Archive | March, 2017


Unforgettable adventures found locally at youth summer camps

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Popular local options include West Bank School of Music, Friends School, Blackhawks and Como Park

Take an unforgettable adventure to Africa this summer or spend a week at Hogwarts. Focus on ballet, Irish dance or tap. Experience the circus. Go for gold in the Animal Olympics at the zoo or create something great at the Friends School. Try tennis, soccer, or mountain biking. Dabble with clay, book arts or sewing. Step back in time and be a history detective.

That’s just the start of the youth camp options available in the Twin Cities area. Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


Blackhawks (photo right) offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.
Cost: $85-195

Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!” Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors. Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.
Cost: $135-155

Want to make a film just like the professionals do? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems you want to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that–and more–from June 19-Aug. 4 for ages 4-14. Weekdays, half- and full-day. Extended day care in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.
Cost: $105 to $295

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language, and song. Or enroll in Gibbs Girl or Digging History sessions. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.
Cost: $19-99

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.
Cost: $400

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun June 12 to Aug. 18. Outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, caring for the school’s chickens, and much more, all on their beautiful 8-acre campus. 70 East County Road B, St. Paul. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
Cost: $150- $275
651-487-6700 x202

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Take a writing workshop entitled: “A Week at Hogwarts.” Debate, play chess, learn about mathematical modeling and forecasting, make movies or delve into creative science options. Eight options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12. The Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth offers the ExplorSchool for students in grades 4-6.
Cost: $195-385

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a new “mommy and me” baby class.
Cost: $8.50-20

Located at 30+ sites, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

There’s something for everyone at WBSM this summer! Camps: Rock, Pop, Funk, Brass, and Girls Rock–Ensembles: Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Fiddle, String Quartet, and Irish–Guitar Classes: Blues, Celtic, and Finger-style, and more.


Construct ten castles, get lost in colossal mazes, build suits of armor and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 8-17. Buses available from Powderhorn Park. New this year: Teen Weeks and Advanced AiC.
Cost: $339

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.
Cost: $200-$220

Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun. NEW this year: Campers will spend their time exclusively in the shelters.
Cost: $120-300

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like mirror images, urban forest, theater, art car, or paper and book arts offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.
Cost: $124-275

Grab your passports and join ArtStart artists on an unforgettable adventure to Africa through the arts. Preschool children ages 4-5 years register for “A Start with the Arts” offered morning only the week of July 10-14 and 17-21. Youth ages 13 years and older register for “Camp CREATE” offered June 19-22. Youth select classes taught by professional artists from multiple arts disciplines—music, creative movement/dance, and visual arts. As a result of participating in this 5-day immersion experience, youth gain artistic knowledge and skills, learn about the people, geography, and environment of a place and create artworks and performances inspired by the culture.
Cost: $145-$295. 651-698-2787.

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.
Cost: free

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions offered for ages 6-15. Or make your own camp with Circus Sampler Days.
Cost: $85-405

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.
Cost: $960-$4,510

Explore prairies, wetlands and woodland trails during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.
Cost: $50-200

Make butter, ice cream, and bread while learning about science, agriculture, and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts. Three four-day sessions offered in July and August.
Cost: $150

Fiddling taught by master Swedish and American fiddlers, whistle making and folk dancing.
Cost: $235-305

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.
Cost: $325-425

Experience the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Become a history investigator. Or, try out what life as an archeologist is like. Camps range from one day to one week.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-3 at the Germanic-American Institute.
Cost: $130-150

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration and build self-confidence.
Cost: $30-110

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance, and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway with daily field adventures.
Cost: $75-335

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science, and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 115 classes available over 10 weeks.
Cost: $185-370, scholarships available

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis (photo left). Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.
Cost: $200

Play music, get creative, bake bread, and construct books while exploring the rich culture of the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.
Cost: $225-$250

A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including woodcarving, viola and cello, combat robots, puddlestompers, fencing, movie making, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons and a weekly off-campus activity (photo right).
Cost: $36-500
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.
Cost $160-305

Summer programs for youth ages 3 to 16 combine science, art, drama, and literature in ways that encourage kids to actively discover and examine concepts for themselves. Programs also offered at the Lee & Rose Warner Nature Center, the state’s oldest outdoor environmental education facility.
Cost: $60-345
651-221-4511, 651-433-2427

Southeast Soccer fields a variety of girls and boys teams for ages U9-U18 at beginner, intermediate and advanced competitive levels. Consider the Lil’ Dribblers soccer program for ages 4 -8, or summer traveling teams (photo left).

Learn about devised theater, music, and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those pre-K to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.
Cost: $125-475

Use LEGO bricks, gears and motors to construct and program robots. Opt to learn to code or create your own video game. Math Addvantage offers five-day, half-day camps for grades 2-8.

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.
Cost: $87-370

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the weeklong, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines (including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze).
Cost: $275

Painting, drawing, clay, theater, writing, glass and much more for ages 6-14.
Cost: $23-$97

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options. There’s something fun for everyone from preschool through grade nine.
Cost: $80-350

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

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Planned Parenthood Rally 06 slider

Planned Parenthood has been steeped in controversy for its 100 years

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

A national day of protest against Planned Parenthood on Sat., Feb. 11 drew about 150 anti-abortion activists to the organization’s regional headquarters in the Midway. More than 5,500 defenders of Planned Parenthood turned up to support the organization in a counter-protest. The two groups were separated by a “neutral” corridor 15’ wide, reinforced on both sides with temporary fencing.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota (PPMNS) has been located at 671 Vandalia St. for six years. The organization was first established in Minnesota 89 years ago and nationally is celebrating its centennial year. Margaret Sanger opened the doors of its first clinic in Brooklyn, New York in 1916, and the controversy over Planned Parenthood has never waned.

