Archive | May, 2015

YMCA Render v2

Midway YMCA breaks ground for new facility on University

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

YMCA Render v2Last month, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, other community and business leaders, as well as Y members, participated in the ceremony recognizing the construction of the new innovative Y facility that will better serve members and residents.

“We are excited about the many new programs and community gatherings we will be able to offer in our new Midway Y,” said David Dominick, executive director of the Midway Y. “There will be more fitness and aquatics programming for youth, families and active older adults in the bigger aquatics center and multiple fitness studios; new nutrition and diabetes prevention classes in the demonstration kitchen; and more opportunities for the community to meet in the gathering rooms.”

YMCA groundbreaking 3The Midway Y will be located in the space of its old location, and is scheduled to open in early 2016. The 52,000 square-foot facility will feature:
* an expansive fitness center;
* multiple fitness studios;
* state-of-the-art aquatics center;
* big flex space for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, badminton, and group and youth fitness classes;
* walking path;
* racquetball/handball courts;
* rooftop patio;
* demonstration kitchen;
* kid’s play maze;
* Kids’ Stuff, a signature program for kids while parents use the facility; and
* community room

YMCA groundbreaking 2  YMCA groundbreaking 1

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GRS bird workshop 1

Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom dedication planned

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

GRS bird workshop 1The Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) will be dedicated on Wed., May 20 at 11:30am at a public outdoor ceremony on the south side of the Como Woodland between the Kilmer Memorial Fireplace and the Como Park Pool at 1221 Como Ave.
In case of rain, the ceremony will be held just across the street north of CWOC, on the corner of Midway Pkwy. and Horton Ave. in the Como Picnic Shelter.

Tim Chase, Murray Middle School teacher and MAEE’s Environmental Educator of the Year (2014), will be the keynote speaker. After the ceremony students will plant a tree in the woodland and take part in a habitat restoration activity in the woodland.
Great River School students adopted the Como Woodland as their “School Forest” several years ago and they have spent many service learning hours and class hours in the Como Woodland.

Other area schools, such as Como Park Senior High, Crossroads Elementary and Murray Middle School also regularly use and volunteer in the woodland. And the 2,500 feet of accessible trails make the 17-acre woodland a popular walking area for locals.
In October and November 2014, Saint Paul Audubon Society funded a series of artist/science workshops for an elective class of Great River School students.

Volunteers helped with the students with birding and the bird habitat portion of the workshops. Scientific illustrator and artist Vera Ming Wong lead the artist portion of the workshops. From that workshop, student artist Annika Quinn’s artwork was chosen to be the new icon for the Como Woodland: the Red-bellied woodpecker (a bird species that can be seen and heard in the woodland during all seasons).

The Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom has been a community driven project since 2006. The idea for developing an outdoor classroom in Como Park came from members of the District 10 Community Council’s Environment Committee after they started removing buckthorn from the woodlot back in the late 1990s.

All are welcome to celebrate and dedicate the outdoor classroom that would not have become a reality without community support and volunteer effort. More information on CWOC’s background and its location can be found at: www.comowoodland.org.

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New showcase opens at HU May 14

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

ACT/REACT opens on Thur., May 14 at 7:30pm and runs May 15 and 16 at 7:30pm in Hamline University’s Anne Simley Theatre. Tickets are $2 for Hamline students, $3 for ACTC students and staff, $8 for adults and $5 for outside students and seniors. Groups of ten or more are $3 per ticket if reserved in advance. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made through the Hamline University Theatre Box Office at 651-523-2905 or via e-mail at tickets@hamline.edu.

Hamline Dance Ensemble’s showcase features new work by noted Twin Cities choreographers and displays the Ensemble’s movement exploration and physical risk taking. Roxane Wallace’s Afro Modern choreography infuses elements of modern dance with traditional dance forms of the African diaspora. Taja Will’s new work considers the intricacy of the pop culture ideal of love. Artistic Director Kaori Kenmotsu’s “Bye” creates a physical score that represents the complex nature of letting go. Finally, new student works explore a variety of different movement styles, including: modern, lyrical, and hip-hop fusion.

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Native Plants

Native Plant Market and Expo returns to Roseville

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin


Native PlantsWhere can you shop 12 different nurseries specializing in native plants – all in the same place at the same time?

The Roseville Community Pavilion (behind CUB at 1201  Larpenteur Ave. W.) will once again be the site for this year’s Landscape Revival on Sat., June 6 from 9am–3pm.
As if the plants weren’t enticement enough, there will also be representatives from more than a dozen conservation organizations to help shoppers understand why native plants are so important.

Now in its fifth year, the Landscape Revival was the inspiration of two friends, Val Cunningham and Karen Eckman. Both are long-time St. Paul Audubon members with a deep interest in gardening, stewardship and conservation.

