Archive | July, 2017

Como garden scenes 08 slider

New gardens at Como Park harken back to historical concepts

Posted on 11 July 2017 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The formal design of the newly completed Minnesota and Circle Gardens at Como Zoo and Conservatory is a graceful nod to the past—and the future. When the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory was built over 100 years ago, in front of it was an extensive formal garden. The historic plantings there began to be removed in the 1920’s. Each decade that followed saw the diminishment of Aphrodite’s Garden, the Iris Garden, the Peony Garden, as they were called, and finally, even the signature pergola was removed.

Photo left: Michelle Furrer (on the left), Como Park Zoo and Conservatory campus manager; and Brett Hussong, landscape architect with St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department. Both agreed that, “With this project, it wasn’t about getting bigger – it was about getting better.” Furrer and Hussong were two of the primary members of the redesign team.

When Como Conservatory was built in 1915, visitors arrived by public transportation in the form of street cars. Street cars were retired in the mid-1950’s, and by 1974, the formal gardens—the first thing visitors saw—were completely replaced with a parking lot. That area became open turf in 2005 when the current Visitor Center was built.

Photo right: The new Minnesota and Circle Gardens have a formal geometry with plant lined paths connecting the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, the entrance to the Visitor Center, and the Carousel. All plant materials purchased for the project follow a City of St. Paul ordinance that requires plants to be grown free of pesticides, benefiting insects including butterflies and honey bees.

Como Zoo and Conservatory’s 1996 Master Plan recommended bringing back some of the early design elements and plantings. With the completion of the Minnesota and Circle Gardens in early June, this has been achieved.

According to Brett Hussong, landscape architect with the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, “The new gardens feature 5,000 Minnesota native cultivars including lupine, blazing star, black-eyed Susan, allium, trillium, serviceberry, bee balm, and red bud. All of the plants in the ground are native Minnesota perennials; hardy plants that will come back year after year.” Hussong concluded, “It was a challenging design project because of the scale, and because we needed to create strong seasonal variety.”

Photo left: Abundant, informal seating was created with several low, curved benches. Cast from colored concrete, the benches were made to resemble the Kasota Limestone which figures strongly into the design of the Visitor Center (visible in the background).

Funding for the new gardens came from the non-profit organization Como Friends and from the Legacy Amendments Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Campus Manager Michelle Furrer, said, “We knew we needed to make Como Park Zoo and Conservatory a more accessible venue. Incorporated into the new design is a circle turnaround that provides a safe, convenient loading and unloading spot for school buses, guests with limited mobility, and larger groups. Three buses can unload simultaneously, with enough room left over for cars to pass.”

“We’ve also relocated our Como Shuttle drop off spot,” Furrer said, “in hopes of easing traffic flow for both pedestrians and drivers. We estimate that the shuttle moves about 40,000 passengers from the State Fairgrounds to the Zoo and Conservatory each year, so that should be a big improvement.”

The Minnesota and Circle Gardens combine native Minnesota plants with flowing pathways, natural gathering spaces defined by comfortable seating, and more efficient access in and out of the campus. The enormous planter bowls stocked with flowers are reminiscent of those used in the original design of Aphrodite’s Garden at the turn of the last century.

Casto Solano’s 16’ tall sculpture (photo right) of prairie grasses and fireflies (whose tails are illuminated with LED bulbs), charts a path forward. “It will show us how important it is to follow a path of preservation and caring for the future,” Solano said. “Perhaps we too can become conscious of the grandness of small things.”

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Como fest scenes 27

Eighth annual ComoFest has something for everyone

Posted on 11 July 2017 by Calvin

ComoFest will be returning this summer for its eighth year, with something to engage all ages and interests. According to Michael Kuchta, director of the Como Community Council, ”The festival began in 2010 as a ‘stay-cation’ concept. We were on the heels of the recession that had hit a couple of years before, and there were plenty of people who just didn’t have the resources to take a summer vacation. We thought, why not come up with some fun, affordable activities to do close to home?”

What started as just one weekend of events has morphed over the years into the last three weekends of July. “From a District 10 perspective,” Kuchta said, “we thought it was important to schedule events in different parts of the Como neighborhood. There will be something going on every Friday and Saturday and, if there’s more than one event, the times won’t conflict. We’re deliberately keeping ComoFest small and manageable, so people can just come and go.”

The District 10 Ice Cream Social will kick things off on Fri., July 14 from 5:30-8pm at the Como Park Street Car Station (1224 Lexington Pkwy.). The Hubert Humphrey Job Corps Center is donating the ice cream, which will be served by their culinary arts students. Paul Seeba, folk singer, guitarist, and neighborhood resident, will perform. “Based on the number of ice cream bowls we counted last year,” Kuchta said, “which is the only way we can track attendance, more than 500 people attended.” Dairy and non-dairy treats will be served.

