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Met Council and MnDOT raise questions about Soccer Stadium traffic

Met Council and MnDOT raise questions about Soccer Stadium traffic

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

Concerns about transit and transportation system capacities when Minnesota United FC starts playing at its planned Midway Soccer Stadium are among the issues raised in a study of potential project impacts, which was to be ratified Aug. 9 as the Monitor went to press. Metropolitan Council and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) are among those asking whether city officials and consultants are being realistic about potential transit use and street and highway capacity on game days.

The comments were among those made in response to an Areawide Urban Alternatives Review (AUAR) for the Major League Soccer stadium and Midway Center redevelopment.

The AUAR is a study process used to determine all types of environmental issues that could be created by new development, and to suggest measures needed to mitigate those impacts.

On June 20 St. Paul city officials released the final AUAR, supporting documentation, public comments, and comment response. The AUAR itself is 105 pages long. The supporting documents, comments, and responses filled 469 pages.
“As the responsible governmental unit overseeing this review, the city values the input received from community members and agencies, and we have incorporated changes where appropriate,” said Planning and Economic Development (PED) Director Jonathan Sage-Martinson. “We are confident that this final document provides the thorough framework to identify and address any potential impacts of proposed development on this site, providing a clear path forward for redevelopment.”

City officials were set to ratify the document Aug. 9, if there are no state or federal agency objections. It is to be updated every five years, as the soccer stadium and adjacent Midway Center are redeveloped.

During a 30-day comment period that ended July 6, city officials heard from five state and regional agencies, six organizations and 23 individuals. Many commenters weighed in on multiple topics including traffic, transit use, spillover parking, noise, air pollution, and site cleanup due to past contamination. City staff and consultants working on the AUAR considered almost 60 comments to be substantive. Those comments were then used to add to or expand upon information in the AUAR.

The documents state that responses are generally confined to “substantive issues that address the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in the draft analysis, potential impacts that may warrant further analysis, further information that may be required in order to secure permits for specific projects in the future, and mitigation measures or procedures necessary to prevent significant environmental impacts within the area when actual development occurs.”

Questions centered on transit and transportation system impacts on soccer game days. Metropolitan Council questioned the assumption used to determine “mode split” for travel to the site, or how it was determined the number of people who would drive, take transit or shuttle buses, walk or bike. “

soccer illus 1Photo left: The most recent site plan shows how little parking is actually planned in the first phase of the superblock project. Although the city and the league are making contingency plans for shuttle buses and the use of mass transit, those plans have been called into question. (Illustration provided)

Those assumptions appear to be tilted heavily to make the case that few if any roadway improvements are needed from this massive traffic generator,” the council letter stated. The regional government also said transportation analysis should look at the overlap of transportation modes of auto access, pedestrian access, and transit access, instead of studying the issues separately.

Red flags were raised about the high percentage of shuttle bus and transit service usage estimated, as Metropolitan Council stated, “Additional potential capacity on the Green Line does not automatically translate to usage.”

City officials responded that they made conservative assumptions, given the lack of off-street parking on and near the site, and indicated they believe traffic, transit use, and parking can be “effectively managed.” The AUAR does recommend a more detailed transportation management plan be developed.

Metropolitan Council also noted that weekend evening game transit riders would be competing with regular transit users. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) also raised concerns about scheduling of games, which could affect air pollution levels. City staff replied that weekday game times are expected to be either 7 or 7:30pm, with most vehicles arriving after afternoon rush hour. The response also stated that the other weekday events held at the stadium wouldn’t attract as much traffic. Concerts are not expected to held at the stadium.

MnDOT commented on I-94, Snelling and Concordia avenues’ capacity and indicated it would ask for further reviews as the stadium and shopping center redevelopment moves forward. One issue MnDOT raised is that of having as many as 150 shuttle buses per hour descending on the proposed stadium drop-off on Concordia Ave.

Yet another concern raised repeatedly was that of space for light rail and bus patrons to queue as they enter and exit transit vehicles. That is among issues being studied by Metro Transit, according to the AUAR.

Many of the area residents who commented are worried about spillover parking in adjacent neighborhoods. One answer the city had to those comments was that residents can seek residential permit parking districts. However, the St. Paul Department of Public Works is studying changes to the permit district regulations.

It’s not clear yet how those regulations could change. At least one permit request has been put on hold until the new regulations are adopted.

Lexington-Hamline Community Council was among the groups raising questions about spillover parking in adjacent neighborhoods. The council pointed out that using Concordia University as an example of available off-street parking may not be realistic, as much of the university’s parking is in use much of the time.

Noise was also a concern, with some neighbors raising concerns about fireworks after soccer games. The AUAR states that use of fireworks is being considered by Minnesota United. Noise impacts were studied in a one-mile radius of the stadium site.

Other comments centered on historic issues, from Minnesota Historical Society and the state archaeological office. A search of the Minnesota Historic Society Historic Resources Inventory revealed that no structures or ruins in the AUAR area or its proximity are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). However, some properties in and around the AUAR area are eligible for review for the NRHP due to their age and contribution to the commercial corridor along University Ave. These structures were identified in an earlier environmental review for the Green Line LRT. Within the AUAR area, three structures are the former Midway National Bank (American Bank) at 1578 University Ave. W. and Midway Shopping Center West Building (Big Top Liquor) at 1460 University Ave. W. But the AUAR and state officials note that while the building is older and predates the rest of the shopping center, its extensive alterations have removed historic features.

