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Residential property values increases vary widely in St. Paul

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Differing values make effective property tax increases range between .4 to 13.5 percent

By JANE MCCLURE

property-tax-imageThe owner of a median-value home in St. Paul could see a property tax increase of about $99 in 2017, under the levies adopted this fall by the St. Paul City Council, St. Paul Public Schools, Ramsey County Board and the county’s Regional Rail Authority. Impacts of the levy increases vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood, the Joint Property Tax Advisory Committee was told recently.

Property tax statements will start landing in mailboxes in mid-November. State truth-in-taxation law required the three units of local government to review property tax impacts of their maximum levies in September

Ramsey County has proposed a 2.8 percent levy increase with a 3.5 percent increase for the regional Rail Authority. St. Paul Public Schools has a 5 percent increase while the city is at 7.9 percent. The local governments can cut their levies between now and years’ end but cannot increase them.

St. Paul’s median value home saw an increase in market value from $151,600 in 2016 to $161,200 in 2017, a 6.4 percent increase. Shifts and changes within the property tax system itself, as well as the regionwide fiscal disparities property tax sharing system, changes in homestead exclusion benefits and other shifts, would account for a $33 decrease. But levy and property tax increases would account for an increase of almost $130. Factor in the decreases and the net is $99.

Chris Samuel, property records and revenue manager for Ramsey County, said neighborhoods with lower-valued homes are seeing greater increases in market values and, as a result, in property taxes. Those neighborhoods saw some of the greatest property value decreases during the recent recession and have been slower to recover.

Values in Frogtown and other areas had “pretty much tanked” during and after the recession, said Ramsey County Commissioner and joint committee member Janice Rettman. While homeowners should be “thrilled” to see increases, Rettman said the higher increase could be a shock to lower-income homeowners.

She reminded officials to let homeowners facing higher value and property tax spikes that they should apply for targeted property tax refunds. County staff does mailings to encourage everyone eligible to apply for the refunds.

Still, the comparison for property taxes payable in 2016 to 2017 aren’t to change, even with the levy shift. The highest market value and property tax increase citywide is projected for Thomas-Dale or Frogtown, where the median home value has increased from $89,800 to $99,800 or 11.1 percent. The typical homeowner there paid $1,038 in property taxes this year and would see a $140 or 13.5 percent hike to $1,178 in 2017.

Similar increases are seen in East Side neighborhoods, including a 10.8 percent increase in values in Dayton’s Bluff. No neighborhoods showed decreases. The lowest median increase is expected on the West Side, at 3 percent.

Monitor area neighborhoods will see varying property tax increases. In Como, the median value home increases from $184,800 to $195,400, for a 5.7 percent increase in market value. Taxes would increase from $2,731 in 2016 to $2,826 in 2018, for a $95 or 3.5 percent increase.

In Hamline-Midway a 3.6 percent increase is projected, from $148,900 to $154,200. Property taxes would increase from $2,092 to $2,115, $23 or 1.1 percent.

Homeowners in the Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline neighborhoods, who have seen high increases in the past, would see the lowest median value increase. Values are estimated to increase just 3.3 percent for the median home, from $257,850 to $266,400. Property taxes would increase .4 percent or $18, from $4,032 to $4,050.

County officials caution that individual market values can hinge on a number of factors, including comparable home sales in an area or whether or not a property owner has made physical improvements to a property.

In general, property values are increasing more in the city of St. Paul than they are in the Ramsey County suburbs, said Samuel.

Members of the advisory committee said that no one takes the decision to raise levies and property taxes lightly. Looking at some of the increases to lower-income neighborhoods, Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann said, “Some of that is hard to swallow.”

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CIB recommendation process changed by St. Paul City Council

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
Hoping for a new bicycle route, a tot lot or park redesign? Your wish will likely have to wait, at least until 2020. How St. Paul funds its playgrounds, fire stations, recreation centers, and other public facilities is changing, as a result of City Council action earlier this fall.

