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ST. PAUL, MN-The McKnight Foundation has launched an annual $1-million grant program to reduce traffic congestion and protect open space in the Twin Cities.This new “Living Twin Cities” program is part of McKnight’s focus to improve thelivability of the metropolitan area.

Among the first grants by the foundation are $300,000 to the Metropolitan Council to implement new development plans and open space protection along the Mississippi River between St. Paul and Hastings and $150,000 to Transit for Livable Communities to expand transportation choices in the region, including more transit.

“The Twin Cities will grow by more than 500,000 new residents in the next 20 years,” says Rip Rapson, McKnight Foundation president. “Our regional vitality depends on how well we prepare for this growth. McKnight’s new focus on regional issues reflects the increasing momentum for balanced approaches that encourage economic growth, protect open space, and create more choices for transportation and housing.”

The McKnight Foundation’s regional effort supports work on five interrelated issues: transportation, housing, land use and development, economic competitiveness and open space protection. Grants are made for research; policy and planning; education, organizing and advocacy; and projects that demonstrate best practices.

McKnight grants to support regional approaches are already having an effect in the TwinCities. Examples include a $250,000 grant to the Metropolitan Council to work with nationally respected urban designer Peter Calthorpe and develop a community-based vision for where and how the Twin Cities should grow. Also, $23 million has gone to the Family Housing Fund to expand affordable housing in the metro region, including the suburbs.

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