Kuchta underscored, “In addition to several tables we’ll have set up for neighborhood organizations, we’ll be promoting our organic composting site just north of the Animal Humane Society. Come hang out with your neighbors, and learn more about all the great things going on in the Como neighborhood.”

The ComoFest Art Fair will take place at the Como Lakeside Pavilion from 10-2pm on Sat., July 15, featuring the work of two dozen community artists. A free yoga class taught by Melissa Malen of Studio M will be offered at noon, also at the Pavilion.

That night from 6-8pm, tattoo artist Brandon Heffron and the staff of Beloved Studios Tattoo Parlor will host a summer party in the parking lot behind their business at 1563 Como Ave. Live music will be provided by Union Junction, with food and fun provided by Beloved Studios.
On Fri., July 21 from 2-8pm, the Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival (1415 Almond Ave.) will showcase the work of dozens of artists living there. Darcy Rivers, community recreation director for the City of St. Paul, said, “This had been a stand-alone summer event for years, and it just made sense to include it under the umbrella of ComoFest.”

Photo left: ComoFest succeeds, according to Community Council Director Michael Kuchta, “because residents love living, working, and recreating in this neighborhood.” Pictured above are a group of four women, only two of whom knew each other, out for a walk around Como Lake. Their common thread of interest was the dog, Moppy, who was recently adopted from the nearby Animal Humane Society. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Lyngblomsten is a senior care facility that has been serving older adults since 1906. There will be make-and-take art activities led by organizations that Lyngblomsten partners with throughout the year including Northern Clay Center, the Polymer Clay Guild of Minnesota, Art with Heart, COMPAS, artist Jan Gunderson, and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. Live music and entertainment will be provided by Lyngblomsten art partners including the Minnesota Opera, Lakeshore Players Theatre, COMPAS, MacPhail Center for Music, Kairos Alive!, Health RHYTHMS Drumming, and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project of Minnesota.

That evening at dusk, the film “Sing” will be shown outside at the North Dale Recreation Center (1414 St. Albans St.).

Photo right: A blast from the past… a scene of ComoFest in 2013. (File photo)

On Sat., July 22, the ComoFest 5K Walk/Run for Everyone will take off from the Como Pavilion at 8:30am. Benefits go to the Living at Home Block Nurse Program. Registration for the run is $20 in advance for teens and adults; $25 on race day. Registration for youngsters 11 or younger is $10 in advance; $15 on race day. A second complimentary yoga class will be offered that day by Melissa Malen of Studio M at noon at the Pavilion.

For camping enthusiasts, the Northwest Como Recreation Center is hosting a movie night and campout on Fri., July 28 from 6pm until the next morning at 1550 Hamline Ave. A community baseball game will start things off at 5:30pm, with a jump castle and climbing tower for the young and the young at heart. The Northwest Como Booster Club will be selling concessions, and the movie ”Finding Dory” will begin at dusk. Tents will be set up before the movie begins; each family will need to provide their own tent, and the cost for camping out is $5/family. Staff people will be on-site all night, and the rec center rest rooms will remain open. There must be one parent or guardian staying overnight in each tent. Wake up is at 8am, and breakfast will be served as part of the registration cost. All activities will be moved indoors in the case of rain.

Photo left: A blast from the past… the crowds have grown substantially from this start of ComoFest back in 2010. (File photo)

ComoFest’s final event is a Community Appreciation Picnic sponsored by TopLine Credit Union (976 Lexington Pkwy.). Branch manager Diane Monson said, “We’re so happy to sponsor this event, which we see as a way of saying thank you to the neighborhood. There’s no cost to attend the picnic; we’ll be serving up food, games, and prizes from 11am-1pm. After the picnic ends, join us for the world’s shortest marathon: 26.2 YARDS (across the street) to Gabe’s by the Park Restaurant to continue the fun. We’ll be collecting free will donations, and any proceeds will be donated to the ongoing work of the Animal Humane Society.”

Darcy Rivers shared a closing thought, saying, “Como is a neighborhood that regularly hosts huge events, some of which have a national spotlight. At ComoFest, the intent is to focus on our own neighborhood organizations and services, and to get to know each other better. There’s a lot of pride in this community, and when people love their homes and their community—that’s worth celebrating.

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Vegan 1

A restaurant that guides you to joyfulness and the unexpected

Posted on 11 July 2017 by Calvin

One recent Sunday morning, it was a little chilly outside. Colin Anderson was doing prep work in his new restaurant, Eureka Compass Vegan Foods at 629 Aldine St.

