Hamline Station concept drawing

Hamline Station: Project for Pride in Living project nears completion

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Hamline Station concept drawingBy


One of the major redevelopment projects along the Green Line is in full swing: the Hamline Station Apartments at the corner of Hamline and University avenues. Two new buildings, containing 51 and 57 units respectively, are well into construction.

Owned and managed by the Project for Pride in Living (PPL), Hamline Station will have studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments available to qualifying tenants.

According to Paul Williams, President and CEO of PPL, “The four-story buildings will contain what we call work force housing. That means quality housing for ‘worker bees.’ We believe that our location on the Green Line will give tenants unparalleled access to their jobs along this transit corridor.”

“Our vision for this project is to meet the needs of folks with dependable income,” Williams said. “To qualify for tenancy, an individual must show proof of annual income between $17,500-35,000. A family of four must show proof of annual income between $25,000-50,000. The calculation used to define affordability in the case of Hamline Station is that households earn between 30-60% of the area median income.”

Barbara McCormick, Senior Vice President of Housing with Services for PPL, said, “We’ve already had 500-600 inquiries, and we’re just starting to accept written applications at a trailer on-site at Hamline Station. “

“We’re very aware of how many people are interested in living at Hamline Station,” McCormick said. “Our eligibility workers now have to do the hard work of finding the right tenant-fit. Applications are being taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, and people holding Section 8 Housing Vouchers are welcome to apply.”

Across the two buildings, 14 units will be set aside for individuals and families who have recently experienced homelessness. These tenants will continue to receive support services from the Guild Inc. and Clare Housing, who’ve been providing case management to ease the transition to stable housing.

Hamline Station is representative of what is called mixed use design. That means that residential and commercial spaces co-exist. In this case, there will 13,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor.

According to Williams, “The traffic count at Hamline and University avenues is very high—probably not far behind Snelling and University, which is considered the busiest intersection in the state. Once Hamline Station is fully occupied, the increased residential density should really benefit the local businesses.”

PPL is no stranger to property management. The non-profit organization got its start as an affordable housing developer in 1972, and over the last 43 years has become a robust, multi-service agency. Their mission is to empower lower-income people to achieve self-sufficiency through stable housing, employment training, support services and education.

PPL currently owns and manages some 1,200 rental units across the Twin Cities. Their holdings include a broad mix of housing stock including single family homes, duplexes, and apartment buildings. According to McCormick, “The high impact-high density housing model at Hamline Station guarantees the best quality option. We will be able to pay attention to what our tenants need and want.”

“We believe that this re-development project will be a great fit for the neighborhood,” Williams said. “I bought a used car at the dealership that used to be on this block, and that dealership went out of business years ago. Sometimes re-development gets a bad rap because it’s associated with displacing people. But we aren’t displacing anybody with Hamline Station—we’re welcoming people in.”

Elness Swenson Graham Architects is the firm behind the project design. Based in Minneapolis, ESG recently won national recognition for innovation in urban, residential, mixed-use design, and has earned a reputation for strong leadership in re-development projects.

“Since the ground breaking in late August,” Williams said, “we’ve been basically on track with construction. The $28 million project is expected to be completed in two phases. Move-in for the east building is planned for late December of this year, and move-in for the west building is planned for late February 2016.”

To learn more about units costs and eligibility, visit www.hamlinestation.org or call 651-846-9810.

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Teachers together(1)

From tutor to teacher with a lot of dedication

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Hamline Kindergarten teacher

Due to some last-minute staffing changes at Hamline Elementary this fall, Hamline was able to hire a familiar face. Liz Casperson was hired as a fourth-grade teacher. Casperson graduated from Hamline University last spring with degrees in Elementary Education, Psychology, and Anthropology. Casperson had served in the tutoringTeachers together(1) program that connects elementary students with college students for all four years of her college career.

Photo left: Liz Casperson (right) and Barb Hvidhyld planning next week’s lessons. Casperson has been mentored by Hvidhyld. Hvidhyld has been able to give tips…but she reports that Casperson has taught her some new ideas too. (Photo submitted)

“I saw how Hamline tutors impact lives,” Casperson said. “I worked with kindergarten, first and ELL students. I know I made a difference in their learning. It is also what interested me in education as a major.”

Carol Schjei, the kindergarten teacher who hosted Casperson for all four years, said “I could not operate without my Hamline tutors. I honestly do not know how teachers at other schools could meet the needs of all the students without these extra hands. We can be a very academic kindergarten due to the extra help….but also can get work done promptly so we can have recess and play. Five-year- olds love to play board games with a grown up. The tutors are just another teacher in the kids’ eyes. School goes better with lots of teachers caring about your needs.”

Schjei was the one who encouraged the principal to call Casperson and interview her for the job. Truthfully, it is helpful for a new hire to an SPPS position to have an “in”—for Casperson, tutoring at the school was her in.

Casperson has been mentored by Barb Hvidhyld since workshop week began. Hvidhyld has been able to give tips…but she reports that Casperson has taught her some new ideas too. She commented how Casperson puts in long hours, shows she cares and is very interested in making the jump from just being the tutor to being the person in charge of learning in the classroom.