“Gardeners are giving more thought these days to the effect our gardens have on the world around us,” Cunningham said. The Landscape Revival promotes the use of native plants for their countless benefits to wildlife, pollinators and water quality, as well as for their beauty.

Native Plant MarketAs our population keeps growing, the demand for land development does too. Land development changes the way water flows, creating more runoff where water would otherwise soak into the soil. Native plants not only require less water to grow than cultivated ones, they also improve water retention in the soil because of their deep root structure. “If you care about clean water, you care about native plants,” Revival co-creator Eckman said.

A native plant is defined as one that grew naturally in a specific area before the arrival of European settlers. It’s important to know that planting stock or seeds from more than 200 miles away doesn’t constitute a native planting. The plant material must have grown in close proximity to where it is being planted: a native plant from Montana isn’t native to Minnesota, for example.

Native plant species have evolved over hundreds of years to be compatible with local pollinators. Cultivated plants don’t produce as much nectar and pollen as natives do, and aren’t as beneficial to pollinators. Cultivated plants are often pre-treated with insecticides, such as neonicotinoids, which scientists believe are contributing to the collapse of bee colonies across North America and Europe. Neonicotinoids actually make plants inhospitable to bees and other pollinators, while preventing some diseases and infestations. None of the plants sold at the Landscape Revival are treated with insecticides and will be a safe, abundant food source for those who need them.

The Landscape Revival drew 300 visitors in 2010,  its first year. More than 1,100 people attended last year, despite a heavy downpour that lasted all day.

When Cunningham and Eckman were first considering this idea, they quickly realized that education was going to be as important as plant sales. They wanted people to leave the event feeling well-informed. This belief continues to shape the Landscape Revival, even as leadership has changed over time. Expo presenters this year include experts in the areas of beekeeping, monarch preservation, land stewardship, water conservation, and more.

One Expo presenter is the Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD). Elizabeth Beckman, education coordinator for CRWD, explained, “There are 48 different watershed districts in Minnesota. Ours covers about 2/3 of St. Paul, and operates as a special unit of government – something like a school  board. We receive a percentage of revenue from Ramsey County property taxes, and work on innovative ways to improve water quality for the benefit of all.”

CRWD awards stewardship grants to home owners, businesses, schools, and places of worship so they can reduce or prevent storm water run-off on their property. Storm water runoff is the #1 cause of water pollution in urban areas. Anyone within the boundaries of CRWD can apply; applicants may be eligible for financial and/or technical assistance on their projects, whether the projects are large or small. The size of the grants is dependent on the scope of the water quality improvement. Typical projects include rain gardens, shoreline restorations, water re-use systems and permeable hardscapes. To learn more about the program contact Gustavo Castro, CRWD grant administrator at gustavo@capitolregionwd.org.

Sponsors for this year’s event include CRWD, St. Paul Audubon Society, Blue Thumb, Wild Ones and the Ramsey/Washington Metro Watershed District.

In addition to the wide selection of native plants, rain barrels, organic compost and native plant seeds will also be available for purchase. Visit the Landscape Revival Native Plant Sale and Expo to see the stunning diversity of Minnesota native plants and learn how to start creating your own thriving, vibrant and low maintenance garden.
This event is free and open to all, and will be held rain or shine. Remember to bring re-usable bags, if you have them, to transport your purchases. Cash or checks only—credit cards cannot be used.

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Midway Center owner is selling off Big Top Liquor property

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

aerialsite20131107_7Redevelopment of the one of the Midway area’s largest sites may be moving ahead, although perhaps not in a way envisioned. Midway Center owner RK Midway LLC is proceeding with plans to split off the property where Big Top Liquors, 1574 University Ave., is located. Union Park District Council’s Land Use Committee voted Apr. 20 to recommend approval of the plans.

The lot split could allow redevelopment of that part of the shopping center property to move ahead more quickly. Joe Finley, attorney for RK Midway, said the split also has financial implications. It would get that portion of the property out from under from the current mortgage covering most of the shopping center property. Center owners are in the process of refinancing the property.

The 1950s-era shopping center is part of a 34.5-acre property bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. Metropolitan Council owns 10 acres that was occupied for many years by a Metro Transit bus maintenance and garage facility. RK Midway owns the rest of the property, although the city has an option to buy the 4.5-acre vacant site at the northwest corner of Pascal and St. Anthony.

Many development ideas have been suggested over the years for the various properties, but none have come to fruition.

Last year plans were approved for a drive-through lane so that Walgreens could move from the main shopping center into the former Midway/American Bank building at Snelling and University avenues. But Walgreens hasn’t decided to actually move its store.

