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Feat9_14TurfClub1

Turf Club rides again

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

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This horse mural behind the stage at the Turf Club was rediscovered after being hidden behind a curtain for decades. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

By JILL BOOGREN

The Turf Club, St. Paul’s legendary music venue, got back in the saddle again when it reopened Aug. 28 to a sold out show with Erik Koskinen, Frankie Lee, and Dead Man Winter on the bill.

The crowd was upbeat, some people happy with their place at the bar, but most roaming to check out the new digs. A few ducked into the photo booth. One t-shirt summed it up: “Turf Club. Established 1945. Reborn 2014.”

Koskinen — in a polka-dotted shirt, cowboy hat and scarf — and bandmates kicked off the night with a friendly vibe and a country groove, keeping the club true to its roots.

“Hi everybody…welcome to the Turf Club,” he called to loud applause.

The club had been closed for renovation by First Avenue, who took ownership of the establishment last fall. When they took the reins, First Avenue promised to invest significantly in improvements to the venue while keeping the charm of the club. No doubt the keenest regulars will notice the changes, but how about everybody else?

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The crowd starts gathering at the Turf Club for reopening night. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

“I’m interested to see if the casual customer can actually pinpoint some of the stuff we’ve done,” said General Manager Nate Kranz before the opening. “Which was sort of our goal.”

Renovations involved a lot of not-so-sexy behind-the-scenes stuff: renovating up to code; installing new plumbing, a new sprinkler system, and new lighting; and upgrading equipment — what Kranz called a whole lot of “audio-nerdery” — to improve sound throughout the venue.

Drop ceilings were removed, raising the ceiling two feet and making the space feel a lot roomier. The art deco pieces still run along each side.

Really noticeable is the mural on the back stage wall of race horses that had been hidden for decades behind a curtain.

“That was pretty cool,” said Kranz. They discovered it the day they got the keys and began inspecting the site for needed cleaning and repairs. “Behind that old curtain was a horse mural of horses racing right at you. Right away we realized that’s super cool and that curtain wasn’t going back up.”

Bathrooms have also been spruced up—they’re a little bit bigger and are now handicap accessible. And, you can’t miss the Turf Club mosaics. The Clown Lounge is still downstairs, complete with vintage jukebox, new furniture, and Clown Lounge-inspired art.

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Erik Koskinen performs for a sold out show at the Turf Club’s reopening. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

There’s also a new kitchen, which replaced an old one that had fallen out of use. Plans were to begin food service the week after opening with a menu of southern American comfort food — red beans ‘n’ rice, grits, crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese, and tacos — as well as burgers, cheese curds, and other popular fare from First Avenue’s adjacent eatery, The Depot Tavern in Minneapolis. Kranz hopes to build up a really good brunch service for the neighborhood.

In all, they’ve nearly quadrupled the number of people on staff, a hiring process Kranz said was as “easy as it gets.”

“[We had] a lot of really good people that seemed excited about the Turf Club opening,” he said. “I’m excited for the concert, but almost more excited to get fully open for the neighborhood.”

The Turf Club (1601 University Ave.) will be open 11am-2am, Mon.-Fri. and 10am-2am Sat.-Sun. The Clown Lounge will be open at 5pm daily. The Club is located at the Snelling Ave. station along the Green Line. Off-street parking is also available on the north side of the building off Sherburne Ave. You can find more information and schedule at at http://turfclub.net.

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Feat9_14BlackBear1

Black Bear Crossings settles with city

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

Legal settlement is 3rd largest in the history of the City of St. Paul

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David Glass (left), co-owner of Black Bear Crossings with his wife Pamela Glass, is pictured with a customer during happier times for the eatery. They will receive a settlement of $800,000 to end the threat of further legal action against the City of St. Paul.

By JANE MCCLURE

A legal dispute with Black Bear Crossings has resulted in the City of St. Paul’s third-largest legal settlement in history. The St. Paul City Council voted 5-1 Aug. 27 to approve the $800,000 settlement. Ward Six Council Member Dan Bostrom voted against the settlement and called on Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm to resign.

