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Archive | December, 2015

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.

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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.

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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

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
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.

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IMG_4813

Building a ready and resilient neighborhood

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

By MARIA HERD
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.

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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

By JANE MCCLURE
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.

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SpiritTaekwando_12144667_974225272635122_6131417495317283925_n

Spirit Tae Kwon Do emphasizes courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit in Fairview Ave. location

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Spirit Tae Kwon Do (TKD) at 655 Fairview offers lessons in traditional and Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do. “Our mission statement is to share the beauty of Tae Kwon Do while strengthening the practitioner with the five tenets observed in the art,” explained co-owner Agnes Espino.
Spirit TKD‘s main focus is on courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.

Agnes’ husband, Spirit TKD instructor, Joe Espino, is a firm believer that to be a well-rounded martial artist, one must master oneself first.

Agnes added, “Our lessons are based on uplifting the practitioner to gain confidence, self-awareness and a sense of community involvement.”

SpiritTaekwando_12144667_974225272635122_6131417495317283925_nPHOTO LEFT: Spirit Taekwondo is a member of USA Taekwondo Association. Students attend, compete and support local and national tournaments. Spirit Taekwondo houses local grand champions and National Olympians. (Photo submitted)

This emphasis on strong moral values is what sets Spirit Tae Kwon Do apart.

“The views of Spirit Tae Kwon Do towards martial arts is not based on physical capability alone,” pointed out Agnes. “It is not based on the financial status of an individual. It is, however, based on the practitioner’s attitude on adapting the art in their everyday life.”

Strong family bonds
Spirit Tae Kwon Do offers a variety of classes for adults and children age five and up. Siblings and parents are encouraged to take family classes together.

In fact, that’s how the Espino family became involved in Tae Kwon Do. Joe, Agnes and their two daughters began training together at USA Tae Kwon Do in Farmington, Minn. in 2005.
Born and raised in Chicago, Joe had always enjoyed martial and combative arts, including Kung Fu, boxing, kickboxing and Tae Kwon Do.

Upon seeing the benefits of what Tae Kwon Do had to offer, Joe decided to become a practitioner. He found that it helped him in growing closer to his family, friends and community.

He studied under Master Luong Pham and Master Hoang Danh. In 2010, as a Master instructor, Joe open Spirit Tae Kwon Do in St. Paul on Grand Ave.

“Spirit Tae Kwon Do strongly believes in strong family bonds and a nourishment of one’s spirit,” said Agnes.

Spirit TKD families are supportive of each other, welcoming towards newcomers and understand the importance of community involvement.

Master Joe works with people from all walks of life. He enjoys helping families become closer to each other. He also works with individuals that have autism and social anxiety, finding activities and hosting focus sessions for children with special needs.

Adults and kids experience physical benefits, such as increased strength, stamina, energy, flexibility, balance and faster reflexes; as well as the mental benefits of improved concentration, reduced stress levels and increased levels of relaxation throughout the day.
Becoming role models

“Tae Kwon Do can give the practitioner confidence, motivation and initiative. The practitioner exercises their body physically, their mind mentally and their soul spiritually. Tae Kwon Do opens up new outlooks on life,” said Agnes. “They make friends, achieve goals and ultimately become role models through the art of Tae Kwon Do.”

Spirit Tae Kwon Do is a member of USA Tae Kwon Do Association. Students attend, compete and support local and national tournaments. Spirit Tae Kwon Do houses local grand champions and National Olympians. Spirit Tae Kwon Do provides after school programs and lessons to St. Paul public schools and St. Paul area private schools.

Spirit Tae Kwon Do also offers other packages such as Tae Kwon Do-style birthday parties, fundraisers, holidays and social events, demonstrations and private lessons.

Interested individuals can call 651-428-6170. Or, stop by for a free class. For more information, browse www.istkd.com or visit one of their two Facebook pages: Spirit Tae Kwon Do St. Paul and Spirit Tae Kwon Do School.

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Lorna and Dan

The ‘People’s Music School’ moves to Midway

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
‘The People’s Music School’ is now located in the Midway.

After 45 years in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, the West Bank School of Music (WBSM) moved in July 2015 to 655 Fairview Ave.

“The feedback from students and instructors has been incredibly positive,” remarked Amy Reise. “The organization has engaged new students from the neighborhood and the building, including siblings of St. Paul Ballet students; individuals who train at the Elements studio; and members of the Living Word munity-oriented businesses located in the former Banta Corp. paper warehouse that is owned by Living Word Church.

Lorna and DanTransforming lives
The mission of West Bank School of Music is to transform lives and the community through innovative music education and inspiring performances.