“I had the ovens on, and it was kind of warm and cozy in here,” he said. “We were listening to music, and people were coming in and hanging out. I was getting a lot of work done.” Anderson said he asked himself why people were coming and staying around, in no hurry to leave. Then he said to himself, “Oh, I have a restaurant. This is what I want. I have actually created this nice space where people hang out and are having a good time. And I was tickled by it.”

Anderson, who opened his doors for business in May in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, said he wants to create more than a restaurant—he wants a space that will be a gathering place, where community members can get to know each other, and everyone will be welcome.

He grew up in a small community in Illinois called Richmond that had as its slogan “The Village of Yesteryear.” Anderson’s family operated a candy store that has been for the past 90 years and is still there today. “We weren’t much of a processed food kind of family,” he recalls. As a Boy Scout, he learned to cook, preparing food in relatively primitive conditions. In high school, he started working for Daylight Donuts, since his older brother was working in the candy shop. “I learned patience and some of the best practices of baking and running a kitchen at the donut shop,” Anderson remarked. Later, when his brother went off to college, and he worked at the candy store, he learned the science and chemistry of cooking. “I learned specifics and a lot about the importance of ingredients,” he said. “We bought cream for caramel from a local farmer and separated the cream from the milk ourselves. I could taste the difference between caramels made from cream the first day from caramel made with cream a few days old.”

He said that when he and his wife moved to the Hamline-Midway area, he found some of that same small-town quality he remembered from childhood in the metropolitan neighborhood.

Photo left: Colin Anderson, owner of Eureka Compass Vegan Foods, is proud to have “created this nice space where people hang out and are having a good time. And I was tickled by it.” (Photo by Jan Willms)

Before moving to St. Paul, the Andersons had lived on an organic farm, where he got into minimally processing food. “We let a tomato just be a tomato, and I discovered kohlrabi for the first time. It was a period of great personal poverty for me, a self-inflicted monastic existence. “We were eating a lot of raw food we had on the farm.”

Anderson said he became a vegetarian in 2000, following a time of “pretty bad health habits.” He said he was a cigarette smoker ate Taco Bell for 60 days in a row just to prove he could.

But as he adopted the vegetarian lifestyle, he enhanced his cooking style, creating dishes with what he had on hand. “Cooking has always been a passion of mine,’ Anderson said. About nine years ago he became vegan. While working in the food industry in St. Paul, he had an initial plan for creating vegan recipes that didn’t need a lot of investment and could be done in a small way.

“I wanted to make a good vegan croissant,” he explained. “We had been on the West Coast celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, and we went to a vegan restaurant owned by the performer Moby. We had the most wonderful Sunday afternoon meal, and we had a croissant there.”

In early March of this year, Anderson began exploring what his vegan creations might look like. He took a non-vegan recipe for croissants and fooled around with it. “I made enough dough so that any mistake I might make with the first batch could be fixed. The second batch was ideal. Croissants were something I just knew there would be a good response to.”

Anderson said he had pop-up croissant offerings, and realized he could make a good living just making the croissants at his home and selling them to various coffee shops around the cities. But then he discovered Eden’s Pizza on Aldine had some hours they were not using their establishment, and he talked to them about serving some vegan food at the Aldine location when they were closed. The pizza establishment agreed, and he was set to do that. But then Eden Pizza closed for business, and Anderson found the owner of the property to talk about setting up a vegan restaurant.

Photo right: Colin Anderson said it all started when he wanted to make a “good vegan croissant.” (Photo by Jan Willms)

Now he is serving ticketed dinners on Monday nights, offering lunches during the week, and having pizzas Sunday evenings. He lists the hours for the week on the restaurant’s Facebook page. He has launched a Kickstarter to help defray some of the expenses of opening the restaurant.

“I had confidence in myself I could pull it off,” he said. “I don’t have very many expectations except that I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to learn a lot, and I’m always going to be amazed and encouraged by the kindness and support of total strangers.”

Anderson said he offers a sober restaurant. “People have told me they have been uncomfortable with places serving wine and beer, and they feel welcome knowing they won’t have to sit down by some folks getting buzzed.”

Although the restaurant is not entirely gluten free, because there is still a lot of pizza dust remaining, it is peanut-free. Anderson wanted parents to come in and not have to worry if their child had a peanut allergy.