No archaeological sites in or around the AUAR area were identified as part of the inventory search, but state officials are interested in seeing if there are archaeological features on the former bus barn site or beneath the shopping center.
The revised AUAR and all other documents are available at stpaul.gov/SnellingMidwayAUAR.

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CLS slider

Central Lutheran School is building up STEAM

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Central Lutheran School (CLS) has been around for a long time. While they’ve been in their current location at 775 Lexington Ave. since 1951, the school had its origins 120 years ago—started by German immigrants who sought to build a school before they built a church.

These days, the school is serving children from many different cultures. According to head administrator Elizabeth Wegner, “Our student body is more diverse than the Hamline Midway neighborhood it sits in. We have students from Ethiopia, Eritrea,  as well as from families who have been anchored in St. Paul for generations.”

“CLS doesn’t follow the usual parochial school model of one church – one school,” Wegner explained. “We’re the product of an association between four neighborhood churches: St. Stephanus, Jehovah Lutheran, Emmaus Lutheran and Bethel Lutheran.”

CLS 04Photo left: Elizabeth Wegner in the café-gymna-chapel-atorium. She said, “While CLS offers a Christ-centered learning environment, we have students from many denominations and plenty of kids whose parents don’t go to church at all.”

The school is switching to a new curriculum this year grounded in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). Wegner, along with board member Kerri Miesen, expressed their commitment to the curriculum change and said they have the staff to make it succeed. “Our staff is experienced, energetic and unified as a team,” Miesen reflected. “We believe we have a real service to offer to the community.”

CLS serves a wider than usual age range: T-8, with “T” standing for toddler. As of Aug. 1, their newly licensed Toddler Room will be available for children ages 16-36 months. The Toddler Room will be staffed with two teachers, taking up to 14 children at a time.

There are two levels of preschool at CLS: one for three-year-olds and one for four-year-olds. Kindergarten is a stand-alone grade; grades 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 are combined classes. Wegner said, “If enrollment in any of the combined classes exceeds 25, the grades will be split.”

CLS 18Photo left: The newly-licensed Toddler Room will open its doors on Aug. 1. The idea for having a Toddler Room came out of conversations with parents of older students.

Wegner, who also serves as the school music director, has been with CLS for 18 years. In that time, she has seen a lot of changes in education. “We’re a small school with big opportunities in academics, as well as extra-curricular activities,” she said. “We’re proud of our new STEAM curriculum, a variety of sports, visual arts, and instrumental and vocal music offerings .”

She continued, “More than 85% of our students are involved in music ensemble of some sort. Opportunities beyond general music start in 2nd grade with Orff Ensemble, a method of music instruction that combines singing, dancing, acting and use of percussion instruments. Junior chorus and orchestra are available in 3rd grade, with band being added in 4th grade. The upper grades can participate in orchestra, band, concert choir, hand bells, and/or hand chimes.”

Wegner estimated that K-8 registration will hover around 95 students this year.

“The crash of 2008 really took a hit on our enrollment numbers,” she said. “We’d like to see those numbers rise to 140-150 students again. All students are welcome here, and we try hard to make tuition affordable for every student whose family wants them to attend.”

CLS is currently offering a $500 reduction in tuition for newly enrolled students. Additional scholarships are available through the school’s Jayson Fund for grades K-8, and through www.thinksmall.org for preschool students. For more information or to schedule a tour of the school, contact Elizabeth Wegner at ewegner@clssp.org.

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$33,000 awarded for historic survey of Hamline Midway

$33,000 awarded for historic survey of Hamline Midway

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

A long-awaited historic survey of the Hamline Midway neighborhood has obtained needed funding from the Minnesota Historical Society. The St. Paul City Council in July accepted the funding of $33,000 through two grants. The money will be used to complete a cultural resources study.

The study was sought for many months by neighborhood residents, preservation advocates, and members of the group Historic Hamline Village. Advocates in recent years have butted heads with Hamline University over the demolition of university-owned houses, off and on-campus, including the White House.

The White House, which was located on the Hamline campus, was the longtime home of the university president.

Neighbors have also criticized the university for tearing down other homes, including older homes that have long ties to the community and university’s growth and development. One sticking point has been the lack of a current master plan for Hamline University redevelopment and growth. The fight over the demolitions led to the formation of a joint university-community group.

1549 Minnehaha 2Photo left: The house at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. dates from 1888 and was home to Prof. W.D. Walcott. He chaired the Hamline University philosophy and psychology department. Demolition was halted in 2014 after the neighborhood raised red flags about its possible destruction. (File photo)

Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes the area to be studied, said he is pleased that the study dollars are available. “This should give us current information on the historic resources in the neighborhood and help us discuss next steps,” he said.

A timeline for the study isn’t known. One wrinkle is that the neighborhood district council, Hamline Midway Coalition, is operating at limited capacity this summer due to a lack of staff. Stark said he expects that the district council will have involvement in the study.

The funding for the study is tied to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which established a strong federal policy favoring the preservation of properties and sites which have been significant in American history for the public’s benefit.

The state and its historical society have long taken the position of helping local units of government to engage in a comprehensive program of historic preservation.