PHOTO RIGHT: West Bank School of Music student Lorna W. takes a lesson from accordion instructor Dan Turpening. (Photo submitted)

Founded in 1970, WBSM was created by musician/composer Warren Park to expand music education beyond traditional classical training styles. Informally nicknamed, “The People’s Music School,” WBSM was the first music school in Minneapolis to specialize in music education in popular and roots music styles, including blues, jazz, folk, Rock n’ Roll, country, and world music.

Over the past 45 years, more than 20,000 students of all ages have received affordable, innovative music education from instructors who, in addition to teaching for WBMS, are professional musicians, recording artists, and composers.

Music classes develop the brain
West Bank School of Music offers private lessons, classes, workshops, ensembles, summer youth band camps, and community concerts. Families and students of all ages and backgrounds are attracted to West Bank School of Music’s affordable music instruction that offers a disciplined, yet casual style and focus on teaching students based on their interests.
“Music education is beneficial for people of all ages, and it is never too late to learn a new instrument or resume lessons,” urged Reise.

She added, “Musical training helps develop the brain areas involved in language and reasoning; promotes spacial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures of things); promotes creative thinking and problem solving, and encourages empathy.”

Lila AmmonsPHOTO RIGHT: Lila Ammons is a vocal instructor at the West Bank School of Music. (Photo submitted)

West Bank School of Music has taught private lessons to students as old as four and as young as 82. Music instruction is offered seven days a week, during the daytime and evenings. Lesson times are arranged with instructors.

For further information about West Bank School of Music instructors and instrument offerings, visit wbsm.org or call 612-333-6651. Lesson rates are affordable, and there are discounts and scholarships available.

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St. Paul Hello 03

Saint Paul Hello: new initiative aims to get people connected

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When Jun-Li Wang moved to St. Paul in 2004, she found it hard to connect with Minnesotans. Of Taiwanese origin, she had grown up in California with a huge extended family. “We were always inviting strangers in, and everyone was made to feel welcome,” Wang said.

St. Paul Hello 03PHOTO LEFT: Jun-Li Wang, St. Paul Hello visionary and founder. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Wang went to graduate school in New York, where she earned a masters degree in international development. After graduation, she worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. She lived in Taiwan for a year and studied Mandarin Chinese.

In short, she was used to relocating, to making her home in new and unfamiliar places. But when she moved to St. Paul, none of her old strategies worked.

Jun-Li was finally inspired to act when, almost coincidentally, she bought her first ear flap hat during the winter of 2013. It was a winter of epic proportions, even by Minnesota standards. “For the first time in eight years,” Wang said, “I wasn’t cold all winter. I couldn’t believe no one had told me to get one of these before.”

St. Paul Hello 02She started to think about ways to distribute warm hats to newcomers—hats with ear flaps. Then she thought further about creating events that would connect people while introducing them to resources and information about their new city.

PHOTO RIGHT: Event goers sport Minnesota winter-appropriate head gear. (Photo by Brady Willette)

Wang applied for a Knight Foundation Grant to cover the two initiatives that make up “Saint Paul Hello: Welcome Hat and Nice Breakers.” Both were funded and, on top of her full-time job with Springboard for the Arts, Wang has them up and running.

Welcome Hat held their first monthly gathering on Tues., Oct. 6 at the Minnesota Historical Society. The special Minnesota-themed guest for the month was Paul Bunyan, and Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter was on-hand to officially welcome the 200+ guests.

St. Paul Hello 01PHOTO RIGHT: Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter greets newcomers at the first Warm Hat event. (Photo by Sean Smuda)

To Wang’s great pleasure, 160 warm hats were given away, along with a whole lot of useful information. Twenty vendors set up resource tables with food samples from local restaurants, maps of where to find neighborhood libraries, brewery lists and much more.

“We had no idea who would come to our first event,” Wang said, “but it worked. A few of the people I spoke with had been in Minnesota for as long as three years, and were really excited to be here.” Future Welcome Hat events will be held monthly at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Nice Breakers are a series of events co-hosted by Saint Paul Hello and participating partners. Wang aspires to have 2-4 Nice Breaker events per month during this pilot year.

Previous events have been held at Fort Snelling, on the Green Line, in Leonardo’s Basement, at the Union Depot, and in deep discussion over books at the Happy Gnome Bar. Check the website at www.sphello.org to learn more about both Welcome Hat and Nice Breaker events in the future.

Wang said, “With both of our initiatives, the hope is to attract all newcomers—not just young professionals. Our goal is to help get people connected.” Toward that end, Wang and her colleagues have trained 16 Saint Paul Hello “ambassadors.” One or more of these is present at each Nice Breaker event, ready to greet newcomers and help facilitate conversations with others.

Saint Paul Hello is assisted and supported by the event planning cooperative Curious Incident, Pollen, the Minnesota Historical Society, the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater MSP and Hamline Midway Coalition, and with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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MNYFP_HannahJastram_8422814248508588887_n

Food professionals cultivating change in regional food system

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

During monthly happy hours, Minnesota Young Food Professionals connect, learn and catalyze action

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
A group of young professionals who are passionate about food is hoping to change the food system in the region.