Last year Hahm announced the city would end Black Bear Crossings lease for space in the Como Park Pavilion. That sparked as legal fight between the city and restaurant owner-operators David and Pamela Glass. The Glasses recently won a lawsuit against the city for breach of contract. The approved settlement avoids a related legal action in which the couple was to seek damages. It also limits what can be said publicly about the dispute.

Bostrom also expressed unhappiness that Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen was absent for the council vote. She was away on city business, on a trip to Copenhagen. Brendmoen had approached David Glass in spring 2013 and suggested that Black Bear partner with the Sea Salt eatery, which operates at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis.

She also raised questions about whether Black Bear was meeting its public purpose in operating at Como. The restaurant owners contend that they had operated at Como for 13 years, and had earned kudos from the city in the past.

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The court found that the city caused “irreparable harm” to Black Bear’s business, and that finding was a prime consideration in the settlement agreement. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Brendmoen and Hahm are in a relationship, which Bostrom also raised. He said Brendmoen should be present to vote on the settlement, saying she and Hahm got the city involved in the Black Bear litigation.
Bostrom called the entire situation “totally unacceptable. “We’re the ones sitting around this table who had absolutely nothing to do with this $800,000 settlement,” he said. “And the folks that got us into that aren’t even here.”

Other council members expressed unhappiness about the settlement, but voted for it rather than face additional litigation on the basis of defamation. Ward Three Council Member Chris Tolbert said he finds the settlement frustrating, and suggested that city staff get more education on working with contracts. He noted that the judge, in its ruling in favor of Black Bear Crossings, criticized the city’s handling of the matter,

In a statement on her Facebook page, Brendmoen said, “Dear Constituents, The terms of this settlement include an agreement limiting what can be said to the media about the basis for the settlement decision. Unfortunately, voting to settle with Black Bear Crossings was determined by the city attorney’s office to be in the best interest of the City of St. Paul, which is why the majority my colleagues took that very difficult vote—a vote I would have taken as well, if I were not traveling on city business.” She went on to note the request for proposals for a new operator and praised the potential for the pavilion to serve the community.

City officials have pointed out that Black Bear made about $250,000 last year. That’s less than Minneapolis parks operators make. They also criticized the business for not providing complete records. But the Black Bear operators countered by saying that city officials failed to say what type of improvements were needed. They also alleged breach of a 2009 lease. And, the court agreed with Black Bear.

Black Bear Crossings opted to not renew the lease and is closing at the end of December. The city recently released requests for proposal for a new operator.

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Feat9_14FarmersMarket1

Rise and Shine

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

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Jeff Adelman, also known as the Herb Man, sums up his farming life by saying, “It goes like this. I work hard for seven months, get paid for three, and make it stretch for twelve. But I love it.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

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Jerry Xiong, vegetable farmer, shows off a sampling of his wares on a recent outing to the Farmers’ Market. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Brandon Jordan, whose family runs Jordan’s Ranch in Woodbury, has been up since 2:15am loading their delivery truck and helping set up the produce stall his grandparents started three generations ago. The St. Paul Farmers’ Market opens at 6am on Saturdays (8am on Sundays) May thru November. Shoppers may think this is early but for the 150 vendors who are ready to do business, a lot has already been done by the time the market opens.

Market manager Jack Gerten has been coming to work on Saturdays at 3:30am for 18 years. One of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market’s two full-time employees, he oversees all 19 market locations in the City of St. Paul and knows each of the vendors who operates a stall. “There are many things that make our downtown location special,” says Gerten. “Everything sold here has been grown or made less than 60 miles away. That’s local.” He continues, “Lots of folks think we sell only vegetables. We do have wonderful vegetables but also a full variety of meats, cheeses, salsa, maple syrup, handmade quilts, flowers, egg rolls and too many other things to describe.”

STORIES OLD AND NEW

The St. Paul Farmers’ Market has been at its current location, at the intersection of 5th St. and Wall St., since 1982. But, the market has had a continuous presence in downtown St. Paul since 1853, operating out of several different locations. If you do the math, that’s 161 years. Back then you would have arrived at the market on dirt streets by horse or your own two feet. You would have heard steamboats blowing their whistles on the Mississippi River.

