Archive | NEWS


Seeds for Edmund Edible Alley germinating in Hamline Midway

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

NCFA’s alley garden will be a place neighborhood residents can forage for berries, plums and more

Photos submitted

IMAG0131It may be cold outside, but the seeds for the Edible Edmund Alley are germinating.
The Edible Edmund Alley along Edmund near the intersection of University and Snelling will be a mini-forest garden.

Set in this high-traffic area of St. Paul, the garden will provide a source of free fruit to hundreds of food insecure people living in the neighborhood.

“The Edible Edmund Alley is the perfect synthesis of our garden and foraging programs. It will provide a resource that will demonstrate how to build and maintain a forest garden, teach how to identify and harvest wild foods, and grant free fruits to low-income people,” said North County Food Alliance (NCFA) foraging coordinator Maria Wesserle.

Founded in 2013, NCFA is a non-profit organization based in the Twin Cities that seeks to increase access to food and share food with people in need. Increasing access is accomplished through weekly foodshares, wild food foraging workshops, community gardening, and community meals.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital to a healthy diet,” pointed out Wesserle.

“Unfortunately, a diet rich in fresh produce is more expensive than one high in processed foods, making it cost-prohibitive for many people. Fresh foods (which spoil easily) are also more difficult for food shelves and soup kitchens to carry.

“This is why North Country Food Alliance focuses on providing fresh produce to low-income communities.”

IMAG0672Berries and plums
NCFA has rescued tens of thousands of pounds of overstock food from farms, grocery stores, and distributors and donated it to people in need.

NCFA also builds gardens in urban areas in the Twin Cities. According to Wesserle, the produce from these gardens is donated to organizations that serve low-income people, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food shelves. There are currently gardens in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Richfield.

“So far, these gardens have grown only annual vegetables – things like kale, tomatoes, and beets. However, since the start of the program we have been looking for plots that would be available for long-term projects so that we could grow perennials such as fruit trees,” said Wesserle.

In the winter of last year, a community member (who wishes to remain anonymous) approached NCFA about building a mini-forest garden on a piece of property owned by her and her husband. “After visiting the parcel and meeting with the community member, we at NCFA decided it would be a great project to invest in,” stated Wesserle.

NCFA began fundraising last fall and raised $850 for the project. The organization also hopes to receive a $400 grant from SeedMoney.

The newest garden will be located on 800-square-feet bordering an alley. Before planting commences this spring, unwanted trees such as Siberian elms need to be removed. Once that is complete, workers will amend the soil and plant seedlings.

“We plan on planting native fruit trees and shrubs such as juneberries, wild plums, and aronia berries,” said Wesserle.

Neighborhood benefits
This garden will serve the needs of the community in several ways.

NCFA will provide free educational opportunities for residents to get involved in the process of planting and maintaining fruit trees and perennials.

Donation-based foraging workshops will be offered that explain how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild foods.

The garden creates a location where passersby will be free to pick the edibles.

Plus, fruits will be donated to the Keystone Community Food Shelf based in the neighborhood.

“NCFA makes nearly all of its money from door-to-door canvassing. This is an effective way to let people know what’s happening in the area, and to recruit volunteers,” observed Wesserle. NCFA informs people about activities through social media, email lists, and flyers.

Benefits of foraging
IMAG2892Wesserle doesn’t know of any other foraging forests based in alleyways but pointed out there are several public edible forest gardens throughout the U.S., specifically one in Seattle, WA and one in Asheville, NC. There is also a permaculture plot at the Tiny Diner Farm in south Minneapolis that is privately run for the Tiny Diner restaurant.
What are the benefits of foraging in a city?

“The main benefit is accessibility. You don’t need to own a car or travel long distances to state forests or parks,” said Wesserle. “Most likely there are delicious edibles right outside your doorstep!”

Safety is a substantial concern of Wesserle’s when teaching foraging, be it in an urban or a wild environment.

“Ingesting the soil and dust of contaminated areas is the primary way people are exposed to dangerous chemicals,” she noted. “Reduce the risk of exposure by washing harvested foods, peeling roots, and peeling off the outer layers of leafy foods. Fruits tend to absorb fewer contaminants than leafy vegetables or root crops.”

NCFA typically holds six foraging workshops a year, one each month from May through October.

“The program has grown substantially in the past year, with registration overflowing and people being put on waiting lists,” said Wesserle. “From this, I would say there is a large interest in learning to forage.”

For more information, call 612.568.4585 or email info@northcountryfoodalliance.org.

Comments Off on Seeds for Edmund Edible Alley germinating in Hamline Midway


Black Lives Matter St. Paul makes its mark on local discussions

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Two of its protests were held in the Midway—a Minnesota State Fair demonstration and a light rail shutdown

Article and photos by JAN WILLMS

Black Lives Matter (BLM) began as a hashtag on social media in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement, which has focused primarily on calling attention to Black deaths at the hands of police, has continued to grow with the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in New York City. Branches have arisen in 31 states, as well as internationally, in the past two years. One of those cities is St. Paul.

blmRashad Turner spearheaded the Black Lives Matter chapter in St. Paul. He grew up in the Frogtown area of the city, and he said that he was conscious of Black rights issues and had been doing work regarding those issues. But a trip to Selma, AL last March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday was a momentous event in his life. Black protesters had started to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights in 1965 but were driven back as they approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, badly beaten by state and local lawmen.

“There were 150,000 people in Selma this year, and we got to march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge,” recalled Turner. “For me, the trip was going back to how empowering protesting and demonstrating can be.”

Turner said he went on the journey with one of his best friends, Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP.

“Just able to experience that trip was the best time I have had in my life since my daughter was born,” he said. “It gave me that nudge I needed. I came back here and began talking with some people from Minneapolis, where they already had a BLM chapter. We got some tips on setting up a protest and things like that, and we’re rocking and rolling.”

The group’s first action, according to Turner, was at Summit Church at Summit and Victoria in June 2015. “They have had this event called Love the Police, and it didn’t sit well. We went there, had Black Church, and read off the names of black people killed by the police, unarmed victims, mostly black males.”

Turner said BLM met with Rev. Joe Anderson, the pastor of Summit Church. “We sat down for about an hour, both sides listening to each other, hearing each other out,” he said. “Pastor Anderson was receptive, and they changed that event to Love the Community, which is more inclusive. It was the beginning of what we like to say is our collaborative style here in St. Paul. I think that was an action that showed people that we are going to protest and demonstrate, but also that we are willing to sit down and talk, have that dialogue and try to understand each other.”