The 45-year-old Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) won’t include a citywide competitive process in 2017, for 2018-2019 projects. Nor will it include a comprehensive task force review process. Instead, the focus will be on completing Frogtown’s Scheffer Recreation Center and West Midway’s Fire Station 20 in 2018-2019 and maintaining existing infrastructure and programs.

Capital maintenance is a growing need citywide. Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes several area neighborhoods, said he is noticing more city facilities in need of repair. One example he cites is Hamline-Midway’s Hancock Recreation Center, which has water damage.
“We see examples similar to that all over the city,” he said.

An upcoming inventory of all parks buildings and facilities should give an indication of the extent of what has to be repaired. The cost could easily reach into the millions of dollars. Add in deferred maintenance at libraries and other facilities, and the costs will only rise. The council wants to add $630,000 to the 2017 budget for capital maintenance, on top of more than $1 million already earmarked by Mayor Chris Coleman. But council members said that just scratches the surface.

Parks and libraries get a lot of use and sustain a lot of wear and tear. Changing needs is another issue, especially for libraries where technology and facility use have rapidly evolved. Rondo Community Outreach Library at Dale and University avenues is just ten years old. But it needs about $500,000 in renovations due to heavy patron use as well as changing space needs.

Some activists, booster clubs, and district councils had already started discussing which capital projects to submit in 2017. The change means that projects may have to wait. That is likely to include work on Dickerman Park at University and Fairview avenues, modernization of the Hamline-Midway Branch Library at 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., and the long-delayed, multi-million dollar plan to extend Pierce Butler Rte. to I-35E.

The Pierce Butler extension, which has a cost of more than $11 million, has been discussed since the late 1980s. Ward One Council Member Dai Thao and Department of Public Works Director Kathy Lantry recently butted heads over a Public Works decision to move a smaller amount of funding from Pierce Butler to other projects.

What is described as a capital improvements project process “pause” is driven by various factors. One is the city’s growing need to maintain its existing facilities. Stark said the large cost of new facilities is another factor in reviewing the process. The 2016 capital budget is $40.463 million. 2017 has $54.288 million penciled in. Most is dedicated state and federal funding for specific projects or is earmarked for ongoing projects and programs.

The most flexible funding is about $11 million per year, which may cover one large project. Major requests sometimes have to go through multiple funding cycles. “That’s a hard way to do a project,” Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann said.

A third issue is racial equity, to make sure everyone has a chance to be involved in the process, and to look at changes in community engagement.

A fourth concern is volunteer time. Not only do volunteers develop projects and shepherd them through the process, volunteers from all 17 district councils serve on the CIB Committee’s three citizen task forces. Some district councils struggle to find task force volunteers for several weeks of meetings.

CIB Committee members agree with the need for a process review and changes. But they do have concerns and frustrations with the process, especially the city administration’s penchant for inserting large projects or coming in with its own list of projects before there is any discussion. Another concern is that projects submitted by city departments have more resources to draw on than volunteers can muster.

CIB Committee member Joel Clemmer has served on all three CIB task forces. He said one frustration for task forces is that they spend much time reviewing and ranking projects, only to have large projects move ahead at the last minute. “It feels like a fait accompli sometimes.”

Another worry is that of not allowing any community-driven projects to be submitted in 2017. “My “concern would be that you’re taking away the community’s voice for two or three years,” said committee member Paul Raymond. “I think there’s going to be a backlash.”

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Prepare + Prosper seeks hundreds of volunteers

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

tax-return-clip-artPrepare + Prosper (P+P), 2610 University Ave. W., is looking for hundreds of volunteers for the upcoming tax season. P+P trains all volunteers who in turn put their skills to use throughout the Twin Cities by preparing taxes, working one-on-one with customers to discuss their individual financial goals, and providing customer support and service for taxpayers.

