Archive | July, 2017

Micro Living

Micro apartments on Territorial Road scheduled to open in August

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

With construction underway since January, RAY, a new “smart living” micro-unit apartment complex at 2326 Territorial Rd., is on track to welcome residents on Aug. 1.

The project, owned and developed by Brad Johnson, principal of RAY Residential and one of the owners and developers Carleton Place Artist Lofts and The Lyric Apartments, builds on the fast-growing micro living craze  driven by a more minimalist lifestyle, smaller apartments, tiny homes and the evolving “no-baggage” culture.

Seventy-five percent of RAY’s 79 units are “micro studios,” ranging from 372 to 505 square feet, with rents starting at about $1,100 per month. The development also offers a mix of larger market-rate one- and two-bedroom units, featuring sleek, modern finishes in kitchens and baths, along with underground parking and special pet-friendly amenities.

Distinguishing itself from other studio and micro-oriented living spaces, RAY’s smallest units provide wider views to the outdoors, with 50% more glass area and window space than a typical studio apartment.

Included on its list of features is a rooftop deck with bar, grill and fire pit. For canines in residence, there is a separate “woof-top deck” relief area, an indoor washing station, and a treadmill. Common areas provide high-speed fiber-optic internet with Wi-Fi in all public areas, a secured dry-cleaning drop-off site, a substantial fitness room with up-to-the-minute equipment plus multiple seating areas in a stunning glass-walled lobby. To entertain large groups without squeezing them into their compact apartments, residents can reserve “The Chef’s Table,” a private dining room with pro-grade kitchen. Another special feature is a library/media lounge which has books for borrowing, can serve as a conference room and includes a turntable with vinyl records stocked by a neighborhood record store.

The architect for the project was UrbanWorks Architecture of Minneapolis.

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Como HS Soccer Stars

News from Como Park High School

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

By ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• Four cadets from the Marine Corps JROTC at Como traveled to Washington D.C. with Senior Marine Instructor Major John Foley to compete in the National Level Junior Leadership Academic Bowl. Out of 240 other MCJROTC schools in the nation, the Como team qualified during the school year to be one of the eight finalists. At the nationals in late June, Como’s Joseph Newman, Jacob Kingson, William Farley and Anderson Xiong placed 2nd in the Marine Division.

Photo right: Como Marine Corps JROTC cadets Joseph Newman, Jacob Kingson, William Farley and Anderson Xiong (from L to R), earned 2nd place in the Marine Division of the National Academic Bowl in Washington D.C. in late June. (Photo provided)

The cadets produced a historic mission by being the first team in 22 years of existence at Como to qualify for the national finals. Their well-deserved trip included seven days in the capital. So beyond the competition, the cadets also saw monuments and memorials in D.C., visited and studied at Georgetown University, and had a midnight tour of the Pentagon with Defense Department officials.

Sergeant Major James Kirkland stressed that these academic team members are role models for the program in more ways than just their knowledge. “These four cadets have truly embodied what it means to develop leaders with integrity and courage to overcome adversity and transform their lives to serve their family, community, and nation,” Kirkland said.

• Como’s Academy of Finance (AOF) has established community partners and local businesses that consistently provide paid internships and opportunities for students. This summer, the BrandLab has awarded marketing internships to ten deserving Como students that have studied in the Academy of Finance: Robert Adams, Bee Lee, Tzong Lor, Tu Lor Eh Paw, Innocent Murwanshyaka, Leia Pullen, Daniel Vargas, Nujeng Xiong, Tou Meng Yang and Jason Jett.

The internships span eight weeks and allow students to work alongside marketing and advertising industry professionals. Participants will receive coaching, mentoring, advanced training and college preparation while getting paid! The Como students will be among 65 Rising Stars that BrandLab selected from 13 high schools in the Twin Cities area.

Como’s incoming senior class has 60 students that have completed three years of study in the Academy of Finance. Over 90% of those students are placed in jobs or internships this summer. Other business partners with internships include Travelers, Genesys Works, 3M, and even St. Paul Public Schools where three students will intern in the finance department.