“That kicked us off, and then we shut down the fair for a little while. The state fair represents a lot of people who come from areas where they don’t have to deal with these issues. Our intention was to reinvent awareness. In January, Marcus Golden was killed by the police department. We wanted to draw attention to that; it was being swept under the rug. Marcus’ mother was a reserve in the St. Paul Police Department and always works out at the fair. We figured this was a good way to honor him.”

About 500 people showed up that day and marched from Hamline north on Snelling to the Fair gates.

“This was our first big protest, and BLM Minneapolis helped with the structure of it. There were a few hecklers, but it was mostly peaceful,” Turner said.

The organization’s next action was in response to Marcus Abrams, a 17-year–old autistic boy, who was allegedly beaten by Metro Transit Police. “We did Black Rail and shut down the Light Rail. There was a lot of backlash and a lot of racism that showed its ugly head during these times, but we still created awareness,” Turner explained. The transit officer who took down Abrams was let go,

BLM St. Paul next met at the governor’s mansion with Gov. Mark Dayton, who had expressed concern about the appropriateness of the protest at the state fair.

“We wanted to send him a message to let him know we are not going to be discouraged, whether we had his support or not,” Turner noted.

But the protest that drew the biggest backlash was the final action of the summer, the protest at the Twin Cities Marathon.

“We got into these spaces that more people see as sacred than light rail,” Turner said, Messages flooded the group’s Facebook page.

Turner said that a lot of people had to realize with this protest that being allies was a 24-7 position.

“Black Marathon allowed us to take that next step as far as being uncomfortable,” he said. “At the end of the day, we measure what is more inconvenient and what is more important. People who I consider followers of the movement or kept close tabs on me all of a sudden were not sure we should protest there. I remember a conversation I had with someone who said he had been training six years for this marathon. I said there had been a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland who had been training for 5 or 6 grades but didn’t get to make it to the 7th grade. That person I was talking to had an aha moment. A marathon is nowhere close to that little boy losing his life.”

“With the marathon, more people who considered themselves allies of the movement had to look in the mirror. Are they doing this because they regard themselves as allies or because they don’t want to be considered racist?”

In the end, BLM St. Paul did not interfere with the marathon runners but held a meeting with Mayor Chris Coleman.

As to criticism that BLM is harming its cause by trying to disrupt events and inconvenience people, Turner said he thinks that a lot of people have a false narrative when it comes to the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s message has been whitewashed in textbooks,” he stated. “They think he was just all about peace. But when you think of some of the actions and demonstrations they did, Dr. King’s goal was pretty much to uproot racism and white superiority, so he was right in peoples’ faces. During that time, Dr. King was the most hated person in America.”

Turner said that racism and police brutality are not as overt for today’s protesters as things were during the ‘50s and ‘60s when fire hoses were sprayed at people and Billy clubs, canines and horses were used.

“I don’t feel we have to deal with that, so we should be able to have even more courage, based on what our people had to go through back in the day.”

He said it frustrates him that some young people today don’t understand history. “When you hear them saying ‘This isn’t your grandma’s civil rights,’ it’s an obvious indication they are not aware of what the history really was.”

Turner said that division between the elders and young people just slows the movement down. “This movement is strong and going to continue, but we are missing some of the knowledge and wisdom they had back in the civil rights movement,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way from the horses and the fire hoses,” Turner continued, “but we still are not where we should be 50 years after Bloody Sunday. When I went down to Selma back in March, you would have thought based on the buildings and the town it was still 50 years ago and that not one thing had changed in that town. When I talked to local kids down there, they said that Selma’s been the same since the civil rights era. We think about social injustice, but when you think about the economic injustice, it is still very prevalent, even right here. When you look at every disparity, it is the same group at the bottom.”

‘We’d like to think that since we have a Black president, we’ve gotten somewhere but based on how he is treated by these white males in Congress, and people yelling stuff at him, it is just real disrespectful treatment. Even though he was able to organize our country, and the majority of people are not racist, at the highest levels of power you either have people of color who get these positions and are tokenized and don’t do much for their community, or you get people like the president who are trying to do stuff, and they are just undermined at every step of the process.”

In addressing critics who wonder why BLM does not protest Black-on-Black crime, Turner said the national platform of the organization is to fight against police brutality. Although he said the St. Paul chapter is more community-based, addressing Black-on-Black crime, or what Turner calls self-hate crime, is not the group’s main emphasis.

He said that Black-on-Black crime is near and dear to his heart because his father was killed at age 19. “He and another Black guy got into it, and the guy killed him,” he said.
“People know that Black people killing Black people is just as tragic to me as police killing unarmed Black people,” Turner reflected.

As he prepares for a run for House District 65A in the state Legislature, he said he realizes that he is going to be performing a balancing act in some ways, focusing on the goals of BLM but also expanding his concerns to education, cutting down on violence, giving kids more opportunities to have different outlets than just hanging in the streets.

He said he does not consider his position with BLM to be a hindrance in his legislative race He ran for the school board as a write-in candidate and garnered over 1,000 votes.

“Being with BLM definitely helps. It gives people an opportunity to see me in a leadership role,” Turner noted.

He encouraged anyone who might want to join the group or serve as an ally to check out BLM’s Facebook page.

“We’re always looking to build the group, and now’s the time,” he said.

Turner said he thinks the rapid growth of BLM nationwide is primarily due to so many youths being involved.

“They’re the ones with the energy to keep things going,” Turner said. He also attributed the growth to the fact that people are finally starting to wake up and realize something is wrong, and things need to change.

“The awareness created over the past two years has been tremendous, and it has given a lot of people space to use their voice. Once you go to one protest or demonstration and see how peaceful things actually are, you become empowered and want to fight for justice and be a part of the change that’s coming to make this a better society for everybody.”

Comments Off on Black Lives Matter St. Paul makes its mark on local discussions


Community Advisory Committee crams for super-block end game

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin


One month into its work, the Snelling-Midway Community Advisory Committee has bounced around many ideas for a future Major League Soccer stadium and redeveloped Midway Center site. Among the ideas raised are: transit and transportation; how a stadium would be used for events othsuperblocker than soccer games; where green space could be located; and, whether a redeveloped shopping center could accommodate locally owned businesses.
The group is working toward an end-of-March deadline to weigh in with suggestions for the entire 34.5-acre block bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. After several weeks reviewing site plan ideas, the committee hopes to look soon at site plan concepts.