Times have changed! Consider taking the light rail (Union Depot Station is less than 2 blocks from the market), the bus, riding your bike through the relatively quiet streets of Lowertown or, if you drive, look for parking on the south side of the market where it’s less crowded.

Half the fun of going to a farmers’ market is seeing where things come from; the other half is meeting the growers and hearing their stories.

Jeff Adelman, also known as the Herb Man, sums up his farming life by saying, “It goes like this. I work hard for seven months, get paid for three, and make it stretch for twelve. But I love it.” Adelman has both familiar and not so familiar-looking vegetables at his stand. When asked about the West Indian gherkins, purple Calabash tomatoes and plump white eggplants, he begins a well-informed discussion on the value of heirloom seeds. “These three varieties,” he explains, “are identical to those grown by Thomas Jefferson before he was president of the United States.”

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Mary Falk is a licensed cheese maker and co-owner of Lovetree Farmstead Cheese. She sells organic cheese at the Market. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Mary Falk, a licensed cheese maker since 1996, is wearing a bright pink t-shirt that says “Got mold.” She unwraps her four varieties of soft goat cheese carefully. They are cabbage-sized, coated with different herbs and inspired by the flavors of Wisconsin’s north woods. Mary and her husband Dave co-own Lovetree Farmstead Cheese in Trade Lake (near Grantsburg), where they keep six milk cows, a dozen goats and about 100 sheep. They farm organically on 130 acres, and have set their remaining 70 acres aside as a wildlife preserve. They age their cheeses slowly and lovingly there, in a cave overlooking a pond. While all this sounds idyllic, it’s clear Mary is a no-nonsense, hard-working farmer with a rock-solid vision of farming and living sustainably. And she makes terrific cheeses…

When asked if he has a favorite apple, Greg Novak of Novak Orchards in Woodbury says, “Every apple at the peak of its season is my favorite.” He had five varieties of summer apples on sale in late August: Zestar, Redfree, Paula Red, Green Pie and, of course, State Fair. The larger selection of fall apples will start coming in early September. Novak uses sustainable farming methods, including Integrated Pest Management (where good bugs eat bad bugs), to grow apples on the farm his parents started in 1951. Novak began coming to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market to sell apples as a boy; now he works side by side with his wife. He loved apples then, and he loves them still.

MTC is offering FREE METRO TRANSIT PASSES ONLINE to and from the downtown St. Paul Farmers’ Market on Sun., Sept. 21, from 5am-2pm. It is a great way to check out the market and relax without having to worry about parking or traffic! Hop on the bus or the light rail and head on over. Go to http://www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com and click on the prominently displayed box… answer two questions, and the pass is yours.

There is so much to look at and to taste at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market: savory herbs, buttery cheeses and crisp apples. There is also music to enjoy if you head over to the corner of 4th St. and Broadway, where piper Tom Klein comes each weekend, he says, “To practice in public.” He plays Celtic music on his Irish bagpipes, with a French tune thrown in now and then, maybe even a little Gershwin. Klein always brings his dog Opal with him, a friendly beagle-dachshund with an ear for good music.

MARKET TIPS

When planning your visit to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, there are a few things to remember.

Dogs are not allowed to enter the market. Like Opal, they can only be on the perimeter, so it’s best to leave them at home.

Factor in a little extra time for parking; check the website for the “loading zone” if you think you’ll have a lot to carry. Bring a nice big bag to carry your purchases home in.

WIC and EBT cards are welcome. Some vendors may not accept credit cards, so don’t forget your cash.

Although the regular market will close in late November, the winter market will continue from December thru April for those of you who just prefer to shop outdoors.

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Feat9_14ComoBusAssoc1

Como Business Network

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

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The Como Business Network started in 2013 and meets quarterly to connect business owners/operators with each other for information and support.

By JAN WILLMS

One of the biggest challenges for businesses in Como Park is that there is no downtown area and no business district.

This has made it difficult for area merchants to connect and try to speak with one voice or exchange ideas, according to Ted Blank, District 10 Como Community Council’s administrator and coordinator.