Since Anderson is owner, operator and sole employee of Eureka Compass Vegan Foods, he spends much of his time at the restaurant either serving meals or prepping for dinners. Although his Monday night dinners are fine dining, he does not consider his business to be a vegan fine-dining restaurant. “I would call it a counter-service restaurant,” he stated. He harkened back to little places where he has ventured. “There’s one guy cooking over a grill, and maybe eight seats. You could sit there, but for the most part, you took the food with you.”

Anderson said it is very nice when people sit down inside at Eureka Compass, but he finds it more rewarding to see people sitting outside. He said it shows that something is happening, people are gathering.

He noted that a lot of thought went into the naming of the restaurant. “It came from brainstorming words of deeper meaning,” he said. Anderson wanted to offer scratch prepared food, something in which the consumer would feel his care. “You would be in a space that is guiding you to something else; a space where everyone is welcome. So the compass becomes your guide, and it is the root word of compassion.” He said Eureka describes someone doing some work to find something, but when you have found it, there is an unexpectedness to it. And it is joyful.

Besides his croissants and scones and pizza, some of the dishes Anderson offers for his dinners include raw melon and peach salad, okra gumbo, herbed dropped biscuits with white bean gravy and peach and mint cobbler. Those were some of the foods he planned for his last ticketed dinner on July 10. And they will never be served again. No matter how good it tastes, Anderson never makes the same dish twice.

“This is an experience-based restaurant,” he said with a smile. “You have to be adventurous.”

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Escape Room 3 slider

Tired of dinner and a movie? Try an escape room adventure.

Posted on 11 July 2017 by Calvin

Tired of your usual entertainment venues? Want to try something different than going to a movie or play, attending a concert, or visiting a bar or restaurant?

You might want to try your luck with a fairly recent phenomenon and spend an hour with friends in an escape room.

A group spends an hour in a locked room, solving puzzles to escape by the time that hour is up.

Jake Klompien and his friends, Kenny and Tessa Hubbell, have created PuzzleWorks, located at 550 Vandalia, Ste. 311, to entice you to solve your way out of their escape rooms.

“Kenny and Tessa proposed the idea, and I came on board,” Klompien said. “We started the company last summer and opened in March.”
Klompien said it all starts with designing a room, which has to have a theme. “A common theme is that you are trapped in a crazy person’s basement, but that was a little dark for us,” Klompien explained. “Other common themes are a detective’s office or a laboratory.”

Photo left: Jake Klompien sits at the entry to the bank vault in one of the escape rooms. Klompien likes to build, so he does all the construction and physical building for the various escape rooms. (Photo by Jan Willms)

PuzzleWorks has the Vault, a room with a built-in bank vault. Players must pull off a bank heist and then escape. The other current escape room is the Loose Sleuth, a detective’s office in which participants need to piece together the clues to figure out what happened there. A third room, the Hospital, is under construction.

Klompien said that based on the theme, they start working on the puzzles. With the vault, for example, some puzzles have to do with exchanging of money. And there are a lot of keys and locks within a bank, so those may be part of the puzzles for that room.

“There is a lot of trial and error,” Klompien continued. “For every idea that makes it into the room, there probably were a dozen puzzles that are either too difficult for us to build on our own or are just too hard to solve. Rather than making the room too difficult, we want people to have fun. So we want puzzles that make sense.”

He said the three divide the labor that goes into the business. Klompien likes to build, so he does all the construction and physical building for the escape rooms. “Kenny does all the electronics and wiring involved, and Tessa comes up with a lot of the puzzles,” he added. All of them also work additional jobs. Klompien is a freelance business writer for a company in Montana, Kenny works as a baggage handler for Delta and Tessa is a nurse practitioner. “Kenny also was at the University of Minnesota last summer studying mechanical engineering, but things got too busy here, and he had to postpone that for a while,” Klompien added.

Photo right: Tessa Hubbell monitors the screens showing the interior of the escape rooms. Tessa is the one who comes up with many of the puzzles that make the escape rooms a challenge. (Photo by Jan Willms)

He said people walk in with no more direction than to figure out a way to get out. “You find some numbers, find a lock and try the numbers. The puzzles progress. People go in with some cluelessness, but they usually pick up pretty quick, especially if they have done escape rooms before. They know everything is there for a reason.”

Participants sign up for an escape room on the company’s website, puzzlemn.com. There’s a drop-down calendar, and you pick which room you want and when you want to do it. You pay and come in, sign a waiver and get a brief introduction to the room. You have an hour to solve the puzzles to get out,” Klompien stated.

“Signing a waiver is a requirement for insurance purposes,” he noted. “Escape rooms are a new enough concept that the insurance industry has a hard time classifying us. At first, they wanted to put us in the same category as carnivals. But there is nothing physical in the room; it is all mental.”