The group meets from 4-6pm the first and third Thursdays at the former American Bank building at Snelling and University avenues. The meetings are open to the public to observe, but public comment is being taken at community open houses and on the city’s Open St. Paul website. See the inset box for notice of an open house on Jan. 26.

Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann urged the committee members to bring forward as many ideas as possible, on all facets of site development. She describes the committee as a filter for all of the ideas the greater community brings forward.

“We’re looking for a lot from this 35-acre site,” she said. The promise of a new soccer stadium and a redeveloped Midway Center is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “But it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to require a lot of conversation with the community.”

The committee is looking at community needs and what is desired for the project, discussing everything from the desires of hardcore soccer fans to neighbors who don’t want the stadium built at all. The committee will review plan concepts and provide input in major themes and design elements. Ideas brought forward by the committee, and the greater community, will be considered.

One master plan will be developed by RK Midway LLC, which owns everything but the former bus barn site (eyed for the soccer stadium). The Minnesota United FC ownership group is working on a site for the stadium itself. Both site plans will have to go to the St. Paul Planning Commission and City Council for final approval. The soccer stadium owners and their architect are working with RK Midway to coordinate the site plans.

Bill McGuire, who leads the soccer ownership group, said the chance to plan a soccer stadium site in conjunction with Midway Center redevelopment is going well. “We’re pleased to say that there have not been conflicting views about what could be done here,” he said. “We think of this as building a neighborhood, and we want to integrate with and be respectful to the surrounding community.”

But McGuire warns that there are time constraints, which is why the community advisory committee needs to wrap up its work in March. Plans call for the stadium groundbreaking in the spring, with team play as soon as 2018. The stadium will hold about 20,000 people. The soccer ownership group is looking for tax breaks from the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, which convenes in March.

Thus far the committee has reviewed current and past plans for the superblock, including land use, transit, traffic, bike access, green space, storm water and transportation.

One issue that has drawn much attention is a way to get people to the stadium and a redeveloped Midway Center. The area is already served by light rail and bus, with bus rapid transit on Snelling starting this year. Transit service in the area is heavily used, with the Snelling light rail station ranking as the fourth busiest at an average 2,200 weekday boardings. Pedestrian and bicycle safety issues are a concern for the committee, in the wake of fatal and serious injury accidents in recent weeks.

Another issue is transportation constraints. The four streets around the site are under state, county and city jurisdiction. Any changes to Snelling or St. Anthony will require Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) approval, said Erik Ludens of the St. Paul Department of Public Works. Snelling is, and will always be, a truck route as a result of the I-35E consent decree from the 1980s.

Snelling carries about 34,000 vehicles per day, down from about 43,000 a decade ago. University, which is a county road, carries about 15,000. That’s down from a high of 22,000 before light rail was built. About 15,000 to 16,000 are on St. Anthony, while about 8,500 are on Pascal. Ludens said that Pascal is nearing the end of its lifespan and may have to be rebuilt soon.

One concern committee members have is safety, not just for pedestrians and bicyclists getting to and from the site, but also regarding crime. Metropolitan Council member Jon Commers said it would be helpful not only to have more statistics but also look at the experience near Lowertown’s CHS Field as well as past experiences near the former Midway Stadium site on Energy Park Drive.

Read more about the planning process and learn about upcoming meetings at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/snelling-site-redevelopment-opportunity.

Comments Off on Community Advisory Committee crams for super-block end game

Hartland slider

Hartland Shoes still going strong

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Celebrating an old business in a new year

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Hartland Shoes 51Welcome, 2016! Out with the old and in with the new! Well, maybe, unless you’re talking about a favorite pair of worn out Birkenstocks, as tried and true as an old friend.
Gene Hartsock estimates that he has handled upwards of a million pairs of shoes in his nearly five decades of repair work. He has been fixing or, more accurately, rebuilding shoes at 591 Hamline Ave. since 1992.

His interest in shoes started early. As a 15-year-old in Iowa City, Hartsock learned to sew leather on an industrial machine. He spent 5 ½ years learning the trade of shoe repair at a local shop. Eventually, Hartsock made his way to Minneapolis, intrigued by the high volume of repair work being done at Dayton’s Department Store. It was, he said, “a beehive of activity.”

All of the major department stores had their own shoe repair back then: Dayton’s, Donaldson’s, Penny’s, and Power’s, but Dayton’s was one foot ahead of the pack.

Hartland Shoes 04When Hartsock opened the doors at his current location in St. Paul, there were 45 shoe repair shops listed in the St. Paul Yellow Pages. That number has since dropped to eight. “Shoppers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and are buying better quality footwear,” Hartsock said, “but there are fewer qualified repair people to fix them.”

A sign in the shop says, “If the shoe fits, repair it,” and regular customers know that this doesn’t happen overnight. Shoe repair, like good cooking, is something that takes patience. Hartsock warns each customer that the expected wait time is between four and eight weeks and that, he said, “doesn’t go over so well with some folks.”

A survivor of two kidney transplants, Hartsock still works long days but said he isn’t as fast as he used to be. At 61, he’s realistic about what he can do—and believes the wait is worth it for customers who want to get the job done right.

Hartsock has established a reputation for himself, not just in the neighborhood but around the world. A believer in “niche creation,” he is widely recognized as an expert in restoring Birkenstock sandals, with boxes of shoes piled up from as far away as Ireland, Australia, and Singapore to prove it. Rebuilding Birkenstock foot beds, replacing broken cork, adding Vibram soles for better traction and durability – Hartsock does it all.

His other specialty market is making orthopedic lifts for all types of shoes, by adding height to the midsole. This modification makes it possible for customers with legs of different lengths to walk comfortably and evenly.

Hartland Shoes 55Hartsock’s reputation as a craftsman has reached even to Hollywood, of all places. For the 1995 filming of Grumpier Old Men (which took place in Minnesota), he was hired to apply non-slip surfaces to the bottoms of more than 60 pairs of shoes. Ann-Margret, Sophia Loren, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, the rest of the cast and even the stunt doubles were reliably sure-footed on location in the snow.

While working for the film industry was novel, Hartsock is grounded in his Hamline-Midway neighborhood. Every October, he offers pink heels in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a percentage of sales going to benefit Region’s Hospital Breast Cancer Research Fund. No stranger to health issues with his ongoing kidney disease, he does what he can to help others.