“You can make a tangible difference,” said Tracy Fischman, P+P executive director. “Volunteers play an important role in helping hardworking families with low-incomes turn tax time into a money moment. A tax refund can account for 30% or more of one’s annual income. When families receive this refund, they use it to pay down debt or pay bills, make important purchases, and save.”

In 2016, volunteers returned $24.7 million in refunds for 13,000 taxpayers. Additionally, volunteer financial advocates helped 1,200 customers save $1.9 million of their tax refunds.

Because of the significant refunds that low-income taxpayers receive, they are often targeted by paid preparers that charge high fees. At P+P’s free tax preparation sites, volunteers provide customers with access to 100% of their refunds and financial services at no cost.

Volunteer positions include customer service specialists, financial advocates, tax preparers, and tax reviewers.

Additionally, P+P is looking for volunteers who speak Spanish and Somali. Tax knowledge is not needed for all positions. All volunteers receive training and support, and those preparing and reviewing tax returns will become IRS-certified. P+P operates eight sites in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hopkins, and Bloomington.

For those interested in volunteering, P+P is holding orientations now through Dec. To sign up for an orientation, visit http://www.prepareandprosper.org or contact Kelly Quicksell, volunteer resources coordinator, at volunteer@prepareandprosper.org or by calling 651-262-2163.

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Como students dive into the middle of the school year

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

News from Como High School
Compiled by ERIC ERICSON, Social Studies Teacher

como-park-column-aof-financial-literacy-dayPhoto right: Como Park’s Academy of Finance (AOF) students met with Federal Reserve Bank employees who led breakout sessions as part of Financial Literacy Day on Oct. 25. (Photo submitted)

• Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Como during the school-wide mock election held on Oct. 25. Over 900 Como students voted at the polling place which was stationed in the Como Auditorium. AP Government and Politics students served as election judges, administering a registration table, and distributing official ballots for the presidential election provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Several local media outlets covered the event at Como including KSTP, KARE11, the Pioneer Press and the StarTribune. Seniors Eli Freberg, Joe McCune-Zierath, Chong Xiong, Divine Uchegbu, Rachel Ruskin, Jackson Muehlbauer, Lizzy Larson, Hannah Rhee, Trenton Phillippi, Marie Wulff and Minna Stillwell Jardine were all interviewed or quoted in the news stories, expressing intelligent and thoughtful ideas about the democratic process and this election season.

• The Academy of Finance (AOF) continues to thrive at Como with 300 students in the magnet program across all four grades this academic year. A Financial Literacy Fair was held at the school on Oct. 25 with twenty volunteers from the Federal Reserve Bank leading breakout session with students. On Nov. 3, AOF juniors attended a field trip to the 3M campus as part of the BrandLab Marketing internship program.

Other recent AOF highlights included seniors Titi Yusef and William Toney representing Como’s AOF in a meeting with U.S. Senator Al Franken in St. Paul on Oct. 19 as part of an exploratory education visit the Senator conducted as part of his work on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Senate Committee. Several AOF juniors also attended the Carlson School of Management college visit and tour on Oct. 27.

• The Como Robotics Team participated in the Minnesota Robotics Invitational at Roseville Area High School on Oct. 15. Como’s BEASTBot did well in a challenging set of qualification matches and proved their adaptability to many competitors. In Robotics, alliances are formed with other teams, and the first place team from qualifying matches chose Como as an ally.

In the end, Como’s BEASTBot worked together with Irondale’s KnightKrawler team and Central’s MinuteBots to triumph as the tournament champions. Coaches Donna Norberg and Mike Fischer said the team was proud to collect a first-place tournament trophy, and are excited for the regular season to start next January.

• Students in Ms. MaryClare Bade’s Health classes participated in the National “Kindness in Chalk” Day on Oct. 31. The Kindness in Chalk activity is an anti-bully movement which was started a couple of years ago in Minnesota. The Health classes decorated the sidewalk in front of the school with positive messages reinforcing positivity, acceptance, respect and support for their peers.

