Archive | February, 2017

Wonderlust Productions 02 slider

Wonderlust Productions to work all year on a ‘Capitol’ idea

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

Wonderlust Productions experienced a swirl of growth and activity in 2016. The theater group received a grant from the Mardag Foundation that allowed them to lease rehearsal space at 550 Vandalia St. in the Midway. As company manager Deb Ervin said, “It really was time to get out of our kitchens.”

They had a successful run of their most recent work, the “Adoption Play Project,” at Mixed Blood Theater in Nov./Dec. The play was funded by a Metropolitan Regional Arts Grant and explored the many facets of adoption with stories gathered from more than 200 voices in the adoption community.
Along with Ervin, co-artistic directors Alan Berks and Leah Cooper created Wonderlust Productions three years ago. The Wonderlust mission is to forge new ways of seeing common experiences by creating plays that transform the past into a better future.

Their method? To listen, to wonder, to create, and to repeat.

“We don’t write plays from our own agenda,” Berks said. “Our plays are a retelling of stories that have been shared by others. Our goal is to work in communities that may have been overlooked or misunderstood and to bring those stories to life. ‘The Adoption Play Project’ was a perfect example of that.”

Wonderlust Productions 02Photo left: Wonderlust Productions illuminates shared stories through live performance, mixing community members from across generations, ethnicities, and perspectives with an ensemble of professional actors, designers, writers, and directors. Pictured are two of the three founding members: Alan Berks, co-artistic director, and Deb Ervin, company manager. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The company is already gathering stories for their next play. Generously funded by the Knight Foundation, the “Capitol Play Project” will look at the day-to-day business of how government works.

Anyone who has experienced the Minnesota State Capitol in a meaningful way is welcome to participate in a story circle. Have you been a lobbyist, a custodian, a protester, a teacher who led grade school field trips, or a nervous college intern? What brought you to the State Capitol Building either recently or long ago?

More than a dozen story circles were held over the summer. There will be three more open to anyone with a story to tell on Mar. 2 and 7 from 6:30-8:30pm, and Mar. 4 from 11am-1pm in Room 317 of the Capitol Building. Learn more about the story circle process by visiting wonderlustproductions.org/story-circles.

According to Berks and Ervin, “Wonderlust projects take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to develop. After a theme is chosen, like the state capitol, we look for community partners and hold story circles where people can share their experiences. That’s the foundation. Next, we host workshops to experiment with text and movement, draft a script, and present public readings of the work in development. Finally, we hold auditions, rehearse, and stage a world premiere of our new play.”

“It’s a gratifying, time-consuming, and transformative process for people who participate in any of the steps along the way,” Ervin said,

Berks anticipated that “once the story circles are completed, we’ll start writing the first draft of the script in March. Open auditions will be held this summer, and the play will be cast with a mix of community members and professional actors. Our intention is to perform the play at the Capitol in Nov./Dec..”

Why a capitol play project? “We hear a lot about politics, sensationalism, and conflict,” Berks said, “but on a practical level, somehow things have to get done. The building is used, maintained, and appreciated by ordinary people every day. The way our capitol building is accessible to the public is unusual. There are spaces within the building that can be reserved for free on a first-come, first serve basis. It’s meant to be a building for everyone.”

Berks concluded, “Leah, Deb, and I make plays because we believe this way of working has the potential to change people’s attitudes and behaviors. We have an ambitious growth plan for Wonderlust Productions, and lately we feel like we’ve been running at a sprint. But at our core, we love theater because it gives us the chance to ponder—to be filled with wonder.

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University Avenue Retail 01 slider

Historian relates the history of retail on University Ave.

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

Midway Chamber of Commerce presentation explores past and present

Photos and article by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
University Avenue Retail 01The Midway Chamber of Commerce sponsors a lunch meeting of their economic development committee each month. As part of January’s meeting, local historian Brian McMahon (photo right) explained that “to understand the history of retail along University Ave., it helps to go back to when it all started.”

Imagine traveling back in time to the 1880’s, when the Midway neighborhood became home to the Minnesota Transfer Railway Company. The inspiration of railroad magnate James J. Hill, it served as a depository for almost all freight sent to the Twin Cities: lumber, coal, leather, horses, dry goods, anything that could be put on a train passed through here.

According to McMahon, “Railroad and industrial development worked together to help the neighborhood grow.” One example of this was Brooks Brothers Lumber, located for years at the corner of Prior and University avenues. Because of easy access to lumber coming off the trains and being sold at Brooks Brothers, a vast array of manufacturing soon sprang up along University Ave. – giving rise to the neighborhood motto, “We make it here.”

Much of the identity of the Midway area has been shaped by business leaders and residents who came together in 1919 to form the Midway Club, the predecessor of the Midway Chamber of Commerce. According to the chamber’s website, “The club was instrumental in attracting new business to the Midway, improving transportation systems, and obtaining street lights to run the length of University Ave.”

With commercial development, railroad transportation, and the growth of the streetcar system, retail in the Midway area was well on its way.

Fast-forward to the present, past years of entrepreneurship involving the changing population of University Avenue’s merchants and customers.

University Avenue Retail 06Dr. Bruce Corrie (photo left), the next presenter at the chamber event, is a professor of economics and dean of the College of Business and Organizational Leadership at Concordia University in St. Paul. A native of India, Corrie has devoted years to researching the economic contributions of African, Latino, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) communities locally and nationally.