And he certainly does what he can to promote the longevity of shoes worldwide. Go to the company website at www.hartlandshoes.us for step-by-step instructions on how to properly polish your shoes or boots. The website even offers a do-it-yourself guide to simple shoe repairs like re-gluing separated soles. Hartsock can sell you a handy, retail-sized tube of Barge contact cement to complete the job.

Stop by the shop to choose from a wide selection of leather lotions, shampoos, and balms. There are polishes in many colors, and racks of brushes, laces, heel guards, insoles and cedar shoe trees for optimal storage. The shoemaker said, “I use what I sell, and I sell what I use.”

Hartsock also stocks (or can custom order) Old Friends and Ciabatta’s sheepskin slippers and boots in several styles. They have a friendlier price tag than Uggs, and non-slippery bottoms.

In support of small business sustainability, all orders must be pre-paid. Major credit cards are accepted, and Hartsock gives a 5% discount for payment in cash. Contact him at gene@hartlandshoes.us or 651-646-4326.

It’s 2016. Embrace the new, like Hartland Shoes’ contrasting, colored soles and strident stiletto heels, but don’t forget to honor the old. Weatherproof your footwear often; once a season isn’t enough. Put a dab of black super glue on the tips of your favorite pointy-toed black shoes. And most importantly, plan ahead—bring your shoes and boots in for repair before it’s too late.

Comments Off on Hartland Shoes still going strong

Liquor Law change

City Charter change revises long-standing liquor rules

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Will the changes impact development along the University Green Line light rail corridor?


Will the ability for restaurants to more easily obtain a liquor license attract more dining spots to area neighborhoods? St. Paul city leaders hope so.

Whether a major change in liquor licensing will indeed bring about the desired influx of restaurants along Green Line light rail remains to be seen. But the way was cleared Dec. 16 when the St. Paul City Council unanimously approved a city charter change that lifts the citywide and ward limits on on-sale liquor licenses. The charter change, which takes effect 90 days after council adoption, opens the door for restaurants to serve liquor with food.

Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark has heard from prospective restaurateurs wanting to open along the light rail, and from parties redeveloping old Midway industrial buildings for mixed-use. But many restaurants want the ability to serve a cocktail with a meal, and under the city’s long-standing license cap that couldn’t happen.

Ward Four has 16 licenses under the old cap system, and all but one are spoken for.
With the charter change approved, Stark was able to shelve a proposal for a commercial development district that would have been the largest in city history. But, now that restaurants (that meet specific conditions) can seek on-sale licenses, the district isn’t needed.

St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) Director Ricardo Cervantes and Deputy Director Dan Niziolek said the changes are already being implemented. It will likely be March before restaurants can apply.

Niziolek said the licenses allowed under the charter change will have the same neighborhood notification process as existing on-sale liquor licenses have, with district council review and City Council approval.

The City Council made regulatory changes to ensure that restaurants obtaining on-sale liquor licenses don’t operate as bars and that they make and sell food, Cervantes said. The City Council adopted regulatory changes defining what is, and is not, considered a food preparation area. They also dropped the long-required 60 percent food, 40 percent alcohol ratio now in effect for liquor, beer, and wine license holders. That ratio was skewed by the prices of craft beers, boutique cocktails, and premium wines. The old ratio was replaced by a reference to a “substantial amount” of sales of food versus alcohol. Critics still question how “substantial” will be defined.

The change almost went down the drain when Ward Six Council Member Dan Bostrom expressed skepticism. A charter change requires a unanimous City Council vote. Had it not passed Dec. 16, proponents would have had to take the issue to the voters.

Bostrom had several concerns about loosening the liquor license regulations. One is that restaurants would cluster and have adverse effects on neighboring businesses and residents. Another concern is how the city will monitor the changes, and make sure that restaurants don’t operate as bars.

Bostrom also raised red flags with companion ordinances for the charter change. He noted that a recently adopted companion city ordinance states that restaurants must prove that a “substantial amount” of sales are of food and not liquor. Restaurants that obtain the liquor license must close at midnight, but Bostrom fears some will seek a 2am closing time. Current establishments with 2am closing times are grandfathered in.

But Bostrom said that his concerns were addressed and that he believes there will be adequate enforcement to prevent problems.

The charter change, and other related changes, are seen by supporters as allowing St. Paul to better compete with other cities for businesses, bring liquor regulations more into line with state law and to encourage economic development. Several district councils, business owners and business groups, the city’s Business Review Council, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association all supported the changes. The

St. Paul Charter Commission recommended approval of the charter change in November.
The charter change and related regulatory changes have met little opposition. The advocacy group St. Paul STRONG raised questions about what it saw as not enough public input and an overly-aggressive approval process.

Comments Off on City Charter change revises long-standing liquor rules

YMCA 01 slider

New Midway YMCA to open in new year

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
YMCA 01Construction is nearing completion on the new St. Paul Midway YMCA. The state-of-the-art facility, 1761 University Ave. W., is scheduled to open the first week of January, with the exception of the pool area that be completed later in the month. A grand opening celebration is being planned for early February.

The new building is the design of Lawal Scott Erickson Architects, a Twin Cities-based firm with significant experience designing community and wellness centers. They’ve replaced the existing 63-year-old building with a sparkling new version of the Midway YMCA.

YMCA 03PHOTO LEFT: Greg Diedrich can look forward to a larger area for strength training in the new building, with brand new equipment all around.

Members will be able to access the YMCA from two points of entry: the ample parking lot behind the facility, and the front doors on University Ave.

The new Aquatics Center will have a 25-meter pool with lanes for lap swimming, as well as a water slide, therapeutic vortex pool and a “lazy river” where swimmers can walk against the current to improve leg strength and body balance. There’ll be a sauna and whirlpool for relaxing on the pool deck, with natural light and outdoor views.

The Kids Stuff childcare area will be three times the size of the old space, with access to a fenced outdoor playground.

The community gathering space boasts lots of windows and will be available for gatherings of all sizes. The adjacent Healthy Living Demonstration Kitchen will be dedicated to healthy cooking (and eating) from countries around the world. Cooking classes will be held to demonstrate ways to prevent obesity and diabetes, among other things.

YMCA 02PHOTO LEFT: Angie Walker worked out in the cardio area of the temporary space at 1000 University Ave., which will remain open until the day before the new building opens.