City, Metropolitan Council and RK Midway owners spent several months working with consultants on an ambitious plan to redevelop the entire block for high-density mixed use. A so-called “SmartSite” plan, released last year, would have a mix of housing and commercial uses, with a new street grid and green spaces. It would be built out over a period lasting 15 years.

But a roughly $30 million financial gap has property owners reconsidering their plans. Preliminary estimates are that just new development infrastructure would cost $67 million. That breaks down to $40 million for structured or ramp parking, $5.8 million for streets, $5.6 million for drainage improvements, and $2.2 million to create 1.3 acres of park land.

That price tag would mean that infrastructure costs are predicted to be up to $30 million more than anticipated revenue from land sales. Costs increase as development phases continue. “Projected market values suggest that this gap is unlikely to close in a reasonable time frame,” a Metropolitan Council staff report stated.

In March, Metropolitan Council officials discussed some next steps for the old bus barn property, and possibly pursuing redevelopment of that site on its own. Council members have indicated they’d still like to see a future land owner/developer tie into the SmartSite plans. No decision has been made.

“We’re a little disappointed,” Finley said of Metropolitan Council’s recent actions. But RK Midway wants to forge ahead with redevelopment.  The subdivision would include the Big Top building, parking lots to its north and east, and the shopping center entrances from Spruce Tree Dr. and Asbury St., creating a flag-shaped lot.

The shopping center property currently has a large main lot and three smaller outlots. The split would create a fourth outlot. Lot splits are typically done by city staff, but RK Midway went to the district council because of past discussion of redevelopment plans.
The part of the site occupied by the Big Top building is eyed for mixed residential-retail development. The liquor store occupies about half of the building. The rest has been vacant for many years. If and when the property is redeveloped, Finley said center owners would work to relocate Big Top elsewhere in the center.

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May Park

Area projects rank high in Capital Improvement Budget proposals

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin


Proponents for new playgrounds, recreation centers, bike lanes, library improvements and other projects are preparing for the public hearing on St. Paul’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB), at 6pm, Mon., June 1 at St. Paul City Hall, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd.

As the Monitor went to press, the CIB Committee was reviewing rankings from its task forces of community facilities, streets and utilities and residential and economic development. After the public hearing, the committee will finalize its rankings by mid-June and send them to the mayor and St. Paul City Council for inclusion in the 2016 city budget.

“We begin this process in February and it looks extremely different when we get to April,” said CIB Committee Member Michael Steward.

“The process has been a real success, from what I’ve been hearing from the task forces,” said CIB Committee Chairperson Paul Sawyer. Other CIB Committee members said they liked the citywide balance they saw in task force rankings, and the diversity in projects likely to be funded.

That’s not to say all went smoothly as task forces had several close votes as to whether or not to move projects up or down. One concern in Community Facilities Task Force discussions is that needed, big-ticket public safety projects compete for funding with libraries, parks and playgrounds. “It’s always difficult to lump in fire stations and police facilities with playgrounds,” said Highland District Council representative Laura Merriam. “It doesn’t make sense at all.”

Firestation 20Replacement of Fire Station 20, May Park equipment and Hamline-Midway Branch Library improvements fared well coming out of the task forces. But other area projects including improvements to Merriam Park, Dickerman Park, Como Ave. and Pelham Blvd. didn’t fare as well.

In total 131 projects were reviewed and ranked over the past few months.
Another frustration task force members raised was that projects bumped in 2014-2015 should have had priority for 2016-2017. A few projects lost funding due to other projects cost overruns or City Council members and the mayor making funding shifts. But not all of the projects dropped may make it into the next funding round.

Here’s an overview of how projects look going to the full committee:

Community facilities

May ParkThe top-ranked project citywide out of 49 projects is tiny May Park, 816 Clayland St., in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood. Improvements were funded in the 2014-2015 CIB cycle. But the money was taken away by the City Council to fund another project.

Task force members who moved the park to the top of the rankings said they wanted to make a statement in supporting the $254,000 project.

May Park was followed by Fire Station 20 replacement, at $5.6 million. The top priority for the St. Paul Fire Department, a new Station 20 would be built on land donated by the Rock-Tenn paper recycling company. The current Fire Station 20, which is located on University Ave. just west of the Cretin-Vandalia intersections, was built in 1920. Access had to be reconfigured when Green Line light rail was built.

Scheffer Recreation Center replacement ($9.47 million) ranked third. Scheffer is at Thomas and Marion. Other area projects in the top 15 include Hamline Midway Branch Library modernization ($1.965 million) ranked at 13 and Frogtown Farm and play area ($522,000) at 14.

The library project is promoted by neighborhood residents, who had to wage a battle several years ago to even keep the library open. While it has had some improvements in recent years, it hasn’t had the full-scale modernization other libraries have enjoyed.