At Hamline Elementary, all the children start the year by explaining their Hopes and Dreams. Casperson had her dream come true. She walked across the street for four years and received tutor pay. Now she is a professional beginning what everyone hopes is a long career with the Hamline community as a classroom teacher.

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Explore theater, science, literature, movies, yoga, and more at the library

Explore theater, science, literature, movies, yoga, and more at the library

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

IOC_LibraryThe Hamline Midway Library will be featuring a wide array of activities in November and December, giving library patrons opportunities to explore theater, science, literature, movies, yoga, and more.

The library features Preschool Storytime on Fridays from 10:30-11am, with upcoming storytimes on Nov. 13, 20, 27, and Dec. 4 and 11. Storytimes feature stories, songs, puppets, and more. Preschool storytimes teach social skills, listening comprehension, letter and number recognition, and vocabulary. Enjoy time with your child while building a foundation for reading success. Children of all activity levels are welcome.

The Hamline Midway Elders hosts Seated Chair Yoga on Thur., Nov. 12 and 19, 10:30-11:30am. Chair yoga focuses on a range of movement, alignment, stretching, strengthening, awareness, breathing, and relaxation. All movement is done while seated or standing using the chair for balance. Taught by Nancy Giguere. This is a free event co-sponsored by Hamline Midway Library and Hamline Midway Elders. Contact Tom at tom@hmelders.org or 651-209-6542 for more information.

Second Saturday Science Club happens on Sat., Nov. 14 from 1:30-3pm, and this month the theme is BIG and tiny. Peter Hoh and Jackie Lannin guide children (ages 6 and up) and their families through hands-on science and art experiences.  This month the activities will include building a BIG tower and other creations that will show proportion and size differences. On Sat., Dec. 12, 1:30-3pm, the Second Saturday Science Club theme will be Crystals and Light. Walk-ins are always welcome!

Also on Sat., Nov. 14, 3-4pm, the Teens Reading Bravely group will meet in the library’s teen area. Teens in the group read and discuss books that fall under the “Read Brave” genre. Recommended for ages 14 and up, 9th grade and up. The group’s December meeting will be on Sat., Dec. 12, also 3-4pm in the teen area.

On Mon., Nov. 16, 7-8pm, join The Friends and Park Square Theatre for an evening with actors from the upcoming production “My Children! My Africa!” In 1984, in a segregated township in South Africa, an idealistic teacher believes education—and poetry—can create a better future for his students. Amid anti-apartheid rioting, Mr. M hopes to offer reconciliation by forming a debate club between his black school and the local white school. But as neighborhood tensions escalate, students and teacher find themselves along the blurry line between revolution and terrorism. The shocking conclusion is a timely reminder that one person’s tragedy and a community’s deep sense of loss are inextricably linked.

The library’s ongoing Wednesdays at 1 series continues Wed., Nov. 18, 1-2:30pm with “Be Wise, Be Informed, Be Empowered.” Gary Johnson from the Better Business Bureau will explain how individuals can protect themselves in today’s marketplace. The Wednesdays at 1 programs are a partnership between the Hamline Midway Elders and the Hamline Midway Library.

On Wed., Dec. 2, 1-2:30pm, the series will feature the program Wind Songs: Native American Style Flute. Cynthia Unowsky and Deborah Magnuson play traditional, contemporary, and original songs on numerous hand-crafted wooden flutes. On Wed., Dec. 9, 1-2:30pm, Eleanor Ostman, longtime food writer for the Pioneer Press, presents Confessions of a Professional Eater, sharing experiences from her life in food. She will also sign and sell copies of her new book, “Always on Sunday Revisited,” which will be available for purchase for $20. Wed., Dec. 16, 1-2:30pm, Jody Huber returns with another thought-provoking movie with Jody’s Matinee.  She’ll lead a group discussion after the showing.

The library will be closed on Thanksgiving, Thur., Nov. 26.

The Kids Book Clubs will meet Sat., Dec. 5 to learn more about nominees for the annual Maud Hart Lovelace Award through games and activities and to get ready to vote for their favorite books. Division I (grades 3-5) meets 1:30-2:15pm and Division II (grades 6-8) meets 2:30-3:15pm.

Fans of silent slapstick star Buster Keaton will have two great opportunities to see his films at the Hamline Midway Library in December. On Thur., Dec. 17, 7-8 pm, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library present Keaton’s comedic masterpiece “The General” with live accompaniment from the accordion and saw duo Dreamland Faces.

The movie tells the story of a Confederate train engineer whose beloved locomotive is hijacked by Union soldiers with the woman he loves onboard. The library will feature more silent movie fun with a family-friendly matinee on Wed., Dec. 30, 2-3:30pm featuring two short Buster Keaton comedies, “The Scarecrow” and “The Goat.” Free popcorn and cider will be served. This event is presented by the Hamline Midway Library Association.