“When I came to Minnesota,” Corrie said, “one of the things I noticed right away was that minorities and immigrants were perceived according to a ‘deficit model.’ They were viewed according to what they were taking, or what was being given to them, and not according to what they were bringing to the table.”

Corrie developed a concept he called ethnic capital, in which members of the ALANA community are seen as entrepreneurs, as employees and employers, as creators of trade networks. He estimated that “there are at least 300 ALANA businesses in the Midway area,” and asked, “How can we create a trickle-up economy? How can we all share in the changing prosperity?”

A third perspective was offered by long-time Furniture Barn owner Bobby Wilson, whose business is currently located at Snelling and University avenues. Furniture Barn is renovating the former Chevrolet Building at 1389 University Ave., and planning a late-winter move there.

”I’ve learned to say nightstand and chest of drawers in a few different languages,” Wilson shared. “I think about 75% of our customers come from somewhere other than Minnesota. I’ve tried to make my sales staff understand this—that it’s important for people to feel welcome in our store whether they’re speaking Hmong or Somali, English or Spanish.”

Wilson continued, “I have a passion for this community. I think we have the potential to be great like the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis—maybe even better. But because of the prevalence of on-line shopping, those of us who do own brick and mortar buildings have to be smart, or we’re just going to die. I bet you can even order a car online these days.”

The irony of the question wasn’t lost on a man who is rehabbing the old Chevrolet building, one of University Avenue’s preeminent businesses in the chapter of history when used cars ruled supreme in this retail corridor.

The history of retail on University Ave. has been one of resiliency and change.

The Midway Chamber of Commerce represents over 330 businesses and organizations. They are dedicated to building a stronger Midway by being a catalyst for economic development, connecting employers with resources to recruit and train a productive workforce, and helping their members grow their businesses.

Visit www.midwaychamber.com or contact executive director Chad Kulas at 651-646-2636 to learn more about the benefits of membership. They hold 5 to 6 events monthly in member businesses throughout the Midway.

Their Fourth Annual Economic Development Summit, “Driving Growth in the Midway: People, Place, Partnerships, and Prosperity,” will take place on Wed., Mar. 15 at the University of St. Thomas. The event will kick off with a St. Paul mayoral forum, and conclude with a keynote address by David Reiling, Sunrise Banks CEO.

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Port Authority will lease 15.6 acres of Midway Center property

Port Authority will lease 15.6 acres of Midway Center property

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

Stadium should open in 2018 or 2019; superblock redevelopment may take up to a decade or more

The St. Paul Port Authority will lease 15.6 acres of the Midway Center property, under a plan approved Jan. 24. It’s hoped the lease will kick off long-awaited shopping center redevelopment, which is supposed to happen in conjunction with a planned Major League Soccer stadium for Minnesota United FC.

If all goes as planned, soccer stadium construction could start in earnest in April and be completed in 2018 or 2019. Redevelopment of the shopping center could take much longer, possibly a decade or longer.

superblock-photoPhoto left: The proposed lease agreement puts the Port Authority in the position of being a shopping center master tenant. The goal is to find a development partner or partners, and a new potential owner or owners for the 15.6-acre shopping center property. Redevelopment of the shopping center property could possibly take a decade or longer according to officials. The illustration is an example of an almost infinite number of development possibilities. (Photo provided)

The lease agreement, which was recommended for approval Jan. 17 by the Port’s credit committee, puts the development agency in the position of being a shopping center master tenant. The goal is to find a development partner or partners, and a new potential owner or owners for the 15.6-acre shopping center property. Port Board members said they don’t want to be a long-term property owner or developer. Instead, the agreement is touted as facilitating redevelopment.

The Port Authority created a development district at the shopping center last fall.

A private development partner or partners could be announced this month as talks are underway with several interested parties. “The (lease) project will facilitate the Major League Soccer project and will likely be a mixed-use development in a commercial district,” Port documents stated.

Tenants would be consistent with a master plan approved by the St. Paul City Council last year, according to the agreement. That plans calls for offices, retail, restaurants hotel space and apartments on the 34.5-acre “superblock” bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues.

Port Authority President Lee Krueger has characterized the Port’s necessary participation due to the “complicated financial aspects” of redevelopment. RK Midway and Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire have been in talks for several months but aren’t commenting about how that is going.

The Port Authority involvement and the likelihood or another developer are being watched closely by Union Park District Council as the council’s land use and transportation committees prepare to review more detailed site plans for the soccer stadium before construction begins in April. The detailed site plan starts city staff review this month. That plan will provide more detail on issues including utilities, streets and contamination sites. Several district council committee members said they are concerned that development plans unveiled last year by Minnesota United and RK Midway have stalled and that a new development partner could make changes to the master plan.

“It’s fair to say that there are a lot more questions than answers at this point,” said Union Park District Council Executive Director Julie Reiter.

The Port Authority has done similar deals before, with the redevelopment of the former Macy’s store downtown as the most recent example. That space is being redeveloped into a practice rink for the Minnesota Wild and retail/office space.

The property covered by the Midway Center lease includes much of the shopping center, including Rainbow Foods and properties along University Ave. It doesn’t include land along Snelling, including the former American/Midway Bank Building and a building housing Big Top Liquor. That property would continue to be owned by RK Midway. RK Midway also would retain the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Pascal and St. Anthony.