But with the advent of Como Business Network, businesses both large and small are finding an opportunity to connect.

“We started meeting last year on a quarterly basis,” Blank explained. “We meet for breakfast at different venues, and it’s kind of like a mini-neighborhood Chamber of Commerce.”

The number of people attending varies from 15 to 30, and represents both large neighborhood businesses as well as home-based businesses. “We have a lot of realtors, too,” Blank added.

He said any business, either located in Como Park, or serving the Como Park neighborhood, is welcome.

Meetings so far have been held at Black Bear Crossings, Lyngblomsten Care Center and the Como Park Grill.

“The quarterly breakfast on Fridays seems to work well,” Blank said. “It’s hard for the smaller business owners to get away and meet more often.”

He said the group has talked about a variety of initiatives so far, such as a neighborhood guide and business directory and business participation in community events.

“We have discussed the aging population boom and what impact it will have on businesses,” he noted. “And we have also talked about what can make Como an attractive place for businesses.”

He said District 10 has provided volunteer staff and support for the organization.

“We have mutual concerns, but these conversations don’t happen on their own.”

Shannon Parker,
President Como Business Network

“This has been a new experience for District 10,” Blank said. “Business owners sometimes have different perspectives on things, and District Councils were designed to represent both neighborhoods and businesses, so we are keeping with our mission.”

Shannon Parker, the manager of Corporate Engagement for Lyngblomsten, is serving as the president of Como Business Network.

“It’s interesting how things come about through conversations in the community,” she said. “I was meeting with Ted and our director about the Lyngblomsten mid-summer festival, and we started talking about the Como Business Network. That conversation led to other opportunities, and Lyngblomsten agreed to be part of this organization with me as volunteer chair.”

She said that since the care center is a major employer in the area, the staff felt a responsibility to bring neighborhood businesses together for conversation and support.

“The purpose of the Como Business Network is to provide an opportunity for business people to network and build relationships and get to know who their business neighbors are. A lot of strength comes from that,” Parker said.

“A lot of times we go to work and sit within our four walls,” she continued. “This lets us open doors and ask how are we similar? How are we different? How do we align on things? It is a way to build support in the Como neighborhood.”

She said the meetings offer a chance for merchants to share ideas in a comfortable format.

Feat9_14ComoBusAssoc2“At our July meeting, we had a discussion on what businesses are looking for. It was so interesting,” Parker said. “We have mutual concerns, but these conversations don’t happen on their own.”

“For me, it has been a really nice chance to meet with others in the community where our paths have not crossed,” Parker added. “We can find different ways to support one another in the Como neighborhood.”

This support is also important to Steve Finnegan, owner of Como Park Grill, who hosted the July Como Business Network.

“I am hoping this will bring more information to the residents of Como Park,” he said, “and communicate how many businesses there are in the neighborhood.”

He said he finds it helpful to talk with other business owners, learn about challenges they may have and how they have overcome them.

“We all deal with the City of Saint Paul, which needs to be more business friendly,” he said.

He sees the organization as an outlet in which businesses in the area can be more vocal and strengthen their voices when working with issues addressed by the City Council.

“Como is a great neighborhood,” he affirmed. “We have a lot to offer: the zoo, the parks and the fairgrounds.”

He hopes to see more businesses drawn to the area.

The next meeting of the Como Business Network will be Friday, Oct. 24 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center, 1480 N. Snelling Ave.

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Feat9_14UrbanGrowler1

Urban Growler Brewing Company celebrates grand opening

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

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Urban Growler owners Jill Pavlak, left, and Deb Loch hoist the giant scissors used to cut the ribbon at their Grand Opening in August. This is one of the latest additions to the “Creative Enterprise Zone” in St. Paul. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

By JILL BOOGREN

Urban Growler Brewing Company was the toast of the town Aug. 27 as hundreds gathered for the grand opening of St. Anthony Park’s hoppin’ new brewery. Seats at the picnic tables in the beer garden filled in quickly as owners Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak took to the microphone alongside Mayor Chris Coleman and 4th Ward Councilmember Russ Stark to welcome guests.