• The Como Marine Corps JRTOC Ball will be held on Nov. 11 at the St. Paul Hotel. The event coincides with Veteran’s Day and celebrates the 241st birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Como’s cadets will dress in their formal attire for the plated dinner in the Promenade Ballroom. Retired USMC Colonel Paul Adams will be the Guest of Honor.

• Como Park High School’s Advanced Placement (AP) Night is Tues., Nov. 22 from 6-7:30pm. AP Night is an opportunity for prospective students and their families to learn more about Como Park Senior High School’s AP program from staff, parents, and a student panel. Middle school students and families interested in learning more about Como’s award-winning AP college prep curriculum will be able to visit with current AP students and teachers and ask questions about the AP experience. The event will take place in the school library, and refreshments will be provided. No reservation is required, but any questions can be directed to Como’s AP Coordinator Molly McCurdy Yates at 651-744-5354.

• Como boys’ basketball coach John Robinson and colleague Donnell Gibson, assistant coach and Gibson Foundation President, are implementing the Saturday Breakfast Club and Basketball Clinic for their team. The coaches wanted to send a clear message stressing the importance of academics coming first. “We want to equip our young men with the tools necessary for them to succeed at the next level,” said Robinson. Gibson went on to say that, “the young men who show up consistently every Saturday are demonstrating their commitment to not only creating opportunities for themselves but for building a strong team.”

In addition to having a home cooked meal, compliments of Robinson, participants receive tutoring and academic advising from Como school counselor Michael Grant. The academic session is followed by a basketball skills clinic led by the Rip City basketball staff.

• The Como Park Booster Club is encouraging the community to support Como on “Give to the Max Day” on Nov. 17. Please give generously to help support extracurricular activities at Como Park High School. Student programs and clubs including music, athletics, robotics, student council, yearbook, math club, and more are aided by the Booster Club based on grant requests. If you are interested in finding more information about the Booster Club or desire to make a donation, please go to givemn.org/organization/comoparkboosterclub.

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Preventing food waste while feasting

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway
By TRUDY DUNHAM

Food! Glorious food! November is traditionally a time of feasting and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. But it is also a time to highlight the downside: one in five children in Minnesota goes hungry every day. About 50 million Americans, or 1 in 6, live in food insecure households: they don’t know if they can afford to feed themselves on a daily basis.

Yet, one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption, about 1.3 billion metric tons, is not consumed: it is wasted. We waste enough to feed the world’s hungry. In the US, we waste about 40% of food produced for our consumption.

But how does this relate to climate change, and to our community’s resilience to climate change?
It wastes energy and increases greenhouse gas emissions. In the US, about 34 million tons, or 68 billion pounds, of food are wasted each year. Growing and transporting each ton of wasted food results is estimated to produce about 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, nearly 150 million tons per year. This waste uses about 300 million barrels of oil each year, or about 4% of the US oil use.

Reducing food waste reduces our carbon footprint.

It also wastes time and money. Think of the effort by farmers, manufacturers, transporters, grocery stores and restaurants to produce these tons of wasted food. And your effort: Americans throw away about 25% of groceries purchased, an annual cost of about $1300-$2275 for the average four-person American family.

So what can we do about it?
• Understand the “sell by” date on your food. “Sell by,” “use by” and “best by” dates are suggested time frames for best quality; the food is still safe to eat after these dates. Often these dates are created by manufacturers, and not based on research or food safety guidelines.

• Don’t buy more food than you will likely use. The bigger jar may cost less per ounce, but only if you eat all the food in the jar. The two-for-one deal only works in your favor if you eat both of the products.

• Plan your meals, buying only foods you will use in your at-home meals. Limit impulse buys. Limit unplanned restaurant meals that result in the food at your home going uneaten.

• Consider buying “ugly” (bruised) fruits and vegetables if you will be chopping or stewing it: you can save money at no cost to taste or appearance.