Photo right: Brian Gibson (pictured left), Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, spoke at the Feb. 11 protest. The group has a regular presence in the daily protests at Planned Parenthood headquarters; (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

A smaller scale protest takes place outside the building every day, with volunteers from local pro-life organizations and churches coming in regularly scheduled shifts. Called sidewalk counselors, these protesters attempt to dissuade patients from entering the building or from using the services provided there.

Photo left: Supporters and opponents of Planned Parenthood were separated by fences and a neutral space of about 15′. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In response, PPMNS has assembled a cadre of 55 volunteer escorts to make patients feel welcome when they arrive. Jason Garcia is one of the volunteer escorts. ” I‘ve been volunteering on Saturday mornings for two years,” Garcia said. “I’m a bigger guy, and I feel like maybe protesters are less likely to engage with me. We work in teams of two, and Saturday mornings are a busy time. All of the escorts are here to support the patients and not to interact with protesters.”

PPMNS Communications Manager Emily Shaftel said, “The blue-vested volunteer escorts are here to help direct people in and out of the building, and to greet each patient or visitor with a smile. The protesters are restricted to the sidewalk, and can’t approach the driveway or parking lot area. We have a top-notch team of professional security guards inside the building. Incidents of violence are extremely rare; our priority is making sure that patients, staff, and volunteers feel safe here.”

Photo right: Opposing sign holders stood a respectful distance apart and did not engage with one another. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“The recent protest was a continuation of the high level of support PPMNS has received since the election,” Shaftel said.”We’ve been inundated with more than 1,600 new volunteer inquiries and generous financial support from the community.”

“We’re an organization that provides a broad range of services to about 64,000 patients in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota,” Shaftel noted. “These services include birth control counseling and products, annual gynecological exams, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, vaccines (human papilloma virus and hepatitis B), vasectomies, and abortions. Abortion services are an important part of reproductive health care, but make up less than 5% of our services annually.”

She underscored that “abortion rates are at their lowest since data collection began in 1974. We believe that’s because of the ease of access to birth control and sex education. Congress is currently proposing defunding Planned Parenthood from Medicaid: the government healthcare insurance program that provides low-income individuals and families with affordable healthcare. If they succeed, it would mean that our patients who use Medicaid—about 40% of the people we serve, or 24,000 in Minnesota alone—would not be able to come to our clinics. Many of them come to us as their main source of health care, and federal Medicaid dollars can not be used for abortions.”

In addition to the daily sidewalk interactions, there are events coming up this spring on both sides of the argument. Planned Parenthood is sponsoring a Solidarity Day on Fri., Apr. 14 from 10am-3pm with food trucks, music, games, and more.

Groups opposing Planned Parenthood will gather on the fourth Saturday in March and April. Pro-Life Action Ministries will sponsor a STAND! prayer rally from 9-10am on those dates. STAND! prayer rallies are held at different facilities that provide abortions throughout the year, giving supporters a chance to learn the prayer and engagement techniques used by experienced Pro-Life Action Ministry team members.

(Editor’s Note: Brian Gibson, Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, declined to be interviewed for this story.)

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Project manager Tim Van Houten

District 10 supports bonding request to redevelop Sholom Home

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Seeking support for the renovation of the former Sholom Home property at 1554 Midway Pkwy., an architect from Tanek and developers presented their case to the District 10 Como Community Council at its board meeting Feb. 21.

The plan is to convert the former nursing home into an assisted-living facility and also include 25 memory care units. To complete this project, tentatively called Como Park Senior Living, developers are seeking up to $18 million in tax-exempt bonds from the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The property, which has stood vacant since 2009, has four buildings which will be gutted. Tim Van Houten (photo left), a project manager and designer for Tanek Architectural Design, said the original portion of the complex was built in the 1920s, and the exterior was amazingly intact. Van Houten said they want to lighten up the dark wood trim and bring it back to its original color. He said a fair amount of interior demolition has to be done.

“We want to put in all new windows and move the large canopy from the front,” he said. “The rest of the complex was built in a series of stages through the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

“For the most part, we want to clean it up and not make major changes,” he noted. “We plan to use the two parking lots, but not expand them. They meet all zoning requirements.”

When last in use, the complex had 330 beds in it, with very small rooms. This was fairly typical of nursing homes, according to Van Houten. “We’re proposing to cut the number of beds in half.” He said the 25 studio-type memory units would have their own private outdoor area and meet all security protocols. The assisted-living units will feature one bedroom, a large bathroom, countertop and sink and general storage. “All meals will be served by the main kitchen,” Van Houten added.

He said the dining area is much larger than what is needed, and part of that space will be used for a game room and chapel, or multi-purpose media, whatever the needs are.

Van Houten said there will be sufficient parking for the staff; it is anticipated that few residents will have cars.

“The dead trees will be removed and new plantings put in,” he said.

David Grzan is CEO of developer Carlson CRE Group, LLC, and CEO of owner Charter Midway,LLC. He said they doing a quasi-early start. “We got a grant from the city of St. Paul for remediation, and we expect to start sometime in early March,” he stated. “We want to have the building asbestos-free, so we are starting that process independent of any financing or construction.” He said that from the time the owners close on the transaction, they are estimating about a year for construction and then will begin leasing. The lease-up mode should last from 12 to 24 months, with some of the first residents moving in the first and second month after construction finishes.