He said they do ask people not to take photographs in the rooms, and visitors seem to understand that.

The usual number for a room can vary from four to ten. “We have had just two come, but it usually proves to be a little too much for them. We have tried groups of 11 or 12. In at least one of the rooms, there just isn’t enough space for that many. And there is also the element that there are too many cooks in the kitchen,” he joked.

He said the success rate for people solving the puzzles and escaping from the Vault is 30 percent, and a little under 50 percent for solving the Loose Sleuth. The business has also connected with Lake Monster Brewery next door to give puzzle participants a token they can use for a free brew. “They can celebrate their escape, or drown their sorrows if they weren’t able to solve the puzzle,” Klompien commented.

Klompien said what drew him to the business was the creativity in developing the rooms, as well as the mental challenges of it. “I don’t

particularly like sitting down and doing Sudoku or anything, but the creativity of this also drew me in,” he acknowledged. “People who seem to do the best are people who think a little bit in that way,” he said, referring to puzzle players. He also said younger people do well, based on all the video games they might play.

He said they might adjust the rooms a little bit for holidays like Halloween, but there is a limit to how much they can alter a room.

He said the escape rooms are popular in Asia and Europe, where they are more established. “It seems like it has only been the last five years or so the trend has come to North America,” he noted. “It has erupted in the last few years. When we were kicking this idea around, there were three in the area, with a fourth in production. Now there are at least a dozen locally.”

PuzzleWorks stands out from the others, according to Klompien, because they design and create their own rooms and build everything on the site. “We’re local and proud of it because within the industry there are some chains and props are purchased.”

“The business has continued to grow each month it has been open,” Klompien stated. “I have been surprised at the interest in the escape rooms. For a lot of people, it is still a novel idea. They have read about them, and this is their first time coming to one.”

But a lot of customers, he noted, have tried escape rooms before and want to keep trying them. “I think that speaks to a lasting trend,” he said.

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Neighbors meet, greet, and chalk up the sidewalk

Neighbors meet, greet, and chalk up the sidewalk

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

Hamline Midway neighbors gathered at Blair and Syndicate on Sat., July 1 for a Sidewalk Chalk Art Party. It was a localized neighborhood planned and coordinated event creating the opportunity for kids of all ages to get together and beautify the neighborhood sidewalks with art. Chalk was provided. Kids made chalk drawings, climbed trees, played hopscotch, ate cookies and cake and drank apple juice. Grownups had a nice time watching and visiting with one another. The weather was perfect. It was a great opportunity to meet neighbors that had never met before. Even Dixie the dog got involved by patiently waiting to greet the local mail truck driver.

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Girl drawing slider

Funding finally secured for soccer stadium site cleanup

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

Complex technical maneuvers with TIF districts and funds come up with the last $875,000

With site work in full swing on a Major League Soccer stadium at Snelling and Interstate 94, it’s time for community members to get an update. Union Park District Council (UPDC) is hosting an informational meeting at 6:30pm, Thur., July 13 at the MidPointe Event Center, 415 N. Pascal St.

The district council has invited representatives from the St. Paul Port Authority, lead contractor Mortenson Construction, Minnesota United FC and the City of St. Paul to speak about construction timelines, neighborhood impacts and short-term plans for the site.

The south end of the Midway Center superblock, bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues, is fenced and barricaded. Large, covered dirt piles and a large pit are taking shape. During the last week of June, pile driving took place.

UPDC staff and board members said the meeting is needed so that area residents and business owners can learn more about what’s going on. City permits for site work were issued in June, with more permits needed as specific aspects of work—including the eventual demolition of part of Midway center—take place.

UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter said there have been many questions since site work began. Pile driving, which could be heard as far south as Summit Ave., also generated a flurry of calls and questions.

Minnesota United is hoping to play games in St. Paul starting in 2019. The team is currently playing at TCF Bank Stadium. The team recently announced it is a lead sponsor for the 2017 Hmong Soccer Festival, which was held July 1-2 at Como Park. Moving activities to the stadium once it is complete has been discussed in the past.

Work continues to raise needed funding for environmental cleanup, through the St. Paul Port Authority. The Port is working with the city and soccer team on stadium and Midway Center redevelopment, bringing in Milwaukee-based developer Irgens for commercial aspects of shopping center redevelopment.

A key step was completed June 27 when the Port Authority Board acted to provide more money for site environmental cleanup, through a series of complex actions. The Port made amendments to the Midway Industrial Development District, which is referred to as Snelling-Midway. The amendments also affect two other industrial development districts, Maxson Steel on Dale St. near Como-Dale-Front, and the Energy Park Development District.