Of the two new fitness studios, the larger one will have an operational garage-style door that can open to let fresh air in or the whole class out for exercise—weather permitting.

Another versatile space is something called the Flex Gym, a gymnasium that can be made smaller or larger by re-configuring movable, sound-proof walls. Executive Director David Dominick said, “We’ll be able to host a full basketball game, have seniors play pickleball and conduct a board meeting all at the same time.” A walking path will surround the Flex Gym, providing safe footing for serious walkers all year-long.

A roof-top patio will be usable in the warm months for yoga and fitness classes in the mornings and early evenings. In the afternoons, that space will be available for socializing.

”I grew up at the Midway YMCA,” said Cathy Quinlivan, Director of Healthy Living, “became a lifeguard and a swim instructor, and I’ve been here ever since. I ‘get’ how concerned people are about this new facility, I ‘get’ how much it matters to them. We have a strong core of members, many of whom have been here for decades. With the many improvements we’ve built into our new facility, we’ll be able to create even more programs relevant to our changing community—for all ages, ethnicities, and abilities.”

Senior Director of Communications Joan Schimmel added, “The YMCA is known as ‘America’s Swim Teacher.’ We take that role seriously and after being without a pool for this last year of construction, we can’t wait to get back to it. We’re here to help everyone’s fitness improve, and we’re thrilled to have such a great new space to do that work in.”

Construction of the YMCA has been carefully monitored, and not just by contractors and inspectors with a professional interest. Several members of the Active Older Adults program have regularly met for lunch at Wendy’s restaurant across the street, keeping an eye on its progress month by month.

It’s that kind of dedication that makes the Midway YMCA special. Watch the website for details of when the doors will open—a day which both new and returning members can look forward to.

Comments Off on New Midway YMCA to open in new year

Homelessness 01

Helping homeless teens in St. Paul

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative builds strong community partnerships

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
St. Paul, like every other major city, has a problem with teen and young adult homelessness. According to recent Amherst H. Wilder Foundation research, 4,000 young Minnesotans are homeless across the state on any given night. That number is thought to be conservative, as many young people are living outside the shelter system, couch surfing, for example, due to the shortage of housing and services for homeless youth.

According to Paris Yarbrough, Homeless Liaison with High School for Recording Arts near Lexington and University avenues, ”Homeless and highly mobile youth are a unique population who don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile. You won’t find them panhandling or sleeping outside. They’re hard to see, almost invisible. But 30-40% of our students meet the definition of chronic homelessness, which is that they’ve experienced at least one year of continuous homelessness or four episodes of any length within the past three years.”

Homelessness 01PHOTO RIGHT: Paris Yarbrough, Homeless Liaison with High School for Recording Arts, welcomes donations for homeless and highly mobile students. The school is located near Lexington and University avenues, and 30-40% of its students are without a permanent home at any given time. To make a donation of nonperishable food items or warm clothing, contact her at pyargrough@mnic.org.

“There are a lot of kids in this city, not just Minneapolis, who need help,” Yarbrough continued. “St. Paul has had limited housing options for homeless and highly mobile youth in the past, but that’s going to change soon.”

A short bus ride west on University Ave. from the High School for Recording Arts is a development project under construction called Prior Crossing, located at the intersection of Prior and University avenues. When completed next summer, Prior Crossing will offer 44 studio apartments to homeless youth and young adults in Ramsey County. It won’t be a homeless shelter, and it won’t be transitional housing, which is usually time-limited. It will be a place where homeless youth (ages 18-21 at move-in time) can live indefinitely—a place they can call home.

Youth may be homeless for many reasons such as parent incarceration, falling through the cracks in the county foster care system, choosing to leave home because of unsafe conditions, addiction, tough economics or unchecked mental health issues—their own or their parents’.

The driving force behind Prior Crossing is Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, located just a mile or so west of Prior Crossing at 2610 University Ave.

Beacon is engaged with more than 70 congregations, all committed to ending homelessness in the Twin Cities. They employ a large staff, including two full-time congregational organizers who work within faith communities transforming faith into action. Prior Crossing was jump-started by one such congregation: House of Hope Presbyterian Church in the Summit-University neighborhood, who gave $500,000 to get the Prior Crossing project rolling.

The Met Council since contributed $925,000, the City of St. Paul more than $1,000,000, and the State of Minnesota more than $8,000,000 for Prior Crossing. Various philanthropic gifts from foundations and individuals all testify to this community’s desire to address the problem of homeless youth living on the streets of St. Paul.

Beacon shines brightly for many reasons. According to staffer Kris Berggren, Beacon “works with congregations and funders across the metro area to build a strong base of support. We construct high-quality housing that lasts, and we offer supportive services that are highly effective.”

At Prior Crossing, Beacon’s partner in providing supportive services will be the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. “The Wilder staff is experienced at working with issues homeless youth face,” Berggren explained, “starting with the trauma of living on their own at such a young age. In addition to emotional support, tenants can choose to receive guidance around education, health care, employment, money management and other essential life skills. While there’ll be no requirement to participate in on-site services, the goal of Prior Crossing will be to build a supportive community of tenants, peers and staff. We want our young people to thrive, not just survive.”

Homelessness 02PHOTO LEFT: Kris Berggren of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative said, “Youth experiencing homelessness ride buses and trains a lot. They ride for warmth, and sometimes for shelter, when nothing else is available overnight.”

If it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, it’s going to take the whole city to address youth homelessness in St. Paul. The organizations spotlighted here are all a short distance apart: an easy drive, bus or train ride, even an enterprising walk from one to the other—yet in many ways, they are worlds apart.

The partnership that Beacon has built in developing Prior Crossing will do much to bridge the gap. It’s time to give these young people, whom Homeless Liaison Paris Yarbrough described as “hard to see,” something they can see: safe, affordable housing in a community that cares.

Comments Off on Helping homeless teens in St. Paul

READ IMG_2334 slider

R.E.A.D. offers students arts, engineering, and design training

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

After-school and summer programs help kids build skills in areas they’re interested while keeping them off the streets

R.E.A.D. After School and Summer Youth Development Center and the JL Griffis School is the newest addition to the youth programs housed at 655 S. Fairview.

Founder Jerry Griffis is excited about how the organizations will be able to network together.
The after school youth center is one of six community-oriented businesses located in the former Banta Corp. paper warehouse that is owned by Living Word Church.