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Midway-based TU Dance to perform at O’Shaughnessy

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

TUDance_largerMidway-based TU Dance, the acclaimed Minnesota-based dance company led by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, returns to The O’Shaughnessy on Fri.-Sat., Nov. 20-21 at 8pm, and Sun., Nov. 22 at 2pm, as part of its 12th annual performance season. The dance concert features a world premiere work by celebrated Italian-Canadian artist and 2015 McKnight International Choreographer Gioconda Barbuto, a debut of a compelling new piece choreographed by Sands, and a reprise of the company’s highly-regarded “January.”

Pierce-Sands and Barbuto are well acquainted, having previously danced together with Minnesota Dance Theatre. “Gioconda’s choreographic philosophy and talents around dance making is both mesmerizing and inspiring, it’s a true gift to have her creating work here in our community, for our community.” Said Pierce-Sands.

Barbuto explains, “My work is created in collaboration with the [TU Dance company members]. I like to create an environment in which the dancers are motivated in exploring collectively, the endless possibilities of movement invention.

“This often develops and feeds into a complex orchestration of interactions of meeting, letting go and ‘leaving a little bit of you behind’,” she continued. “It’s a little bit like traffic, of distinct personalities, coming together, intersecting, meeting and letting ‘someone go by’ but ultimately, in passing we meet.”

The work is driven by the inspiring and provocative music of Gabriel Prokofiev, an innovative London-based composer, who is the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, the famed Russian composer.

“It’s a huge honor for me to be selected as this year’s McKnight International Choreographer and to be working with Toni and Uri. To be a part of their vision and to work with these amazingly talented artists in the studio is fulfilling and boundless, each day I look forward to seeing where the next creative journey might take us,” says Barbuto.

TU Dance will also premiere a new work choreographed by Sands, which will be set to music by Charles Mingus. In addition, the full company will perform Sands’ “January,” which examines perpetual states of transition, exploring life at the crossroads of earth and sky, with eyes on both yesterday and tomorrow.

Tickets are $18, $25 and $31 with discounts for students, seniors, military, MPR, TPT and groups of 10 and more. For more information and tickets, contact The

O’Shaughnessy Ticket Office at 651-690-6700; business hours are Mon.-Sat. 12-6pm; ticket office is located on the main campus of St. Catherine University at 2004 Randolph Ave., Saint Paul. Tickets can also be purchased online 24/7 at oshag.stkate.edu/event/tu-dance.

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Monitor in a Minute

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Como Community district plan moves ahead
The District 10 Como Community Plan, which has been in the works for about two years, heads to the St. Paul Planning Commission for a public hearing at 8:30am Fri., Nov. 13 at City Hall. The Planning Commission set the public hearing date on the recommendation of its Neighborhood Planning Committee.

district10landuselargeformatredThe plan acknowledges potential future changes in the community and presents strategies for addressing issues. It draws on a land use plan completed in 2007 as well as the Midway Pkwy. plan of the 1990s and the planning done by a group that looked at the Lexington/Larpenteur area about five years ago.

District plans are used to guide future land use in a community. The plans are also used to shape investments in infrastructure including parks, streets, transit, trails, and bike lanes. Plans are used when funding is sought for projects in the city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget. Some district councils have used plans to shape future programs and activities.

Como’s proposed plan calls for maintaining the community’s largely residential character and making sure that new development is complementary to the neighborhood. Some infrastructure needs are raised, ranging from street improvements to restoration of several features at Como Park. Some areas, such as Lexington/Larpenteur and Como/Dale/Front, are cited for additional attention.

All of St. Paul’s 17 district councils are required to prepare district plans. The plans are to be redone every decade. City staff offer some assistance in preparing plans, but much of the heavy lifting is done by district council volunteers and staff.

After the public hearing the plan goes back for committee review before the Planning Commission takes action. The commission then sends the plan to the City Council for a final vote. District plans become part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

District councils honored
St. Paul’s 17 district councils don’t just get a special day in their honor—they got an entire month. The St. Paul City Council and Mayor Chris Coleman declared October to be District Council Month, in recognition of the district council system’s 40th anniversary. The councils will celebrate with an awards event in January.

The council passed the resolution, with more than three dozen district council members present. Also present was former Mayor Larry Cohen, who was mayor when the district council system was created.

Cohen recalled that in the 1970s, the council chambers were often filled with citizens raising questions and objections to things going on in their neighborhoods. While the city had many informal neighborhood associations in those days, there was no set citizen participation system. It took many months and many meetings, but the system was put into place in October 1975.

Cohen congratulated those present for their service, as well as thanking those who have served on district councils in the past.

At one time, the city had as many as 19 district councils. There have been changes over the years. Highland and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods were once one large council, called Southwest Area District Council. The most recent change occurred almost a decade ago when Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline councils merged to form Union Park District Council.

Several of the current City Council members and Coleman have district council experience on their resumes. District councils do a number of tasks, making recommendations on zoning changes and licenses. From time to time the councils gather citizen input on ordinance and city policy changes, as well as citywide land use, transportation, and parks and recreation plans. The councils do comprehensive planning for their neighborhoods and work to get capital improvement budget projects passed. Councils oversee blocks clubs and crime prevention efforts.

Councils also help operate the city’s curbside recycling program and have overseen neighborhood cleanups. Projects differ from council to council, with some running community gardens, festivals, organics recycling programs and other events.