The Port Authority can set up tax increment financing or TIF districts under state law, by establishing what are called industrial development districts. TIF allows additional tax revenues generated through redevelopment to be funneled into redevelopment costs for a property. How TIF funds can be shared between districts is complex. In September 2016, the Port created the Snelling-Midway Industrial District to facilitate soccer stadium development. The district included the Midway Center shopping center property but not the bus barn site where most of the stadium and its ancillary facilities will be located.

The Port is leading environmental cleanup for the stadium project and has received more than $3.1 million in state, Metropolitan Council and Ramsey County grants. The city committed to funding the first $1.5 million in cleanup costs on the bus barn property. That property isn’t eligible for the state and Met Council grants to be used there.

Cleanup grants are still being sought, but there is a shortfall of $825,000 for the work. That’s where the changes to TIF districts come in. The Port will use TIF from Maxson Steel’s subdistrict Great Northern Business Center Phase II and Energy Park’s subdistrict Energy Lane Business Center. These two subdistricts currently have TIF receipts greater than the amount of money needed to pay their current costs. The money is available to be used at Snelling-Midway.

Because the city hasn’t been able to obtain enough grant funding to cover its costs, they want to use a TIF funding in a pay-as-you-go project. The project would take $375,000 from Energy Lane and $500,000 from Great Northern.

But to do so, the Maxson Steel and Energy Park districts must include Snelling-Midway, so the three industrial development districts were amended. State law allows what are called overlapping industrial development districts, even if the properties aren’t contiguous.

The net result of all the complex technical changes is that the city will advance money as a loan to pay for site remediation and related infrastructure costs on the Snelling Ave. portion of the redevelopment site. TIF dollars will only be used for the private development parcels along Snelling, as outlined in the master plan for the superblock. State law doesn’t allow TIF funding to be used for recreational facilities.

The parcels eyed for the TIF funding and cleanup assistance are currently tax-exempt and are part of the bus barn site. The goal of the TIF transactions is to get the land cleaned up, redeveloped and returned to the property tax rolls. One parcel is 20,964 square feet, and the other is 36,840 square feet. The properties are south of where Shields Ave. would be extended into the site and west of the planned stadium.
The TIF actions will also go to the St. Paul City Council for action.

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Lyngbloomsten campus

Lyngblomsten certified as a Service Enterprise

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

Lyngblomsten, 1415 Almond Ave. W., has been certified as a Service Enterprise, a designation given to a small percentage of nonprofits nationwide for their exceptional volunteer programs. Lyngblomsten is the first senior care organization in Minnesota to become a Service Enterprise.

“In my estimation,” said Jeff Heinecke, President and CEO of Lyngblomsten, “our volunteer program is one of the biggest differentiators between Lyngblomsten and other senior healthcare organizations in the Twin Cities. Volunteerism has been a part of our history since our beginning in the early 1900s, and I think the Service Enterprise certification affirms that what we’re doing is the right thing.”

The Service Enterprise Initiative, or SEI, recognizes nonprofits that strategically engage volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization to deliver successfully on their social missions.

Tim Overweg, Manager of Volunteer Services for Lyngblomsten, thinks this designation indicates how Lyngblomsten is a step ahead of other senior care organizations when it comes to volunteer engagement and management.

Overweg said of the more than 300 Service Enterprises across the country, only nine provide services to older adults. And of those nine, only Lyngblomsten provides a full continuum of services, including healthcare, housing, and community-based resources.

Katie Walsh, Program Director for HandsOn Twin Cities, worked with Lyngblomsten during the certification process. She wasn’t surprised by how high it scored on the initial SED assessment.

“This is the highest SED score that I have seen to date,” Walsh said, comparing it to the scores of over 45 Minnesota nonprofits with which HandsOn Twin Cities and MAVA have worked. Lyngblomsten’s overall score, she continued, was 84 out of a possible 100, which indicated that it already appeared to be operating as a Service Enterprise. “It’s fair to say that Lyngblomsten is that ‘gold star standard’ for strategic and integrated volunteer engagement within an organization,” Walsh said.

Using insights gained from the certification process, Overweg said thatt Lyngblomsten plans on pursuing additional goals over the next several years. These include providing volunteers with more opportunities for skills-based volunteering, creating a culture where all staff see volunteers as important partners in their work and increasing Lyngblomsten’s presence at volunteer recruitment events in the community.

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West Midway bikeway approved by Council; parking to be lost

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

St. Paul’s first-ever two-way, separated bikeway will be installed this summer on Pelham Blvd. in Desnoyer Park neighborhood and Myrtle St. in the West Midway. On June 7 the St. Paul City Council approved the Pelham plans, which also include connections along Myrtle and Raymond avenues in the West Midway. The project has a cost of $250,000.