“My goal is to partner with some of my building-mates to make that facility one of the premiere after school and summer learning facilities for the kids in St. Paul,” said Griffis.

A safe place
Griffis started R.E.A.D. four years ago and serves as its executive director.

“After a tragedy in my life I saw a need to start an out of school program, one that would keep youth safe and would give them hope,” explained Griffis.

The 24 x 24 square foot performing arts stage in the center is named after his late son Detrick Devon Griffis, a victim of teenage suicide.

“That really put the fire under me to do things for kids,” explained Griffis.

Not all kids will be hockey, basketball or baseball players, he pointed out. Instead, they may find their passion in art.

R.E.A.D. stands for Robotic, Engineering, Arts & Design, and the programs there reflect a range of interests.

“I realized that kids have more time out of school than in school,” explained Griffis. “I wanted to provide a safe place for them to be encouraged—and maybe they will realize that our programs can lead them on a career path.”

He knows what kids are going through
For the past 22 years, Griffis worked in the automotive industry, the only Afro-American service manager for GM in the Twin Cities. He manages the White Bear Lake Superstore Service Department.

The only child of a single mom in the city, Griffis knows what it is like when a single parent who works two jobs doesn’t have much time to spend with a child. Griffis didn’t get out to hunt or fish like kids in the country might. And he didn’t do that as an adult either. Instead, he spent his time honing photography, videography, and audio engineering skills. He has begun several magazines, including I Am Magazine for the gospel music industry and Silence the Violence. In 1989, he built a studio and has since been the executive producer of seven records.

He has taken these various interests and combined them into an organization that gives kids not just something to do in their free time, but also skills they can use in careers.
“I know what they’re going through,” explained Griffis. “So I wanted to provide a safe place for kids.”

The mission at R.E.A.D is to challenge the community of learners to reach global standards through unique and engaging experiences and opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment.

When a child says, “‘Thank you, Mr. Griffis, I really learned a lot,’ that’s something that touches your heart,” remarked Griffis.

Programs expanding
In 2011, R.E.A.D. began operating in three rooms at the Urban League of Minneapolis. They turned rooms that were being used for storage in space for the arts, with a recording studio in one room, videography and photography in another, and audio engineering in the third.

READ IMG_2334PHOTO LEFT: Sixth to eighth grade students from St. Peter Clever School at Lexington and I94 are thrilled to get a completion certificate and Target gift card after a semester attending R.E.A.D. programs. (Photo submitted)

When Urban League needed the rooms back last year, R.E.A.D. went mobile and began operating its programs at its partner schools, which include Urban League Academy (grades 6-12), Friendship Academy Charter School (grades 6-8), and St. Peter Clever School (grades 6-8).

Now that it has found a 3,000-square-foot home at 655 S. Fairview, R.E.A.D. it is once again operating out of its own location. And with the increase in space, it can expand its programs.
Through R.E.A.D., students discover interests and talents, as well as a strong desire to achieve something higher than themselves and greater than the violence of the streets.

“We want them to find purpose, cultivate change and develop leadership,” said Griffis.

A large performing arts stage may be used for theater, choreography, dance and more. Griffis’ hope is that students learn not only to express themselves, but the solid speaking skills and the confidence to be in front of an audience. There are also two studios, one for post production and one with 24-channels.

Griffis pointed out that the Studio 158A classroom music education system takes a new approach to music education. The blended learning model merges the best music education pedagogy, a proprietary curriculum, and distance learning technology.

“Unlike customary classroom education programs that focus on band, orchestra, and chorus, Studio 158A embraces non-traditional instruments and distributive technology,” said Griffis.

They pull in a wide audience of teachers, students, and parents with a passion for playing music individually and in groups.

“Our curriculum integrates professional development to empower music educators to master the latest concepts and methods in the teaching of music,” he added.

An office equipped with a heat press will enable students to learn entrepreneurial skills and start their own business making greeting cards, t-shirts, hoodies and more.

Automotive and aviation training offered
JL Griffis Twin Cities School also offers automotive and aviation training. Classes begin at the 655 S. Fairview location and then move to a building on County Road D in Maplewood.
The 12-week automotive detailing training program teaches auto service, detailing, and customer service.

Griffis pointed out that there is a shortage of automotive technicians as many of the current workers retire. “They make a good living, earning $55-$70,000 a year. These are jobs you can get with no college degree. You need to read, type and listen,” said Griffis.

“These are things I don’t think a lot of our community knows about, and I want to introduce them to.”

Fishing and golf tournaments
READ IMG_2332R.E.A.D. hosts two events annually, a fishing tournament the Saturday before Father’s Day, and a golf tournament in August. The events pull in various sponsors who get to mentor kids for a day.

PHOTO RIGHT: In 2015, R.E.A.D. hosted its first Father’s Day Fishing Tournament the Saturday before Father’s Day. It’s an meaningful event for R.E.A.D. founder Jerry Griffis (center, back row), who grew up without a father to celebrate with on Father’s Day. He’s glad to be a part of making memories for other kids without fathers. (Photo submitted)

The fishing tournament is especially close to Griffis’ heart. His father died when he was seven, so Griffis doesn’t have his own father’s day memories. He’s glad to help create those for other kids without fathers. Last year he manned the barbecue grill. “It was just a wonderful time,” said Griffis.

He is also excited to assist with Toys for Tots this year, and will help distribute toys to families they come in contact with.
Learn more at http://jlgtcs.org.

Comments Off on R.E.A.D. offers students arts, engineering, and design training


Building a ready and resilient neighborhood

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

What are the challenges to building resilience?
How can you increase readiness and resilience in your community?
How do people connect in the neighborhood?
How can we increase trust and communication face to face with neighbors?

Midway residents brainstormed answers to these questions and more at three community workshops held in October and November—the beginning of the Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway movement. The main purpose of the meetings was to better prepare the community for events of extreme weather like ice storms and heat waves. However, the overall mission expanded to strengthen connections between neighbors in Hamline Midway.

IMG_4831PHOTO LEFT: Neighbors brainstorm how to make Midway more Ready and Resilient in Snelling Cafe on Tue., Nov. 17. (Photo by Maria Herd)

“They’re really discussion-lead,” said Kyle Mianulli, the Director of Community and Engagement at the Hamline Midway Coalition. “We want to be able to learn from the from the elders in our community who might have experienced moments of adversity in their lives, and use their experiences to form a blueprint for similar situations in the future.”