MNYFP_Daniel and othersAmong them is Midway resident Daniel Gerdes, who joined Minnesota Young Food Professionals (MNYFP) a year ago through an internship with Hamline University, and now serves on its steering committee.

PHOTO RIGHT: Photo left: MNYFP monthly happy hours include delicious food and drinks. Midway resident Daniel Gerdes (center of table) is deeply thankful the group exists. “Some of my greatest memories with family (when I was younger) and with my close friends (more recently) involve making food with them,” remarked Gerdes. (Photo submitted)

“The value in MNYFP for me is a very welcoming community of individuals who genuinely care about the food system in the region, and are excited to talk about/become involved in/support local efforts to make the food system more sustainable and equitable,” said Gerdes.

“We’re helping connect various local food leaders, movements, and projects to support each other and realize the change they desire to see in our community.”

MNYFP_FarmTripMNYFP founder Eric Sannerud agreed. “For me, MNYFP is all about building friendships with fellow young folks who are working towards a better food system—relationships that will allow us to more effectively lead change together, now and into the future,” said Sannerud.

PHOTO LEFT: Minnesota Youth Food Professionals visit Prairie Horizons Farm in Starbuck, Minn. Left to right: Eric Sannerud, farmer; Mary Jo Forbord, registered dietitian and farmer at Horizons Farm; Hannah Jastram, registered dietitian and storyteller; and Donald Warneke, SNAP-Ed educator. (Photo submitted)

Sannerud operates Mighty Axe Hops in Ham Lake, working as a fourth-generation farmer on the land his great-grandfather settled. This year, Mighty Axe sold hops to Burning Brothers (located in the Midway neighborhood), Fulton Brewing, Bad Weather Brewing, Fair State, Bent Brewstillery and 10K Brewing.

Full-time food professionals into ‘foodies’
While some MNYFP group members like Sannerud work full-time as farmers, others are simply interested in the food movement and are self-defined “foodies” interested in healthy eating.

Gerdes falls somewhere in between.

Employed through AmeriCorps VISTA through the Phillips Family Foundation’s “Phillips Sectoral Employment Initiative,” Gerdes is placed at the Pohlad Family Foundation as a Program Associate with the Pohlad Foundation’s Youth Advancement Program (YAP). His range of duties includes creating a plan to expand the use of SNAP Employment and Training money to improve employment and training services for the State’s SNAP recipients (formerly known as food stamps).

“I think there are several very large issues the food system faces today—the greatest one among them is access to healthy food,” said Gerdes. “Wealth/income disparities in the US, and especially here in Minnesota, create grave health disparities for people of color and low-income people. The price of healthy food often puts it out of reach for people living near the poverty line.

“While SNAP helps expand families’ budgets to make that food more accessible, we must do more to help folks living in poverty access healthy food…especially locally-grown healthy food.”

MNYFP_HannahJastram_8422814248508588887_nPHOTO RIGHT: Hannah Jastram appreciates the deeply personal nature of the group and has been inspired to write more on her blog, landfoodlife.blogspot.com. Two of her closest friends are regular attendees, not because they are connected to the “food industry” in any formal sense, but because they respond to and connect with the passion of the other attendees, she pointed out. (Photo submitted)

Fellow steering committee member, Hannah Jastram is also working to change health and nutrition policies in the state. Jastram’s experiences touch upon many areas in the food industry. She worked in restaurants for eight years, got an undergrad degree in nutrition and dietetics, earned credentials as a registered dietitian nutritionist in 2012, and currently works as a communications associate for University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development.

“ECFD includes health and nutrition programs that work to change policy, systems, and environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice for Minnesota families, and it is my privilege to support them in this work,” she explained.

Monthly happy hours
MNYFP’s mission is to “connect driven, young food professionals in the greater Twin Cities area to develop a professional community, generate and share knowledge, and catalyze action.”

While some of those qualifiers are loosely defined (young and professional), the group is attempting to build a more connected sphere where people interested in changing the food system—or who are already doing so—can connect with each other. By connecting, they can help support each other’s work and collaborate to be more effective, explained Gerdes.

MNYFP_2ndAnniversaryMinnesota Young Food Professionals hosts monthly happy hours. The next one will be Tue., Dec. 15 from 6-8pm at Wedge Table in Minneapolis.

PHOTO LEFT: Minnesota Young Food Professionals celebrate their second anniversary in November 2015. The group hosts monthly happy hours centered around a theme. On Dec. 15, the group will meet at Wedge Table in Minneapolis from 6-8 p.m. (Photo submitted)

These monthly social events are centered around a theme. Recent topics included: Are we what we eat?; To organic or not to organic; and soil health and water quality. Local food system leaders share their stories and field questions from group members. MNYFP also hosts conversations on a range of different topics surrounding food. Events include icebreaker and team building activities.