Grzan told the Council that 80 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing, with maximum rents for those units set at $891.The remaining units will have rents of around $2700.

“Almost all projects out there are being delivered for people who can pay their way,” he continued. “And for those who can’t, they are hard-pressed. There is no place for them to go.”

He said the developer plans to be able to bring technologies to this project that no one else has. He said they hope to be able to monitor for falls, as well as provide physiological monitoring. “This will be a showcase not only for St. Paul but for the entire nation,” he commented. “We will provide the best health care at the lowest cost in a brand new facility.”

But to make this renovation a reality, the owner and developers are seeking tax-exempt bond financing from the city of St. Paul.

“This year, unlike in past years, there’s more demand for those bonds than there is availability,” said Stephanie Hawkinson, director of Housing Development with Landon Group. “The city has a limit on its authority to approve these bonds, and they are weighing out which projects will be funded and which ones will not be funded.”

Hawkinson said that the tax-exempt bonds come with tax credits, which allows for the rents to be capped and remain affordable to seniors. “The tax credits come automatically with the bonds,” she said. This financing would provide half the funding necessary to convert the former nursing home into the assisted living complex.

“We respectfully are requesting you to express your support for this to City Council member Russ Stark since he is in a position to decide which bonds get approved and which do not. We want to make sure that this is one that gets funding,” Hawkinson said. The property is in Stark’s ward.

Grzan said his group has been carrying this project since December 2015. “A few owners before us attempted to do the same thing,” he noted. “What we found out is the marketplace isn’t really interested in financing this property. Banks don’t want to touch it, and preferred equity and investment bankers don’t want to touch it. We met with 90 sources from coast to coast, and they just don’t want to get involved. Part of it is dealing with a building that goes back 100 years. So here we are, working with the city of St. Paul to capture that tax-exempt bond financing that comes with taxable credits. It’s complicated, and there are a lot of moving parts, but it’s the only way we can shoehorn our way into this and get it done.”

In his 35 years of fundraising, Grzan said he had never come across a tougher project. “But we are happy to have the opportunity to have the city work with us,” he said.

Following a brief discussion, the Council voted to send letters of support for the bond financing for the project to City Council members Stark, Amy Brendmoen, and Dai Thao.

“The complex has been vacant for years, and we as neighbors would like to see the building rehabbed, jobs created, and our elderly residents stay in their community,” said District 10 Council Member Kevin Dahm.

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Captain Chad Kampe slider

Organization dives into the sea of students’ imaginations

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

What is the Mid-continent Oceanographic Institute (MOI), and what is it doing at 2388 University Ave. W.–in the heart of the Midway district and the great Midwestern plains?

Now in its fourth school year of operation, MOI is considered the Twin Cities’ premier portal for youth-focused creative writing programs and homework help. The goal of the organization is to encourage kids aged 6-18 to become captains of their own stories, writing skills, and imaginations.

According to Executive Director Chad Kampe (photo left), “We made a lot of progress reducing educational disparities in the Twin Cities in 2015-16. We served 1,417 students through our educational programming, published our first Young Author’s Book Project, worked with 32 partner schools, and 176 volunteers.”

All of MOI’s programs are available at no cost to students and families. Their staff is dedicated to helping any young person who needs it.

“We offer after-school homework help Mon.-Thur. from 3-6pm,” Kampe said. “This is where we use most of our volunteers, and they can come for as little as a 90-minute shift, or stay for the whole three-hour period. In addition to tutors, we welcome volunteer illustrators, event planners, and committee members. We offer volunteer orientations frequently.” Email the center’s training and evaluation coordinator at max@moi-msp.org for more information.”

A former elementary school teacher at the St. Paul Friend’s School and the Jewish Day School, Kampe understands the value of strong writing skills. “More and more, funding for creative writing in the schools is being cut,” he said. “With the continued emphasis on testing, there are fewer resources and less time devoted to developing the writing process. At MOI, we’ve created a sort of ‘third space,’ which is neither home nor school. It’s a fun place for kids to come because creativity is at the heart of everything we do here.”

MOI is modeled after a learning center created by Dave Eggers, an author who jettisoned himself to fame with the publication in 2000 of his memoir, “A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Following the success of his book, Eggers created the first of seven learning centers across the country to encourage young people to build their writing skills and to help teachers inspire their students to write. Each of the learning centers in Eggers’ network boasts a quirky theme: pirates, time travel, robots, spies, and here in St. Paul, the Midwest’s one and only oceanographic institute.

Walking into the offices of MOI is like walking into the hull of an ocean-going vessel. There are diving helmets, sailor hats, shells, nets, and other ocean paraphernalia spread throughout the writing area. Staff communicates with walkie talkies, and there is no shortage of nautical lingo tossed around. It’s common to be greeted with a friendly “ahoy,” and Kampe is referred to as “the captain.”

MOI aspires to eventually become a learning center under the auspices of Eggers’ organization, which iscalled 826 National. Chapters presently exist in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and Washington DC.

“We’re in conversation with the 826 National expansion committee to transform and grow our program in the next few years,” Kampe said.

In addition to the tutoring that takes place on-site, MOI staff travel to schools in the community where more than 50% of the student body qualify for free or reduced lunch. This year they’re at Como High School every Tuesday and Thursday for two class periods, working with teacher Risa Cohen and her students on a year-long book project based on personal identity. The end-result will be a published Young Author’s Book Project, a compilation of the student’s creative writing.