• When you eat out, order ala carte or smaller portion options from the menu if you know you won’t eat it all. Request a doggie bag or bring your own container so you can bring leftovers home. Then, remember to eat those leftovers before they spoil!
Once you get the food home, there are procedures you can use to prevent food waste:

• Maintain proper refrigerator temperatures; 35-38F is recommended (bacteria growth rates accelerate around 40F, and things freeze at 32F). Use the high humidity drawer for foods sensitive to moisture loss and that give off ethylene (e.g., strawberries, lettuce).

• Invest in products to lengthen food shelf life. Examples include reusable, compostable “green bags” which allow ethylene and moisture emitted by fruits and vegetables to escape and FreshPaper sheets infused with herbs that inhibit the growth of bacteria. Inserting nitrogen to push oxygen out of a sealable food container is another option.

• Join the Clean Plate Club. Use smaller plates and smaller portions to decrease the amount served, and thus the uneaten food left on a plate. (Did you know that our plate size has increased more than a third since 1960?)

• After your meal, use leftovers you won’t be eating the next day to make your own “frozen dinner.” You will appreciate the convenience of the already prepared meal!

• Compost your food waste. No matter how efficient we are, there will always be some food waste. Use the Ramsey County Organic Recycling program.

Finally, consider advocating policies and practices that discourage food waste. Some innovative practices are:
• Suggest that grocers provide smaller packages of fresh fruits and vegetables, and replace two-for-one deals with mix-and-match options.
• Encourage restaurants to offer smaller portion options.
• Update federal tax incentives to encourage businesses to donate nutritious foods; often the cost of packaging and transporting excess foods costs a business more than just throwing it away.
• Suggest legislation to discourage waste: France has banned large grocers from throwing away or destroying unsold food, requiring they donate it to charities.

As you enjoy the bounty of the Thanksgiving holiday, consider the environmental costs of food waste. Do what you can to prevent it!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resilience in our community.

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District 10 News

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

Struggling with a neglected property, absentee landlord, or problem tenant on your block? Then find out how to effectively minimize their impact during a District 10 community forum on problem properties. The free forum is Thur., Nov. 10 at 6:30pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station.

The forum’s goal: get you the practical understanding and hands-on advice you need to report, track, and navigate city departments so you and your neighbors can effectively reduce the impact of properties that are a nuisance, threat, or detriment to our community.

The forum will feature:
• Officer Erik Diskerud, of the Western District FORCE Unit of the Saint Paul Police
• Inspector Joe Yannarelly, of the city ‘s Department of Safety and Inspections
• Andrew Johnson, a community member who has been dealing for years with problem properties

Put your name out there
The District 10 Como Community Council is seeking candidates to fill two board vacancies: one in Sub-District 2, one an At-Large seat. The special elections to fill the vacancies take place on Tues., Nov. 15 at 7pm, before the monthly board meeting, at the Como Park Streetcar Station.

• The At-Large seat is open to anyone who lives in District 10, which is the portion of Saint Paul bounded roughly by Snelling on the west, Larpenteur on the north, Dale on the east, and the railroad tracks between Pierce Butler and Energy Park Dr./Front Ave. on the south.

• For Sub-District 2, you must live in the area between Hamline on the west, Larpenteur on the north, Victoria on the east, and the BNSF tracks north of Front on the south.

The elected candidates will serve the remainder of the vacant terms, which expire in April 2017. Any District 10 resident at least 18 years of age is eligible to run; so are representatives from businesses or institutions in the neighborhood. To submit your name or to find out more, contact the District 10 office at 651-644-3889, or by email at district10@district10comopark.org. Write-in nominations also will be accepted from the floor the night of the special elections.

Something to look forward to
Saint Paul ‘s recycling program will undergo big changes beginning in January 2017. Among the highlights:
• Eureka Recycling will replace bins with covered, wheeled carts
• Pickup will switch from curbside to alleys
• All multi-unit buildings will have the opportunity to recycle
• Residents will get wheeled carts after Thanksgiving

We’ll keep you up to date with more details as they become available. Stay tuned to District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org.