The master lease agreement gives the Port up to 120 days to do its due diligence, determine the financial viability of the lease and the potential cost of any environmental remediation required in connection with development. This time period would be used to complete an agreement with a development partner or partners. RK Midway would retain control over the shopping center during that time.

If the agreement moves forward it would be assigned to the Capital City Partners arm of the Port Authority. A limited liability company of Capital City Partners and private develop would be formed.
The agreement is for 52 years, the same duration of the city’s agreement with Minnesota United and Metropolitan Council on the stadium.

Annual rent will be negotiated, based on the existing revenues collected from the shopping center’s current tenants, for years one through five, with a three percent increase for years six through 10, and a five percent increase for each five-year period hereafter.

Little work has been done on the old bus garage property despite a ceremonial groundbreaking in December 2016. Xcel Energy has relocated some utilities, and lead contractor Mortenson Construction has hung a banner on a fence.

But Rainbow and stores to the east need to be torn down to make way for the planned soccer stadium.
Minnesota United officials wish to have the stadium open in 2018, but Port and team officials have said a 2019 opening is more likely. Most of the stadium will be on 10 acres owned by Metropolitan Council, where a Metro Transit bus garage stood for many years.

Another aspect of the agreement has the Port overseeing environmental cleanup for the entire superblock, not just the stadium site as announced earlier. It has pollution from several sources, including decades as a streetcar and bus garage facility and from a long-gone dry cleaner in the eastern part of Midway Center.

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Grand Round Como Raymond report slider

Is West Midway and Como next step in the Grand Round?

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

The Grand Round, St. Paul’s citywide bike and pedestrian link to lakes and the Mississippi River, could grow this summer with work in the West Midway and Como areas.

More than 50 people attended a Jan. 17 meeting at Merriam Park Community Center to see the plans for Pelham Blvd. and connections to Raymond Ave. and Mississippi River Blvd. If the project wins approval from the St. Paul City Council, it would be implemented this spring.

The Grand Round is a 27-mile system of bicycle and pedestrians facilities that connect the Mississippi River, Como, and Phalen parks. Parks Planner Kathleen Anglo said the Grand Round was envisioned in the late 19th century by landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland. Cleveland was hired by both St. Paul and Minneapolis to outline a plan for the cities’ park systems.

Grand Round Como Raymond reportPhoto left: The Grand Round was envisioned in the late 19th century by landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland, and was meant to be a 27-mile system of bike and pedestrian facilities. This section would come up from University Ave. and run  just south of the State Fairgrounds.  (Illustration provided)

Cleveland, who was a leader in the “City Beautiful” movement, wanted St. Paul to protect its natural areas along the lakes and river. While most of the street parkways were in place by the 1930s, most Grand Round work stalled for many years. Proponents revived the plans in the 1980s, but city financial support and detailed planning didn’t start again until 2000.

Anglo said that the current Grand Round effort focuses on the northern 13 miles of the Grand Round, through East Side, North End, Como, St. Anthony Park and Desnoyer Park. More than 40 meetings have been held to discuss the project, which is supported by the city’s Vibrant Places and Spaces (formerly 8-80 Vitality) Fund. Work along Wheelock Pkwy., from Edgerton to Rice St., was done last year. More work is planned in the Como area this year.

“This has been a gap in the bicycle network for a long time,” said Reuben Collins, a Public Works transportation planner who leads the city’s bicycle planning. Public Works and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation are working on the plans. This year’s plans call for work along Raymond, Myrtle St. and then to Pelham.

Pelham south of I-94 could have one of St. Paul’s first cycle tracks, to create another leg of the Grand Round.

While plans to continue the Grand Round have strong support among bicyclists and advocacy groups, neighborhood groups are weighing support and concerns about the plans. Desnoyer Park Improvement Association, Union Park District Council, and St. Anthony Park Community Council all are following the plans and will weigh in at some point, as will the St. Paul Planning Commission Transportation Committee. No groups have taken a position yet, although St. Anthony Park Community Council’s (SAPCC) Transportation Committee is considering route options in that area. Union Park District Council’s initial discussions have included more focus on Pelham traffic calming.

Neighbors and businesses along the route had mixed reactions, with some expressing strong support and others asking that heavy rush hour traffic volumes on Pelham be considered in the context of cyclist safety.

A cycle track is a signed and striped set of bicycle lanes on one side of a street, with a buffered area between the bike lane and motor vehicle traffic, between the parking lane, or between both. Pelham would have one bike lane in each direction for its cycle track. Minneapolis has recently installed a cycle track on First Ave. N. between Eighth St. N. and Washington Ave. St. Paul Public Works is looking at cycle tracks in other locations.

The on-street cycle track plans are considered an interim step, with a permanent change eyed when Pelham is rebuilt, said Collins. It doesn’t call for street reconstruction—just paint and flexible plastic posts installed into the street. The posts and paint narrow the street and provide a measure of traffic calming as well as a safer place for bicyclists.

A cycle track does mean extra measures at intersections, including more signage and green pavement markings to denote where bikes go.

Pelham isn’t in the Public Works’ five-year street construction plan, so a permanent bikeway is several years away, said Collins. Its status is a 35 rating on a 100-point scale. Longer-term ideas call for off-street bicycle trails, with landscaping between Pelham and the trails. The street would be narrowed as a result of reconstruction.