1538 Englewood 2Photo right: 1538 Englewood Ave. was built in 1887. This property has been identified as eligible for historic designation. It is a brick Queen Anne style, which is considered unusual. In the past, Hamline University officials have considered moving the house. (File photo)

A state goal is to promote the use and conservation of historical, architectural, archaeological, engineering, and cultural heritage sites in the state for the education, inspiration, pleasure, and enrichment of the citizens of the state through the creation of local heritage preservation commissions.

The city also has policies which promote heritage preservation, including a chapter in its comprehensive plan.

Both the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission and Department of Planning and Economic Development will be involved in this study.

Stark noted that the last study of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood dates to 1983, as part of a larger Ramsey County historic sites survey. That information needs to be updated, to determine which buildings have historic significance and are eligible for designation.

The last property in the neighborhood to obtain National Register of Historic Places status is Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave., which received designation in 2011.

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Snelling trees slider

Putting down roots on Midway’s Snelling Ave.

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

The beginning of a new urban canopy is starting to grow along Snelling Ave.
According to City of St. Paul urban forester Zach Jorgensen, “83 trees were planted between Selby and Hewitt avenues in July.”

Snelling trees 06“We had to remove 57 mature trees for the reconstruction project last summer, mostly ash, and maple,” Jorgensen said. “Those trees were mature for their urban site, with trunks as large as 10” in diameter in some cases.”

Photo left: Zach Jorgensen, City of St. Paul urban forester said, “We’re working with some pretty tough elements here on Snelling Ave. We had to choose ‘work-horse’ trees like Honey Locust, that can take the engine exhaust, road salt, and inconsistent watering.”

“The new plantings are much more varied,” he continued, “and will likely be a better investment for the future. Species include Patriot and Discovery Elm, Swamp White Oak, Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, and Century Linden. There will be a concentration of Prairie Sentinel Hackberry in the median near the I-94 intersection.”

Snelling trees 04Photo right: Brian Woyda, owner of Woyda & Mortel, Inc., will be responsible for keeping new trees watered and maintained this year.

Brian Woyda, owner of the landscape construction company Woyda & Mortel, Inc., did the installation with a crew of three workers. The planting took about a week, interrupted occasionally by the summer’s highest heat indexes. The crew averaged more than ten trees per day, removing brick pavers, digging deep holes for the installations and tamping the soil back into place with an industrial compacter. Woyda & Mortel, Inc. will be responsible for watering the trees for the rest of this growing season.

According to Jorgenson, “90% of the cost of tree installations for the city involves what goes on below ground. “ He explained, “We can’t use just ordinary soil because the trees take so much abuse in this heavily urbanized environment. We’ve chosen to go with what is called a structural soil mix. The one we use comes out of Cornell University. It’s made up of crushed granite, clay loam, and hydro-gel, a binder that holds everything together. We buy it by the ton.”

Snelling trees 05Photo left: Kyle Hunter compacted the structural soil to hold a new tree in place —while still allowing for good water flow.

Barb Spears is a long-time Hamline Midway resident, born at Midway Hospital. She trained as an urban forester, and serves on St. Paul’s Tree Advisory Panel. “The panel’s mission is to serve as a link between the citizens of St. Paul and its forestry department to preserve, provide and enhance St. Paul’s urban canopy,” she noted.

“There will be opportunities for people,” Spears said, “especially Snelling Ave. business owners, to adopt nearby trees beginning in 2017.” Because the trees are surrounded by permeable pavers, they can be watered directly onto the soil or even through the pavers. To inquire about adopting a tree next year, or to report a tree looking stressed at any time, call the City Forestry Department at 651-632-5129.

Snelling trees 09Photo right: Workers installed 83 new trees along Snelling Ave. in high heat and humid conditions.

Spears also serves on the Hamline Midway Environment Committee. Her colleague there, Lucy Hunt, said, “We’re very happy to be getting these trees. A canopy of trees isn’t only beautiful; it’s good for the whole community. In the inner-city, we have high ozone levels and way too much air pollution. Getting 83 new trees is a nod to our neighbors that City Hall cares about our air quality.”

In addition to improved air quality, an urban tree canopy contributes to improved human health, better storm water retention, reduced energy costs and a mitigated “heat island effect” by cutting down on the amount of pavement exposed to the sun.

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Smaller than expected crowd turns out for public hearing on stadium

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

City Council poised to vote on stadium site plan Aug. 17; everyone still waiting for state legislature/governor to act


The St. Paul City Council is poised to vote Aug. 17 on the Major League Soccer stadium site plan, Midway Center redevelopment master plan, a technical zoning amendment allowing the stadium to move ahead, and plat changes tied to redevelopment.

A smaller-than-anticipated crowd turned out for the Aug. 3 public hearing.
Familiar objections centered on spillover parking, traffic, noise and lighting. But most attention focused on Midway Center owner Rick Birdoff, who addressed earlier reservations he’d raised about the ambitious master plan. Birdoff assured the council that center redevelopment will go ahead in conjunction with the stadium, but that it could take different forms than the master plan indicates—and will take time.

The council held three public hearings, one on each plan and a third hearing on a technical zoning amendment that will allow a sports stadium of 20,000 or more seats to be built in a traditional neighborhoods zoning district.

The Planning Commission recommended City Council approval of the stadium site plan and shopping center master plan July 10, following the June 8 public hearing.
The stadium plans are moving ahead without a needed property tax exemption from the Minnesota Legislature. As of July, Gov. Mark Dayton and House and Senate leaders were still discussing a special session, which would include action on the requested tax break. But as of Monitor deadline no session date had been set.

