Community Connectors Projects

Community Connectors is a grant program to support small and mid-sized cities in repairing the damage of divisive infrastructure through capacity-building grants and technical support. The program is led by Smart Growth America in collaboration with Equitable Cities, the New Urban Mobility Alliance, and America Walks. Community Connectors is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Albany, NY | Together We Can: Repairing the Damage of Interstate 787
Albany Riverfront Collaborative
The Albany Riverfront Collaborative has marshaled broad support for reimaging Interstate 787, which isolates neighborhoods from downtown and the Hudson River. The process is already underway and the Albany Riverfront Collaborative wants to make sure the outcome provides direct health, safety, and economic benefits to the communities harmed by I-787.

“This grant award from the Community Connectors program is a well-deserved reflection of the hard work that has been devoted by our diverse group of stakeholders, business owners, civic leaders, community organizers – and most importantly, citizens of Albany who have been forcefully disconnected from our city’s promise for generations,” said Scott Townsend, Board President and co-founder of the Albany Riverfront Collaborative in Albany, New York. “The team at Albany Riverfront Collaborative, and our greater community as a whole, is joyous in receiving this mission-affirming grant and will be using it to expand our team leadership and community investment. Together with Equitable Cities’ help, we will continue our work of reconnecting Albany to its storied waterfront, and reconnecting the lifeblood of our city which is its culturally rich patchwork of neighborhoods.” 

“When I-787 was constructed by state and national interests in the 1960s, alongside the Empire State Plaza and its arterial connector highway, their out-of-town focus destroyed our city’s communities and ripped apart the historic pride of Albany,” said Eva Bass, member of the Albany Riverfront Collaborative and founder of the community empowerment non-profit AVillage…, Inc. “Our Collaborative is dedicated to using this grant as a means to actively address and rectify the detrimental effects of systemic injustice on communities of color. We will seek to restore pride: the pride of Black neighborhoods, the pride of local self-direction, the pride of a city that has forgotten who it once was, and the pride of a new generation that still dreams of the connections that Albanians can build by working together.”

Appleton, WI | Redesigning College Avenue Corridor
City of Appleton
The 2.5-mile College Avenue Corridor runs adjacent to a number of Appleton communities, including three out of Outagamie County’s five disadvantaged Justice40 communities. Led by the county and in partnership with local organizations, this effort aims to transform the corridor’s existing car-centric infrastructure to better use space; improve access to commercial and employment hubs, community anchors, and residences; and prioritize equitable access and safety by building sidewalks, bike paths, and other missing infrastructure.

“When our systems fall short of expectations, we devote our attention to mitigating the problem. In this sense, we understand our region is long overdue in solving the College Avenue Corridor’s disreputable transportation challenges. Through collaboration, we are committed to improving the corridor, and we are sincerely excited to receive the Smart Growth America Community Connectors Grant to support us in our efforts.” — Thomas Nelson, Outagamie County Executive

Buffalo, NY | Building a Better Bailey Avenue with Bus Rapid Transit
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
Buffalo’s Bailey Avenue corridor is one of the most densely populated, low-income, zero-or-one-car household areas in western New York. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has plans to implement a Battery Electric Bus Rapid Transit system along the corridor, to better serve the transportation needs of Bailey Avenue residents.

“We are thrilled to participate in the Community Connectors program. The NFTA looks forward to this opportunity to strengthen on-going community participation in planning initiatives and build upon the proposed battery-electric bus rapid transit project on Bailey Avenue.” — Kimberley Minkel, NFTA Executive Director

Cleveland, TN | Putting East Inman Street Back Together
City Fields
Cleveland is making investments to put the neighborhoods along East Inman Street back together. Long divided by a rail line and an arterial road, the City now has funding to reconnect the College Hill and Blythe Oldfield neighborhoods. The City Fields Community Development Corporation is convening and working with residents to empower them during this major infrastructure project.

“This opportunity goes deeper than examining the possibilities of brick and mortar projects in overlooked neighborhoods. This is an opportunity to build trust and equity with a neighborhood that has long been marginalized. City Fields is thrilled and committed to working alongside our neighbors and the community at large, in an endeavor pointed towards amplifying the voices of neighborhood residents and charting the destiny of the East Inman Street Corridor.” — Mr. David Goodwill, Executive Director, City Fields

Durham, NC | Seeking Transit Solutions for Black Communities in Durham
Merrick-Moore Community Development Corporation
The Merrick-Moore Community Development Corporation has identified a problem in Durham: missing and limited public transit exacerbates challenges experienced in the Black communities of Bragtown and Merrick-Moore. The Merrick-More CDC works with Durham Public Schools and the Durham City/County Planning Department to overcome mobility barriers limiting opportunity.