After public hearings were held June 7 and 21, the Council laid over until July 19 its vote on amendments to the citywide Bicycle Plan. The citywide plan changes include details of the Capital City bikeway under construction downtown, and the Grand Round, which Pelham is a part of.

The Pelham bike connection will complete a section of the Grand Round, a 19th-century plan to build a citywide system of bike and walking trails. The Pelham section of the bikeway will have side-by-side bike lanes on the east side of the street, separated from motor vehicle traffic by white plastic delineators. The delineators, which are in use in Minneapolis, are seeing their first bike-related use in St. Paul.

Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes Pelham, said the project had taken a long time to get approved. He is concerned that a good parking solution hasn’t been found for the south end of Pelham, where parking will be removed from both sides of the street between Doane Ave. and Mississippi River Blvd.

Pelham will lose all on-street parking, except for the west side between St. Anthony and Doane avenues. There is currently parking on one side of the street in most areas, with two-sided parking between Otis Ave. and Mississippi River Blvd.

Stark said he is excited about the project and is pleased to see the new type of bike facility installed. “We’re behind the times in that regard,” Stark said. He said he’ll keep a careful eye on the project and if there are problems, he’ll be the first to speak up and seek changes.

Reuben Collins of the St. Paul Department of Public Works recommended that the project go ahead. It has been through several months of community review. “Pelham has been a bikeway for some years with ‘share the road’ signs,” said Collins. The city has received many complaints from cyclists contending that they don’t feel safe on Pelham as it is now, with speeding motor vehicles.

Collins said putting the Pelham project in place gives city staff a chance to see how such a bike facility would work. The project is also called a “cycle track.”

Plans call for taking parking off of Pelham and off of one side of Myrtle, a short street linking Pelham and Raymond. Collins said plans call for removing parking for both sides of Myrtle, but one side was kept as a compromise. Myrtle will become a one-way westbound street for motor vehicles.

One area of concern is where Pelham intersects with Mississippi River Blvd. and that street’s bike lane and shared the bike-pedestrian trail. Desnoyer Park residents said trail users park on Pelham so that they can walk the trail.

Dave Tierney lives near Pelham and Mississippi River Blvd. He bikes to Minneapolis for work and appreciates the Pelham work done with the available funding. But Tierney is concerned about safety, given Pelham’s condition. “Can we do better?”

“The street surface is a problem,” said Tierney. Pelham has many patched and emerging potholes and crevices and is a bumpy ride. Tierney is concerned about the safety of cyclists coming down the Pelham hill and turning onto Mississippi River Blvd.

Theresa Olson lives on Pelham near Desnoyer Park’s namesake park. She understands the need to remove parking from one side of the street but said it will cause hardships for guests, Metro Mobility, and contractor vehicles.

Supporters said the bikeway will provide safety for cyclists and will be a win-win for everyone, and that the project does retain parking in many places. Like opponents, they asked for several safety considerations, either now or when Pelham is eventually rebuilt. Several speakers said the street needs to be reconstructed sooner rather than later. Supporters asked for measures including a 25-mile per hour speed limit, signage to prevent parking in the bike lanes and measures to calm traffic.

Drew Ross is a past president of the Desnoyer Park Improvement Association and represents the neighborhood on Union Park District Council. Ross said community groups support the plan, which has been on the drawing boards since 2013. He said long-term changes need to be studied, but that interim measures should put in place soon.

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Mural project 1

Hamline Midway Mural project needs a Kickstart

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

The Burlesque Public Works Division, an offshoot of Minneapolis-based creative studio Burlesque of North America, is planning to design and paint a massive series of murals spanning nine garage doors on the side of the former American Can Company building on Prior Ave. They have a Kickstarter campaign to raise the remaining funds needed for the project.

Photo right: Six of the nine garage doors on the Can Can Wonderland building that would form a mural of the story of the area’s railroads and structures, the workforce, and the soul of the capital city. A Kickstarter campaign is trying to raise the last $8500 for the $40,000 project.

These murals will tell the story of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, featuring images which honor its history, including the railroads which ran through it, the legacy of J.J. Hill, and the Minnesota State Fair which we will draw from the Minnesota Historical Society and the Ramsey County Historical Society. They’re also expected to work with members of the community to learn what’s important to them about their neighborhood and to translate that into these big and bold murals, helping bring new life to an area undergoing a revival thanks to the arrival of new businesses such as Can Can Wonderland and Black Stack Brewing.