School groups are also able to travel to MOI on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the school year for bookmaking and storytelling field trips. Call 612-367-7827 to learn more about these opportunities.

Two fundraising events are coming up in March to benefit the work of MOI:
• On Wed., Mar. 22, the Turf Club and Trivia Mafia are co-sponsoring a Trivia for Cheaters Fundraiser; pre-party starts at 6:30pm, and event from 8-10pm at the Turf Club. You can register your team at www.moi-msp.org.
• On Fri., Mar. 31, the Illusion Theater in downtown Minneapolis is sponsoring an event called “An Hour or So with Dave Eggers and Kate DiCamillo.” The pre-party starts at 6:30pm, and the event starts at 8pm. Ticket price includes a signed book by each author, DiCamillo and Eggers.

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Small Sums 08 slider

Small Sums operates with a whole lot of “sole”

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Local non-profit Small Sums helped more than 500 homeless adults start new jobs last year. Their role is not to find jobs, but to help new employees get the things they need to show up ready for work on their first day.

Most of the jobs their clients take have requirements for work shoes, steel-toed boots, uniforms, union dues, tools or other gear that a homeless person would be hard pressed to buy. The men and women who come to Small Sums live in shelters, on the streets, in cars, or temporarily with friends or family. Before their first paycheck comes, there is likely little or no extra money available.

Executive Director Terre Thomas (photo right) said, “We believe that employment is a key factor in helping homeless people turn their lives around. At Small Sums, we’re able to provide timely and practical assistance in a way that few agencies can. Our clients don’t get a written job offer in the mail with two weeks’ notice. They get a phone call on Tuesday morning saying, ‘Can you start work tomorrow afternoon?’ We have to be nimble and quick to help them, and we are.”

Small Sums is located at 1222 University Ave. W., in the outlet warehouse of Cheapo Records. Their office space is donated by Al Brown, owner of Cheapo Records and a Small Sums board member.

When clients come for an intake, they meet with Direct Client Services Manager Dave Rannow. He issues a gift card for Walmart or Goodwill (both a short walk away) to help with clothing needs, assists in selecting work shoes, if needed, and issues a free one-month bus pass. The average cost for getting a new worker job-ready is less than $200.

Before their conversation begins, the client’s job offer is verified. Small Sums has a one-time limit for their services.

“We have a different relationship with our clients than most organizations,” Thomas explained, “because we’re not giving them advice or telling them what to do. The only question we have to ask is, ‘What do you need to get started?’”

“Usually when clients walk in the door,” Thomas said, “they’re tired—but they’re also excited. Small Sums exists to provide this one piece of support, and we often hear, ’Really, you’re going to give me the stuff I need to start my new job, and it’s going to be good stuff?’”

Photo left: Direct Client Services Manager Dave Rannow met with a new client. In their annual Client Follow-up Project last year, 60% of the Small Sums clients from 2015 who could be reached were in stable housing and still employed.

Small Sums has an entire room devoted just to shoes and boots: floor to ceiling, warehouse-style. Still in their original boxes, the free shoes and boots are good quality, well-constructed, and meant to last. Through an arrangement with Payless Shoes that Thomas called “leveraged buying,” Small Sums can purchase large quantities at semi-annual sales, and receive an additional 25% discount donated by the company.

As an organization, Small Sums is in the business of helping people jump over hurdles. They had their own hurdle to overcome not long ago, which Thomas called, “the Christmas Tragedy/turned New Year’s Miracle.”

“In 2015,” Thomas said, “our offices were broken into on Christmas Day. Someone came through the kitchen window and stole about $3,000 worth of stuff. I sent an email to our mailing list of 300 supporters, asking for donations to cover at least the cost of replacing the stolen bus passes. Within 10 minutes of hitting the ‘send’ button, people had donated $200. Within ten days, we had received more than $30,000—and nearly 200 new donors who were moved by the story. Coming between Christmas and New Year’s, which is often a slow news week, the media coverage was fantastic and we went into 2016 stronger than ever.”

Thomas concluded, “We estimate that there are 1,000-1,200 people in the metro area eligible for our services every year–-meaning that they’re homeless and they’ve just gotten a job. Our goal in the next three years is to double our capacity, and to be serving 1,200 people annually by the year 2020.”

Call 651-242-9441 with ques­tions about donating to Small Sums or applying for assistance. Send an email to staff at ContactUs@SmallSums.org or visit their website at www.smallsums.org for more information, including their upcoming crowd-funding campaign which will go live on Mar. 16.

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Hamline U. joins Circle of Peace with “What Would Justice Look Like?”

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

During some of the protests this past year after the shootings of black men in the community, Dr. Fayneese  Miller (photo right), president of Hamline University, was an eyewitness observer.

“I live on Summit Ave., across from the governor’s mansion, and I started talking to the protestors,” Miller said. “They were carrying signs that said ‘Justice Now.’ I said ‘You know there will be no indictment of a police officer today. If you want justice right now, what would it look like? What kinds of things could you bring to the table and propose to have a more just community?’”

Those questions led her to form an idea of having community conversations around the topic “What Would Justice Look Like?”

“I talked with Eric Jolly of the St. Paul Foundation and said I wanted to bring people together to have a statewide conversation about race and do it freely and in a variety of places and ways,” Miller said. And so with funding from the St. Paul Foundation, plans began to formulate for talking about “What Would Justice Look Like?”

Miller said it is a topic that we as a state and nation have not addressed for a long time. “The last time was when President Bill Clinton convened for us to come to Washington, DC, to talk about it, and there were some results,” she said. “The Civil Rights Commission came out of that.”