The success of the program continues to gain attention, and funding for the AOF was the subject of a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) interview with teacher Kris Somerville and student William Toney. The interview was played on the air June 9 and is linked on the MPR website.

• Although the school year for teachers officially ended on June 12, dozens of Como teachers were back in classrooms leading instruction at St. Paul summer school sites by June 19. Several teachers also completed professional development programs in June.

Jill Bachmann, a special education teacher, attended AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) training at the annual AVID conference. She collaborated with other educators on High School Implementation Strategies to support students in challenging coursework across the curriculum. Roy Magnuson attended the AP (Advanced Placement) Summer Institute on the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, MN to prepare content for the AP Human Geography course at Como. Academy of Finance (AOF) teacher Steve Powers took the Economics course at Carleton to incorporate the material into AOF Social Studies classes.

Eric Erickson was granted a scholarship to study and present at the Foreign Policy Association Teaching Institute in New York City. 30 teachers from North America participated in policy discussions led by representatives from the United Nations, ambassadors, government officials and professors. Information, insight, and resources exchanged at the Institute will continue to supplement international relations and current events discussion while supporting Como’s participation in the Academic WorldQuest competition sponsored by Global Minnesota.

• Como Cougars’ soccer players have been busy training and developing their skills in June through voluntary workouts with their coaches. But the players and coaches are also donating their time and energy to the youngest players in the community in collaboration with St. Paul Parks and Recreation. “Soccer Stars” is a program for players ages 4-8 at the McMurray Fields on Tuesday nights for fun introductory soccer activities.

Photo right:Young “Soccer Stars” are having fun playing the game and connecting with Como Park High School soccer players on Tuesday nights at McMurray Fields this summer. (Photo provided)

Coordinated by Como boys’ coach Jonah Fields, and assisted by Como girls’ coach Kyle Johnson, the boys and girls from the school teams lead the sessions and pair up with the young participants, to provide a personal and positive experience for all. “Watching the high school players and the young kids connect through the game of soccer shows we’ve got something special in the Como Park community,” Fields said.

• The Gibson Foundation is directed by Como educator and junior varsity basketball coach Donnell Gibson. The foundation is leading two basketball camps in the community this summer. The Hope Heals Summer Basketball Camp is a co-ed program for 9-13-year-olds. There are 60 enthusiastic participants. Como players Trey Clark, Malique McCoy, and Jason Jett are coaching with Gibson at Hope Heals.

For high school players, Gibson is running the Summer Basketball Institute. The institute’s focus is to better prepare young men to play at the high school, college and potentially professional levels. Workshop sessions include strength, fitness and nutrition, the game on and off the court, character versus talent, and building your brand. Instructors include Minnesota High School Hall of Fame coach Larry McKenzie, Timberwolves player personnel manager Kaayla Chime, and trainers from the Mayo Clinic. The institute is intentionally small with a limit of 20 participants to maximize the classroom aspect of the program.

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Great River School 1

Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin


Gun violence in St. Paulgenerates concern
Gun violence is a “public health crisis,” according to St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. Upticks in 911 and gun violence calls are stretching the city’s police resources. Strategies to address the trends were discussed by Axtell and St. Paul City Council members during two presentations in June.

The sessions provided a one-year update of Axtell’s tenure as police chief and gave an overview of what has already been a violent 2017. It also gave council members an idea of what they might see from the Police Department regarding a 2018 city budget request. Budgets for all city departments are in the works and will be released in August.

Shots-fired reports are up 67 percent from last year. While Axtell tries to focus his department on more community engagement, his officers are also trying to handle more and more calls. Axtell described the situation as a “simple math problem,” where the number of officers on the street is outstripped by the number of 911 calls coming in.