The interim and permanent solutions would take away parking on the east side of Pelham in Desnoyer Park.

Pelham is a municipal/state aid street and a collector route, carrying about 4,000 motor vehicles per day. Speed studies indicate that most motorists drive over the posted speed on Pelham, at 39 miles per hour. The limit is 30 mph. Narrowing Pelham with the cycle track is seen as a way to slow traffic. The street varies in width from 36 to 44 feet.

“We have a high volume of traffic on Pelham during rush hour,” said Desnoyer Park resident Marit Bujold. “It’s hard to get in and out of driveways as motorists, and hard to cross Pelham as pedestrians,
“This is a wonderful neighborhood, with lots of new, young families,” Bujold said. “The number of children living here has skyrocketed.” She described rush hour traffic as “bumper to bumper’ at times and questions how the bike project would promote safety.

“We don’t want people to use Pelham as a cut-through,” said Collins. But he admitted that it can be a challenge to redirect motorists. Pelham traffic is something city staff continues to look at. The hope is that the cycle track will narrow the street and slow motorists down.

North of Interstate 94, bike lanes would be striped on either side of streets. In that area city staff and consultants have focused on parking. The Raymond-University area has some businesses and multi-family buildings, as well as Avalon, a charter school.

Pat Thompson serves on the SAPCC Transportation Committee. “We know there are business concerns about the potential loss of parking on Myrtle and Raymond,” she said. The committee would like to see Wabash Ave. looked at as the connection between Pelham and Raymond, but railroad tracks in the street mean that option has been ruled out by Public Works.

Shannon Forney, co-owner of Workhouse Coffee Bar near Raymond and University said her business would welcome the bike connection. She does see improved bike parking facilities as a need after the project is completed.

Forney also said she likes the idea of a cycle track. “That kind of protected bike lane gives more comfort to some riders, especially novice bike riders,” she said.

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Police in Schools 43 slider

SFER hosts meeting at Central about police presence in schools

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

A community meeting held at Central High School on Jan. 27 attracted about 200 participants. The meeting was organized by the Minnesota branch of Students for Educational Reform (SFER), a non-profit organization that empowers community members, parents, and students to bring their voices together for educational justice.

At issue was the racially charged question of how community members view having police officers in St. Paul public schools.

Police in Schools 13Photo right: Students for Educational Reform staff (in black) helped with registration and translation for the community meeting at Central High School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

For the 2016-17 school year, the St. Paul School Board has authorized $984,499 to fund nine school resource officers (called SROs) across the city. The School Board bears nearly all of that cost; $100,000 is covered by the City of St. Paul.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who work in the schools but, according to several voices in the audience, that’s about the only commonality they share.

A broadsheet distributed by Students for Educational Reform at the meeting said “SROs work in 28% of Minnesota schools, yet there is no standardized training, certification, or workplace monitoring to guide how the officers interact with students. If SROs do receive pre-service or on-the-job training, it’s related to law enforcement or security. It rarely covers mediation, de-escalation, youth development, working with youth who have special needs or have experienced trauma—all of which are critical issues when it comes to having a positive school culture.”

Police in Schools 43Photo left: Educator Rashad Turner (pictured at right) moderated a youth panel with high school students from Minneapolis and St. Paul. The student panel expressed a unanimously negative opinion of police in their Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools. They perceive that students of color are especially targeted, and do not see SROs as a positive presence in their schools. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Latasha Gandy, executive director for SFER MN said, “We want to make sure that all Minnesota students feel safe and nurtured in the school environment where they’re meant to learn. Once a kid has had even one interaction with the criminal justice system, the likelihood that they’ll drop out of school rises dramatically.”

At the meeting, a panel of community members was moderated by educator Rashad Turner. In response to his question, “Why do you think police are being placed in St. Paul schools?” Annika Foley, community arts activist and Rondo resident, said, “There is a need for public safety, but it’s coming at the expense of students of color.”

The mostly African-American, East African, Latino, and Asian audience agreed.

Jason Mattlock, a 12 year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department and a former SRO, said,“When it comes to doing the job of an SRO, what the officers lack is an understanding of their own biases—as well as an understanding of the importance of racial disparities.”

Tony Simmons is principal and co-founder of the High School for Recording Arts on University Ave. near Lexington Pkwy. He requested an SRO in his school a few years ago, because he felt it was necessary to ensure a safe learning environment. “We haven’t had an incident that resulted in an arrest since then,” Simmons said, “but every day I worry that something could escalate into that.”

Pastor Marea Perry, a parent of a Como High School student, said, “I feel that SROs are trained to be out on the streets, not dealing with our kids in the schools.”

“At SFER,” Latasha Gandy summarized, “our hope is that there would be no police officers in the schools. Our reality view is that SROs will be present – but that they will answer to the same code of conduct across the board. We have asked Governor Dayton for a task force that would create a state-wide curriculum and certification for SROs; clearly defined SRO roles, duties and protocol; an emphasis on prevention and restorative justice, data collection and evaluation of SROs impact on students. We are eager to see what the outcome of that will be.”

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District Council border change request gets polite, but firm, ‘no’

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin


A request from Hamline Midway Coalition to expand its southern boundary to take in Midway Center, Midway Marketplace and the planned Major League Soccer stadium met a pointed but polite “no” Jan. 4 from Union Park District Council (UPDC). Although UPDC did extend an invitation to HMC to discuss the matter further in March, HMC Executive Director MichaelJon Olson said he believes the matter is moot at this point.