The St. Paul Planning Commission voted Aug. 5 for two technical variances to the property’s traditional neighborhoods zoning. The commission’s Zoning Committee had recommended on July 28 that they be approved.

A Planning Commission decision on the variances is final unless it is appealed to the City Council. City officials wantrf the variances adopted before the stadium site plan and shopping center master plan get voted on by the City Council Aug. 10.

Planning Commissioners said they understand the need for variances, but they are frustrated with the rushed process and piecemeal approach to stadium and Midway Center reviews. “These are very complex plans, and we haven’t had a lot of time to go through them,” said Commissioner Gaius Nelson.

The need for variances came up during the review of the stadium site plan and Midway Center master plan, said St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) Planning Director Donna Drummond. The variances were then laid over for separate action, rather than postpone the stadium site plan and center master plan process.

The fast pace of the variances’ review and approval process frustrated some members of the Union Park District Council (UPDC). On July 18, the district council’s Economic Development and Land Use Committee discussed the variances. But with no city staff report to review, committee members said they didn’t have anything to act on.

“We really can’t do anything without a staff report,” said UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter.

City planning staff had recommended approval of both variances, which are technical in nature. Both variances are for the 17-acre site eyed for the soccer stadium and adjacent amenities, on the southern part of the property. About 9.8 acres are the former Snelling bus garage property, owned by Metropolitan Council.

The remainder of the area is owned by Midway Center owner RK Midway. The soccer stadium site plan is considered to be the first phase of overall Midway Center redevelopment.

One variance is a floor area ratio (FAR) variance for the soccer stadium itself. FAR is the ratio of a building’s total or gross floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built. St. Paul’s traditional neighborhoods zoning classifications have FAR requirements to encourage density. The ratio required for the stadium’s TN4 zoning and in an area near a light rail station is a minimum 1.0. The stadium is proposed to have a .19 FAR.

The second variance is for a parking lot at Pascal and St. Anthony avenues. The 164-space lot is to be used by the stadium and by retail space associated with team merchandising. One intent of TN zoning is to discourage the creation of stand-alone surface parking lots. A parking lot isn’t allowed as the primary use on a property unless the parking spaces shared amount multiple businesses or uses.

Tegra Group of Minneapolis, a real estate broker and advisory firm, filed the variance requests on behalf of Minneapolis United FC. Nate Pearson of Tegra Group said the FAR requirement isn’t a useful measurement for the 20,000-seat stadium. When calculated FAR for the stadium, only the enclosed part is used. Pearson also said that shared use of the parking lot is logical and that sharing of the spaces could be discussed as shopping center redevelopment continues.

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ComoFest shapes neighborhood identity, brings people together

ComoFest shapes neighborhood identity, brings people together

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Community partners share what they appreciate most about the seven-year-old festival of family-friendly activities

Historical photos submitted

How has ComoFest developed from a small ice cream social with a few hundred people to a month-long event drawing in thousands?

Ask the organizers and they’ll point to how the festival strengthens the community while pulling in neighborhood partners. Plus, it’s fun.

Movie Night & Camp Out 2013 030“ComoFest has an established reputation of building the community through family-fun events,” stated Lyngblomsten Director of Lifelong Learning and the Arts Andrea Lewandoski. In 2012, Lyngblomsten integrated its annual “Mid-Summer Festival” into ComoFest.

“The events allow for an open, friendly atmosphere, the opportunity for community members to meet and speak with local artists, hear live music from local bands and musicians, and provide the chance for community members to visit local businesses and restaurants,” said Lewandowski. “Fine food and a variety of arts and wellness activities add to the festive fun during the entire month of July.”

“When folks think about Como Park, they typically think of the park and zoo, which is a huge draw and major asset to this neighborhood,” remarked AndreaLynn Johnson. “But ComoFest is giving families throughout the Twin Cities and surrounding area another reason to visit the neighborhood—for the food, the music, the arts, to explore new events, and meet new people in Como that they didn’t know. It is a way to highlight what the people of the community have to offer the greater Twin Cities community.”

summer 2010 014Johnson has been part of the festival since the beginning when she coordinated the first art crawl. That year, five artists opened up their studios and homes, including Johnson. Over the years, the art crawl has evolved into an art fair that she continues to organize.
What’s kept her involved over the years?

“I love finding unique ways to promote the arts, and doing so in this non-juried art fair has been a wonderful way to highlight local artists,” said Johnson. “I have enjoyed not only seeing the community come together for one unified event or focus, but getting to know my fellow community members and business even better.”

“The willingness to volunteer time and genuine love for the neighborhood shown by the community is unmatched,” Johnson said.

ComoFestArtFair2014Photo right: Artist AndreaLynn Johnson (at right) has helped organize the art fair since its inception. “I love finding unique ways to promote the arts, and doing so in this non-juried art fair has been a wonderful way to highlight local artists,” said Johnson. “I have enjoyed not only seeing the community come together for one unified event or focus but getting to know my fellow community members and business even better.”

“This has strengthened our working bonds for sure,” said Darcy Rivers, St. Paul Parks and Recreation Community Recreation Director of Programming. “Having the opportunity to work with District 10, Lyngblomsten and others is a no-brainer. We all service the same people, combine our resources, learn from each other, receive new contacts and develop friendships.”