“I never thought it would be this big and this much fun. I can’t even believe it,” said Loch, the head brewer.

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A flight of beer. Six beers were on tap for the Grand Opening Aug. 27. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

“We’re very, very happy to be here today. We’ve envisioned this day for six years, so Cheers!” said Pavlak, clinking Loch’s glass.

Stark said the place was “amazing” and called it a great new asset for St. Anthony Park and a great thing for St. Paul. Coleman said Loch and Pavlak having the foresight to build their brewery in the “center of the beer district in the Twin Cities” was fortuitous. He said starting a business is tough, and going from concept to pint is a long journey. Then he offered a toast.

“To a journey well worth taking and to many, many journeys ahead, and many good friendships to be built,” he said to raised pint glasses. “Congratulations, and much success.”

They had been serving beer for a month already, but when they sliced the ribbon with a giant pair of red scissors it was official: their brewery was open for business.

The mood was merry at this little community get together south of the tracks. Neighbors and friends chatted and listened to music by Moonlight Duo and other musicians. People sampled flights of beer and snacked on Chef Paul Suhreptz’s signature pork carnitas (with pork marinated in Urban Growler’s Smoked Chipotle Porter) and other tasty treats.

Parents brought their kids, the littlest ones nestled in slings and perched on laps. People cheered on Charlie Boone, of the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, as he carefully pulled one piece of the 2×4 wooden blocks at a time and moved it to the top of the stack in a giant game of Jenga.

Jay Schrader of St. Anthony Park welcomed having another place in the neighborhood.

“I think it’s great as a community gathering spot,” he said. He thought all the beers he tried were interesting and different enough to want to try more. “The journey’s part of the fun… figuring out what you like best.”

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Urban Growler Brewing Company on the inside. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

It would appear that plenty of others were enjoying the same journey, as two of the beers — the Graffiti IPA, a rye beer, and the Amber Skyline — tapped out in the first couple of hours. Other beers on tap were: CowBell Cream Ale; De-Lovely Porter; City Day Ale (styled after a Kentucky common beer); and a Plow to Pint™ Rhubarb Wit.

Their Plow to Pint™ series brings the ingredients and stories of small farmers and community gardens into Urban Growler’s beer; 120 pounds of rhubarb came from the Xiong family, whom Loch and Pavlak met at the Lowertown Farmers’ Market.

Bringing people together was central to their mission in founding a brewery six years ago. They wanted to move beyond what Pavlak called a very divisive presidential campaign and a very divisive marriage amendment for gays and lesbians. They wanted to stop the negativity.

“No matter what, we want a place where people can come together and celebrate our differences and learn that we’re all in this together…. We all want the same thing: Love from friends, love from family, and a place where you can just be yourself,” said Pavlak. “We want everyone to be comfortable here. The whole point is to bring people together with beer.”

If Loch and Pavlak are building community, they’re also fostering community within their physical building, a gorgeous brick structure which Pavlak said used to be a stable where they kept City of St. Paul police horses in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Now it houses True Stone Coffee Roasters, who provide Urban Growler’s coffee, and Deneen Pottery, who crafted their mugs.

Inside the brewery, the old brick walls, sleek bar, and shiny fermenters blend past with present in a simple elegance. Artist A.K. Dayton’s photos of Pillsbury’s Best Flour, Fitger’s, and other buildings, pay tribute to Minnesota’s milling and brewing industries.

Because they don’t serve anyone else’s alcohol or beer, Urban Growler can package and distribute theirs, in addition to running a taproom and serving food. For now beer is only available in their taproom and in Growlers, but it will soon be on tap in select bars and restaurants, and bottling will follow.

Loch, who brings with her extensive home-brewing experience and a fair number of awards, brews in 10-barrel batches, with an occasional specialty beer in a five-gallon cask.

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The beer garden at Urban Growler Brewing Company. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

Next up is a Plow to Pint™ Blueberry Wheat that uses 150 pounds of blueberries harvested from Blue Acres Farm near Clearwater, MN. And Urban Growler is pairing up with General Mills to create a Monster beer based on their cereal ingredients.