Union Parks’ land use committee has agreed to jump-start joint working efforts on Midway Center and soccer stadium planning, with the goal of meeting this month.

HMC recently contacted Union Park staff and council leadership to raise the idea of a boundary change. But no one from District 11 attended the Jan. 4 meeting, which irked some of the Union Park board members.

District 13 Union Park’s current northern boundary is the south side of University Ave. District 11 Hamline-Midway is on the north side of the street. Some Hamline-Midway residents and district council members contend that the planned soccer stadium at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, and the future redevelopment of the Midway Center shopping center, will have more of an impact on their neighborhood than on neighborhoods to the south.

At a June 2016 St. Paul Planning Commission public hearing on the stadium site plan and Midway Center master plan, HMC Board and committee members said their planning district needed a say on the plans. HMC Development Committee Member Renee Spillum said at that time that her biggest concern was that District 11 had no say in the plans, even though her neighborhood would be more affected than Union Park.

But UPDC Board members said Jan. 4 that they have always invited HMC and Hamline-Midway residents to participate in site discussion and to be part of working groups focused on Midway Center and the stadium. Very few residents and district council members have shown up.

“It’s not like we’ve locked the door and kept them out of meetings,” said UPDC Board Member David Rasmussen.

The board also noted that they haven’t always had the level of involvement in major projects that they would like. UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter said the district council had to learn about the soccer stadium groundbreaking last month through media reports.

UPDC Board Member Katie Jarvi, who chairs the district council’s development and land use committee, said the request might be an opportunity for more collaboration. “But I don’t see us ceding a large part of our district.”

“My first reaction is absolutely no,” said UPDC Board Member D.J. Johnston. “We’ve represented that area for a long time.” He and others said the area had been well-served as part of District 13.
Another concern is Skyline Tower. Union Park has worked with the hundreds of high-rise residents, many of whom are immigrants, engaging them on a range of community issues from park development to pedestrian safety and land use planning tied to Green Line light rail.

“We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to that area,” said UPDC Board Member Josh Capistrant.

Then there is the planned park on Griggs St. just south of University Ave. UPDC has worked closely with Gordon Parks School on park plans.

A change would also affect the Howard Park neighborhood around the former Midway Hospital and the Iris Park neighborhood southwest of Fairview and University avenues. UPDC has been involved in planning for improvements at Iris Park.

St. Paul has 17 citizen participation or planning districts, which were set up in 1975 up to facilitate communication on issues and give feedback to the city. The council runs a wide variety of programs, which varies by neighborhood, and do planning for their neighborhoods.

Making a boundary change means following a petition process with 75 percent of property owners agreeing to the change, or having both councils agree to shift boundaries.

Changes to district council boundaries are nothing new in St. Paul. HMC has discussed a shift of its southern boundary in the past, although the issue hasn’t been raised for many years.

About five years ago what was District 6 North End-South Como became North End after South Como neighborhood residents voted to join District 10 and Como Community Council.

In 1982 a section of West 7th St. joined District 9 West 7th/Fort Road Federation and seceded from District 15 Highland District Council. In the 1970s what had been Southwest Area District Council split into Highland and Macalester-Groveland community councils.

UPDC formed in 2007 when the Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline councils merged. But those councils were always in the same planning district.

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universal recycle symbol

Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

Compiled by JANE MCCLURE

Rough start for recycling
St. Paul’s recycling cart roll-out has had some glitches since it began in mid-January. Confusion over cart placement and missed pickups generated numerous complaints to city officials and contractor Eureka Recycling. The problems followed last-minute delivery of carts in parts of Hamline-Midway.

universal recycle symbolSome area residents received tags explaining why their recycling hadn’t been picked up, due to open or improperly placed carts. Carts need at least an arm’s-length clearance on either side to be mechanically picked up by the new trucks and need to be right on the alley line. But in some alleys, space is tight.

The recycling problems have dominated social media sites including Nextdoor and Facebook, with some people saying they’ll stop recycling because it is a hassle. Consternation has also been voiced about tracking chips placed in the carts and cameras on the trucks, with residents raising questions about rights to privacy.

Ellen Biales, administrative programs manager for the St. Paul Department of Public Works, said that, in general, tracking chips are used to keep track of cart locations and monitor what is a $4 million city investment. Carts have bar codes and were scanned when they were dropped off. She said the chips won’t be used to check and see whether or not people recycle, as is done in some cities. Doing so would require ordinance changes in St. Paul.

The cameras are used to see if non-recyclable materials are put in the carts so that drivers don’t dump those items in with recycling.

The St. Paul Department of Public Works and Eureka officials are urging patience, as are City Council members. Eureka has proactively been issuing reminders and posting cart placement information online, as well as leaving tags on carts that are left open or that are improperly placed.

Eureka also posts regular updates at www.eurekarecycling.org. The website includes frequently asked questions about the recycling change.

“It’s a big change, and we’re asking people to be patient,” Biales said. “It’s going to take the time to get used to. This is the biggest change we’ve made since residential recycling began.”

“Starting any new program has its challenges, and this is a brand new system,” said Council President Russ Stark. He said many people wanted alley recycling and lidded carts rather than bins, and that everyone needs to work together to make the change. “While you can make plans for a change, until the truck actually got out there, we didn’t know how it would work.”