Last May, five members of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group attended a day-long climate change resilience training put on by Macalester College at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The goal of the workshop was to empower St. Paul communities to be prepared for extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency in the face of climate change. Attendees had the opportunity to apply for a neighborhood grant, and Midway was awarded $1,500.

The need for community
At the training, a news clip covering the heat wave of 1995 was shown to the audience. The extreme weather event resulted in over 700 heat-related deaths in Chicago over a span of five days. The majority of victims were poor, elderly residents that lived alone.

IMG_4801PHOTO RIGHT: Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator Julie Hellwich’s example of an emergency tool kit that she had on display at each workshop. (Photo by Maria Herd)

“A lot of people died in their homes because no one knew that they weren’t okay, and that video is what inspired us to try to connect more with the community,” said Ande Quercus, a four year resident of Hamline Midway.

Through discussions at the Ready and Resilient workshops, attendees began developing the language for a buddy system to implement throughout the neighborhood. Someone will be assigned to check in on an elderly or vulnerable person on their block during an emergency.

The purpose is that when disaster strikes, “instead of spreading out multi-directionally and connecting with everybody, you know that you’re supposed to connect with this one person to make sure they’re okay and tend to immediate needs they might have,” said Mianulli.

The elderly is not the only sector of the population that Ready and Resilient Midway hopes to both learn from and assist in emergencies. Immigrants and single mothers in the neighborhood may require special assistance during disasters as well.

“When we talk about immigrants or elderly people we think of vulnerability, but they’re also very rich assets,” said Julie Hellwich, Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator. “We can learn from immigrants who come here if the pathways of communication are sensitive, and the is trust there.”

IMG_4813PHOTO LEFT: Neighbors discuss their concerns and suggestions to be better prepared in emergency situations at the third workshop in Snelling Cafe on Nov. 17. (Photo by Maria Herd)

At one workshop, attendees participated in a role play in which everyone was given a character to act out in the event of an emergency. For example, Mianulli was a single mother with three children whose native language is not English, and a big storm had cut off the power. He had to come up with what that person’s immediate needs would be, what resources are available to tap into and what kinds of community resources would be helpful.

“We realized that everyone has vulnerabilities and that we all need to be prepared,” said Lucy Hunt, President of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group and one of the grant writers for Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway.

How do we communicate when technology breaks
Additionally, finding a means of communication if there is no mobile or internet connection available is an unanswered question that was discussed at more than one workshop.
“I worry that in an emergency if the cell phone network went down, people would just be paralyzed and not know what to do,” said Quercus.

Mianulli noted the effect technology has had on personal relationships in neighborhoods.
“It’s an interesting dynamic that has risen in the past couple of decades,” he said. “As people get more and more plugged in and more and more connected—we are more connected than we ever have been before—but at the same time people have turned internally and are less likely to know their neighbors or be familiar with them on a personal basis.”

A continuing role for neighborhood block clubs
One portion of the grant is helping revitalize the Hamline Midway Block Club program. There are currently 25-30 active block clubs in Hamline Midway. Organizers decide the geographic parameters and level of activity, which can range from an annual block party to monthly potlucks.

IMG_4837PHOTO RIGHT: Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator Julie Hellwich presents attendees’ thoughts on the challenges to building resilience in the neighborhood.  (Photo by Maria Herd)

“It was interesting hearing about how some people in the community have tried to set up block clubs, but there has not been interest on their block,” said Quercus. “How do you be a part of an involved community when no one else around wants to be in that with you?”
Ready and Resilient attendees collaborated ideas to further connect with neighbors, and revitalizing the block clubs will hopefully build stronger bonds throughout the Midway.

Mianulli plans to include the buddy system in the latest edition of the block club manual, which includes community and city resources, contact numbers, flyer templates and information on how to start and organize a block club.

“How we better connect the block clubs and organize people is a big part of this discussion because you’re most likely to know and go to your immediate neighbors in the case of an emergency,” Mianulli said.

Hellwich, a 15 year resident of the Midway, has formed close friendships with the neighbors on her block through monthly potlucks. At one workshop, she shared an emergency situation in which she was grateful to have those connections.

Her teenage daughter was home alone when an intruder broke into their home. Hellwich instructed her daughter to call 911 and then immediately called her neighbors, whose numbers were already programmed into her cell phone. The neighbors came over, and her daughter was able to find safety in the home of a close friend.

“It wasn’t just someone that she had waved at, it was someone that she knew, she had many meals with, it was a family person, and that was a great comfort to me,” said Hellwich.

Block clubs are not the only way Hamline Midway neighbors stay connected. Representatives from the Hamline Midway Elders, Hamline Midway Health Movement and African Economic Development Solutions were all present at the final workshop in Snelling Cafe.

“It’s interesting that we have so many things going on in the neighborhood, all of these groups and events. Now we have this group, and I don’t think I’ve met any of you before,” said Margaret Schuster at the third workshop. “The more that we have the opportunities to meet each other, it enriches our neighborhood.”

Surveying Hamline Midway to compile a community resource list is another possible solution to be more ready and resilient. This list could include physical items such as generators to provide electricity during a power outage or skill sets such as fluency in another language or emergency medical training.

This list would be so that people “know exactly where to go in the event of an emergency, and not have to get on Facebook assuming that it’s working, or search high and low for someone with a certain medical background,” explained Mianulli.

The next steps
But the next official steps for the Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway movement are still to be decided.

“One of the big questions the organizing group has asked as we move forward is how do we continue this momentum and turn these conversations and workshops into something tangible for the community,” said Mianulli.

However, Ready and Resilient attendees appeared passionate about carrying over this energy into the new year after the grant period is over.

If you’re interested in becoming more involved with Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway or a block club, contact Kyle Mianulli at kyle@hamlinemidway.org.

Comments Off on Building a ready and resilient neighborhood

University Ave. parking revisited with eye toward one-lane traffic

University Ave. parking revisited with eye toward one-lane traffic

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

Traffic on University down 25-55% from what was expected post construction

June2014_AsTheGreenLine_featReturning a total of 451 on-street parking spaces to Univerity Ave. during evening hours could help businesses that lost parking during Green Line light rail construction. Or, would it simply create more free “park and ride” opportunities for those riding light rail to other destinations? As a “Parking Possibilities” study neared a Dec. 4 (after the Monitor deadline) St. Paul Planning Commission vote for its release and public comment period, the proposal, and the study, it’s based on, faces questions.