Councils have some paid staff but operate largely with volunteers. It’s estimated that the city currently has more than 2,000 volunteers on councils and their various committees.

Liquor law changes to be reviewed
St. Paul’s proposed changes to its liquor laws are en route to the city’s Charter Commission. The St. Paul City Council Oct. 14 passed it unanimously and without comment.

The council is asking the Charter Commission to review a proposed ordinance that would exempt restaurants with on-sale liquor licenses from citywide and ward license limits. If adopted, the change would mean that restaurants in area neighborhoods that have waited years for liquor licenses could seek them. After Charter Commission review, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the issue, most likely in this month.

The City Council can change the charter if it has a unanimous vote of approval. If council support is not unanimous, the measure would be in the hands of the city’s voters—on the 2016 ballot at the earliest.

The change is sought by Ward Three Council Member Chris Tolbert, at the behest of Highland District Council and current and prospective restaurant owners in his ward. Ward Three has only seven on-sale liquor licenses available, so restaurant owners must often wait years for a license to become available. Ward Four, which includes much of the Monitor coverage area, is also in the position of having only one license available at this time.

City Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) staff held a series of meetings around St. Paul this year to discuss the change and met little opposition.

If the changes don’t pass, prospective restaurants along Green Line light rail may still have the option of seeking full liquor licenses under a proposed commercial development district in the works along University Ave. and the West Midway area.

Pool owners may face sanctions
Owners of abandoned swimming pools in St. Paul face sanctions as a result of a new city ordinance adopted in October  by the St. Paul City Council. Regulatory changes were brought forward after a Memorial Day weekend incident when two children fell into a water- and garbage-filled, abandoned pool in the city’s North End. Seven-year-old Sher Kpor died in June, a few weeks after he fell into the pool. He and his brother were able to get through a locked fence to the pool area.

That pool has been removed and its site filled in, but city officials said more needed to be done with abandoned pools. The Minnesota Department of Health took over licensing and inspection of pools in 2013. But many private pools behind homes and apartment buildings aren’t licensed. State officials said those pools aren’t their responsibility.

The St. Paul Fire Department has drained abandoned pools at property owners’ requests.
City Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) staff worked on the new regulations.  The city will require fencing around all outdoor swimming pools that are at least 24 inches deep with a surface area of 150 square feet. Previously only pools holding more than 5,000 gallons of water had to be fenced.

The city also set maintenance criteria for outdoor pools out of service for one year. Those pools need to be fenced and be free of stagnant water. Pools out of service for two or more years, with stagnant water or lacking fencing, can be classified as nuisance pools. Property owners either have to bring pools into compliance or the city will do the work for them, at the property owner’s expense.

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Taco bell oct photo

Taco Bell wins

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

St. Paul licensing and zoning staff say there is nothing city can do about disruptions—it is a “police matter”

Taco bell oct photoBy JANE MCCLURE

Despite complaints about patron behavior and neighborhood disruption at a Snelling Ave. fast-food restaurant, it appears that the St. Paul Planning Commission and city licensing and zoning staff cannot do much at this time. However, some commissioners are going to continue to monitor the situation at the Taco Bell restaurant at Snelling and Edmund avenues.

Some commissioners are unhappy with the response received from city staff, that there is nothing going on at this time that the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) can enforce. DSI staff indicated last month that the behavior issues are the purview of the St. Paul Police Department. Representatives of Border Foods, Taco Bell’s owner, have told city officials they work with the police.

The problems at the restaurant, as well as the recent behavior of young people in the adjacent commercial and residential areas, have been a concern for neighbors and business owners as well as for city officials. Large groups of young people congregating in the area, as well as assaults, property damage, and thefts have been detailed on social media.

At the restaurant, loudspeakers, music blaring from motor vehicles, screaming, yelling, and drunken behavior have kept Taco Bell’s neighbors awake. One neighbor told the Planning Commission this summer that he could hear orders from his back yard several houses away.

The debate over noise and behavior at Taco Bell’s drive-through came to a head when plans for a new restaurant were discussed this summer. Neighbors and Planning Commission members had hoped the new restaurant and new permits were a chance to limit hours and put more conditions on operations. St. Paul requires all fast-food restaurants to have conditional use permits. Drive-through services—be they for restaurants, banks, coffee shops, dry cleaners, pharmacies or other uses—also must have conditional use permits. The permits are used to put conditions on restaurant operations and can be very specific. Drive-through window conditions can be used to regulate noise, hours of operation and other issues.

But withdrawal of the Taco Bell plans in August means the business can keep operating with the same hours.

The Planning Commission Zoning Committee then asked DSI for a review of site history and operations, to learn more about the situation and to see if anything could be done. Planning Commissioner Julie Padilla said the intent of the review was to explore all of the evidence regarding issues raised recently.

On Sept. 10, Zoning Administrator Wendy Lane outlined the site history dating back to the restaurant’s start in 1973. Her statement that the restaurant isn’t in violation of its current conditional use permit or site plans troubled some Planning Commission members.