She searched for what role Hamline University could play. “As a higher education institution, we need to engage and be part of us moving forward,” she explained. “Higher education should be at the center of a conversation like this. But we need more than a conversation. We need to determine what we should be doing and what outcomes we want to see.”

And this is the point where Miller enlisted the help of The Circle of Peace Movement (TCOPM) to facilitate these conversations. TCOPM has grown from an effort begun in 2010 by Russel Balenger (photo left) and his wife, Sarah, to organize a community response to growing violence.

“We started out as a small community conversation with gang-related families,” Balenger said. “Our mission is to stop the violence and promote racial healing.” But as the circles of conversation grew and branched out, Balenger attempted to pull in voices from many different communities, races, ethnicities and religions. “We want to try and hear each other and therefore create more understanding,” he said.

TCOPM recently celebrated its 300th circle, and there have been over 5,000 participants. Balenger said the group has grown from just working with gang-related families to wanting to change the relationship with police and the courts and the prosecutors and corrections in general. Balenger’s prior experience has involved a lot of work with correction activities. “Right now, Circle facilitates conversations in a restorative fashion,” he said, ‘but we have other things going on.”

TCOPM operates out of Unity-Unitarian Church at 732 Holly. A recent project has focused on putting individuals in a co-pilot’s seat of an airplane and letting them pull back on the controls, with a pilot beside them. Balenger said the first to participate in this project was a homeless young man who has now received a scholarship to start pilot school. He has an apartment and a new car, rather than the beat-up old vehicle he had been sleeping in. “It’s been amazing watching his life change,” Balenger said.

TCOPM has also brought together groups of police and community residents, going as a group to theater and movies, and the DC opening of the African American Museum of History and Culture and the 50th anniversary of the Selma march. The organization has brought in people from Egypt, Palestine and Macedonia and 25 African leaders who are Mandela Fellows. “It’s been big learning for all of us,” Balenger claimed.

He described the changing relationship between a police officer and a young man who had been in Totem Town, a juvenile lockup. “The young man told the police officer he did not like him and he did not trust him,” Balenger explained. “The officer told his story and was open-minded. He said he understood the young man’s feelings.” Six years later, the two met up again when TCOPM went to the museum visit in Washington, DC.

“Following that trip, the young man, who is now at the University of Minnesota, texted the police officer, who is now a deputy chief. He told him how much he enjoyed their time together in Washington, and he wanted him to have a safe day on his job,” Balenger related. “I think it’s all about relationships, and it makes a difference. We always say if you know somebody’s story, you don’t have to be afraid of them.”

Balenger said it was explained to him that Miller heard about the work of TCOPM and wanted the group to come and help facilitate the conversation on justice at Hamline.

“We want everyone to listen to everyone, and everyone to have a chance to be heard,” Balenger said. The first conversation is planned for Mar. 15, with others to follow in April and May. “We’re going to have four or five circles of 20 to 25 people per circle on each night,” he said. The conversations will be open to the community and include a cross-section of people from the neighborhood, the college, social services, law enforcement, and corrections. There will be representatives from the Asian, Latino, Muslim, and Native American communities.

“We have a talking piece for the conversations, and the first rule is that you have to have the talking piece to be able to speak. Another guideline we have is that everyone is equal, so you have the right to say whatever it is you need to say.”

Balenger said he believes the conversation about “What Would Justice Look Like?” is an ongoing conversation, and now is a perfect time to get it started. “Everyone will have a little different slant on what justice looks like,” he said. “If nothing else, this will ignite a fire that will keep people talking. We’re thinking of doing this on three different nights, but I feel this conversation needs to happen every month or every week. People will filter in and filter out, and they’ll take these stories with them.”’

According to Balenger, the exchange of ideas is not always easy. “When we first came together as the community and the police, it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy,” he admitted. He said everyone comes with expectations and with their viewpoint of what a group of people represents because of the actions of one person. “But as individuals begin to share experiences, things get softened up on both sides.”

Balenger said he thinks “What Would Justice Look Like?” is a fascinating idea for Hamline to come up with. “We are hopeful other schools will do the same thing. I think it’s important for young people to know these discussions are going on and become a part of them,” he said.

For her part, Miller said she believes higher education is for the public good. “We have to be willing to address those issues that concern and impact the public and not just our campus.”

Miller said she is very excited about the upcoming conversations. “One of the things that higher education leaders have to do is to be willing to lead,” she explained. “Sometimes everyone doesn’t like the direction a leader goes, but if it is helpful or of benefit to the community, they must go that way.”
“Hamline is not an island unto itself. We need to address issues that are critical to our country and our state, as well as our community,” she continued. “These issues won’t go away.”

“What Would Justice Look Like?” will be held from 5:30-9pm on Wed., Mar. 15, at Klas Center, 1535 Taylor Ave. Besides Hamline University and The Circle of Peace Movement, other partnering organizations are Minneapolis NAACP, Minnesota Women’s Consortium, St. Paul Police Department, St. Paul Public Schools and Ujamma Place. To register for the event, visit: hamline.edu/center-justice-law/community-dialogue.

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Monitor in a Minute by Jane McClure

Monitor in a Minute by Jane McClure

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Arnellia’s gets 10-day closure
The St. Paul City Council, on Mar. 1, smacked Arnellia’s with a $500 fine and a 10-day liquor license suspension, because the bar/restaurant failed to provide St. Paul Police videotapes promptly. The suspension stems from an assault outside of the club at 1182 W. University Ave. after a Nov. 4, 2016 “smack fest.”