“HA! Count Chocula Stout,” joked Schrader. Or maybe it’ll be a Boo Berry. Stay tuned!

Urban Growler’s Taproom Hours are Tues.-Thurs. 4-9pm; Fri. 3-10pm; Sat. 12noon-10pm; Sun. 12noon-8pm. They’re located at 2325 Endicott St., five blocks north of University Ave. from the Raymond Ave. LRT station. Parking is also available. For more information look online at www.urbangrowlerbrewing.com.

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Feat9_14HamlinePlaza1

Hamline Park Plaza being reinvented again

Posted on 11 September 2014 by robwas66

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The office building and parking ramp at 570 Asbury St. has seen many changes in just 30 years.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Do you remember the Samaritan Hospital at 1515 Charles Place? Or — going further back — the Northern Pacific Hospital?

The land the hospital and office building sat on has seen many changes over the years, and today it is being reinvented once again.

BUILT TO CARE FOR RAILROAD EMPLOYEES

The hospital was built as the Northern Pacific Hospital in 1919 at an estimated cost of $315,000. It was one of seven hospitals that the Northern Pacific Beneficial Association created for the purpose of caring for railroad employees.

In 1968, part of the building was removed, and a new front entrance and addition on the west side were added.

Three years late, the building became Samaritan Hospital.

An office building, originally known as Physicians Plaza, was constructed in 1984 along with the parking ramp—one of only a few in the area. It served as a medical office building for Samaritan Hospital.

The hospital was purchased by Health East, and was closed, in 1987 when Midway Hospital was opened, pointed out Allison Klis of Simplified Management, who has managed the office building for the past 15 years. The hospital was demolished and new townhomes were constructed in cooperation with Common Bond.

Physicians Plaza (now known as Hamline Park Plaza) at 570 Asbury St. was purchased in 1990 by Justin Properties, Inc., a real estate developer. The office building was updated and renovated to accommodate a general office use, rather than medical use. Hamline University School of Business’ administrative offices were in the building until early this year.

During a recent foreclosure process, the property was placed under the care of Colliers International, a company that served as receiver prior to the new ownership.

Today, the office building and private park (which was once a sculpture park) is owned by a group of local individual investors, led by Todd Geller with Victory Capital. Several of the core investors were classmates in the University of Wisconsin real estate program, including Todd Geller and Eric Dueholm.

GREEN IMPROVEMENTS

According to Geller, there is a lot to be excited about Hamline Park Plaza.

“The property is in great condition, and we have purchased it at a price point that will allow us to make some of the upgrades our current tenants have told us are important,” Geller stated.

These include an updated lobby, improved security and exterior lighting, as well as a larger conference facility available for use by the tenants.

Making green improvements is a priority for the owners. The most significant green improvement being done now is the lighting retrofit. “The new LED lighting will provide a much higher lighting level and will be substantially more energy efficient than the current lights,” noted Dueholm, Colliers Corporate Services Vice President who is LEED accredited and the leasing agent for the office building. He believes that the property would be an excellent candidate for LEED certification, and it is something they plan to investigate in the future.

LINK TO MEDICAL FIELD REMAINS

There are currently 17 office tenants in the 37,642-square-foot, 3-level office building, and many are linked to the medical field once again. “We have a number of therapists and chiropractors, as well as several non-profit groups,” said Dueholm. “It is a particularly good building for medical uses that do well in convenient, non-hospital campus locations (therapists, chiropractors, dentists, pain management, physical therapy, etc.)”

He added, “We have a vacant space at the entrance of the building that would be a great fit for a clinic group.” The building has about 10,000 square feet that is currently unoccupied.

There is a large parking ramp on site that offers more than enough parking for the office uses there. Parking is so ample, in fact, that several floors have been devoted to secure storage since 1994. Options include year-round or seasonal, heated and unheated, and underground or open air (more at www.hamlineparkstorage.com).

“It serves as a convenient location for local residents to store cars, especially during the winter when parking is tight,” said Klis. “We have customers that store collector cars. Some have been there since 1994.”

“Our biggest challenge is getting companies and individuals to know that we are located in the neighborhood,” said Geller. Because they are one block east of Snelling, he thinks that many people don’t know the property exists.