Not all of the commissioners agreed with the need for the Sept. 10 review. Commissioner David Wickiser said that while he agrees with the issues over current operations, he said the Zoning Committee may have been overstepping. He said the plans should have been voted up or down at Planning Commission this summer.

But Padilla disagreed, and said Zoning Committee and Planning Commission are supposed to make the “best decisions possible” for the community. She and other commissioners said they need to look into the neighborhood concern and to continue to monitor the situation. Padilla also noted that Border Foods asked for the issue to be sent back to the commission, before withdrawing its request.

There has been a Mexican-style fast-food restaurant at the site since 1973, including Zantigo and Zapata as well as Taco Bell. At some point, a drive-through window was installed, although a conditional use permit was never issued. With no conditional use permit, the city never had a chance to place conditions on operations.

What frustrates the Planning Commission and Zoning Committee is the lack of historic records for the property and lack of clarity of what existing records mean. One issue discussed Sept. 10 is that records refer to the drive-through window as both a pedestrian walk-up window and a drive-through. City staff can not find proof that building permits were ever obtained before the window was installed. Another concern raised is that the drive-through speaker box was installed in a way that creates potential traffic conflicts.

“I find it hard to believe that anyone at the city would approve a site plan where all of the traffic lining up has to go in the wrong direction in the drive aisle,” said Commissioner Gaius Nelson.

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100 bicyclists tour the Midway, explore bikeways and green living

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

Article and photos by JILL BOOGREN

DSC_0476Onlookers watched, and a whole family applauded from the sidewalk as a parade of 100 bicyclists rolled along Charles Ave. on a Saturday in mid-September. The riders were part of the Sierra Club’s annual bike tour, which travels to different locations in the Metro area each year to highlight developments that support biking, walking and neighborhood livability.

There was much to herald at this year’s tour, the club’s 20th annual, which explored the Midway area and other parts of St. Paul. With its new bike plan adopted earlier this year, the City of St. Paul plans to more than double the number of bikeways in the city over the next 20-30 years and create a downtown loop (now called the Capitol City Bikeway). The plan also includes completion of the Grand Round, which will connect neighborhoods north of I-94 to downtown and the river and allow riders to circle the city entirely off road.

DSC_0462It’s about creating a “network of safe and connected bicycle facilities,” said Luke Hanson, a St. Paul Public Works technician, at the start of the tour in Highland Park that morning. “Passing the bike plan allows us to be much more efficient in how we implement the facilities,” he said.

Photo left: Cyclists ride on Charles Ave., a clearly marked bike boulevard. They were part of Sierra Club’s 20th anual bike ride that toured 20 miles of St. Paul in September.

Sierra Club Executive Committee Member Luther Dale, who has ridden on several of their bike tours, said he’s noticed over the years the progression of biking as being largely for pleasure to being a primary mode of transportation. “Biking is certainly about recreation and fitness,” he said. “It’s also about transportation options as people increasingly use it for getting to work.”

DSC_0484Photo right: “Sharrows” on the pavement mark Griggs St. as a designated bikeway. Up the street is a roundabout that helps riders move slowly through the intersection.

In addition to using the bike lanes along Minnehaha Ave. and Prior Ave., riders got to try out the bike boulevards on Charles Ave., Griggs St., and, farther south, Jefferson Ave. The first of their kind in St. Paul, these roadways are indicated by “sharrows” and other signage and are designed to give bicycle travel priority. They have features like roundabouts, curb bump-outs, and medians that serve as bike-walk “refuges” to aid in crossing busy intersections. These proved to be absolute necessities on Charles Ave. at Lexington Pkwy., Dale and Marion streets, where during the tour there was a considerable wait at each of these island oases to cross the street.

Some people remarked that Charles Ave. contains stop signs at almost every block, and that they should be reoriented to favor cyclists traveling on Charles Ave. Hanson said this has come up, and while the city views Charles Ave. as largely complete they’re always reevaluating to see where improvements can be made. Any new work would be considered a separate project, however.

“I’m heartened to see how St. Paul is doing so many things on a policy level and at the neighborhood level,” said first-time tour rider Marijo Wunderlich, herself a ‘pretty regular’ biker. “I love how [biking is] becoming integrated, with the light rail and of course buses.” Bike racks are provided on the front of buses and inside the trains.

DSC_0495Photo left: Riders on the bike tour use the bike lane along Prior Ave.

At the tour’s lunch stop at Union Depot downtown, Dave Van Hattum, advocacy director for Transit for Livable Communities, pointed out that the METRO Green Line light rail transit is seeing 30,000 riders a day and spoke to the importance of dedicating state funding to meet all of the region’s transportation needs. “It’s important for cities to lead, to make bike investments, but we also think the state should do its share,” he said.

Green Living
The primary focus of the tour may have been about supporting bicyclists and transportation, but for the Sierra Club it’s all part of a much bigger picture. “It’s everything that’s said about livability, health, cutting down pollution, better use of resources—[biking] is a healthier way to get around. It’s healthier for the environment,” said Deb Alper, a longtime volunteer for the club and one of its original tour leaders. “In a time of climate change, that’s certainly part of the wider issue. It’s all part of the same story.”