The city’s 911 calls are at the highest level in the history of the police department, with 70,713 calls last year. That compares to 53,803 calls in 2013. Council members acknowledged that part of the trend reflects the growth in the city’s population over the past decade. But other factors are troubling

Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen asked Axtell if he’d be requesting additional officer in the 2018 budget. Axtell noted that at 620 authorized personnel, the department has the most officers it has had in its history. But the department and city administration are discussing staff levels.

Axtell told council members that the police and city face difficult challenges with gun and gang violence. “Yesterday’s fistfights are today’s gun fights,” said Axtell. “Young people in this community are settling their disputes and their differences with guns.”

More than 80 people have been shot in St. Paul in 2017. About 80 percent of the victims are African-Americans. Most are young people.
St. Paul has had 12 homicides this year, with 11 involving guns. Major crime in St. Paul this year was up almost 17 percent through the first half of June, compared with 2016.

City Council President Russ Stark asked if the increase in shots fired calls is a result of more guns on the street or an uptick in gang activity. Axtell responded that it is both.

Great River School plans forexpansion and reconstruction
Great River School, 1326-1336 Energy Park Dr., has spent much time in the past few weeks at City Hall, over its expansion plans.
The K-12 charter school provides a Montessori-based education. On June 5, the school obtained a front setback variance to expand its surface parking. The setback is to be 25 feet; the variance is for 19.9 feet. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals approved that request.

Also in June meetings, the St. Paul City Council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority approved a request for up to $18.5 million in conduit charter school lease revenue bonds. The school currently leases its space. The pass-through bonds would allow Great River to buy its buildings and grounds. The funds would also assist with an addition and renovation to create more classrooms.

Great River began in 2003. The current enrollment is 428 students, and the school plans to expand to 690 by the year 2022. Novation Education Opportunities is the authorizer for the school. That company oversees more than 20 other charter schools in Minnesota.

The Charter School Development Corporation owns the east building at 1326 Energy Park Drive. The School occupies this entire building. Energy Park LLC/Wellington owns the west building at 1336 Energy Park Drive. The School occupies half of this building, with the other half leased by another charter school whose lease expires at the end of November. The purchase agreements require closings no later than the end of September 2017. The

Construction will start in August of 2017, and be complete before the commencement of the 2018-2019 school year.

Patrons will climb the walls
Vertical Endeavors, which operates indoor climbing facilities, will open its doors in a former Westgate area warehouse at 2550 Wabash Ave., at the intersection with Emerald Ave. The company was awarded a conditional use permit June 15 by the St. Paul Planning Commission.
The commission’s decision is final as no appeal was filed.

Indoor recreational uses in St. Paul are required to have conditional use permits. The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods use. While the property zoning has been changed in recent years from industrial to traditional neighborhoods, the rock-climbing facility is seen by city staff as an appropriate interim use.

The project faced no opposition. District 12 St. Anthony Park Community Council didn’t submit a position for a Planning Commission Zoning Committee meeting. City staff recommended approval with provisions for future sidewalks and connections to a proposed trail along a nearby rail corridor.

Rock climbing is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and Vertical Endeavors is one of the recognized leaders in the industry, according to the Vertical Endeavors website. The company was founded in 1992 and has locations in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Bloomington, Duluth, and Illinois.

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Rihm 2

Rihm Kenworth to leave the Midway after 85 years

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin


West Midway is losing one of its longtime trucking businesses. Rihm Family Companies, Inc., which is one of the world’s oldest Kenworth truck dealers, has announced plans to build new facilities in South St. Paul and Coon Rapid. The company will leave its longtime location southwest of the Cleveland-University intersection.

The company turns 85 years old this year. Rihm also announced it acquired Red Wing-based LTX, Inc., which owns Lawrence Leasing Inc., the operator of Lawrence NationaLease. That commercial truck leasing company has 15 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. The acquisition bumps the company’s workforce to more than 300 workers, with 21 locations.

“Since 1932, the Rihm family has provided great jobs and exceptional customer service in Minnesota and western Wisconsin,” said Kari Rihm, president and CEO in a statement. “We’re pleased to begin our 85th year in business by welcoming Lawrence NationaLease’s high-caliber employees and management; providing better security for all of our employees; and improving service and offerings for our loyal customers. Our company’s future is very bright.”

