LISC National

Developing with Community: Giving neighborhoods a voice in development plans

by Gretchen Nicholls, Program Officer

Communities are constantly evolving, which can be frustrating or exhilarating. Twin Cities LISC’s Corridor Development Initiative (CDI) works to elevate the latter by bringing the voice of the community forward to guide future development. CDI pulls residents and businesses out of the reactionary role of confronting proposed development, and into a proactive role where they play an active part in directing development for their community. It creates the ability for communities to grapple with change and have some agency over how change happens.

Development plans are often in the works long before community members have the opportunity to offer their insights and ideas.

But the Corridor Development Initiative enables community values to shape prospective proposals by getting out ahead of the developer. Working closely with the city, the CDI technical team (composed of experienced facilitators, designers, developers, and planners) supports a series of workshops to gather community insights, test out various scenarios and options, and build consensus around development guidelines. These guidelines offer a road map for cities to leverage community benefits from future investors.

Listening is key

Communities are not of one mind. They are composed of many interests and perspectives. To ensure that as many voices as possible are represented in the conversation, strong outreach efforts are required. Especially to attract populations that are typically underrepresented in community processes (e.g. renters, people of color, small businesses). To reflect those broader perspectives within a community, the Corridor Development Initiative works with an advisory group to identify strategies that work to include a wide range of participants. 
In their interactive design, the community workshops create a forum where people can listen to and learn from each other. What are the values that they share? What concerns are impacting people’s lives? How can they leverage the types of investments that will benefit the community? When people are heard, they feel connected to the goals and outcomes that emerge. 

Listening is also about considering the financial aspects that dictate what can be done. The Corridor Development Initiative incorporates a financial assessment into the scenarios created by participants, offering a deeper understanding about why some options work better than others. 

A vision is only as good as the information it’s built on.

Catching on

The Corridor Development Initiative has supported over 25 project areas in twelve cities across the seven-county area. The transformation of University Avenue through Fridley, including the new civic campus and city hall, pays tribute to the strength of the CDI process. Critical sites near emerging transit corridors, such as the Wooddale station in St. Louis Park, the Blake Road station in Hopkins, and the Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center/85th Avenue stations along the proposed Bottineau LRT corridor have all utilized the CDI process to sharpen the opportunities they present. And as Opportunity Zones unfold, CDI can help to facilitate community benefits into new investment and financing tools.

At a time when change seems to happen at the speed of light, and concerns about displacement and gentrification are mounting, it’s beneficial for cities to be thinking ahead and working with the community to leverage investments in ways that advance community goals.

The Corridor Development Initiative has a proven track record of building stronger working relationships among community and governmental partners. Developers also find value with the CDI process – by clarifying what a community will support, they can more easily determine whether their products are a good fit for the site, reducing risk and uncertainty. 

For more information about the Corridor Development Initiative (CDI), please contact Gretchen Nicholls, Twin Cities LISC, Program Officer, at 651-265-2280 or