One thing that sets ComoFest apart is that each event operates independently. “There’s no grand planning committee,” explained Michael Kuchta, District 10 Executive Director. “But we do collaborate, we do support each other, and we do coordinate as much as we can on things like logistics, advertising, and publicity.”

Movie Night & Camp Out 2013 036District 10 serves as the hub for ComoFest and hosts the web page and Facebook page. It also handles the finances and contributes its own event, the Ice Cream Social.

This year’s partners include Lyngblomsten, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Topline Federal Credit Union, The Underground Music Cafe, Honest-1 Auto Care, Como Dockside Lakeside Pavilion, and Como Park – Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program. Humphrey Job Corps Center supplies volunteers.

From a weekend to a month
Instead of cramming everything into one weekend, this year there will be eight events spread out over four weekends. “We’re hoping that gives neighbors a chance to sample activities in a way that fits their schedules,” explained Kuchta. “If they happen to be out of town one weekend, or already booked solid for one weekend, they’ve still got a chance to check out a half-dozen other events.”

The festival started with the North Dale Movie Night on July 8 and the ComoFest Art Fair on July 9.

Next up:
• District 10 Ice Cream Social on July 15;
• ComoFest 5K Walk/Run for Everyone on July 17;
• Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival: A Celebration of Arts & Lifelong Learning on July 22;
• Community Appreciation Picnic on July 23;
• Northwest Como Campout on July 29; and
• the Block Party at UMC on July 30-31.

“Don’t miss any of it,” urged Rivers. “Each event brings a new flavor of activity that is representative of the neighborhood.”

“The evolution of ComoFest from one small event to a month-long series of events has been due to our want to include more partners within and outside of District 10, wanting to include a wider variety of activities and by spreading the activities out over a month, giving families a better opportunity to attend more of the ComoFest events,” said Johnson.

Work in progress
ComoFest is a continual work in progress with new ideas and community members, observed Rivers.

River remembers the meeting in 2010 that gave birth to ComoFest. She and then-District 10 Community Council Coordinator Rhonda DeBough recognized that people couldn’t afford to travel because of the recession, and they decided to offer the District 10 Staycation. They combined the Northwest Como Movie Night with District 10’s Art Crawl, Garden Tour, and Bike Ride, along with the Chelsea Heights PTO Flea Market and Coffee Grounds Music Festival on one weekend.

The festival also offered residents a way to discover a little bit more about their neighborhood.
“In that way, nothing’s changed,” remarked Kuchta. “You can still experience ComoFest without spending a dime. It’s still family oriented, and it features a variety of very simple, very low-key, but enjoyable events that expose you to some of what’s available right in your own backyard.”

Some events come and go, he noted, but the essence is still the same.

“It’s not a big festival that shuts down streets and disrupts people’s lives for a couple of days. We’ve got enough high-impact activity in our neighborhood. ComoFest is actually the opposite of that.”

Spreading through Como
Kuchta is excited to see the event growing to include more than just the intersection of Hamline and Hoyt, where things were centered at the beginning. “For the first time this year, we’ve got something going on east of the lake—with North Dale’s movie night—and something going on in South Como—with TopLine’s cookout. I’m hoping we can build on that, so we really do tie in the whole neighborhood,” he stated.

Como Park – Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program initially got involved with Comofest by invitation from District 10. The community non-profit began with an information table at the ice cream social and that morphed into sponsoring a 5K run/walk around Como Lake last year.

“It turned out better than we thought,” recalled Executive Director Jody McCardle. “And we loved meeting neighbors who were glad to learn about how we help seniors remain in their homes safely. We even had a few runners become volunteers for our program.”

“Many of the seniors we work with talk about their love of Como Lake and their everyday walks around Como Lake with family and friends—so in a way it is a continuum of celebrating our seniors in our community and the natural resources of District 10 that we treasure,” McCardle added.

All part of Como Park
The Como area is in high demand from people all over the state and visitors, pointed out Rivers. While the community cherishes the Como resources and shares them, residents also value their neighborhoods. ComoFest helps with community identity, strengthens the neighborhood and takes back the space.

“It sounds cliché, but anything that gets us out from behind our own fences helps build community,” said Kuchta. “Something like ComoFest can eliminate, in small ways, the physical barriers that separate parts of our neighborhood: Which side of the park you are on, which side of the tracks you are on, are you in a home or an apartment? Doesn’t matter—you’re still part of Como Park.”

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Galtier saved! Neighborhood elementary school to remain open

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

It’s a new day at Galtier Elementary School, as parents and supporters work to increase enrollment. The school community plans a public celebration 5:30-7:30pm on Thur., July 21 at the school, 1317 Charles Ave. The school community wants to thank everyone who helped during the battle to keep the school open. There will be free activities, as well as some food for purchase to support the school.They’re also welcoming families interested in the school as an option for their children.

On a 4-3 vote on June 21, the St. Paul School Board voted to keep Galtier open. Superintendent Valeria Silva had proposed that the school close in 2017. Silva had argued that the improvements needed to keep Galtier open would increase Galtier’s budget from $1.259 million to $1.96 million. Silva said that students could be sent to Hamline Elementary starting in fall 2017.

But Galtier parents rallied, with dozens attending School Board meetings to make the case for the school. Many contended that the school district hasn’t given Galtier the resources it needs to survive and thrive and that closing the school would hurt its families.