“We are excited to be taking on ownership of this property at a time when the mass transit situation in the neighborhood is blossoming,” stated Geller. “Not only are we 3 short blocks from the Snelling station of the Green Line, but we are only 1 block from Snelling, which will soon be the first Rapid Bus Transit corridor in the metro area.”

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Feat8_14UndergroundMusic3

The pole had to go… and a Kickstart helped

Posted on 13 August 2014 by robwas66

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Capt. Mike & The Totems perform onstage recently at the Underground Music Café, and the pole is now just a memory. (Photo by Jan Willms)

By JAN WILLMS

When Tim Cheesebrow and his parents, Dennis and Bonnie, took over the coffee shop at 1539 Hamline in February, they took things slowly.

The business had been operated as Coffee Grounds for the past 20 years, with a small stage for music performances. And on that stage was a pole that had been in the way of musicians for a long time. However, it held up the ceiling and it would not be a simple matter to remove it.

So when the Cheesebrows started their coffee shop, known as the Underground Music Café, they knew that at some point the pole must go.

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The pole in the center of this photo had been in the way of musicians for a long time and had to go. The Underground Music Café developed a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its removal. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“We just kind of walked in and took the place over as is,” Tim Cheesebrow acknowledged. “We wanted to get to know people and let them get to know us, get the pulse of the community before we made any changes.”

“We did a lot of listening,” he continued, “and asked questions to discern what the community wanted. After that, we closed for about a week for renovations. We gutted the whole place and put it back together.” But the pole remained.

The Cheesebrows tweaked the menu.

“People really wanted breakfast,” Cheesebrow said. “There used to be only doughnuts, and they said they wished we had something more substantial. So we said sure.” And a breakfast menu was added.

When many people, who came in the afternoon for meetings or work, said they would like to stay and work all day if there were food for lunch, the Underground Music Café added a deli menu. In the evenings, for music listeners, desserts and wine were put on the menu. They hope to incorporate craft beers next.

Cheesebrow, who with his family also owns and operates Musicworks Minnesota, a program that emphasizes songwriting education, offers live music at the Underground Music Café several nights a week.

Cheesebrow has a music composition degree and a studio art degree from St. John’s University. He plays mostly guitar and does vocals, but said he can play a variety of instruments. “Everything except piano,” he joked.

Tim Cheesebrow stands in front of the Underground Music Café, where live music is played on an almost nightly basis. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Tim Cheesebrow stands in front of the Underground Music Café, where live music is played on an almost nightly basis. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Cheesebrow showcases local performers: folk, classical composers, country and new age music. Bluegrass, old time and big band tunes are played. Dan Newton, an accordion player, provides Cajun, French Bistro and Honky Tonk music.

Musicworks Minnesota has joined forces with several schools to teach songwriting. Cheesebrow teaches three songwriting classes at Moundsview. Once the students have written songs, they bring them in to Essential Sessions Studio, located in the basement of the coffee shop, and have them recorded.

Brad Matala, who operates the studio, talked Cheesebrow into buying the coffee shop.

“Brad records all our classes, and he gives nice recording deals to people who have helped out Musicworks,” Cheesebrow stated. “He’s a real solid guy.”

Musicworks Minnesota is in its fourth year. The program just completed its second year of a blues camp, with 30 kids in attendance. The camp is supported by MacPhail Center for Music.

“The kids played in ensembles all day,” Cheesebrow explained. “They played with big name local blues guys and got a real good education on what the gigging life is like. A lot of work, and it doesn’t pay much.”

Cheesebrow said Musicworks Minnesota is relatively new, but stabilizing quickly.

“We’re out of the initial growth phase and into the establishing growth phase,” he said.

Cheesebrow said that songwriting education is something that no one is doing elsewhere. He has been asked to set up branches in Ohio and Nashville.

“I told them to let me tackle St. Paul first,” he smiled.

And part of tackling St. Paul meant dealing with the conspicuous pole on the stage that all the performers had to maneuver around. Cheesebrow and his family finally decided the time had come to get rid of the pole.

