First recipient of St. Paul’s Rondo Inheritance Fund gets new home

First recipient of St. Paul’s Rondo Inheritance Fund gets new home

First recipient of St. Paul's Rondo Inheritance Fund gets new home

Khalid Bradford has been busy this week, showing family members his new home in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood.

“It feels like I’m coming back to where I’ve always belonged,” Bradford said, smiling. “I am grateful that I am able to do this.”

The 22-year-old software engineer apprentice is the very first recipient of part of the city’s $2 million inheritance fund.

The fund provides up to $100,000 in fully forgivable loans for lower-income Rondo residents and their descendants for down payment assistance or for fixing up a home.

“I can’t put into words what this house means to me,” Bradford declared. “Nor can I necessarily negate what happened in order for me to buy this house.”

The fund is designed to assist families or individuals who lost property during the construction of I-94 during the 1950s and 1960s.

The interstate project cut Rondo — an active, thriving Black community — in two.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter shortly after he proposed the fund nearly a year ago.

“So, for our family, and many other families, that freeway represents the gutting of our family inheritance,” the mayor said at the time.

Carter says 700 families, including his own, were displaced. He notes they were never reimbursed the full value of their properties — a loss, he says, of $157 million in home or commercial equity.

“I mean, we had businesses, and storefronts, and barbershops and beauty shops,” recalled Joan Gooden-Charleston, Bradford’s grandmother.

She remembers a changed neighborhood, walking through the massive I-94 construction site on the way to school when she was just eight years old.

“There were just mounds of dirt once they started taking the homes and the businesses,” Gooden-Charleston explained. “We would walk across the highway before any cars started driving across there.”

She also remembers how her grandfather, Dan J. Presley, was forced to move from the neighborhood in 1958.

“Probably just as devastated as anybody else,” Gooden-Charleston said. “I mean, you’re forced to relocate, you’re having to find somewhere else where you didn’t want to be because you were happy where you were.”

Now, all these years later, her grandson has returned home.

The Inheritance fund provided Bradford with a $90,000 fully forgivable loan.

RELATED: St. Paul is on the cusp of launching Inheritance Fund for descendants of Rondo neighborhood | St. Paul opens applications for Rondo Inheritance Fund

“He was one of the earliest folks on the waitlist,” said Tara Beard, housing director for the city of St. Paul.

Beard says her team has been combing through MnDOT files, building permits, and even old phone directories to track down records of Rondo properties and their owners.

She added she hopes the fund will be able to help several hundred eligible home buyers.

“The disparities that we see in home ownership and the displacement events like the I-94 destruction of the old historic Rondo neighborhood are not rare, unfortunately,” Beard noted. “Since I started meeting and talking to people who are applying for the funds, now when I’m driving on I-94, I think I’m driving over someone’s house. I’m driving over where someone used to live.”

Beard says when people apply, they’ll need to share the name and address of the property their ancestor owned and sign a notarized affidavit stating they are a direct descendant.

She adds that over 700 people have expressed interest in the assistance program.

Mayor Carter is scheduled to attend a ribbon-cutting at Bradford’s new home this week.

As for Bradford himself, he is settling in — a kind of homecoming.

He says he’s looking forward to seeing others return to Rondo.

“This is only the beginning,” he declared. “I hope that because of this, not only will the loan be seen as an investment, but an opportunity for others.”