To show a couple of examples, the 20-mile route went by the 135-acre former Ford plant site in Highland Park, where residents have called for building a bikeable, walkable, transit-accessible, energy-efficient, mixed-use “21st Century Community.”

Riders also stopped at the old Schmidt’s Brewery on 7th St., which will house a second Urban Organics commercial aquaponics facility–at 80,000 square feet it’s 10 times larger than their Hamm’s Brewery location on Minnehaha Ave. According to owner Dave Haider, they’ll produce 250,000 pounds of fresh salmon and 500,000 pounds of organic produce a year. This means they’re joining with artists’ lofts and a keg and case market in making use of this historic space and will be bringing locally-produced food to the market as well.

For Alper, these developments are important for city living and for preserving green space. “Making urban areas attractive for people to live in, means we destroy less land on the outskirts,” she said.

Perhaps as a reminder that building strong neighborhoods means thinking big AND small, the last stop on the tour was at Merriam Park’s Ice Cream, Peanut Butter, and Jam Festival. Here riders enjoyed Izzy’s ice cream and saw young creative minds at work at a pop-up adventure playground. “We create community backyards where kids create, take risks, and develop skills for life-long learning,” said Seniz Yargici Lennes, of Twin Cities Adventure Play. “Our goal is to build [permanent] play spaces so kids can ride their bikes to the playground, and the community knows where they’re going.”

And why not hail the littlest among us? Arguably one of the best signs of a healthy neighborhood is kids jumping onto their bikes to go and play.

Next Up
Work to implement the bike plan is already starting. This fall, Front Ave. from Lexington Pkwy. to Dale St. will be resurfaced with bike lanes striped in each direction. Then in 2016 look for work to begin on installing a two-way cycle track on Pelham Blvd. (from I-94 to Mississippi River Blvd.) and an off-road bike trail on Wheelock Pkwy. (from Rice to Edgerton streets).

More information and resources can be found at: Cycles for Change (712 University Ave.) www.cyclesforchange.org; www.smart-trips.org; www.saintpaulgrandround.org; and www.stpaul.gov/bikeplan.

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Mural 6

Changes being made to mural at 689 Snelling

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

To the community,

I want to let the community know that there were concerns brought to my attention in early September about the mural at 689 Snelling Ave., which is home to Kim’s Market and My-Ngoc Jewelry.

The mural, by Japanese artist Yuya Negishi, depicted (among other things) a sunrise, and was intended to signal a brighter future for all of us in the community. Unfortunately, it resembled the Rising Sun flag that was used by the Imperial Japanese military before and during WWII. As such, many people—both from Chinese and Korean backgrounds, but others as well—viewed the mural as a painful reminder of military incursions and atrocities, forced labor, foreign land occupation, and the destruction of foreign cultures at the hands of the Imperial Japanese military.

While Yuya was in no way making a political statement with his design—he is one of the kindest and open-minded people I know—and while we certainly did not recognize that the mural would bring anything but joy to the neighborhood and the businesses at that location, we quickly recognized that the mural could not remain in its original form.

Yuya and I met recently with the owner of Kim’s Market, as well as leaders from the Korean American Association of Minnesota and the Korean Heritage House, along with Kim Park Nelson, an American Multicultural Studies professor at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. We are now working diligently to change the background of the mural such that the symbolism of the Rising Sun flag no longer exists. We have already covered up the sun, and we are working on new designs for the sunray background.

We have already submitted one design idea with a checkered blue-and-yellow background that would replace the sun rays; this sketch has received the written approval from eight Board and Advisory Board members of the Korean American Association of Minnesota after a discussion they had about the new design with the Deputy Consul General of Korea on Sept. 18. We plan to submit at least one more sketch with a background that covers up the previous parts of the mural that were controversial, and we plan to have the redesigned mural completed as soon as possible, certainly before winter.

So much good has come out of this project, and I have no doubt that this, too, will be a positive outcome and will help us in working towards one of our main goals of bridging cultural divides. I hope that we can see it as an opportunity to have more conversations about the political, national, religious, and racial tensions that too often keep us divided. I hope it can help us reflect on history, both in the United States and abroad, and how we can create stronger bonds and seek reconciliation and unity moving forward in a situation like this one. And as the leader of this project I will certainly learn from this experience and what I could’ve done better to avoid anything like this happening again.

I’m sorry that this misunderstanding happened, that people were hurt, and that we didn’t recognize sooner how this mural would be perceived. I look forward to making it right, ensuring that Kim’s Market’s devoted customers can come to shop and can fully enjoy the beauty of Yuya’s artwork.

—Jonathan Oppenheimer
Project Manager, Midway Murals

Photo below: With scaffolding in place, Yuya Negisha and assistants are working on changes to the Midway Mural Project at 689 Snelling Ave. As of the last week in September, the rising sun has been removed, and the rays of the sun are being replaced with a grid pattern that will transition to blue skies overhead. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Mural 6

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FWS 03

The Freshwater Society : Because clean water is everybody’s business

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Minnesota may be known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but the state actually has 11,842 lakes that measure 10 acres or larger. All but four Minnesota counties contain at least one lake, and we have more shoreline than the golden state of California.