When viewed together, the nine 20’ X 16’ doors will form a cohesive story of the area’s railroads and structures, and the history and integrity of the workforce in the Hamline-Midway area and its rejuvenation as a center of creativity and enterprise. The mission is to bring to light the Midwestern modesty and the blue-collar soul of this thriving capital city.

After a $20,000 Challenge Grant received from The Knight and additional generous backing of Orton Developments, Can Can Wonderland, and Ironlak Paint, they are within $8500 of their goal. There is a Kickstarter Campaign to get them to the goal. The deadline is July 21. Go to www.kickstarter.com and search for “Historical Murals for Hamline Midway.” As of press time they had raised $4700 of their $8500 remaining goal.

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Another attempt to connect Greenway over the river to St. Paul

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

Another effort is underway to kick-start a Midtown Greenway extension into St. Paul. This summer St. Paul and Minneapolis community and bicycle advocacy groups are forming the “Extend the Greenway Partnership” Coalition. The coalition organizers are also seeking a cost estimate to complete a feasibility study of the Canadian Pacific Railroad’s Short Line Bridge, which crosses the river between the Franklin Ave. and Marshall-Lake bridges. The intent is to get a study in place to determine how much a full bridge inspection would cost, as well as the cost to fully rehabilitate the bridge for bicycle and pedestrian use. The Midtown Greenway Coalition hopes to raise about $10,000 for the feasibility analysis.

Their steps came out of a June 7 Union Park District Council (UPDC) meeting to hear a panel discussion of the long-awaited bike and walking trail project, and possible next steps. Almost 100 people attended the meeting. Many are interested in seeing the extension move ahead and are setting up a web page to gather input on the extension.

The Midtown Greenway is more than 5.5 miles long. It runs one block north of Lake St. in Minneapolis, in a former Milwaukee Road railroad corridor. The Greenway’s first phase opened in 2000, and it has expanded three times since then. It includes two one-way bike lanes and one two-way walking path, though they are combined in some places where space is tight. More than 5,000 people use the Greenway each day.

The Greenway currently dead-ends just west of the Mississippi River. “There’s not a great way to cross the river,” said Midtown Greenway Coalition Executive Director Soren Jensen. Cyclists and pedestrians must use the Marshall or Franklin bridges. Jensen said there’s a need for political will to get the extension done.

“If this is going to happen, it has to come from the St. Paul side,” said Jensen.

Several people at the meeting expressed support for a connection, although there were questions about construction and long-term maintenance costs and how those would be covered. No current costs estimates have been prepared. One idea raised is to tie the Greenway extension discussion into plans to rebuild Interstate 94, and the fate of railroad tracks in the Desnoyer Park and Prospect Park areas. That planning work might provide a way to get a connection done.

But the biggest question is the Short Line or High Bridge railroad bridge over the Mississippi River, which is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The bridge was built in 1880 and rebuilt in 1902. More than a decade ago CP Rail offered Hennepin County bridge access, if the county would assume legal liability and keep the bridge open for rail traffic. A 2006 study commissioned by the county indicated that the bridge, due to its age, construction, and maintenance, is at risk of collapse. A recommendation was made to build a new bike/pedestrian bridge using the bridge piers, which had $12 million costs at that time. Also suggested was construction of a new bridge parallel to the existing one.

Jensen said a new study is being sought so that the bridge can be examined in detail. Jensen is calling for a coalition of St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials to work toward bridge acquisition and repair.

Efforts to extend the Midtown Greenway into St. Paul are nothing new. Since about 2003 St. Paul Department of Public Works officials and community members have discussed a bike and pedestrian trail connection. It would have extended along Ayd Mill Rd. and connected with the I-35E Trail, Samuel Morgan Trail, and east-west neighborhood bike lanes. Most concepts had the greenway extending up between Ayd Mill Rd. and the CP Rail track, along the tracks through the West Midway industrial area and then into Desnoyer Park neighborhood to the railroad bridge. The project had city and federal funding at one point.

Public Works officials contended they could design a safe trail; railroad officials disagreed. After negotiations had failed, the city sought to acquire the property through eminent domain. CP Rail then sued. In 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank ruled against the city and for the railroad. That put the brakes on the project.

St. Paul city officials are interested in seeing what can be done on their side of the river.

Public Works Traffic Engineer John Maczko said the Midway Greenway extension has long appealed to him. “It would close a gap with our existing bike facilities.… It’s a great vision to go for. But we learned in the past that we have to have a willing partner in the railroad,” Maczko added. He believes CP rail officials would talk about the project again. But changes in federal law would mean bringing in the federal Surface Transportation Board and jumping through other hoops before a project goes forward.

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