You’re invited to sit in
The District 10 board and standing committees meet monthly—and community members are always welcome to attend, participate, and speak or raise concerns. The schedule:
• Como Community Council Board meeting: Third Tuesday, 7pm. The next meeting, on Nov. 15, features special elections for board vacancies and a presentation by MnDOT engineer Mark Lindeberg, who will outline plans to improve pedestrian and bicycle access over the Snelling Ave. bridges between Midway Pkwy. and Hamline University.
• Land Use: Typically meets on the Monday before the first Wednesday, 7pm. The next meeting is Dec. 5.
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety: First Tuesday, 7pm. The next meeting is Dec. 6.
• Environment: Last Wednesday, 7pm. The next meeting is Nov. 30.

All meetings are at the Como Park Streetcar Station, at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

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Funds sought for three local projects

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Development Roundup
By JANE MCCLURE

The long-awaited redevelopment of the northwest corner of University and Fairview avenues is starting to take shape. Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota is seeking $50,000 in Metropolitan Council funds, to start exploring site conditions. The project was one of three submitted in late October by the City of St. Paul.

Goodwill-Easter Seals has long owned a large parking lot and other commercial properties at the corner, with only one property remaining in private hands. A sale of the Major Tire building is pending, according to a Goodwill-Easter Seals official. The nonprofit already owns other buildings and a parking lot. Recently the non-profit closed a more upscale resale store it operated in a former service station. Before Goodwill bought that property, it was Lee and Dee’s, a popular restaurant.

Long-range plans for the site include denser, mixed-use redevelopment. The properties eyed for redevelopment are south of the Goodwill facility on Charles Ave., which houses a variety of programs and a discount retail store.

Metropolitan Council provides funds for transit-oriented development projects through its Livable Communities Program, which has a demonstration account and a tax base revitalization account. Developers seek the funds through cities. Cities can submit up to three projects per funding cycle.

Goodwill-Easter Seals ranks second of two submissions for site investigation, behind Ain Dah Yung Center request for $28,500. That is for housing development in Frogtown.

A second request, for $40,000 in demonstration account funds, was submitted for the planned Lexington State Apartments on Lexington Pkwy. just southwest of Lexington and University. The funds, if awarded, would cover predevelopment costs.

The Livable Communities request was one of two the city submitted in October for major projects.

Several projects were submitted for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for contamination cleanup and investigation grants, and to the Metropolitan Council for Tax Base Revitalization Account Program. These include requested assistance for redevelopment of the former Lexington Outreach Library site at 1080 University Ave. and for the proposed RiverEast School on N. Kent St.

Lexington Station did just share in an earlier Metropolitan Council grant awards of $5.6 million. The affordable housing development, which is planned to have 243 dwelling units, was awarded $800,000 toward site acquisition.

The proposed 151-unit senior citizen housing complex, Sanctuary on Vandalia, was awarded $1.3 million for site acquisition and pollution cleanup. Iota is one of two developments near the Raymond Ave. light rail station to be funded. The other, Union Flats, received $679,865 for the same purposes. It would include 216 affordable housing units as well as two pocket parks. Both of these developments are on former industrial sites.

Vandalia Tower is for sale
First & First, the Minneapolis developer behind the successful Vandalia Tower redevelopment, is putting that property and 16 others up for sale.

The development company has transformed the former King Koil mattress factory and other old industrial properties into mixed-use developments in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The properties house offices, restaurants, a coffee house and craft breweries. The buildings combined have more than 500,000 square feet of space.

CBRE will be selling the properties. Vandalia Tower is just southeast of the University-Cretin-Vandalia intersection. Other properties are in the Minneapolis North Loop, Whittier and Minneapolis Northeast neighborhoods.

Snelling-Midway planners honored
The St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) was honored with one of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce 2016 Leaders in Local Government Awards. The awards salute made public organizations and individuals for innovation, excellence, and success.

