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Grant will allow east metro transit group to begin initiative

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The McKnight Foundation has awarded $750,000 to a group that aims to promote regional transit in the eastern part of the Twin Cities metro area.

East Metro Strong, a public-private partnership that formed in response to robust transit development to the west, will encourage transit planners to take eastern neighborhoods into account. Its members hope to link transit projects to economic development in Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties.

The award comes from the McKnight Foundation's first Moving the Market grant, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce leaders announced Monday. It aims to help organizations that want to connect private and public investment to benefit low-income communities.

"The McKnight foundation could not have picked a better recipient of their Moving the Market Grant," Coleman said in a news release.

The group's transit goals include encouraging businesses to locate near proposed transit lines and affordable housing projects.

Business, community, and government leaders who represent the region recognize the need for investments that combine transit, economic and community developments for growth and equity of the area, Chamber of Commerce leaders said in a news release.

"Today is the day that those recognitions will begin to transform into action," they said.

East Metro Strong plans to begin work in early 2014. The group will be housed at the chamber's office.

"Twenty-first century cities should have 21st century transportation systems," Coleman said.  "These funds will help us continue to build a strong, vibrant region. Interconnected transportations systems benefit our neighborhoods, our businesses and our state."