Arnellia’s will be closed Mar. 22-31.

A “smack fest” is a contest in which women hit one another in the face. The assault occurred in Arnellia’s parking lot, after a contest, between contestants. The contest, and criminal charges last year as a result of the assault, dismayed club neighbors.

Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes Arnellia’s, said the business is considered an institution. It has operated since the 1990s. “But this smack fest stuff has got to stop,” he said.
James Allen told the City Council he is overseeing Arnellia’s now and that things will change for the better.

Stark expressed concern that after very few problems in recent years, Arnellia’s has had a spate of issues, including three license violations in 18 months. Most recently Arnellia’s ran afoul of city licensing officials for selling liquor to an underage person.

There was also a homicide outside of Arnellia’s in 2015.

Arnellia’s has 18 operating conditions required by the city, including one to have ten video cameras in place. A condition on Arnellia’s liquor license is to have video monitoring and to keep tapes for 30 days in case police need to see them. The business is to turn over requested tapes to police in 48 hours but was unable to do so after the post-smack fest assault.

A third license violation would typically bring a $2,000 fine and a 10-day license suspension, but negotiations with city licensing staff reduced the fine. The negotiations also averted a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Recycling program continues improvement
More than one month in, St. Paul’s new residential recycling program is seeing improvements in tonnage recycled and in service delivery. St. Paul City Council members, irked at so many missed pickups and complaints, want contractor Eureka Recycling to do better. That was the message during a February program update.

“Fix it. Get it done. We hired you to do a service. Live up to the contract,” said Ward Three Council Member Chris Tolbert. He said if performance doesn’t improve, the city needs to look at its legal options under the contract with Eureka.

Tolbert accused Eureka of a lack of planning for the change. “It doesn’t seem like you have enough staff or time to get this done.”

Entire stretches of streets and alleys were missed during the first weeks of collection throughout the city, including in area neighborhoods. A few homeowners reported they still haven’t had recycling collection for a month. Ellen Biales, administrative programs manager for the St. Paul Department of Public Works, and Eureka Co-President Kate Davenport said that some problems were expected during the switch from bins to wheeled, lidded recycling carts. But Biales admitted that the problems were greater than anticipated.

Biales said one bright spot is that more people are recycling and that more items are being recycled. Between Jan. 16 and Feb. 6, Eureka processed 1,291 tons of recyclable material. That is a 19 percent increase over what was collected during the same period last year.

“The transition went well for the vast majority of residents,” Biales said. The largest change in residential recycling in city history, the move to carts affects more than 117,000 households. The city is hearing from residents who haven’t recycled in the past, who are now using the carts.

“However, we know the transition has not gone well for everyone,” Biales added.

Several issues have contributed to the problem. One is not having accurate information on homes and where recycling is to be picked up. A home may show up in a database as having an alley, but a retaining wall may make the alley inaccessible, for example. The city merged multiple data lists to create the cart delivery and pickup routes, but data had to be created for alleys.

Delays in delivering some carts, a high volume of recycling in the early stage of the program, impassable icy and snow-covered alleys and errors in cart placement have also been blamed.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao questioned why truck drivers were able to get out of the trucks and tag carts for being in the wrong location or other errors, yet not empty the carts. He called that a “waste of time” and said it only created more animosity among residents. Davenport said many carts were emptied manually, but that others were in snowbanks or places where it was unsafe to collect from.

Transit tax changes eyed
Ramsey County is positioning itself for future changes in transit funding. The County Board Feb. 21 set a public hearing for 9am, Tues., Mar. 14 on a possible tax for future transportation projects.

The tax, which could be up to one-half cent, would replace the one-quarter cent tax currently imposed by the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), which is being dissolved this month.

CTIB was a joint powers board established in 2008. One key goal has been to promote transit as a way of promoting economic development and stability. All five counties have imposed the one-quarter cent sales tax to invest in and advance regional transit projects. Those include Green Line and Southwest light rail lines.

State law allows the five counties to impose their own transportation taxes if some conditions are met. One is to hold a public hearing on a single county tax. A second is to have a capital improvement plan. The county already has a capital budget plan in place, with budgets outlined for regional rail, parks and recreation, and other needs.

Revenue generated by a sales tax can be utilized for specific transportation projects, as defined in statute as transportation improvements, transit improvements, transit operations and safe routes to schools.
The tax would have to be approved and certified by Mar. 30 to meet a July start-up date.

Pelham bike project
Another piece of the Pelham Blvd. bike improvements has rolled into place. The St. Paul City Council Feb. 22 approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) that allows bicycle and pedestrian improvements to be striped onto the street bridge over Interstate 94.

The council and MnDOT have agreed on what is called a “limited use permit” for city use for the bike and pedestrian accommodations on Pelham, in the I-94 right-of-way. The crossing is a small part of the citywide Grand Round system of bicycle and pedestrian connections. Pelham is one of the few remaining area pieces of the Grand Round system to be completed.

City Department of Public Works staff met with neighbors earlier this year to review plans for Pelham, which will go to the City Council later this year for approval.

The Pelham plans are also under review by Union Park District Council and its Transportation Committee.

The agreement between the city and the state allows the city to construct and use bike and pedestrian trails across the bridge, and for the city to maintain the trails. The bridge currently has a narrow sidewalk.