But the company will leave the Midway after many years. Rihm was one of many industrial firms that raised concerns when the city rezoned many properties along University Ave. The change made the company a legal nonconforming industrial use.

A new location in South St. Paul at Concord Blvd. and Armour St., totaling 68,000-square-feet, will serve as RFC’s new headquarters and offer sales, parts, and service. A new location in Coon Rapids near Highways 610 and 47 totaling 75,000-square-feet will serve as a body shop, in addition to offering sales, parts, and service.

The company’s St. Paul facility will be sold, and the move to new facilities will be later this year.

Union Flats obtains financing
The Union Flats apartments at 787 Hampden Ave. are moving ahead. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, voted June 28 to authorize the sale of up to $32 million in conduit tax exempt and up to $2.5 million in taxable housing revenue bonds. The council also approved a waiver of the city development fee.

Total development costs for the project are more than $67 million. Union Flats has received several grants for environmental clean-up and site improvements.

Dominium Development wishes to construct a new 100 percent affordable rental apartment building at 787 Hampden Ave. near the Raymond LRT Station. Union Flats will have a mix of one to three-bedroom units, with 217 apartments total. The project site is the former headquarters for Hunt Electric; it was rezoned from industrial to traditional neighborhood use almost a year ago.

Dominium has extensive experience developing, owning, and managing affordable multi-family housing. Founded in 1972, the company is currently managing more than 25,000 units of housing in 23 states, and are the second largest owner of affordable housing in the country. Dominium has developed numerous other projects in St. Paul including Schmidt Artist Lofts, The Cambric, and Lonnie Adkins Court.

The city approved what is called a conduit revenue bond, which is essentially pass-through of financing. It doesn’t involve any financial risk to the city.

Historic redevelopment is challenged by Commission
Restoration and expansion of a historic University and Raymond avenues building has run up against opposition from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). On June 22, the commission  voted to reject plans from Exeter Group LLC for storefront redevelopment at 2400 University Ave. and deny a requested building permit. The commission is asking the developers to come back with a new plan to rehabilitate the street-level storefront spaces. That could mean repairing and retaining the historic building materials or developing a replacement that replicates the extant historic materials and detailing.

Exeter also has the option of appealing the HPC decision to the St. Paul City Council. No appeal had been filed as of Monitor deadline.
Much of the property has been transformed from an old trucking company and warehouse into the C & E Lofts apartments. The remaining piece is what to do with storefronts that have housed a wide variety of uses over the years.

The space has one future tenant, a second location for the Naughty Greek restaurant. But HPC staff, the developers and BKV Group architects need to come up with a new plan for the storefront.

Exeter would like to rehabilitate the 6,000 square feet of commercial space along University Ave. into two separate 3,00 square foot spaces. The space has six bays and four doors. Some of the spaces have been modified. HPC staff estimates that about 75 percent of the historic storefront components remain. HPC staff, and most commissioners, oppose complete removal of historic storefront materials.

The HPC instead proposes limited demolition, and removal and reinstalling original brass decorative trim. At issue is how much work is needed, in light of deteriorated materials in many places, and what parts of the storefronts should be retained. Exeter Group contends that no historic materials are in poor condition and that windows and doors need to be reconfigured for a new tenant.

The debate over the request generated more than 70 emails to HPC staff; most focused on the prospect of bringing a new restaurant to the space. Many emails resulted from a social media campaign. Commissioners and HPC staff explained that the commission doesn’t regulate property use. Four people asked that the plan be denied.

The Naughty Greek, which has a location at Selby and Snelling, would open a second location in one part fo the building. Naughty Greek chef and owner Angelo Giovanis asked the commission to approve Exeter’s plans so that he could open a second space there.
A tenant hasn’t been announced for the second space.