Galtier was a citywide magnet school before it became a neighborhood school under Silva’s Strong Schools, Strong Communities program. Enrollment dropped to 158 in 2015-16 and is projected at 144 this fall. Supporters contend that the school district hasn’t done enough to help promote the school and that allowing Hamline Midway families to have children bused out of the neighborhood has hurt Galtier.

In the weeks up to the Galtier vote, parents speculated that it could be a 4-3 split to either close or save the school. They cheered when the vote went their way.

School Board Member John Brodrick was the most vocal about saving Galtier, saying that district officials were pulling the rug out from under the school and not giving parents time to boost enrollment. He was joined by Steve Marchese, Zuki Ellis, and Chue Vue, who turned out to be the swing vote. John Schumacher, Mary Vanderwert, and Jean O’Connell voted for the closing.

The 4-3 vote was part of a lengthy and contentious School Board meeting in which Silva’s tenure as superintendent was ended and School Board Member Jean O’Connell resigned in protest. O’Connell is done effective June 30. Silva will stay on for a time as a district consultant.

The School Board also voted to close a projected $15.1 million budget gap.

Galtier parent Clayton Howatt said the vote to keep the school open signals a new day as parents, teachers and other school supporters focus on increasing enrollment. Galtier parents, students and school officials hosted an open house June 29, which was attended by several prospective families.

“School Board members have told us they want to see Galtier not just thrive but survive,” Howatt said. Ideas for how Glitter engages parents could be tried at other struggling neighborhood schools.

As they work on other ways to boost enrollment, parents are also reaching out to area colleges to see if they can partner with Galtier.

“We’re moving on and trying to increase enrollment,” Howatt said. School supporters recently changed the Facebook page Save Galtier into Grow Galtier. They’ll use the page and other means to promote the school.

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Rich Purcell & Family 01

Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell turns 100

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

(Historical photos submitted)

One hundred years’ service to the community is an accomplishment for any locally-owned business. Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Homes and Cremation Services will mark its centennial 2-4pm on Sat., July 23, at its Midway funeral home, 536 N. Snelling Ave.

hhbp photos 20004Photo left: The original home of Holcomb-Henry Boom-Purcell when it was just the A.E.Henry Funeral Home. Note the street car tracks in the foreground. (Photo submitted)

Community members are invited in to help celebrate the anniversary, meet the staff, learn about the home’s history and its current services, and enjoy refreshments.

“We’ve been proud to carry on a long legacy of community service,” said Richard Purcell. He and his wife Sharon came to work at the funeral home in 1982 and later became the fourth owners of the business.

Rich Purcell & Family 01Photo right: 2016 photo of (l to r) Dennis Boom, Roswitha Holcomb, and Sharon and Richard Purcell. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The firm, through its St. Paul and Shoreview locations, serves 300 to 400 families per year.

“We consider it a great honor to have cared for so many families over the years,” said Purcell. “We take our responsibilities very seriously, as we walk with families in their time of sorrow.”

“When you own and operate a business like ours, you’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to serve people,” said Purcell. “We have a long tradition of dedicated staff that has continued through our family owners. It has been a privilege to be called on to help people.”

hhbp photos 20003“We’re honored to have served our community for 100 years,” said longtime owner Dennis Boom. “We feel we are very much a part of the Midway.”

Albert E. Henry and his wife, Vena were the first funeral home owner-operators in 1916. It was at a time when St. Paul had a few dozen small, family-owned and operated funeral homes throughout its neighborhoods. Almost a dozen funeral homes have operated up and down Snelling Ave. alone.

The Henrys raised their family in the funeral home at a time when many area residents still didn’t have phone service. The building was never locked, and people could come in 24 hours a day for assistance.

hhbp photos 20005“It was very standard for families to have wakes or visitations in their homes,” said Purcell. When funeral homes started to open their doors, families often opted to have two evenings of visitation, with the funeral on the following day.

When Albert Henry retired in 1948, St. Paul resident and mortician Earl Holcomb and two partners bought the Henry Funeral Home. Holcomb, whose family members still live in the area, also raised his family in the funeral home’s upstairs living quarters.

In 1963, Dennis Boom began his career as a funeral director with the firm. In 1981, he and his wife, Elaine purchased the business and the property from the Holcomb family. Dennis and Elaine Boom built a second chapel in Shoreview and made their home above the chapel. The Booms grew up in St. Paul and furnished their Shoreview home with a collection of antique furniture, some of which came from their childhood homes. Elaine Boom passed away in 2015.

hhbp photos 20001Dennis Boom grew up in the area and still attends Hamline Church United Methodist. Last year he was honored at the Minnesota State Fair as a 50-year volunteer at the Hamline Church Dining Hall. Visitors might find him serving up coffee to the breakfast crowd.

“We’ve always believed in community service and being part of the greater community,” Boom said. “That’s part of our tradition.”

Richard Purcell notes that funeral home directors have collectively had a long record of community service, including the Midway Area Chamber of Commerce, Shriners, churches, St. Paul Winter Carnival and other organizations.

In 1982, Richard Purcell was hired and in 1995 his wife, Sharon, also a licensed funeral director, joined the staff. The Purcell’s purchased the business in 1999 and in 2003 they purchased the properties.

hhbp photos 20002Purcell noted that much has changed in the way people care for their deceased loved ones. Visitations are the same day or the day before. Cremation is a much more popular option. “We also have the opportunity to host receptions, with a range of food options, which we weren’t able to do before.”