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Como API Day

Como High students experience wide range of activities

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin


• The Como Park Asian American Club (CPAAC) and Annie Strupeck’s English Language class attended the annual Asian Pacific Islander (API) Day at the State Capitol on Feb. 8 (photo right). The event was sponsored and hosted by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. With a focus on the academic achievement gap and ways to engage youth in the civic process, students attended legislative committee hearings, met with legislators, listened to speeches by the Asian Council’s executive director, a state judge, and community leaders. Students also exchanged ideas and informally discussed policy with students from Harding High School, who were also participating in API Day.

• National African American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) was celebrated at Como on Feb. 13, highlighted by a program for students, parents and community members in the auditorium. Como choir singers and ensemble band members performed a few musical selections, mixed in with student orators who presented their original writings honoring black history, sharing future goals, and delivering inspiring messages. Additionally, parents enjoyed lunch, visited with Principal Theresa Neal, and had an opportunity to tour the school and visit classes.

• The Como Park String Orchestra was judged with the highest rating of “Superior” at the Minnesota State High School League regional ensemble competition on Feb. 24 at White Bear Lake, where they performed Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Amelia Schucker’s solo was also judged “Superior” for her performance of a Bach concerto.

Como’s Chamber Singers (photo left) also performed on Feb. 24 at Concordia University with the Concordia Christus Chorus. The singers had the pleasure of sharing the stage with choirs from Hmong Academy, St. Anthony Village, and Central High School. The evening ended with a massed choir of 120 singers.

• Como’s Academy of Finance (AOF) students were welcomed to Travelers Insurance last month and participated in three seminars with professionals and mentors from Travelers: Resume Review, Mock Interviews, and Networking. Students reviewed their resumes with Travelers’ employees and left with annotations to incorporate, which left students amazed and aware of the attention to details. Academy of Finance students wore business professional attire for the event and blended into the downtown work setting, much to the delight of the AOF teachers, and commended by the business leaders.

• Global Minnesota sponsored the annual Academic WorldQuest competition at Ecolab Corporate Headquarters in downtown St. Paul on Feb. 1. Two Como teams of four students each participated. Both teams placed in the top 10 out of 42 teams from across the state.

The team of seniors Divine Uchegbu, Georgie Kinsman, Aaron Coggins, and junior Jackson Kerr finished in 5th place. The team of seniors Hannah Rhee and Ella Harker, with juniors Dominic Wolters and Stephen Boler finished 7th. The quiz bowl format featured questions from a wide range of world affairs topics and current events. The event was emceed by Current 89.3 radio host Mark Wheat.

• The Como Marine Corps JROTC placed 2nd out of 12 Army and Air Force regional JROTC units in a skills competition at Cretin-Derham Hall in early February. The events included a color guard, drill, fitness, and knowledge bowl. The Como cadre was led by an all-sophomore team including cadets Kathy Tang, Asia Faulk, Malee Vang, William Farley, and Philip Chervenak. Another highlight of the month was a skiing and snowboarding trip to Welch Village. 60 Como cadets took part, after developing leadership by fully organizing the event and fundraising for it.

• Donnell Gibson, known as “Mr. D” at Como, was featured on the WCCO morning news on Feb. 15 and honored with the station’s Excellent Educator Award. Mr. D is an intervention specialist and a motivating, positive presence in the halls and classrooms of Como. He was chosen for his tireless and selfless work with students, coordination of his non-profit Gibson Foundation, and his leadership as the coach for the junior varsity boys’ basketball team.

• The Como Park boys’ swimming team had an outstanding season. For the first time in coach Steve Conery’s 16 years of leading the Cougars, Como swimmers qualified for the state meet. The 400 relay team of Joe McCune-Zierath, Cole Napierala, Jared Czech and Josef Miller qualified for state at the highly competitive Section 4A meet on Feb. 24. The swimmers were preparing for state at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center as the Monitor went to deadline. Getting to state was a goal that the Cougar swimmers worked extremely hard to accomplish.

• The Como Park High School Booster Club is sponsoring its third annual friendly fundraiser at the Urban Growler Brewing Company on Sun., Mar. 12, from 4-8pm. Advanced ticket purchases are $20 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets at the door are $25 and $20. The price includes one meal and one beverage, live music, plus a chance to win some high-quality prizes.

Funds raised go to support extracurricular activities offered to Como Park High School students. Visit comosr.spps.org/booster_club for more details or to purchase tickets on the link. You may also contact the booster club at comoparkboosterclub@gmail.com, or call Ann Commers at 651-270-3692.

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Development Notes

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Compiled by JANE MCCLURE

Building behind Bandana Square changes hands
The Chimneys at Energy Park, 1217 Bandana Blvd., has been sold. The old railroad building, which is behind Bandana Square, was sold recently. The Falls Event Center, a Utah company, paid $1.75 million for the site, according to real estate records. The Falls plans to turn the building into an event center. The company operates event centers nationwide.

The light brick building is well-known for the series of chimneys lining its roof. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and was built in 1885 as the Northern Pacific Railroad blacksmith shop. Many longtime area residents might remember when the Minnesota Children’s Museum was housed there starting in the 1980s. Since 1998 it has housed Summit Envirosolutions, and was owned by John and Ellen Dustman.

Work is to get underway this summer.

New housing proposed at Snelling and Carroll
Development continues along Snelling Ave. near Interstate 94. The Union Park District Council Feb. 27 reviewed a proposal to redevelop a site at the northeast corner of Snelling and Carroll avenues. The site now includes two commercial buildings on Snelling and a vacant home on Carroll. The buildings would be replaced by a new building that would reach four stories in height, with lower heights facing the adjacent   residential neighborhood. The building would have about 60 market-rate apartments and between 60-70 parking spaces on the first floor and on an underground level.
Gaughnan Companies would be the developer.