“Merrick-Moore Community Development Corporation is excited about this opportunity as it will amplify our advocacy work for just transportation systems, affordable housing for people of all income levels, quality education, safe parks and green space, and good paying jobs that will help all of our people.” – Bonita Green, Merrick-Moore Community Development Corporation Executive Director

East Orange and Orange, NJ | Remedying the Problem of Interstate 280 and Freeway Drive
The City of East Orange and the City of Orange Township
The construction of I-280 and Freeway Drive through East Orange and Orange in the 1960s continues to have significant quality-of-life impacts on residents more than 60 years later. The City of East Orange and the City of Orange Township are taking a comprehensive look at remedying the economic, environmental, and connectivity problems these roads cause and are developing a project scope to gain state buy-in.

Flint, MI | A Community Vision for the Interstate 475 Corridor
Crim Fitness Foundation
Interstate 475 bisected Flint’s South Saginaw and East Side neighborhoods in 1973, a decision that prioritized the movement of cars and freight over community connections. As the Michigan Department of Transportation looks to reduce the highway’s footprint, the Crim Fitness Foundation and its community partners have teamed up with the City of Flint to build a broad community vision for improved connectivity, equitable reinvestment, and the reintroduction of public spaces on land reclaimed from the highway.

“Free and safe mobility is critical to any community’s ability to thrive. We can’t wait to gather with city leaders and neighbors to think creatively about what we want from our transportation system. We were drawn to this opportunity because it wasn’t just about planning. It’s also about capacity building, and ultimately it’s about bringing in the money necessary to turn plans into real tangible changes that can be felt in Flint’s neighborhoods.” — Cade Surface, Program Manager, The Crim Fitness Foundation

Harrisonburg, VA | Reconnecting Harrisonburg’s Northeast Neighborhood to Downtown
City of Harrisonburg
The construction of North Mason Street and additional “urban renewal” activities resulted in displacement and the loss of many Black-owned homes and businesses in the Northeast Neighborhood of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The city will work with the Northeast Neighborhood Association, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project, and the broader community to develop a plan to reestablish a safe, vibrant corridor to reconnect the neighborhood to the historic fabric of downtown Harrisonburg.

“We are committed to creating a ‘City For All’ here in Harrisonburg – a community where all people have access to City services, and where all feel safe and valued while having abundant opportunity,” said Harrisonburg City Manager Ande Banks. “We know barriers to reaching that goal still exist in our community. One of those barriers is the lasting harm caused by Urban Renewal and the construction of the Mason Street corridor. While our Community Connectors effort is about physically improving the connection between our diverse Northeast Neighborhood and Downtown Harrisonburg, it is just as much about establishing and improving partnerships, trust, and bonds that have been eroded by negative actions throughout our community’s past.”

Jefferson Parish, LA | Realigning On-Street Rail Crossings in Jefferson Parish
Jefferson Parish
Two major railroad lines pass directly through the streets of densely populated communities in Jefferson Parish, hindering their economic vitality and creating ongoing safety, air pollution, and congestion challenges. A coalition of stakeholders led by Jefferson Parish, the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District, and the city of Gretna will work with the community to realign two segments of the railroad to incorporate new uses like greenway and transit connections.

“This grant represents a significant achievement by our Jefferson Parish team. I am so proud of the attention and efforts of our staff and partners, including the City of Gretna, the Plaquemines Port and our railroad partners,” said Jefferson Parish Director of Public Safety Grants & Administration Nichole Gaubert. “The rail realignment is a major regional priority, and we look forward to continuing to advance the project through the Community Connectors program with this important technical assistance and capacity building support. ”

Macon, GA | Reconnecting Pleasant Hill to Downtown Macon
Macon Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority
The historic neighborhood of Pleasant Hill in Macon experienced disinvestment and displacement after the construction of Interstate 75, which split the neighborhood in half. As Pleasant Hill undergoes a $10-million mitigation plan that will widen the I-75/I-16 interchange, the Macon Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority, county, and neighborhood and development organizations are eager to improve infrastructure and pedestrian safety, provide commercial opportunity, improve health outcomes, and increase home values along a key downtown street.