The Freshwater Society (FWS) educates and inspires citizens to value, conserve and protect our water resources. In July, the venerable non-profit moved from Excelsior to the Midway neighborhood because, as executive director Steve Woods said, “We go where the work is.” Their new address is 2424 Territorial Rd.

FWS 02Photo right: Want to learn more about lakes? Check out honorary FWS board member Darby Nelson’s book “For Love of Lakes” at the St. Paul Public Library. The book weaves a tapestry of history, science and poetry for those who value lakes and waterways.

Woods and his team of 12 employees are happy to be here. Following what he called, “a shift in board strategy,” they’re at the Capitol more often these days, and it just made sense to be closer. The organization frequently partners with foundations, watershed districts, Minnesota Public Radio and the College of Biological Sciences at the U of M—most of which are now only minutes away on the Green Line.

While Minnesota doesn’t have a problem with water quantity, we do have a problem with water quality. According to the FWS, an estimated 40% of our lakes and rivers suffer some pollution and are considered “impaired.” A significant contributor to water pollution is agriculture, which covers about half of the state. Woods pointed out, “Everything that happens on the land affects the water around us.”

FWS 01Photo left: Because of impervious surfaces like pavement and rooftops, a typical city block creates more than five times the runoff of a woodland area measuring the same size.

The FWS has two main areas of concentration: groundwater sustainability and stormwater runoff. Woods said, “We don’t want to be an inch deep and a mile wide. We focus on drafting policies that improve water quality, and then get neighbors involved through our citizen engagement programs.”

To understand groundwater sustainability, you have to understand aquifers. Aquifers, which are not visible, are slowly being drained down across the state. Private wells are filled from aquifers and supply three out of every four Minnesota households. People often think of aquifers as underground lakes. They’re actually sand and gravel deposits, in which water saturates the empty spaces. Groundwater flows out of aquifers and sustains many of our lakes and rivers. When the aquifers get low enough, the lakes and rivers lose volume too.

There are plenty of things that citizens can do to protect groundwater quality and supply. For starters, dispose of hazardous waste properly. Hazardous waste includes things like paint, garden chemicals, nail polish remover and oven cleaner. Ramsey County’s year-round collection and product re-use center is located at 5 Empire Dr. (just north of University Ave. between Rice and Jackson streets).

Reduce the size of your lawn by planting native plants and grasses. Reduce the amount of fertilizer and lawn chemicals that you use. Reduce the amount of salt on driveways and sidewalks this winter (it doesn’t work below 15 degrees Fahrenheit anyhow). All of these chemicals can become part of storm water runoff, ending up in lakes, rivers and, in some cases, groundwater.

One of the FWS’s major community engagement programs is called Master Water Stewards. The goal of that program is to train citizens to combat storm water runoff in their own neighborhood. Program participants attend lectures and hands-on classes over the course of eight months and become well-versed in water science, pollution causes, and solutions.

FWS 03“Our Master Water Steward graduates are bi-lingual,” said Deirdre Coleman, FWS’s program coordinator. “They speak both science and English.” She was quick to point out that anyone can apply, and that a background in science is not required to be accepted.

Photo left: Deirdre Coleman (L), project coordinator, said she’s been paddling a canoe on Minnesota rivers and lakes ever since she was old enough to sit up. Steve Woods (R), executive director, described himself as “nearly amphibious.” He canoes, swims and, in general, is happiest when he’s on or near the water.

“What we’re really interested in is people who are connected to their communities,” Coleman said. Contact dcoleman@freshwater.org to learn more.

It’s not too late to register for the 2016 Master Water Steward program, which will begin in January. Modeled after the successful Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, the class of 2016 hopes to graduate 75 passionate water stewards–who will then be able to help neighbors manage their own storm water better.

The FWS provides other opportunities for education in the community. Their now famous Weather Guide Calendar is full of valuable information for citizen scientists of all ages. It’s available through local independent bookstores. For bulk purchases, contact the FWS directly. The Weather Guide Calendar is also available for schools to buy, along with an accompanying curriculum guide. It’s an excellent tool for teaching about the weather, earth science, meteorology and phenology, and provides a dependable source of operating revenue for the FWS. It’s a big seller!

On Tue., Nov. 3, the FWS will be sponsoring their annual Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources. The event is free and open to the public. Join William Stowe, CEO and general manager of the Des Moines, Iowa, Water Utility. Stowe, who is part-engineer, part-attorney, and part-philosopher, will speak on the challenges of providing safe drinking water to half a million customers in a heavily agricultural area. The presentation begins in the St. Paul Student Center Auditorium (2017 Buford Ave.) at 7pm and all are welcome.

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Ward 4 City Council candidates sound off on the proposed stadium at the Midway bus barn site

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

aerialsite20131107_7Public investment needed to make site viable


I recently voted to support a City Council resolution that outlines the conditions under which the Council would support property tax exemption for a new MLS Soccer Stadium on the Snelling Bus Garage site.