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Como Community Council Corner

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

Annual Ice Cream Social scheduled for July 14
It doesn’t get any better than this: A night to enjoy free ice cream, lawn games, live music, and the best neighbors in the city. It’s District 10’s annual Ice Cream Social on Fri., July 14, 5:30-8pm, at the Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Pkwy. N.

The evening features ice cream and colorful toppings; music from Paul Seeba; visits from Saint Paul police officers and firefighters; meet-and-greets from neighborhood organizations; and giant bubbles, face painting, outdoor games, and plenty of lawn for the young ones to run, jump, roll, and dive across.

Vote with your feet (or something like that)
Saint Paul’s Public Works Department is developing the city’s first pedestrian plan. The plan will guide decisions on how and where to invest in Saint Paul’s streets and sidewalks. To help the city out, District 10 is inviting your feedback on what it’s like to walk in the Como neighborhood.

Take our local survey: Go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/walkD10 (the survey takes less than 3 minutes).

Making crosswalks safer
District 10 is launching a “safety flag” project at hazardous crosswalks in the neighborhood. We’re mounting the flag kits at five crosswalks to remind motorists that state law requires them to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. It doesn’t matter if the crosswalk is painted or unpainted—drivers have to stop every corner, every turn, every time.

Sponsor a crosswalk: If you want to sponsor a flag kit for a different crosswalk that’s important to you, round up $31.50, and we’ll make and mount another kit. Find a list of more than a dozen available intersections on our website: www.district10comopark.org.

What we want in our neighborhood
Como residents want more coffee shops and sit-down restaurants in the neighborhood, and wouldn’t mind a corner grocer and a taproom, either. Those are among the conclusions from a survey District 10 conducted about residents’ views on neighborhood businesses.

The survey is one part of a research study that focuses primarily on the Como-Snelling business district. The study is the first piece in a larger project District 10 is leading to build a foundation for more amenities and economic investment in the neighborhood.
You can read study highlights, and view the full survey results, on District 10 ‘s website: www.district10comopark.org.

Como Community Council OKs Delicata liquor license
At the request of the Como Community Council Board, the St. Paul City Council voted June 28 to waive the 45-day waiting period for a beer-and-wine license for Delicata. That could help the restaurant open in the old Java Train / Como Park Grill space in July.

The casual, counter-service restaurant at 1342 Pascal will feature Neapolitan-style pizzas and gelato. Restaurant owner Matty O’Reilly told District 10’s Land Use Committee that he and chef J.D. Fratzke think “the neighborhood could use diversity in its food options” and that “the spot is dying to be something cool.” Hours would be 11am-9pm weekdays, and 11am-10pm. Fridays and Saturdays. “I’m sensitive to the fact that this neighborhood is residential,” O’Reilly says.

Vacancy on our board
The Como Community Council is seeking candidates to fill one At-Large board vacancy.

The At-Large seat is open to anyone who lives in District 10, which is the portion of St. Paul bounded roughly by Snelling on the west, Larpenteur on the north, Dale on the east, and the railroad tracks between Pierce Butler and Energy Park Dr./Front Ave. on the south.

The elected candidate will serve until April 2019. Any District 10 resident at least 18 years of age is eligible to run; so are representatives from businesses or institutions in the neighborhood.

To submit your name or to find out more, contact the District 10 office at 651-644-3889 or district10@district10comopark.org. To be included on the ballot, nominations must be received by Tues., Aug. 8.

A special election for the seat is Tues., Aug. 15 at 7pm, before the monthly board meeting at the Como Park Streetcar Station. Write-in nominations will be accepted from the floor the night of the election.

It’s really in October
St. Paul’s annual Reduce & Recycle Citywide Drop Off Event at the State Fairgrounds was not in June. The flier the city mailed to your home was wrong.

The good news: There will be a Drop Off Event at the Fairgrounds. The correct date is Sat., Oct. 7, from 8am-1pm.

Upcoming District 10 Meetings
• Como Community Council Meeting: Tues. July 18
• Environment Committee: Wed., July 26
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., Aug. 1
• Land Use Committee: Mon., Aug. 7

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