Despite the changes, Purcell said the tradition of offering personalized, caring service at a reasonable cost remains the same. “The clients we serve are not numbers, they are family to us.”

Purcell is a native of Forest City, Iowa. As a young man, his family suffered an unexpected death. “Seeing how the funeral director helped our family in our time of loss, and how he helped us get through a very tough time, made a strong impression on me. That service, commitment and ministry to my family was so important.”

When Purcell was assigned a high school paper on career choices, he wrote about being a funeral director. He also worked at his hometown funeral home, doing general maintenance and other chores, as a teenager.

“That left the impression on me that we want families to be comfortable, to be treated with respect and dignity. And that is what we strive for.”

Learn more about Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Homes and Cremation Services at http://www.holcombhenryboom.com.

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LPI on University Ave slider

Cutting-edge technology company calls University Ave. home

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

When Robert Jorgenson was 16, he wandered into an Ax-Man store, a place he liked to explore to see all the gadgets. He saw a sheet of glass that was black and had all kinds of wires on it. He asked what it was for. The store clerk told him that when sunlight hit the glass, it made electricity.

“I said okay. I was hooked. From that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do,” said Jorgenson, now the CEO of Lightwave Photonics, Inc., (LPI) located in a massive old art building at 2500 University Ave.

“I knew when I was young that I wanted to work with semiconductors, and I wanted to do something that would help cut carbon emissions,” recalled Jorgenson. He attended the University of Minnesota, picking up two bachelor’s degrees, one in chemical engineering and another in material science.

Jorgenson said he initially wanted to work in solar cells, but he found himself working with light emitters. “Emitters are a really good way of reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

LPIPhoto left: Robert Jorgenson looks on as engineers Stephanie Tandean and Sara Rothwell work with wafers in their University Ave. lab. His company, LPI, was established in 2007 to commercialize advanced LED technology. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“LED light bulbs cut carbon emissions by 5%, and we are trying to cut them by another 5%,” Jorgenson explained, as he described the goal of his company. “The efficiency of LED bulbs is somewhere around 30%,” he continued. “We are looking to more than double that efficiency.”

Jorgenson said that currently 70% of the energy in the LED bulb is energy wasted as heat. He wants to make the bulb 70% efficient, so that only 30% of the energy is going to heat and the rest for light.

Jorgenson said that growing up in Minnesota he was exposed to a lot of technology with companies that were here. “It’s sort of a little-known secret, but Minnesota is a hotbed for crystal growth,” he noted. “And that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Crystal growth is the foundation of all modern technology.” Jorgenson explained that the University and all the colleges around here are not focused on that, even though there is so much industry in the Twin Cities.

LPI was established in 2007 to commercialize advanced LED technology. LPI provides the only commercially available conductive, reflective, and lattice matched templates for the subsequent epitaxial growth of Gallium Nitride based LEDs and Lasers.

Put more simply, LPI is growing crystalline round semiconductor wafers that will make LEDs more efficient. “The current state of the art templates for subsequent LED crystal growth are basically transparent,” Jorgenson said. “Our wafers are highly reflective and ideal for crystal growth of LED materials. If you want green LEDs, you can now grow on top of highly reflective green wafers. If you want blue LEDs, you can grow on top of blue wafers, and blue LEDs power the phosphors in white LEDs used in light bulbs.”

Jorgenson went on to explain that by coupling LED light emission to a mirror positioned precisely by crystal growth, you create more efficient and powerful light emission. “We now have materials to allow that to happen, and we are talking to a lot of different companies. There are about 40 companies around the world to target, and we have generated a lot of purchase orders.”

The beginnings of the company that is creating these major technological changes from its small space on University Ave go back to when Jorgenson first met his wife in Minnesota.
“She wanted to get out of the snow, so she went to Arizona, and I followed along,” Jorgenson explained. “I was doing consulting, so I could be anywhere, and I was able to hang out with my girlfriend Lynn, who is my wife now.”

Originally, he was looking at similar technologies to license from a university in Arizona for a different application. “The metal did not have all the properties they said it had,” Jorgenson said. He started getting deeper and deeper into the physics of his research, and something clicked. Jorgenson and his now wife moved to San Diego, where Jorgenson started his employee-owned company in 2007. “I had filed a patent a year before that using the law services here in Minnesota. The best lawyers I could find who could understand the technology were here in Minnesota,” he said.

There was also so much opportunity in the Twin Cities with crystal growth that the company returned to Minnesota. “We were only supposed to be here six months and then move back to San Diego,” Jorgenson recalled. “We had put everything in storage. But everything went so well here, we decided to stay. We recently purchased a house, and now we are here and plan to stay here.”

The Jorgensons have been back in the state for four years, and the company has been located in the University Ave. artists’ building for nearly three years. LPI is surrounded by potters, a record store, a tattoo artist, and painters.

“Now we can produce the materials we need, but the problem we’re running into is making modifications to our equipment for higher throughput. We have put a lot of hard work into it, and from this point on, it is easier,” he said.

They have recently won a Department of Energy (DOE) grant. “It is a small grant, but it has really helped us take off,” added Jason McGrath, marketing director for LPI. “We’re anticipating winning a Phase II DOE grant in 2017 and are looking for small investors to help us get there.”

The company is also in competition for the annual MN Cup, sponsored by the University Of Minnesota Carlson School Of Business.

