One Block at a Time

Rain barrel and flowers by Waldemar Brandt on

Rain barrel. Image credit: Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash.

The goal of the Minnesota Sea Grant project One Block at a Time is to increase community resilience to climate hazards, particularly the impacts of flooding, in vulnerable frontline communities across the Great Lakes region.

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What is a rain ready block?

A rain ready block is a community or neighborhood that is well-equipped with green infrastructure to help mitigate the impacts of flooding and degraded water quality issues.

Project description

Collectively, this project will increase community resilience to climate hazards, particularly the impacts of flooding, in vulnerable frontline communities across the Great Lakes. Three Sea Grant programs (Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Minnesota Sea Grant, and Pennsylvania Sea Grant) will form a multicommunity work team to address climate hazards in Michigan City and Hammond, Indiana; Duluth, Minnesota; and Erie, Pennsylvania, respectively. Ultimately leading towards implementation of a ready for rain city block in each community. The three Sea Grant programs will collaboratively develop a community assessment and engagement process toolkit that can be used beyond the life of the project to improve community resilience through equitable, community-driven forms of engagement and governance in communities across the nation.

Why? Great Lakes communities experience frequent severe storms, flooding and degraded water quality from expanding urbanization. Marginalized communities of low income, communities of color, and those lacking access to safe and stable neighborhoods and homes are typically most impacted, yet also have the fewest means to adapt to and mitigate water quality and quantity issues. Improved community resilience through focused community-government collaborations can protect lives, save infrastructure, and increase community health in these neighborhoods.

What does the Duluth One Block at a Time team plan to do? To pilot the One Block concept, we envision three project phases centered on equitable, community-driven engagement and planning. The three phases include:

  1. Background assessment: This phase will include compiling a summary of existing documents, geographic and demographic data, reports, city plans and previous related project findings on climate change, flooding, and vulnerable communities in Duluth, Minnesota, and specifically the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The background assessment will also include a GIS (Geographic Information System) analysis to identify vulnerable city blocks using demographic and hazard data.
  2. Community visioning: The second phase of the project will involve multiple community listening sessions with community leaders and members, city staff, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, a university student(s) focused on urban planning and/or landscape design, and the Duluth One Block at a Time project team. These sessions will allow for co-learning about community needs, selection of the One Block implementation site, and collaborative visioning of a resilient neighborhood. Visioning will encompass three primary activities: 3-4 meetings and a culmination event with a core community leadership team; 3-5 conversations with local interest groups (i.e., focused on youth, communities of color, local businesses); and 1-2 broad engagement opportunities through distributing a public survey at local events.
  3. Implementation (final phase): The final phase of the project will be in the summer of 2022 and will involve implementation of a high priority community-visioned project within the identified city block. Implementation of the project will use the Duluth Stream Corps, an organization focused on improving the health of local forests and streams by providing employment opportunities for those who are under or unemployed.

Project activities:

  • Members of the Duluth One Block at a Time project team have been working with Rain Ready Housing Specialist and AmeriCorps VISTA staff members Morgan Bliss (2021-2022) and Maia Sowers (2022-present) to conduct a background vulnerability assessment of the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth, Minnesota.
  • During the summer and early fall of 2022 the Duluth One Block at a Time project team distributed a community survey of water and climate challenges and opportunities for the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Over 100 survey responses were received.
  • In 2022, the Duluth One Block at a Time project team surveyed community members on their needs and perspectives on climate change and urban flooding and launched community focus groups to collectively vision a resilient Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Why Minnesota Sea Grant?

The One Block at a Time project supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. This project also directly supports Minnesota Sea Grant's focus areas to help create resilient communities and economies and healthy coastal ecosystems in the Lake Superior basin.

What have we done lately?

Participants & audience

Based on current momentum and committed partnerships through Minnesota Sea Grant’s Great Lakes One Water project, the Duluth One Block at a Time project teams' work will focus on the Lincoln Park neighborhood of approximately 2,600 residents in western Duluth, Minnesota.


Funding for Minnesota Sea Grant's One Block at a Time project is from the National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) Special Projects M: Water Equity in the Great Lakes competition.

Project team

Principal Investigator:
Madison Rodman
Resilience Extension Educator
Minnesota Sea Grant

Co-Principal Investigators:
Kara Salazar
Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Purdue Extension
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Tiffany Sprague
Stormwater & Sustainability Program Coordinator/Educator
Natural Resources Research Institute

Sara Stahlman
Extension Leader
Pennsylvania Sea Grant

Sara Winnike McMillan
Associate Professor
Agricultural & Biological Engineering
Purdue University

Program Staff

Madison Rodman headshot
Resilience Extension Educator