Streets and Utilities

The Streets and Utilities Task Force ranked 61 projects, with Sidney St.-Robert St. redesign ($50,000) topping the list. The Pierce Butler Route-Lexington Pkwy. bicycle connection ranked fourth ($220,000) and Vandalia St. Bridge rehabilitation ($750,000) was fifth.

Like May Park, the bicycle connection was funded two years ago and then cut out of the budget.

Residential and Economic Development

The Residential and Economic Development Task Force gave the East Side Home Improvement Revolving Loan Fund ($1 million) its top ranking, out of 21 projects. Area projects met mixed response from the task force. Model Cities’ Central Exchange residential-retail development near University and Victoria ($400,000) ranked sixth. The Victoria Theater renovation ($400,000) ranked seventh. The St. Paul Green Line Home Improvement Loan Fund ($500,000) was ranked 11th.

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garage sale logo

HM Neighborhood Garage Sale planned May 30

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

garage sale logoThe Hamline Midway Neighborhood Garage Sale is planned for Sat., May 30, from 8am–3pm.

You can register to participate in the sale online, by mail, or drop off the form with the registration fee of $10 to Hamline Midway Coalition, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104. Please register by Fri., May 22. The Registration Form can be found at www.hamlinemidway.org/garagesale, or you can pick up a form at the Hamline Midway Library.

Your $10 registration fee includes: a listing of your address and items for sale that will be distributed via a link to our webpage on Facebook and Craigslist; signs that will be placed at all major intersections and various locations throughout the neighborhood; flyers that will be posted around the neighborhood at various locations; and an ad in the Pioneer Press (if enough households participate). If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact someone at garagesale@hamlinemidway.org.

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Murray group poses with the debris

Annual cleanup nets 500 pounds of trash

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

Murray group poses with the debrisThe National Junior Honor Society students from Murray Middle School braved a cold and snowy day last month for their annual environmental spring volunteer field trip. They helped to collect over 500 pounds of debris from former farm land that is being converted to a nature preserve. Items included many glass jars, fences, old plumbing, tires, cinder blocks, toys, furniture, metal, building materials, etc. The students did a wonderful job!

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Shakespearean plays set for Newell, Como parks

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

william-shakespeareThis June, Classical Actors Ensemble (CAE) will present Shakespeare’s comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” for free in five Twin Cities’ parks, Newell Park and Como Park being two of them.

Usually an indoor company, this production will be CAE’s sophomore foray into outdoor Shakespeare.

Dating from early in Shakespeare’s career, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” centers on small town best friends Proteus and Valentine who find themselves in the cosmopolitan world of Milan, where they both fall for the Duke’s chic daughter. When Proteus’ hometown sweetheart, Julia, soon follows him to the big city, loyalties in love and friendship are put to the test. The comedy in this coming of age story is heightened by a band of bumbling highwaymen, some sassy, quick-witted servants, and a disobedient dog.

In keeping with CAE’s aesthetic style, this production will include live, contemporary music, performed by the actors. New to CAE will be a greater focus on choreographed movement and dance from director Hannah Steblay and choreographer Jessica Smith.

The Newell Park performance will be Fri., June 19 at 7pm and at Como Park on Fri., June 26 at 7pm. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.

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Program showcases social justice issues in Hamline-Midway

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin

HU students premiere  multi-media program to showcase social justice issues in Hamline-Midway

Students at Hamline University are collaborating to bring a unique vision of social justice through photography and sound to tell the story of the Hamline-Midway community. The students will be showcasing their work to the public at the Hamline-Midway Library Auditorium on May 20 from 5-7pm.

The exhibit, titled “Overlooked and Underheard: Image, Sound, Social Justice,” incorporates photography taken in the Hamline-Midway community by students in an “Introduction to Issues in Social Justice” class. Students from a class called “Sound for Moving Image” then created unique soundtracks for the photos. The showcase focuses around issues impacting the community including homelessness, lack of access to healthy foods, and racial and ethnic diversity.

Headed up by two first-year professors, Valerie Chepp (Social Justice) and Josh Gumiela (Digital Media Arts, they wanted to bring students together from distinct disciplines to illustrate how one set of disciplinary tools and perspectives informs the other.

The project is based on a participatory action research technique called “Photovoice,” in which participants use photography to advocate for important issues in their community. The Hamline students’ project, however, incorporates an innovative twist on Photovoice, adding a sound design element in order to tell stories of social justice in the Hamline-Midway community.

The goal of this project is to empower students to become actively involved with the Hamline-Midway community and help bridge the gap between the university and surrounding neighborhood. Community members are welcome and encouraged to attend the showcase and participate in the conversation about community change. The hope is that this project will contribute to the ongoing collaboration between Hamline students and neighborhood partners.

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