The St. Paul Planning Commission Transportation Committee voted Nov. 16 to release the study, which recommends bringing back on-street parking in four major commercial and mixed use areas between 6pm and 2am. Parking would be free and wouldn’t have time limits posted. Existing parking meters, which are already in several locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, would remain in place.

The full Planning Commission will host a public hearing on the proposal Fri., Jan. 8, with a City Council public hearing on Wed., Feb. 17.

The Ramsey County Board will also weigh in as University Ave. is a county road. Minneapolis City Council and Hennepin County Board would also vote on the proposal as it impacts Minneapolis.

The cost of restoring on-street parking (to install signage) is estimated at $79,375. The proposal that would be implemented next year if it wins City Council and Ramsey County Board approvals, would restore on-street parking daily in four areas: Minneapolis’s Washington Ave. to St. Paul Hampden Ave., Prior Ave. to Aldine St., Syndicate St. to Grotto Ave., and Mackubin St. to Rice St. Those areas were chosen from a larger study from Park St. in St. Paul to 23rd Ave. in Minneapolis. Reinstating on-street parking would reduce those areas to one lane in each direction.

The Union Park District Council (UPDC) Land Use Committee also discussed the study Nov. 16. The committee will review the study before the Planning Commission public hearing and take a position then. Midway Chamber of Commerce and other district councils along the Green Line area are also reviewing the study but haven’t taken positions yet.

Nancy Homans, senior policy advisor to Mayor Chris Coleman, said that when the light rail was built, about 975 spaces or 85 percent of on-street parking along the route went away. That sparked outrage among business owners as well as nearby residents who feared to have commercial parking pushed into their neighborhoods.

The loss of parking was a flash point in the community before and during light rail construction. Business owners were infuriated that University Ave. only retained about 175 on-street parking spots. It didn’t help that when the light rail route was chosen, some elected officials promised that little or no parking would be lost.

Homans said the city responded by helping businesses fund off-street parking improvements. “But working with Metropolitan Council, we also agreed that once light rail was up and running and traffic patterns settled, we would look at returning parking to University Ave. if we could.” Light rail began operations in summer 2014.

In 2014 Metropolitan Council/Metro Transit, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Hennepin and Ramsey County officials and staff formed technical and policy advisory committees to look at whether parking could be restored to parts of University Ave. The committees included public works, fire and police officials, as well as planning and economic development staff from both cities. The study was completed in May 2015 and includes surveys, traffic counts and scrutiny of University Ave. in its current configuration.

The study faced more questions at UPDC than at the Planning Commission committee, although both groups raised the issue of the planned soccer stadium at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues. UPDC Land Use Committee Chairperson Katie Jarvi questioned reducing University to one lane when people are coming for soccer games and other stadium events. “I really don’t want University down to one lane with those events going on,” she said.

Planning Commissioner Chris Ochs said the city should look at converting largely underutilized spaces for parking, until more redevelopment occurs. He said the stadium developers need to be counted on to provide their own parking.

Rob Vanasek, who lives in the Iris Park neighborhood by the Green Line, said his neighbors are more concerned about Green Line commuter park and ride and area employees parking in the neighborhood. Iris Park is discussing residential permit parking. “People would have less of a problem with allowing parking on University during the evening,” he said.

Another concern raised is whether restoring parking to University would force more traffic onto east-west neighborhood streets.

“Traffic has not returned to the University Ave. corridor in the volume it was pre-light rail construction,” said Chris Ferguson. He is a Stadium Village business owner, Midway Chamber Board member and engineer who has been involved in the parking studies.

When light rail came in, and parking was lost, some predicted many businesses would close. Others said many more businesses would flock in. Neither trend has borne out all along University, although Ferguson said he has seen more business closings in Stadium Village.

“It’s difficult to run a business without on-street parking,” he said. Ferguson has heard from businesses that want on-street parking back. Evening parking would help, especially for restaurants.

St. Paul City Engineer John Maczko said, in some cases, businesses have had trouble getting loans because they have lost on-street parking. That is seen as affecting business viability. In other cases, new mixed-use developments have not been able to lure retail tenants.
In fall 2014 64 businesses and 1,196 residents completed studies on the parking issue.

Seventy percent of business and 71 percent of residential respondents said they would prefer University Ave. with two travel lanes and limited on-street parking. More than 70 percent of survey respondents said they preferred University Ave. to remain two lanes in each direction, though many respondents also expressed interest in seeing on-street parking put back in place at some times.

About 30 percent of business respondents said the loss of on-street parking had negatively affected their businesses. About half of business respondents said increased or slower travel times on University would also hurt their businesses.

Homans said the main concern about restoring parking during the day was that it would reduce University to one lane in each direction and cause traffic congestion. Fire and police officials opposed that move for safety reasons.

“Restoring parking all day would have too much of a negative impact,” said Ferguson. Parking also couldn’t be restored in areas with light rail station platforms, pedestrian crossings and the two St. Paul fire stations along the Green Line.

University’s traffic volumes drop dramatically around 6 to 6:30pm, which is why the committees recommend restoring parking only in the evening and early morning hours. It’s not clear where all of that traffic went, although the study notes that motorists who found alternative routes may have stuck to those routes after light rail construction wrapped up.

The study found that post-light rail construction traffic volumes on University Ave. and cross streets were 25 to 55 percent less than expected. Traffic volumes on University have dropped by as much as 30 to 85 percent, depending on the area and the time of day. Volumes haven’t returned to pre-construction 2008 and 2009 levels.

Transportation Committee member and St. Paul Smart Trips Executive Director Jessica Treat questioned how restoring parking would impact long-term goals of providing an east-west bicycle line between Aldine St. and Transfer Rd. Some cyclists want to see more done on University to accommodate bikes, but it’s not clear how restoring parking would affect that goal.

Ferguson said the bike issues have to be looked at, as do any potential impacts on truck traffic. Other issues raised by the Transportation Committee and UPDC Committee members include pedestrian safety and sight lines with more parking along the street, and whether businesses would want to see time limits. Maczko said there’s concern that posting different time limits would cause confusion.

The parking studies generated an 18-page report, as well as 88 pages of analysis of the fall 2014 survey. The studies can be seen at parkingpossibilitiesmsp.com.

Comments Off on University Ave. parking revisited with eye toward one-lane traffic

Little Brothers 2-tile Online Ad

Nilles-Filler Combo Online ad