The PED planning division was honored for its planning work on the Snelling-Midway site, its work along Green Line light rail and its planning for former Ford site redevelopment in Highland neighborhood. A Major League Soccer stadium and redeveloped Midway Center are proposed at Snelling and University, on property owned by Metropolitan Council and RK Midway.

Longtime business leader dies
Warren William Larson, a longtime business leader, and advocate in the Midway, died peacefully Oct. 21. He was 90 years old.

Larson, a Minneapolis native, was a U.S. Marine veteran. He was the founder and president of Midway Can Company, later Midway Container. He also served as vice president of the FarmOyl Company. He was active with the Midway Chamber.

He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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Como by the Lake apartments obtains $80 million in funds

Como by the Lake apartments obtains $80 million in funds

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

MONITOR IN A MINUTE
By JANE MCCLURE

Building1The Como by the Lake apartment (file photo right) complex’s elderly and disabled residents worried several months ago that they could lose their homes when the property went up for sale. Purchase by nonprofit housing provider Aeon staved off that possibility, and the property will remain Section 8 housing.

In October the apartments at 901 Como Ave. were the site of Gov. Mark Dayton’s announcement of $80 million in funding for affordable housing projects this year. The funds will support 57 developments and 1,831 housing units across the state. Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Mary Tingerthal said that Minnesota doesn’t have enough housing for its needy. The $80 million is seen as a step in the right direction.

Had legislators passed a bonding bill this spring, Dayton said more funds would have been available.
Since taking over the Como building, Aeon has sought assistance. A bid for city-issued low-income housing tax credits from the city fell short in a close competition with a Summit-University project. From the state, $2.96 million in tax credits is earmarked for the Como by the Lake project itself.

Several other St. Paul projects were also funded.

Como by the Lake has provided affordable housing under the Section 8 program for 30 years. Its longtime owners wanted to sell once that contract was up. The building could have been sold and rented at market rate, displacing many residents, before Aeon stepped in. Aeon bought the building for $8.5 million in January and plans to make needed building improvements.

Liquor stores stay open longer
St. Paul liquor stores can keep their doors open until 10pm Monday through Saturday, as a result of a city ordinance change adopted Oct. 12 by the City Council.

The 8pm weekday Monday through Thursday closing has been one of the earliest in the state. The push for longer hours was championed by craft breweries, which under state law have to cease growler sales when liquor stores close. The new regulations take effect this month.

The change was brought forward by Ward Three Council Member Chris Tolbert. It drew a mixed reaction. Some liquor stores, including some in the Midway area, expressed opposition. Owners contended that the longer hours wouldn’t be profitable enough to cover the added costs. Store owners close to city borders and competitors with longer hours supported the change. That includes stores near the Roseville border.

Supporters said the longer hours are optional. Some plan to start with later Thursday hours and expand from there.

Craft brewers came out in force for the change, saying they lose beverage and food sales when customers cannot fill large bottles, called growlers, and take them home. The brewers can serve beer until 10pm. But the earlier cutoff in growler sales upset customers.

Street maintenance fees face challenge
St. Paul’s street right-of-way maintenance fees face another court challenge, according to attorneys representing property owners throughout the city. Attorneys for property owners faced off with City Council members Oct. 5 at a public hearing on the 2016 charges. The 2016 fees are due this month.
The fight already is due at Ramsey County District Court in December. Downtown churches won a round this summer at the Minnesota Court of Appeals when the court decided the fee functions as a general services tax, and not as an easement for a specific property’s benefit. The appeals court sent the issue back to district court for more review.

The fees, which vary by type of street or alley, increase 2.5 percent in 2016. The vote to approve the fee was 5-2.

The charges generate about $30 million a year, to cover costs of snow plowing, street sweeping, streetlight and sidewalk maintenance, and other related charges. Those arguing against the charges contend they are a tax and not a fee as city officials have contended for more than a decade.