If recycling isn’t picked up, look for a tag on the cart. At homes with no alley, carts need to be placed right along the curb. The carts need to be closed, with the lid opening facing the street or alley. Carts must be out by 7am on collection day. Eureka won’t pick up items left outside of the carts, meaning that items such as large pieces of cardboard need to be cut into smaller pieces and put in the cart.

Area projects are funded
The Transportation Advisory Board (TAB), which advises the Metropolitan Council on transportation issues, has recommended projects to receive $208 million in federal funds. The federal funds will leverage an additional $205 million in local matching funds for a total investment of $413 million.

The TAB selected transportation projects from throughout the region as part of the Regional Solicitation released last May. The 58 projects selected for funding include local highway, bridge, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects in all seven counties of the region; in 45 different cities and townships. A few projects are in Monitor neighborhoods, including a $5 million allocation toward the Como trail that is part of the Grand Round citywide bike and trail system.

Other area projects include $2 million to modernize traffic signals at Snelling Ave. and Lexington Pkwy. and $165,000 toward a travel demand management pilot project for St. Paul campuses. The latter project will be overseen by St. Paul Smart Trips.

“The process of allocating these federal dollars to metro area transportation projects is rigorous and requires the dedication of so many partners,” said Council Chair Adam Duininck. “This collective commitment to reviewing and approving projects that benefit the region is remarkable. I commend all the various participants for their dedication.”

Outdoor markets easier to hold
Businesses wanting to hold sidewalk sales and groups organizing outdoor events will have an easier time, with St. Paul City Council adoption Jan. 25 of an ordinance governing outdoor sales and events. The ordinance takes effect in 30 days.

Only Union Depot, which supports the changes, was represented at a Jan. 18 public hearing on the topic. The zoning code amendments will simplify regulations for Christmas tree lots, farmers’ markets, open-air garden centers, sidewalk sales, fireworks tents, festival vendors, food trucks and similar events. It will simplify events such as the Little Mekong Night Market held every summer on University Ave., which features food, vendors, and entertainment.

The Planning Commission in November 2016 recommended the changes. Outdoor markets and market-style events are becoming more popular. The regulatory changes will make it easier for sponsors to hold the events. In 2014 the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the Little Mekong Night Market. The city used the same regulations for the Night Market as it uses for farmers’ markets, but that raised questions among city staff and planning commissioners and the Planning Commission initiated a study in 2015.

The changes to the code better define what an outdoor commercial use is, require a conditional use permit for larger outdoor commercial uses, and provide some regulatory exemptions for smaller neighborhood festivals and smaller commercial uses.

Tree removal program
St. Paul enters its seventh year of fighting emerald ash borer with the removal of trees from city golf courses and several area streets. More than 800 trees were removed around the city. Tree removal began in January. About 175 trees were slated for removal at Como Golf Course after youth ski lessons wrap up there this winter. Work on all golf courses has been planned in a way to minimize damage to turf.

St. Paul has used a structured removal program to remove ash trees, looking for areas with trees in decline. The insects are expected to eventually kill all ash trees. In some areas the city removes trees. In others, some trees are treated while others are removed.

City officials are also placing green bands on trees to raise awareness about emerald ash borer.
St. Paul leaders had hoped to step up tree removal and treatment this year and had allocated extra funds in the city budget. Those steps are on hold as are any other 2017 initiatives. How litigation over right-of-way maintenance will be settled will likely affect what added spending, including tree removal, can be done this year.

Walmart police calls eyed
The number of police calls to Midway Walmart, 1450 University Ave., is an issue Union Park District Council (UPDC) is looking at during the 2017 legislative session. Representatives of the group Making Change at Walmart met with the district council in January to describe the problems on Walmart and other retailers needing a disproportionate amount of police services. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is one of the groups involved.

The district council heard a report on the police issues but sent the matter to a committee for further review. Advocates want to see more done to ensure that Walmart and other retailers pay for their share of police services. UFCW leader Bernie Hesse said the time spent on police calls to Walmart could be instead spent on protecting area neighborhoods.

The police issues are also the focus of State Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), a former city prosecutor who has described Walmart as the “problem child of Minnesota retailers.” St. Paul and Brooklyn Center Walmart’s average three police calls per day. The Making Change at Walmart campaign contends that Walmart is simply using police instead of beefing up its private security, and that not having adequate security puts workers at risk.

Lesch and other state lawmakers are planning to hold a hearing this session to put a spotlight on the issue.

2018-2019 Capital budget deadline draws near
St. Paul’s 2018-2019 Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) process won’t be the parade of projects seen in the past. For the first time in decades district councils, booster clubs and other groups aren’t hurrying to meet a January project submission date. Instead, the pared-back process’s first deadline is March 3, when requests for federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) projects are due.

Area district councils, some of which had started planning project submission before the competitive process was dropped last year, are now looking at how their neighborhoods can be engaged in upcoming funding discussions.

In light of millions of dollars in capital maintenance needs and large-scale projects including the replacement of Fire Station 21 in West Midway and Scheffer Recreation Center in Frogtown, the City Council and Mayor Chris Coleman changed the 2018-2019 CIB process. The city will only take project applications this year for CDBG funding. Those requests, which hover around 20 per CIB cycle, come from city departments and neighborhood-based community development corporations. The funds are used for programs including housing rehabilitation, vacant building removal, and commercial building improvements.