“We are excited to continue the important work of neighborhood sustainability in our beloved Pleasant Hill. Its rich history and culture deserve preservation and protection. This grant will provide the necessary capacity to implement this equitable development in our community.” — Tonja Khabir, Community Facilitator, Macon Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority

Minneapolis, MN | Bring Back 6th! Transforming Olsson Memorial Highway
Our Streets Minneapolis
Sixth Avenue North was once a vibrant, predominantly Black business corridor before the street was expanded to become Olson Memorial Highway. Our Streets Minneapolis, in partnership with local residents and businesses, seeks to restore Sixth Avenue as the backbone of a walkable, locally-owned commercial district.

“The Black American and Jewish community that lived on 6th Avenue North in Minneapolis in the early 20th century was the first neighborhood in Minnesota targeted for destruction by the Highway Department. After nearly a century of disinvestment, displacement and continuing safety, climate and health concerns, we are excited that our work is receiving national recognition and for the support of the Community Connectors program. This funding will support our efforts to engage impacted communities and raise awareness across the Twin Cities. We look forward to taking another step towards repairing past harms, restoring the rich diversity and vibrancy of the old neighborhood, and bringing back 6th Avenue North!” — José Antonio Zayas Cabán, Executive Director, Our Streets Minneapolis

National City, CA | The National City Southeast Greenspace Corridor Project
Mundo Gardens
The National City Southeast Greenspace Corridor Project unifies National City and Southeast San Diego through reforestation, cultural art, and community. By creating green space and safe pathways across the 805 Freeway corridor, residents can enjoy a dignified experience in their community.

“We are overjoyed by this opportunity. Our community has been advocating for decades to create this beautiful cultural green space and the support of this grant will make it possible. I want to honor the Kumeyaay, the indigenous peoples of this land and dedicate this project to them as well as our community in Southeast San Diego and National City. We needed this.” —  Janice Luna Reynoso, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mundo Gardens

Saint Louis, MO | Connecting Historically Underserved Neighborhoods to Arts & Business Districts
St. Louis Arts Chamber of Commerce
Jim Crow laws, redlining, traffic-flow projects, and development patterns have resulted in the displacement of residents, particularly Black residents, from the neighborhoods north of Delmar in Saint Louis, and the subsequent destruction of shared experiences and culture. A non-profit community organization is working with the city to reconnect historically underserved neighborhoods to three adjoining arts and business districts, and to develop a cohesive plan to bring in additional partners, secure more funding, conduct meaningful community engagement, and incorporate transit and multimodal elements.

“We are so excited to be part of this program which will allow us to reconnect the historically underserved neighborhoods north of the Delmar Divide with the business and arts districts to the south, east and west of the neighborhoods.” — Sandy Brooks, Founder and President,  St. Louis Arts Chamber of Commerce

Spokane, WA | Addressing the Harms of Interstate 90
City of Spokane Planning Services
East Central is one of the most diverse communities in Spokane and developed as a strong community of working-class and immigrant families in the early 1900s. Interstate 90 split the neighborhood in 1961, destroying parks, businesses, and homes. The City of Spokane seeks solutions to remedy these harms and build trust and new relationships with East Central residents.

“The City of Spokane is thrilled to be selected as a participant alongside our partners for the Community Connectors Grant Program to repair the damage of divisive infrastructure,” said Maren Murphy, Senior Planner at the City of Spokane. “This opportunity will help us build capacity to address the legacy of Interstate 90 in the East Central neighborhood and co-create local solutions to enhance livability and connectivity for an equitable future. ”

Trenton, NJ | Reconnecting to the River: Converting Route 29 into a Boulevard
New Jersey Future
Route 29 separates Trenton from the Delaware River, cutting residents off from a unique natural resource. New Jersey Future is working with community partners and the City of Trenton to channel widespread enthusiasm for redesigning Route 29 as a waterfront boulevard into concrete action.

“Stakeholders in Trenton are very excited about this opportunity to correct a seven-decade-old problem that has cut the community off from the Delaware River and left parking lots and highway ramps where neighborhoods used to be. We are excited to have access to resources, best practices, and technical assistance to build a long-term campaign to make this happen.” — Pete Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future