Proponents believe the fees are a more equitable way of spreading the right-of-way costs around, assessing them to nonprofits and government properties.

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Candidates sought for HMC Board of Directors

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

By MELISSA CORTES, Community Organizer

Represent your neighborhood, run for the HMC Board of Directors. Declare your candidacy by Wed., Nov. 30.

Hamline Midway Coalition is seeking candidates for its Board of Directors. Anyone age 16 or older that resides within, owns property within or owns a business that is headquartered and principally operates within the Hamline Midway is eligible to run AND vote in the board elections. If you are interested in working with an informed and engaged group of neighbors to focus on local issues around transportation, development, sustainability and more, consider running for the board.

Anyone interested in running for a seat on the Board of Directors must return a completed application to the Executive Director no later than 5pm on Wed., Nov. 30. To request an application, or for more information about serving on the HMC Board of Directors, please contact Michael Jon Olson at 651-494-7682 or michaeljon@hamlinemidway.org.

Annual Meeting & Open House
This year Hamline Midway neighbors have the opportunity to connect and share their work with the Hamline Midway Coalition at the first Annual Meeting & Open House. This meeting will take place on Tues., Dec. 13, 6-8pm at Hamline University’s East Hall 106.

If you or your organization would like to share a brief summary of the programs held in the Hamline Midway at the Annual Meeting, please contact Melissa Cortes at 651-494-7683 or melissa@hamlinemidway.org.

At this Annual Meeting, HMC will hold in-person voting for its Board of Directors. Full candidate profiles and questionnaires will be posted to the HMC website www.hamlinemidway.org/elections2016 following candidate application deadlines Nov. 30. If you would like to make arrangements for in-person voting outside of those time frames, feel free to contact Michael Jon Olson at 651-494-7682 or michaeljon@hamlinemidway.org.

Midway Holiday Pop-up Shop
Start checking-off your holiday shopping list with gifts that have a Midway twist. This year, it’s easier than ever to shop locally for the holidays. The Midway Holiday Pop-up Shop will be held on Small Business Sat., Nov. 26, at The Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Ave, from 10am-4pm.

You’ll find dozens of local businesses, crafters, artisans, and artists—all from in and around the Midway area—selling a wide range of local goods and gifts for everyone on your shopping list. Santa Clause himself will be showing his support for local businesses, too. He’ll be dropping in between 10:30am and 12:30pm. So, bring the kids to share their wishes, and enjoy live music and carols, holiday baked goods and drinks—all while you support our local businesses, and fill your holiday list with gifts from close to home.

Want to be a sponsor or volunteer of this well attended event? Contact Greg Anderson at 651-967-1181 or gregs_pc_repair@yahoo.com.

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Virtual Reality Arcade opens its first TC location in Vandalia Tower

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Voxel announces the opening of its first Twin Cities location, which offers a high-end, curated experience for a special event or an unforgettable night out. The Voxel team, headed by three Minnesota locals, will hold a public open house on Sat., Nov. 12, from 6pm until midnight at its newly renovated space in Vandalia Tower, 550 Vandalia St., Suite 218. The Grand Opening event will feature a suite of custom hardware solutions and a library of cutting-edge experiences to bring the best of VR to the Twin Cities.

The parlor boasts a captivating, immersive environment in which to explore several different virtual worlds. Each of the three Virtual Reality areas in the parlor can be reserved for private parties, allowing the group to snack, socialize, and spectate as individuals interact with the virtual surroundings. With a newly remodeled space and customized equipment allowing a wide-range of free movement, Voxel offers a fun, mesmerizing group experience that will not be found in most living rooms. Voxel allows the ability to explore the expansiveness of VR without a huge up-front investment from users.

Voxel is committed to evolving with the emerging Virtual Reality technology. They hope to support developers in creating content, make VR accessible to a broad range of people, and ensure that a wide audience can experience VR in its best form.

More information on the Open House and reserving a free 15-minute demo can be found at www.facebook.com/voxelvrp.

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