They began a Kickstarter fundraising campaign online in June to renovate the stage, remove the pole and put in a new sound system. They raised $16,500 in 30 days.

One hundred eighty-seven people participated, and the whole project is just weeks away from being completed.

Cheesebrow said the Kickstarter crowd funding project creates ownership for participants. “You can’t get any better PR than that,” he noted.

He said it is an example of all the people who are customers at the Underground Music Café, or are performers there helping, coming together as a community.

“The community support has been overwhelming,” he said. Putting together a Kickstarter campaign is also overwhelming. Cheesebrow said it takes 40 hours a week for two months to run a successful Kickstarter.

“But the whole thing is totally worth it,” he said.

Combining a love of music and fine food is what the Cheesebrows emphasize with the Underground Music Café.

“Eat well, do good and make music is our motto,” Cheesebrow emphasized. “We like to eat and serve good food, and music education is important. It is also important to do some good in the world, and playing music is a natural extension of that.”

 

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Feat8_14AFSA

Agriculture charter school in the heart of the city?

Posted on 13 August 2014 by robwas66

Feat8_14AFSA

Becky Meyer, Academy for Science and Agriculture (AFSA) High School Director, explains what will make the AFSA Middle School different: small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and community engagement. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

 

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

A new charter school is moving to the Monitor delivery area: the Academy for Science and Agriculture (AFSA). The middle school will occupy the former Church of the Holy Childhood parochial school located in Como at 1435 Midway Pkwy. The incoming fifth, sixth and seventh graders will come from more than 20 school districts throughout the metro area when the doors open on Tues., Sept. 2.

Why are students preparing for work as farmers in the middle of a major metropolitan area? They’re not!

At the AFSA middle school, and the AFSA high school which has existed in Vadnais Heights since 2001, students are preparing for careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.

There are over 300 career choices in agriculture, which add up to nearly 20% of all the jobs in this country. Careers in agriculture include food science, plant science, environmental science, animal science and engineering.

WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?

If you aren’t familiar with charter schools, you might wonder how this all works.

Charter schools fill a niche between public and private schools. Charters are funded with public money and are an alternative to traditional public schools. A group of people can submit an application to the Minnesota Department of Education and get approval for a charter to run their own school.

Charters are usually initially given three to five years to demonstrate academic achievement, during which the new school is monitored for academic performance.

In 1991, Minnesota led the nation in passing legislation to create the first charter school. There are now more than 150 charter schools operating throughout our state.

WHAT MAKES AFSA DIFFERENT?

Becky Meyer has been director of the AFSA High School for the past 13 years. Describing the school philosophy, Meyer says, “We are preparing life-long learners who have high skill levels, care for others, and are prepared to thrive in their jobs and in their communities.”

Toward that end, they do some things differently at AFSA. The class sizes are small (a maximum of 25 students per class is expected at the new middle school), the curriculum is more rigorous than what state standards require, and community engagement is a core value.

Each year AFSA students create an original science project and, as part of the academic requirement, present it before a panel of three judges and the broader community. They explore scientific inquiry, critical thinking, and the process of presentation and public speaking.

This type of integrated learning encourages development of the whole child, and challenges students to sharpen not just their knowledge of science but also their artistic and social skills.

Meyer described a former student who was so shy during her first year at AFSA that she could barely introduce her science project. By the time she graduated, she had become president of the student leadership club and was chairing all-school meetings and assemblies.

One of the school mottos is “A place where students can fit in and stand out.” Because of the small class size, college preparatory curriculum and hands-on approach to learning, each student is given a real chance at achieving their own personal potential.

Three public presentations are required of students each year, as are 12 hours of community service related to agriculture and the environment.

Activities for students at AFSA Middle School will include student council, robotics club, choir, band, National Honor Society, Destination Imagination, cooking club, yearbook, drama, art, gaming club and cooperative athletic teams.

If you are interested in learning more about AFSA Middle School, please contact the incoming director John Gawarecki by email at jgawarecki@afsahighschool.com or telephone at 651-209-3910. Becky Meyer, long-time director of the high school, can be reached by email at bmeyer@afsahighschool.com or telephone 651-209-3915.

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