Pedestrian safety and access to healthful foods were some of the issues tackled by U of M students during the 2016–2017 academic year as part of the U’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP).
In its fifth year, RCP—a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs—partnered with the City of Brooklyn Park to advance an array of the city’s strategic priorities. RCP connects communities in Minnesota with U of M faculty and students through collaborative, course-based projects. Communities are chosen in a competitive process.
More than 250 students in dozens of courses worked on projects with Brooklyn Park staff, community members, and other organizations. One of the courses—DES 3331: Street Life and Urban Design Seminar—was taught by Carrie Christensen, adjunct faculty in the College of Design. “It meant a lot to the students to know that their work was not just theoretical, but was going to be applied to actual projects that the city staff were working to move forward,” she says.
Angelica Klebsch, business development coordinator for Brooklyn Park and the city’s RCP project facilitator, also shares some highlights below.
What were some projects related to transportation?
One project explored design concepts and ideas to make the Zane Avenue Corridor safe and walkable and connect residents to transit, nearby services, and neighborhood amenities and parks. The corridor also has areas that are identified as food deserts. We asked students to identify improvements to increase equitable access and consumption of healthful food. In another project, we were seeking guidance about shared-use mobility. For example, we wanted to know more about ways to ensure that car-share or bike-share programs are accessible to people without smartphones or bank accounts.
How else was transportation a factor?
Because the Bottineau light-rail transit (LRT) line is coming to Brooklyn Park, with construction starting next year, we found that other projects needed to include that as a critical factor in their evaluations. For instance, one project asked students to offer recommendations on the best use of a parcel of land owned by North Hennepin Community College. The parcel is within short walking distance from one of the proposed LRT stations, and students took that into consideration when they recommended a mixed-use development that included housing and grocery services.
How did students and staff interact?
The students spent a lot of time in Brooklyn Park understanding the layout, traffic patterns, access to amenities, and general feel of our neighborhoods. Staff also organized several tours and stayed heavily involved throughout the projects to answer questions and provide data or project histories as requested by the students. Most courses invited staff to give feedback halfway through the semester to ensure the deliverables we received were useful.
How does Brooklyn Park plan to use the recommendations?
We will receive final reports from the University, which will be made public on our website as well as on the RCP site. City leadership and staff involved in the projects will examine the recommendations for feasibility of implementation over the coming weeks. We will be tracking anything we do with the findings from all the projects, and we’ll submit a report to the University next year indicating what those activities were.