My initial reaction to the stadium idea was negative. At first blush, the idea seemed inconsistent with community plans for a high-density mix of office, housing, retail, and other uses. What changed my mind is that the current situation with the property as it relates to the Midway Shopping Center is a Catch-22—despite the central location, without major improvements and investments in the shopping center site, the Bus Garage site is not an appealing place to invest for developers, nor an appealing place to live or work for possible tenants.

Recent media attention to the possible stadium has created a great deal of interest in being located on the site from companies looking to relocate or expand their offices. So while the academic literature suggests that stadia do not catalyze economic development, in this case, it seems that this proposal may do just that. As a result, I believe a property tax exemption for the stadium would be a worthwhile tradeoff under certain conditions. For me, those conditions are:

1) The team agrees to pay the entire cost of developing the stadium itself, and then hands it over to the City or another public entity to own;

2) The facility would be used for many other events and purposes, including amateur and youth soccer, and some tickets be made available at affordable prices;

3) A sensible plan can be developed for financing the public infrastructure for the overall 35 acres (the whole area bounded by Snelling, Pascal, University and St. Anthony), including streets, walkways, parks, bikeways, stormwater management, and shared parking;

4) Substantial property taxpaying redevelopment of the remainder of the site begins concurrently with the stadium that increases living wage jobs and/or new housing options.

I think it’s important to put the issue of the possible property tax exemption in context:

1. The “Bus Barn” site has been tax exempt for decades as it has been owned by the Metropolitan Council.

2. Both the Xcel Energy Center and CHS Field “deals” included state approved property tax exemptions.

3. A recent assessment of the development potential for the entire 35-acre superblock site concluded that in today’s market, any private development there would require a substantial public subsidy for the needed public infrastructure. In other words, there does not seem to be a scenario in which the site gets redeveloped by the private market anytime soon.

4. If the stadium is to happen, it will involve a purchase or lease of the land from the Metropolitan Council and those proceeds will support their operations, likely transit operations.
Enriching the wealthy owners of the soccer franchise is definitely not a goal of mine. However, any development on the site will only occur if there is a profit to be made (with the exception of government or non-profit buildings which would be property tax-exempt). For me to support the development of a soccer stadium on the site, I will need to be convinced that the benefits to St. Paul and the neighborhoods around the site outweigh the costs, and that public monies are only being spent on infrastructure that has clear public benefits.

Russ Stark is the current president of the St. Paul City Council. He is running for re-election in Ward 4 to retain his council seat.


A stadium distraction we don’t need


Here we go again. After seven years of having the St. Paul Saints ballpark the #1 capital project in the city, we’re going to chase yet another stadium for billionaires? Sure, soccer is a great game, and professional soccer provides lots of excitement for fans. But it’s not so lucrative a sport that team owners can turn a profit if they also foot the bill for a brand-new stadium.

That’s just the tantalizing fantasy Bill McGuire and his partners are offering in hopes that somebody will bite. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the mayor has been all too willing to take the bait, as has the city council with its recent resolution in favor of keeping the old Midway Bus Barn site tax-exempt.

Economists who have been studying the stadium boom for the past 25 years have found little evidence that these projects generate additional development beyond the bars and restaurants that sometimes spring up around them. And for all the talk about a stadium serving as a “catalyst” for additional investment, the owners of the Minnesota United franchise have no interest in spending $150 million of their money on a soccer stadium just so folks will patronize nearby businesses. They want to capture as much of the revenue as possible for themselves.

In case anybody has forgotten, taxpayers have been to this dance before.

The Saints’ ballpark quest began as innocently as did the push for a soccer stadium: a modest $25 million venue at Harriet Island for which the Saints would provide 60 percent of the funding through advertising revenue, naming rights, and other sources. However, by the time the project was completed, the cost had mushroomed to $63 million, and the Saints contribution had been reduced to a mere 4%, or $2.5 million. For that minimal investment, the team was awarded all ballpark revenue, including naming rights for CHS Field

Now the same mayor and virtually the same city council that approved funding of the Saints boondoggle want us to believe that the soccer stadium will be different because the owners have agreed to cover the entire cost of construction out of their own pockets.

That’s exactly what former Milwaukee Brewers team owner Bud Selig told the city of Milwaukee in 1989: “reroute a highway at a cost of $6 million and we’ll build the stadium ourselves.” Six years later that $6 million turned into a $250 million publicly-funded stadium in which the Brewers contributed nothing.

This pattern of stadium shenanigans has been repeated time and again for the past 25 years. Anybody who believes “this time will be different” is either not paying attention or deluding themselves.

I know that people will complain about how ugly the Bus Barn site looks or how nothing has happened there for years. All true. But plopping a stadium down to deal with an eyesore that the city has neglected for the past 20 years just means that we’ll all have to continue shouldering the property tax burden of another expensive, non-revenue producing asset.

How about if we focus instead on human-scale amenities like repairing the city’s long-neglected infrastructure, first class parks, modern rec centers, free after school programming, added green space, and affordable, high speed internet access for everyone?

That’s what families want—just ask them.

A lawyer and former school board member, Tom Goldstein is a candidate for city council in St. Paul’s Ward 4.

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