The city allocates about $4 million per year in CDBG funds through the CIB process.

The big focus for 2018-2019 is likely to be capital maintenance, with the completion of a citywide Department of Parks and Recreation conditions assessment expected in April. The study is expected to highlight several million dollars in needs for recreation centers, parks, trails, courts, and playgrounds.

Capital maintenance requests will be discussed and reviewed by the CIB Committee in the fall.

Coleman’s 2017 budget included a one-time add of $1.5 million for parks and libraries’ needs. The City Council added more funding. Along with the regular CIB maintenance allocation, the total is at about $3.6 million for 2017. Much of that is on hold pending decisions on how future right-of-way maintenance fees will be paid.

Coleman, who is not seeking re-election, will present his final capital budget in August. Specific capital maintenance projects can be picked before year’s end.

Some district councils and booster clubs hope to advocate for capital maintenance work in their areas, after the parks and recreation needs are outlined. But most are looking ahead with the hopes for a competitive process again in 2019, for 2020-2021 projects. St. Paul has had a state-mandated capital budget process since the 1980s, to fund streets, recreation centers, playgrounds, public safety facilities and other brick and mortar needs. It has been a competitive process, with district councils and city departments ranking every project.

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Como Council Community Corner

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

District 10 releases upcoming Sunday Series lineup
District 10’s popular Sunday Series returns in 2017 with a free presentation every month this winter and spring.

The series launches Sun., Feb 12, when Minnesota State Fair general manager Jerry Hammer—a longtime District 10 resident—gives a whirlwind tour of the history of the Great Minnesota Get Together. There will be plenty of time for questions and trying to verify how good your memory is. The presentation is 1-2:30pm at Como Dockside, in the third-floor banquet hall.

The rest of the 2017 lineup:
• Mar. 19: Learn about one of our neighborhood’s best-kept secrets: the Como Woodlands Outdoors Classroom. The presentation includes a sneak peak at a new user’s guide to the woodlands. 1-2:30pm, Visitors’ Center at Como Zoo and Conservatory.
• Apr. 2: Sarah Weaver from the University of Minnesota’s Monarch Lab talks about the precarious state of everyone’s favorite butterfly. Her discussion includes an overview of the monarch’s biology and life cycle, why the population of monarchs is crashing, and what individuals can do to turn this around.
• May: Landscape and Garden Design
• June: The Capitol Region Watershed District unveils a new study on Como Lake’s ecology.

Keep tabs on District 10’s website or on social media to get more details as each event draws near.

Report potholes
The unseasonably warm winter means potholes already are blooming all over. The quickest way to file a pothole complaint with City of Saint Paul Public Works is to send location information to Potholes@stpaul.gov.

Upcoming District 10 meetings
• Como Community Council Board: Tue., Feb. 21
• Environment Committee: Wed., Feb. 22
• Land Use Committee: Mon., Feb. 27
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tue., Mar. 7

Community members are always welcome to attend and participate. All meetings begin at 7pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton. Whenever possible, agendas are posted ahead of time on the home page of our website: www.district10comopark.org.

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Como High Debate

News from Como High School

Posted on 06 February 2017 by Calvin


• Two teams from the Como Park Debate program qualified for the Minnesota State Debate Tournament, held at the University of Minnesota on January 13-14. Juniors Jackson Kerr and Stephen Boler placed third in the section tournament to qualify. Sophomores Peter Schik and Henry Hansen placed fourth in sections to earn the final state qualification spot. Both teams participated in the policy debate division, which examined the question of the U.S. increasing its diplomatic and/or economic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.

Como High DebatePhoto right: Como Debate team members qualified for the Minnesota State Debate Tournament. State qualifiers pictured from left to right are sophomore Peter Schik, junior Jackson Kerr, junior Stephen Boler, and sophomore Henry Hansen. (Photo provided)

Teams prepared arguments and positions for 90 minutes of debate against their opponents. The experience of debate has been rewarding for the participants. “We know infinitely more about China-U.S. relations than we did prior to the debate season,” said Kerr. “We really enjoyed the camaraderie, and the practices were lively.”

Como has sent teams to state in debate before, but qualifying two teams in the same year was a first for the program. Deb Hansmier has stepped into the role of debate coordinator at Como, following the contributions of Abbey Boehm-Turner. The technical aspects of research and debate preparation are led by Como debate alum Ian Johnson, who takes pride in the progress of the program. With the state tourney entrants being sophomores and juniors, there is already enthusiasm and great promise for next season.

• Como Park students Sumaya Mohamed, Kari Gurney, Josafen Sanchez, Annalaura Mendez, PaNhia Vang, and Lay Lay Thoo participated in the Youth in Government Model Assembly program at the newly refurbished state capitol from January 5-8. The program gives high school students from across the state opportunities to serve as legislators, judges, attorneys, lobbyists, government officials, and media representatives in sessions that are conducted by the youth themselves.

Senior Sumaya Mohamed served as a press secretary for the assembly, which in total had over 1400 participants. “It was such an amazing opportunity; I was able to network and learn so much. I connected with NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent, who was an alum from Youth in Government and was covering parts of the event for NBC,” said Mohamed. It was a powerful and inspiring experience for all of Como’s participants, organized by Liz Paone.

