Red Rock Open Houses Encourage Public Engagement

From Michelle Dibblee, Senior Organizer, and Barb Thoman, Executive Director

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Despite the hue and cry about a possible slowdown in rail development, communities around the metro are being invited to participate in project planning on a regular basis. For example, along the Red Rock Corridor, open houses were held in mid-January to allow the public to review concept plans for the four proposed rail/bus stations in St. Paul, Newport, Cottage Grove, and Hastings. TLC staff Barb Thoman and Michelle Dibblee  attended two of the four open houses (Hastings and Cottage Grove). We came away with a number of impressions – briefly summarized here – and encourage community members to go to http://www.redrockrail.org for more information about the corridor, to see station area plans, and sign up for updates!

Our reflections:

  • Although Cottage Grove and Hastings are different communities, plans for both sites emphasize economic development – both housing and commercial – around the station areas. This means new jobs, new places to live, and a growing local tax base. It also means more walking, as the stations are in a central pedestrian and bike-friendly location. That’s in addition to the access, improved safety, and cost savings for families that rail will provide.
  • In Hastings, the freight rail station will continue to operate alongside the commuter rail station, helping to maintain a base of industry in the community.
  • The Cottage Grove station aims to rebuild Langdon Village, an area with an historical connection to the existing rail line and opportunities for development.
  • A proposed Saint Paul station located at Lower Afton Road is only three miles from Union Depot and three miles from Newport. Access to this station by foot and bicycle is very problematic. Joint development is not really possible. Whether this is a good place to make a major rail station investment is yet to be seen.

It’s clear that Hastings and Cottage Grove are still getting used to the idea of new development around these stations. In Cottage Grove, some homeowners were quite amused by the opportunity to point out that their existing homes were nowhere to be seen in the midst of the proposed station area. This reminds us that communities don’t change overnight. These concept area plans, if approved by their respective city governments, will guide new development over time – probably over a couple of decades, as the economic recovery continues and we work towards funding and approval for Red Rock. During that time, developers will have ideas and make proposals, property owners will have opportunities to stay or go, and cities may approve, amend, or deny specific proposals.

In an ideal world, all of these decisions take place in the context of an engaged community where people have the chance to participate in the decisions that affect them. Perry De Stefano, the resident appointed by Cottage Grove to serve on the Citizens Advisory Commission for the station area planning project, put it best at the close of the Cottage Grove meeting. Mr. De Stefano joined the Commission because, as a resident and a member of the Governmental and Development Committee on the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce, he wanted to learn and be involved in the processes that affect his home community. He, and we, encourage you to do the same! Click here to sign up for updates from the Red Rock corridor commission, including opportunities to participate in future stages of decision-making.

Red Rock Corridor route (from http://www.redrockrail.org)

 

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