Group members also visit local organizations to be more involved in food projects, such as helping with the harvest at Mighty Axe Hops Farm harvest and gleaning with Fare For All.

Connections
“The core function of MNYFP—to connect people to each other—is what feeds my soul. Nothing generates warm fuzzies for me like connecting people to the resources they need,” remarked Jastram. “To be a happy person, family, community, or city, you need to experience a meaningful connection with other humans, to be heard by others. MNYFP creates space for people to experience those connections and be heard in a way that attendees might not get in their place of work/education/faith.”

Jastram appreciates the deeply personal nature of the group. Two of her closest friends are regular attendees, not because they are connected to the “food industry” in any formal sense, but because they respond to and connect with the passion of the other attendees, she pointed out.

“Food is so personal, so intimate, and our discussions about food regularly go to those intimate places,” Jastram observed.

“The commitment among our ‘Cultivators’ (our word for leaders) to maintaining a community is authentic to our needs,” stated Sannerud. “We’re not your usual professionals group, and we’re not trying to be.”

Gerdes pointed out that the steering committee is always talking about how the group can be ever more inclusive to people who might not feel like they fit the group description of “young food professional.”

He is deeply thankful the group exists. “It’s very uplifting to know I have a time (at least) once per month that I can get together with other people in the Twin Cities who are actively involved with changing the way our food system operates,” Gerdes remarked. “I truly believe the more connections we make between the various moving parts of the vast regional food system, the smaller the space we’re all operating in will seem.”

Jennifer Nicklay, the newest MNYFP cultivator, is constantly inspired by the people she meets at MNYFP events, and impressed with how much motivation folks provide each other to act on their dreams and goals.

“The support network we’re developing will touch all aspects of the Twin Cities because we come together from the arts, education, farming, hospitality, and corporate sectors,” said Nicklay, who is a volunteer community gardener with Fairshare Farm in the Southeast Como and works at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

“As we continue to take on leadership roles in these sectors, we’ll be able to reach out to one another and more effectively enact change.”

For more information, check out the group’s Facebook page or email minnyfp@gmail.com.

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BristolArenaNight_PopulousArenaTeam_Nov2015_socialmedia

Kansas City-based firm chosen to build soccer stadium

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

Continuing the development process of its future Major League Soccer (MLS) home, Minnesota United FC has announced Populous as the lead architect for the new soccer stadium at the Snelling and I-94 site in the Midway. Populous has worked on many of the top sports facilities—from training venues to Olympic stadiums—throughout the world.

The Kansas City-based architecture firm is recognized for its focus on environmentally sustainable projects and is considered a leader in stadium design. Populous has created soccer stadiums throughout the world, including the MLS stadium in Sporting Kansas City, Olympique Lyonnais in France, Tottenham Hotspur and  Arsenal in England, C.F. Monterrey (MEX), and the 2010 World Cup Final stadium in Johannesburg.

Populous was the lead architect on local several local stadium projects, including Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium. Some of their other impressive projects include Wimbledon’s Main Stadium, the stadiums for the 2000 Sydney and 2012 London Olympic Games, the new Yankee Stadium in New York City, and renovation projects for Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, Camden Yards in Baltimore, and Wembley Stadium in London.

BristolArenaNight_PopulousArenaTeam_Nov2015_socialmediaPHOTO RIGHT: One of the current international projects that Populous is working on is the stadium for Bristol, England.

In addition to these state-of-the-art projects, Populous is currently in the process of designing the new MLS stadium for Orlando City Soccer Club.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to design another memorable sports experience for the Twin Cities,” said Bruce Miller, Senior Principal at Populous and lead architect for Minnesota United’s new stadium. “Major League Soccer has found a great home in St. Paul and our design team is excited about the opportunities to create a mixed-use entertainment destination that will thrive year-round. The site’s central location, access to public transit and exposure on I-94 make it a model site for a Major League Soccer venue. As a building block in growing the Minnesota United brand, the stadium will become the heart and soul of soccer in the northern Midwest.”

Minnesota United was awarded an MLS franchise earlier this year in a highly competitive process that put Minneapolis–St. Paul ahead of other major markets in the United States. The club later announced its commitment to building a new, privately-financed soccer stadium at the Snelling-Midway site in St. Paul. The stadium is scheduled to be completed in early 2018.

Further information about United’s future home can be accessed by visiting newstpaulstadium.com.

Fans can secure their spot in the new stadium by joining the crowds now. With the purchase of 2016 season tickets, fans will receive their MLS priority number, giving them first choice of seats in the new stadium. Call 763.4SOCCER or visit MNUnitedFC.com/tickets to get tickets and reservations.

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