• Carole Whitney is a nominee for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Whitney is the music department chair at Como, conducting five choirs, directing the fall musical, and the spring play. She has created opportunities for all students ranging from beginning choir, to preparing soloists and ensembles for state competitions, to leading her advanced choirs to Carnegie Hall in New York City during the span of her 23 years at Como.

She has been certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Early Adolescent

• Young Adult Music and has held several other leadership positions in regional and state music organizations. Nominees for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced in May. A panel of community leaders will work with Education Minnesota to analyze and determine finalists during the coming weeks.

• Freshman Amelia Schucker earned a violin seat in the Minnesota Opera’s “Project Opera” program. This year’s production is “The Nightingale” which will be staged at the Minnesota Opera Center in Minneapolis on February 10 and 11. Music Director Matthew Abernathy will lead the youth training program for talented performers.

The Como Park Winter Instrumental Concert was held on Jan. 23 in the Como Auditorium. The concert featured the intermediate band, concert band, jazz band and orchestra under the direction of Dr. Philip Fried.

• Como’s National Honor Society (NHS) has collected and delivered over 300 books to Como Park Elementary School students. The project is an expansion of a project called the Children’s Book Express which was created by retired professor Phil Martin from Minneapolis Technical and Community College. The program goal is to get books in the hands of children that need them.

NHS students set up a collection box (built by Bob Prifrel’s woodworking class) in the main office. All books were donated by Como students and staff. Seniors Hannah Rhee and Divine Uchegbu launched and coordinated the effort. “It really is a community project, and the school has been very generous with their donations,” said Uchegbu. “NHS students have constantly volunteered to count, store and transport the books.” The project will continue throughout the spring, and the elementary students will be equipped with plenty of new and gently used age-appropriate books to read.

• Winterfest Spirit Week took place at Como from Jan. 30-Feb. 3. Thematic dress-up days were held all week, and the coronation of the Winterfest King and Queen was held in conjunction with a Pep Fest. Spirit Week concluded with the Winterfest Snowball Dance at the Midpointe Event Center on Feb. 3.

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Trips to the library can help cure the winter blues!

Trips to the library can help cure the winter blues!

Posted on 06 February 2017 by Calvin

May2014LibraryPhoto_2Feeling the winter blues? Cabin fever have you antsy? Come to the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., to find books, DVDs, CDs, free computer and Internet access, and lots of great programs for every age.

The library hosts Chair Yoga with Nancy Giguere on Thursdays, 10:30-11:30am. Upcoming events are on Feb. 9, 16, and 23 and Mar. 2. These events are co-sponsored by the Hamline Midway Elders.

Also on Thursdays are the library’s BYO Craft @ Hamline meet-ups, 6-7:30pm on Feb. 9, 16, and 23. Bring knitting, crocheting, or other handmade projects to work on and enjoy community while you craft!

The library features Preschool Storytimes in English on Fridays, 10:30-11am. Upcoming storytimes are on Feb. 10, 17, and 24 and Mar. 3, 10, and 17. The storytimes include puppets, songs, fingerplays, and great stories and are open to children of all activity levels.

There is an Evening/Pajama Storytime in English on Tues., Feb. 14, 6:30-7pm. Pajamas, stuffed animals, and blankets are all welcome! There are no evening storytimes scheduled for Fe. 23 or in March.

Sat., Feb. 11 from 11:30am-5pm is Math and Science Day at the library. This family-friendly event will include fun games, crafts, and activities featuring math and science. Use math to make art, do an experiment, hunt for math symbols and more.

As part of the Math and Science Day, Saturday Science meets Sat., Feb. 11, 1:30-3pm to explore 2D and 3D dimensional geometry with a Valentine’s theme. Mark your calendars for the March Science Saturday on Mar. 11, 1:30-3pm. The theme that day is wind energy. Science Saturdays are best for ages 6 and up.

The Fireside Reading Series presented by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library continues through February. On Wed., Feb. 15, 7pm, Fred Amram reads from “We’re in America Now: A Survivor’s Stories,” a riveting memoir of a family’s escape from Nazi Germany to Holland and America. On Wed., Feb. 22, 7pm, Larry Millett reads from his book, “Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma.” Each event features cookies and coffee.

The Teen Book Club meets on Sat., Feb. 18, 3-4pm, to discuss teen books, from graphic novels to Read Brave and more! For grades 9 and up.

All libraries will be closed on Mon., Feb. 20 for Presidents’ Day.

On Wed., Feb. 22, 1-3pm, Jody’s Documentary Film Series will show “Where Soldiers Come From,” directed by Heather Courtney. This PBS POV documentary follows three lifelong friends as they sign up for the National Guard and journey together from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Afghanistan and home again. This event is a collaboration with the Hamline Midway Elders.

On Sat., Feb. 25, 1:30-2:15pm, kids in grades 1-3 are invited to join librarian Shelly for the Show and Tell Book Club. Share books, do fun activities, and eat snacks!

On Fri., Mar. 3, elementary-age children are invited to Fun with Mice! from 11am-12pm. Join the fun as we explore mice stories and create mice crafts and comics!

The Saints and Sinners Book Club meets Sat., Mar. 4, 1-2pm. Contact volunteer G. Balter for a book list or more information at gerribalter@gmail.com or 651-224-5570.

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory