the actions necessary to realize their vision. By spring 2009, the Steering Committee had developed some action plans. They held a town hall meeting at Concordia University, funded by a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, to explore the implications of light rail construction on the World Cultural Heritage District (WCHD). They also re-affirmed Dr. Corrie’s leadership role and appointed two official co-chairs: Nieeta Presley of Aurora-Saint Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Paul Hardt of Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation.
These leaders advanced the WCHD by integrating the concept into the work of the Frogtown/Rondo Action Network (F/RAN), a collaborative initiated and funded initially by Twin Cities LISC. This broadened the base of support and garnered seed funding from F/RAN and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. By the end of winter, 2010, the Steering Committee had a group of strategic advisors and a new name, World Cultural Heritage District Development Group, and adopted a Strategic & Work Plan.