“This competition has been helpful, “McGrath said. He noted that as a part of the competition, mentoring services are offered by Carlson as well as the Department of Energy. “They’re helping us build a pretty solid business and commercialization plan,” he commented. “The competition kicked off a couple of weeks ago and goes until September.”

As well as cutting carbon emissions by another 5% in LED bulbs, LPI is helping enable projectors in persons’ cell phones called pico-projectors and better laser-powered headlights.

“BMW is developing laser-powered headlights,” Jorgenson said. “The type of laser we enable is superior to the lasers currently available.”

Jorgenson said some of the companies LPI is talking to have crystal growth facilities the size of football fields. “If you can just imagine, there are these enormous buildings with 100 to 1,000 crystal growth systems,” he described. “We are looking to sell wafers to demo what they can do, then license to those companies. We have patented the technology, and they can take the final product while it also cuts the cost of production.”

The wafers sell between $1,000 and $3,000 each. “We are looking at making six of them a day from this small facility here,” Jorgenson continued. “We estimate each company will buy about 400 demo wafers before they start production and the final licensing agreements.”

Quite an amazing undertaking from a company with seven employees working from a small lab, with a CEO who was influenced by an Ax-Man gadget.

Jorgenson also cites his training at Webster Magnet School. “I really benefited from that science program,” he said. His training at the U of M and working with a laser program at 3M were also helpful in his path towards technology.

“Some of the larger companies with crystal growth are still around, but not many of the little ones,” he said. Jorgenson said he is working with some of the colleges, such as the U of M with its Nano facilities that can be rented out, and St. Paul College. “We’re working with them to create an incubator, and we get some interns from there.”

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Community Oven slider

Bread ministry reaches well beyond the walls of the church

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Community oven is ‘on’ at Hamline United Methodist; community pizza parties planned in July and August

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
There’s a new addition to the Hamline United Methodist Church at 1514 Englewood Ave.: a robust, brick community oven that was completed last year with the help of more than 100 volunteers. According to church member and oven spokesperson Mark Ireland, “The football team from Hamline University helped haul concrete, church members and plenty of neighbors who didn’t belong to the Church rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. There were people working on site 5-6 days a week last May and June. Then it took the bread ministry team the rest of the summer to figure out how to operate the thing.”

Community Oven 01Photo left: The handsome community oven at Hamline United Methodist Church takes 10-12 hours to rise to its baking temperature of 900+ degrees. Made of high-temperature concrete, clay bricks and wool insulation, the traditional design keeps the high heat on the inside. On the outside, it’s barely even warm to the touch.

The oven is in full swing now. It’s the one and only community oven in St. Paul, and there are just a handful of them in Minneapolis. Sharing a community oven was a common practice across Europe until the last century, and it’s still the way bread is baked in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

“We got to wondering,” Ireland said, “what it would be like to build a community oven in this space, in this time when everyone seems to feel so hurried? Feeding people by baking in a brick oven is SLOW; there’s nothing instantly gratifying about it. We need to haul 3-4 wheelbarrows of wood for starters; then we have to stoke the fire for 10-12 hours to get the oven to baking temperature.”

Community Oven 02Photo right: Life-long Hamline Midway resident and bread baker Mark Ireland with his daughter Kathleen. He said, “The real community building happens when people are hauling and throwing wood together, or standing around waiting for the bread to come out of the oven.”

Hamline United Methodist Church received a grant from the White Bear Lake United Methodist Church to build their oven. Bryce Johnson, a long-time pastor at the White Bear Lake church, had an oven built some years ago for his congregation. The oven was so successful as a tool for community building that the White Bear Lake church created a grant, which any Methodist church in Minnesota could apply for.

Ireland explained, “We won primarily because of our unique relationship with Hamline University, our active inner-city neighborhood and the close proximity of neighborhood elementary schools. “We literally have the chance to impact thousands of people with this project,” he said.

There are two events coming up this summer to taste what the community oven can do, and to savor the company of neighbors. On Wed., July 20, free wood-fired pizza will be served at 6pm with the movie “The Love Bug” showing at dusk. On Wed., Aug. 17, free wood-fired pizza will be served at 6pm with the movie “Shaun the Sheep” showing at dusk. Bring your own blanket, lawn chairs, salads and sides.

“For a pizza party,” Ireland said, “we heat the oven to almost 1,000 degrees, and it stays warm for 3-4 days afterward. It only takes 90 seconds to bake a pizza, but it takes a long time to get to that baking point. As the oven cools, it’s possible to bake other lower-temperature breads. The first to go in are the ciabatta or other artisanal loaves, then the sweet breads. We can bake 30-40 loaves of bread at a time.”

If you’re interested in learning how to build your own portable oven, David S. Cargo (one of the founding members of the St. Paul Bread Club) will offer a class at HUMC on Sat., Aug. 20, from 9am–3:30pm. The fee for the class is $80. The class covers choosing an outdoor oven site, preparing the ground, and all of the skills needed to construct an oven. Each student will receive plans for three different sizes of ovens, a materials list, and bread recipes to use with their wood fired oven. For more information or to register, contact David S. Cargo at escargo@skypoint.com.

For more information on baking events or to learn about baking your own bread in the community oven, email the church office at hamlinechurchum@gmail.com with the subject line “bread oven request.”

Ireland concluded, “The community oven is not an outreach to increase our church membership. It’s a way to bring people together in the neighborhood who might not otherwise get to know each other.”

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