The property is in an area slated for rezoning for higher-density traditional neighborhoods use, which the city is studying. If the city makes zoning changes to much of Snelling south of I-94, no neighborhood recommendation would be needed.

The project would follow redevelopment of property northeast of Selby and Snelling avenues and other proposals to the south. Areas along Snelling in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood were rezoned to traditional neighborhoods use two years ago.

West Midway to get a park
West Midway land once owned by Weyerhaeuser Lumber will become a park, serving an area where much development has occurred. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board, voted Feb. 22 to acquire 2.28 acres of land at 700 Emerald St.

The land is part of a larger 13-acre former industrial site, which has been owned by 700 Emerald, LLC since 2016. The property owner is a subsidiary of Dominium Development.

The balance of the site is envisioned as the location for 360 units of senior and workforce housing. The Westgate Station Area Plan has called for a park in the area, at the southern end of Curfew St. The Curfew St. site was recently developed by Sunrise Banks, so another park site was designated.

City plans indicate a deficit of parkland for the area, which is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses. Extensive redevelopment has occurred around Westgate in recent years. The park’s exact boundaries will be set during the platting process,

The action taken on Feb. 22 allows the HRA to buy land from the developer, for a price of up to $1.285 million. Work including removal of a rail spur will push the price up to about $1.56 million. The developer will donated .63 acres of land to the project.

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Rainbow Foods building among first to be torn down for stadium

Rainbow Foods building among first to be torn down for stadium

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Site-work for soccer stadium to kick off in mid-May; Big Top, McDonald’s, Perkins to remain as stadium is built


For the last few months, the fate of Rainbow Foods in the Midway Center was questionable. But, after a sale, and short closure, Rainbow remains open under its new owner SuperValu. (Photo by Tim Nelson)

Development of a Major League Soccer stadium on Midway Center and former Metro Transit Snelling bus garage properties is expected to kick off in mid-May with initial site work. Representatives of more than a dozen city departments and regional agencies spent part of Valentine’s Day reviewing detailed construction drawings for the stadium and part of the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues, and Pascal St.

Site work will be done in tandem with the demolition of the western part of Midway Center, said Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction, lead contractor on the $150 million stadium project. That will include Rainbow Foods and some stores to the east.

It’s not clear how many shopping center businesses will be forced to relocate or close. Plans show Big Top Liquors, which is in a separate building along Snelling, and businesses in buildings along University Ave., including McDonald’s and Perkins restaurants, remaining open as the stadium is built.

Once demolition and site work are done, initial foundation and structural work on the stadium itself gets underway. Mortenson hopes to have those construction plans submitted to city officials by mid-March. Permits for that work need to be in place by the end of June, said Huber.

Final permits and plans for the rest of the 20,000-seat stadium should be ready this fall. The team hopes to play in the stadium in 2018, but 2019 may be more likely.

Work on the stadium and other parts of the site, including access points, public plazas and the “great lawn” north of the stadium will be done concurrently, Huber said. “Some things will have to wait because there is a building in the way.”

What’s still not clear is how the Midway Center site beyond the stadium itself will ultimately be redeveloped. Jeff Shopek of the engineering firm Loucks explained that plans are changing to reflect current ideas, rather than an ambitious Midway Center redevelopment plan unveiled last year during the master plan process. That plan showed high-rise buildings, dense retail and hospitality uses, apartments, and two hotels.

Shopek said that plan and a related Alternative Urban Areawide Review or AUAR reflected maximum redevelopment potential. “Now we’re getting down to reality,” he said.

In January the St. Paul Port Authority entered into a master lease for the Midway Center, to help spur along site redevelopment. The Port hopes to announce major tenants soon.

Monte Hilleman of the Port Authority said plans call for the site to be redeveloped, west to east, with the initial redevelopment along Snelling. He said the initial development will take a few years to roll out, with total site development taking a decade or more. Some of the sequencing has to do with when leases in Midway Center expire.

“The area along Snelling is more attractive to developers and will be transformed over the near term,” Hilleman said.

The site plan review for the MLS stadium began in spring 2016. The St. Paul City Council approved the project site plan and superblock master plan last year, with the understanding that a myriad of project details would follow.

Many detailed construction drawings have been submitted to the city and are under review. The plans include documents for site grading, environmental cleanup, disability access, bus staging, demolition of buildings, installation of utilities and construction of the stadium and its public spaces.

Larry Zhang, who oversees site plan review for the city, said the stadium plans are complex and involve a number of city, county, regional and state agencies. One issue being discussed is who is responsible for the various maintenance needs. The street and transit discussions alone involve four agencies—Metro Transit, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and St. Paul and Ramsey County Departments of Public Works.

“We’re going to have many items going forward at the same time, but at some point, they have to connect as part of the development,” said Zhang. He emphasized that the developers need to work closely with the city. “I’ve seen smaller projects than this go south because things don’t get caught in the planning stage.”

Huber said the developers need to meet with neighbors soon and to work with the city and MnDOT on issues centered on Snelling Ave. traffic. One issue is the routes to transport excavated soil out of the site.
One sticking point may be street access along Snelling. Shields Ave. currently ends at Snelling, but would extend east to Pascal to serve the stadium. It would be just north of the stadium itself. One idea floated is to have a traffic signal at Shields and remove the signal currently at Spruce Tree Dr. But Metro Transit has objected to the loss of that signal because the Spruce Tree signal is key to allowing pedestrians to cross for Green Line, A Line, and other bus route connections. The signal placement issue has to be looked at, according to city staff.

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory