Archive | August, 2017

Lyngblomsten 18

Arts and Wellness activities in full bloom

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Lyngblomsten Mid- Summer Festival took place on July 21 on their campus at 1415 Almond Ave. According to Andrea Lewandoski, Director of Lifelong Learning and the Arts, at least 1,200 guests attended. She said, “We had a great mix of ages, and it was clear that people were enjoying the inter-generational nature of the festival.”

Photo right: Hermes Floral has been in the neighborhood since 1906. Current owner  Sandy Biedler (right) helped community members make “Make Someone Smile” arrangements for residents who were unable to attend the festival. This was the fourth consecutive year that Hermes Floral was a booth sponsor.

The Mid-Summer Festival was a day to celebrate artistic exploration and lifelong learning for all ages. In that spirit, there truly was something for everyone to try their hand at. Make-and-Take art activities were provided by Northern Clay Center, the Polymer Clay Guild of Minnesota, Art with Heart, painter Jan Gunderson (sponsored by Wet Paint), COMPAS, and the Weaver’s Guild on Minnesota.

Photo left: Cortez Lemon (front) and Elijah Davis (back) cooled off as afternoon temperature rose to the mid-80’s.

Lewandoski emphasized, “One of our goals at the Mid-Summer Festival is to showcase how older adults are participating in the arts, and how they’re living vibrantly. We want all of our residents to thrive, not just survive. There aren’t many places where you see people living and learning to this extent throughout their lives.”

The Mid-Summer Festival used to be a stand-alone event, but has become part of the month-long experience of Como Fest.

Photo right: Resident Susie Robinson brought granddaughters Sophie and Ella through the Arts and Lifelong Learning Showcase in the Newman-Benson Chapel. The showcase was sponsored by Blick Art Materials of Roseville.

More than 140 volunteers made the event possible and, like the attendees and participants, they represented the whole spectrum of age. Youth volunteers were especially prevalent: featured as musicians in the art showcase area and the wellness lounge, and leading games and activities both inside and out.

“We welcome this chance to invite the community into our facility to meet our teaching artists,” Lewandoski said, “and to see the quality of the work displayed in the Arts and Lifelong Learning Showcase. Many of our classes are open to people in the community who are 55+, as well as residents of Lyngblomsten. We offer art classes with outstanding teaching artists, wellness activities, and special events through our 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten Program.” Go to www.lyngbomsten.org to view their extensive catalog of upcoming classes.

Photo left: The Weaver’s Guild of Minnesota brought volunteers and teaching artists to help festival goers weave bookmarks on a small loom called an Inkle Loom.

Lyngblomsten is a non-profit Christian organization serving older adults and their families through healthcare, housing, and community-based services. Their services nurture the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.

Other sponsors included Piche & Associates Real Estate, Griffith printing, the Northern Clay Center, and FastSigns of Roseville. The main stage was sponsored by McGough, a construction company with national headquarters based in St. Paul.

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Simona Zappas

Frogtown Radio WFNU 94.1 FM opening up airwaves in St. Paul

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

Line-up includes 40 music and talk shows representing all sorts of race, class, culture, and religious backgrounds

Radio station 94.1 FM WFNU, located in Frogtown, is allowing the St. Paul community to speak for itself. The station covers approximately a 5-mile radius and includes all of the Midway Como Monitor delivery area.

Check out the 40 original shows, ranging from funk, metal, gospel, oddball country, experimental, jazz, and local hip hop music shows. Plus there are talk shows covering many varied experiences from fatherhood, sobriety and recovering, finding self as a Korean adoptee, local businesses, conservative and liberal political talk, high school sports, and spoken word.

“We have a show for everyone!” stated WFNU-LP Frogtown Community Radio Station Director Simona Zappas (photo left, provided).

“Our programmers come from all sorts of race, class, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and bring their own experiences and taste to their shows.”

They are always looking for new people to join the team.

“I’m starting to work on recruiting more women and LGBTQIA folks to join the station because right now most of our programmers are male,” remarked Zappas. “I’m really looking forward to more folks joining our growing station, and I’m grateful to everyone who is already part of it. Everyone puts so much of themselves into their shows, and it really pays off.”

The WFNU broadcast range covers downtown Saint Paul, most of St. Paul’s west side, and a snippet of South Minneapolis. Those not in the coverage area can stream at wfnu.org or on the app which you can find by searching WFNU on either the App or Google Play store.

Four years in the making
It took about four years to get WFNU an FM license. In 2011, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, which opened up a finite number of low-power FM licenses, allowing for new frequencies to create community stations across the country.

“The exciting opportunity caught the eye of the Sam Buffington, the head organizer of the Frogtown Neighborhood Association (The FNA),” recalled Zappas. “Sam was the driving visioning force behind the effort to get Frogtown a radio station. At the time, Frogtown was the only neighborhood in Saint Paul that did not have a free community newspaper to share local news. Radio offered a cheaper, dynamic way to organize the community.”

To drive this project, Buffington brought on WFNU’s first, pioneering director, Julie Censullo.

It was clear the FCC would not do this again, pointed out Zappas, so organizers from Frogtown and Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis formed the Twin Cities Community Radio Initiative and began working with community members to submit applications to the FCC.

Photo right: Diverse representation and actually reflecting who is part of the Frogtown Community are fundamental to why WFNU exists. The station actively works to recruit and train folks to run their own radio shows. For more information, browse wfnu.org. (Photo submitted)

In December of 2014, the FCC granted the FNA a permit to build a community radio station and broadcast on 94.1 FM. By April of 2015, WFNU had recruited and trained enough volunteers to broadcast its first show. Initially, WFNU only existed online, as money was raised to get an antenna and build a studio.

In August 2016, the antenna went up, and WFNU began broadcasting on FM.
“In most cases, large media groups or corporations administer and project an identity onto a community by either positive or negative portrayals on TV, press or radio. Usually, these portrayals are built from racist, classist and sexist assumptions,” pointed out Zappas.

“Local radio is a great way to buck off those assumptions by having actual community members speak up about what is going on in their lives, their neighborhood, and their world. It’s a great way to share authentic identities by inviting neighbors to share their thoughts and play really good music.”

Using media to share stories
Zappas was hired to work at the station in February 2017. She has loved radio for a long time.

Her high school actually had a small station where kids could DJ during lunch for the rest of the student body. “It was controlled by a group of older boys who thought they were a lot cooler than they were and despite my repeated asks, they would not let me DJ. I figured it was since I’m a girl,” said Zappas.

“So, I spoke up and reminded the group that the station was for the whole student body and not just a select few. That’s really been my mentality and approach to media since then—decentralize the exclusionary power and share it with more folks.”

She studied media and cultural studies at Macalester while climbing the ranks at the radio station to ultimately become a co-director. She also interned and produced an original show at the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN). Next, she worked in the Youth Department at Neighborhood House as a CTEP Americorps worker and added media-literacy elements to the existing curriculum.

“In my career so far, I have been fortunate to be part of a number of organizations who have been doing fantastic work in community media and media justice,” remarked Zappas. “This work is important to me because using media to share stories, and gain technology skills is an amazing way to feel empowered.”

Since joining WFNU, she has been working to expand the station and build stronger internal policies.

Opening up airwaves to all
“What’s really cool about radio is that the transmitters used have a limit of how far they can transmit sound,” said Zappas. “I know that sounds like a negative, but for WFNU we’re really trying to be St. Paul’s radio station, so with that in mind, how cool is it that our transmitter is strongest in St. Paul!”

Radio is also valuable because it’s one of the cheapest forms of media for listeners to use, and it doesn’t require much digital literacy she pointed out.

Diverse representation and actually reflecting who is part of the Frogtown Community are fundamental to why WFNU exists and why it is so good, according to Zappas.

“Radio is historically dominated by cisgendered, white men, and the ability to move upward in the field is really limited by access to higher education,” she said. “WFNU is determined to challenge those practices by making training in broadcasting accessible to anyone regardless of their background, and to opening up the airwaves to all folks.”

Anyone interested in having their own show can apply on the website. A number of volunteer committees are open to the public to join, including show selection and fundraising, or the general steering committee. To learn more, email simona@wfnu.org.

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Reading Partners image1 slider

Reading Partners: One child. One tutor. Infinite possibilities.

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

Midway nonprofit Twin Cities Reading Partners builds one on one to benefit hundreds, one student at a time

One child. One tutor. Infinite possibilities. This is the motto of Reading Partners, 2300 Myrtle Ave., a nonprofit designed to increase the reading level of children in Title 1 schools. By using tutors to work one-on-one with children in K-5th grade, Reading Partners has made a great impact on these students and their ability to read at or above their grade level.

“The program started in California in 1999,” said Karen Casanova, executive director of the Twin Cities Reading Partners. “The first decade was about working on a program model and testing the curriculum. Once that was ready to go, there was a rapid expansion after 2010. “Federal funding helped bring the program to other cities. We are now operating in 14 cities nationwide, Minneapolis-St. Paul became the 13th location to adopt the program.

“We launched the program in schools in the fall of 2015,” Casanova said. “We started in six schools, four in St. Paul and two in Minneapolis. We added five more for a total of 11 this year, and next year we will be in 13 schools in the Twin Cities.”

Photo right: Reading Partners was started in California in 1999. Twin Cities Reading Partners, 2300 Myrtle Ave., started with six schools in 2015, and hopes that next year they will serve 13 schools. (Photo provided)

Reading Partners served 470 students in the Metro this past year, with 570 volunteer tutors. “Typically, we have 1.5 tutors per student,” Casanova said. Students get tutored twice a week for 45 minutes.

Teachers refer students to the program, and a child may be as little as a month behind in reading or up to two years behind, according to Casanova. “We serve both those who are moderately behind and those profoundly behind,” she explained.

For older students who may have consistently fallen behind year after year, the goal is to close that increasing gap. The next goal is to accelerate the reading process so that they can catch up.

“There is no secret sauce or silver bullet,” Casanova said, “but just really good literacy instruction.” She said the curriculum is broken down and laid out so that a non-teacher can do the instruction, step by step.

“We meet the students where they are,” she noted. “If a third grader is reading at a first-grade level, the child is not getting much out of it. We rely on teachers to refer students who can benefit the most from one-on-one.”

Casanova said that typically at a new school, Reading Partners serves 40 students a year with twice-a-week sessions. At schools they have been in longer, upwards of 60 students are served.

Although nationally Reading Partners has pulled back from working with fifth graders, the Twin Cities organization does extend to this age group. “We do this for a couple of reasons,” Casanova explained. “The Minnesota Reading Corps has its focus on younger children. And after fifth grade, kids go off to middle school. They will not teach them to read in middle school. We hope to invest resources in students before that. Ideally, the younger you can catch the students, the easier it is for them to get caught up.”

Photo left: Twin Cities Reading Partners typically serves 40 students per school in twice-a-week sessions. (Photo provided)

“Our goal is to prepare them to be successful on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, once they get to third and fourth grades. But we really want to give them everything they need to move on to middle school successfully, and that’s why we have kept the program going in fifth grade here.”

She said Reading Partners operates only in Title 1 schools and is working mostly with children of color to narrow the achievement gap. “We call it a literacy achievement gap,” she said. “Reading is everything. You can’t be successful in math if you don’t know how to read. More and more, math is word problems. And if you have a strong science background, you still can’t do science if you can’t read. It is the key to everything.”

Casanova said she wished the program had more volunteers than it needed, but it doesn’t have quite enough. “We have been able to attract 570 in two years, but there are 17,000 kids in Minneapolis and St. Paul who could benefit from the tutoring, so we are just scratching the surface right now. The only things that limit us are funding and human capital, our volunteers.”

She said that Reading Partners pulls out all stops in its recruiting of volunteers. The organization advertises online, and in the fall and right after the holidays it advertises on Facebook. A couple of Americorps employees reach out to the colleges, universities, community organizations and faith-based groups. “We talk to people about what we are doing, and we cast a wide net through the Internet and social media,” she added. “We go to festivals, and open streets and anywhere people are gathered so that we can talk to them.”

Tutors receive 1.5 to 2 hours of initial training. They can do a shadow session if they like to get a sense of how the program works. When they get assigned, the student and the tutor take the time to get to know each other and start building a relationship.

“A big chunk of the lessons are very scripted,” Casanova stated. “Volunteers can follow the script until they have an idea of how everything works.” She said Americorps members serve as site coordinators and can help tutors if they are hitting a wall or don’t understand something about the curriculum. “There is onsite support all the time,” Casanova related.

She said that typically a reading center is an unused classroom with tables and chairs. “We bring in everything else, the curriculum and the books we are using,” she said. “Every session starts with the tutor reading aloud to the student for 10 minutes. They ask the students questions, teaching them that they read to learn and acquire knowledge.”

Casanova said Reading Partners is very data driven and assesses students before they enter the program as a baseline. “We also assess the students midway through the year, so we know that what we are doing is working, or if we need to change things a little bit,” she said. At the end of the year, there is another assessment. “Tutors also keep weekly notes, and the staff looks at the notes to see if there are any red flags.” The students are not only taught to read but to comprehend and enjoy the ability to read.

“We also have two full-time program managers who oversee the Americorps volunteers,” Casanova said. “They are former teachers or have teaching degrees. They know how to look at data, talk with teachers and make sure we are doing our best by the kids.” She said that teachers, principals, and volunteers have all been surveyed, with all groups giving high marks to the program. This year, students were surveyed as well. “We don’t have the results yet, but I’m anxious to see them,” Casanova said.

“The most challenging part is working with schools and school districts, which I understand,” Casanova said. “They get a lot of programs thrown their way. We are not coming at it like we are a savior or a game changer, but we try to build that support from within. We start small and build on our reputation and the difference we are making with the kids. Funding is also always very challenging.”

“But the most rewarding part is the kids,” she continued. “Two years in, we are just seeing those results and hearing stories from tutors about how remarkable it has been to see the students they are working with making progress.”

Volunteer tutor does his part to bridge the ‘opportunity gap’

Colin Anderson was looking for a way to be more meaningful with what he was doing in his life. He had been looking at the school system, and he said that he came across research that indicated 75 percent of educators and administrators and 75 percent of freshmen agreed that the freshmen were not prepared for college.

“Throwing money at free tuition is like throwing money away,” he said. “Where does it start to go wrong?”

Anderson said he did not think there was an achievement gap, as so commonly stated, but rather an opportunity gap. “All these children can achieve, but not all have the same opportunities.”

As he walked his dog one day, he came across Hamline Elementary, 1599 Englewood Ave. “I realized there was a school right here in my neighborhood, and I just reached out to them,” he noted.

“I told them I have a love for reading, and that is what I would be most passionate about.”

So in April 2016, Anderson became one of the volunteer tutors for Reading Partners, an organization dedicated to improving the reading skills of elementary students and bringing children up to their class reading level.

“I did one session, and when the year ended I was waiting to start again,” he said. “I really enjoyed it; it was so much fun.”

He said in August of that year he was ready to sign up again. He was told by Reading Partners not to worry; they let the kids get settled in school before they started up the tutoring.

“I decided on two hours a week,” Anderson said. He said that Sarah, the site coordinator at Hamline, made him much better as a volunteer through her teaching. “Now I am impacting two students, and it is even more rewarding,” he said.

Anderson said he was really blown away with Reading Partners. “I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and my parents were very involved,” he said. But he was tutoring kids who might not be able to get help with homework at home.

“A lot of it is that the parents are not English speakers,” he explained. He cited one example of where most of the communication for the family was done by the second grader he was tutoring or his 8th-grade sister. “The parents are providing, but they are all working,” he said. “Or one dad is a single parent and a personal care assistant. He’s a great guy but has a very intensive job, and there is a limit to what he can do.”

Anderson said the volunteering is very easy. “If you just go in there and read the lesson they provide, it is meaningful. But you build rapport with students, provide the narrative and lesson of a story and want the student to give answers.”

“I am amazed at how much the male students get from having a male role model,” Anderson said. He talked about students he worked with, who improved not only in their reading but their penmanship and behavior.

He said all the volunteers bring their own experiences to the table. “One of the other tutors is bilingual,” he said. “I have tattoos, and the first and third graders I was working with were impressed.”

One of the things that blew him away was how easy the Reading Partners program is. “Any time a problem developed, if it wasn’t something they directly had an answer for, they would get the answer,” he said. “You see how this program works as a community builder itself, and you are glad that’s how somebody knows you.”

“You demonstrate who you are, and what you are there for,” he said. “I’m a big baseball fan, and I wore a baseball jersey and got them asking questions. I have a dog, and they ask to see pictures of him.”

Anderson said if kids get distracted during the tutor read-aloud, he asks them questions. “Just do what’s there in front of you, and it makes you look like this seasoned language teacher.”

He said that sometimes, if a child is having problems, there might be something else going on in his/her life. “Reading Partners will find out what is going on,” he said.

“I cannot endorse this program and this opportunity more for people,” Anderson said. ”We can all find somewhere during the week for an hour. Just arrange it with your workplace and ask if you can come in late one day.”

He said the impact of the program is so apparent and so meaningful. “It is such an amazing way to see what a diverse community we live amongst and can impact.”


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20161125_Asante_Totimeh_03 slider

Family Resemblance Photography Project points out our genetic similarities

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

Photographer Eric Mueller has been at work on a personal project called Family Resemblance since 2016. “My goal is to document and celebrate people who are genetically related,” Mueller said, “and who bear a strong resemblance to one another.” To date, Mueller has photographed almost 300 people in 120 sittings, and he plans to do many more.

Photo right: Eric Mueller, photographer and creator of the photography project Family Resemblance in his St. Paul studio. In addition to running a commercial photography business, Mueller teaches iPhone photography classes at Independent Film Project Minnesota, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, and the Minneapolis Central Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Why the interest in family resemblance? “I was adopted as a kid,” Mueller said, “so I don’t look like anyone in my family.” He was quick to add that his adoption experience was extremely positive; he just finds himself drawn to explore the terrain of family through the lens of this project.

Why the interest in family resemblance? “I was adopted as a kid,” Mueller said, “so I don’t look like anyone in my family.” He was quick to add that his adoption experience was extremely positive; he just finds himself drawn to explore the terrain of family through the lens of this project.

Photo left: In each Family Resemblance session, Mueller shoots three different types of portraits. The first set is looking at the camera straight-on without much emotion. Pictured left to right are daughter Stefani Asante-Totimeh and father, Kwame Asante-Mensah. (Photo by Eric Mueller)

Mueller said, “While I don’t yet know if the work will evolve into a book, a gallery exhibit, or an electronic platform, I feel invigorated by the sessions.”

Photo left: The second set is taken while the subjects are talking or otherwise interacting with each other. Pictured left to right are mother Tara Kolberg and daughter Mikaia Kolberg. (Photo by Eric Mueller)

The project started, as most projects do, as a somewhere-out-in-the-distance thought. Mueller explained, “In 2010, I started searching for my birth mother. I learned that she had passed away, never married, and had no other children. It seemed like kind of a dead end—but then I learned that she had a cousin, and that woman was still alive.”

Photo left: In the third set, Mueller asks the subjects what they want to do. Pictured left to right are father Lee Whiting and son Ike Whiting. (Photo by Eric Mueller)

“I was able to arrange a meeting with her, with the help of Lutheran Social Services. The cousin brought a big box of things to our meeting that had belonged to my birth mother, including photos, and I could see a strong family resemblance between us.”

The project got a jump-start when Mueller was approached by TPT to be featured on their television show, MN Original. He explained, “I shared the story of my search for my birth mother with the producer. She wanted to film me shooting what would become the first session of the Family Resemblance Project, which I had mentioned was something I was just thinking about exploring. That was about right around Labor Day 2016, and I’ve been rolling ever since.”

To sign up for a session of Family Resemblance, visit https://slotted.co/famrespro. A session lasts 30 minutes, and participants are asked to come dressed in white. All of the sessions take place in Mueller’s studio, on the second floor of the 550 Vandalia Building. Mueller uses a white background and flat lighting, so there’s nothing to detract from the power of the faces and the family resemblance they share.

As a thank you for participating in the project, Mueller makes each participant an 8×10” enlargement of their favorite shot.

“I think that people have responded really well to this project,” he said. “Some have traveled significant distances to participate, or have requested special dates around holidays like Mother’s Day (when all of the available slots filled in a flash.)

Mueller concluded, ”I would love viewers to look at these photos one day and say, “Hey, there’s somebody who looks like me!”

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Junior Achievemetn Mayor and Stark on stage

Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest moving to Midway location

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

There was a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony on July 25 for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s (JAUM) new home in the Midway. The event included a preview of plans for the building and recognition of lead gift donors.

Photo right: The building at 1745 University Ave. W. will become the new home for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. (Photo provided)

Spurred by a lead gift of $4 million from Jim and Patricia Hemak, the organization is halfway to its $20 million fundraising goal for the Let’s Build campaign.

JAUM purchased the building at 1745 University Ave W., which will be redesigned and refurbished to meet its specific needs. The building—named the Junior Achievement James R. and Patricia Hemak Experiential Learning Center—will house three premier learning labs: JAUM’s existing JA BizTown and JA Finance Park programs and the first-of-its-kind JA Innovation Incubator.

Photo left: The new location for the Junior Achievement James R. and Patricia Hemak Experiential Learning Center was celebrated at a ceremonial groundbreaking by (l to r) lead gift donors Jim and Pat Hemak, Gina Blayney (JAUM President & CEO), St. Paul Council President Russ Stark and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. (Photo provided)

The Let’s Build capital campaign will allow JAUM to double the number of students served in its experiential learning labs from 17,000 to 34,000. The campaign will also grow the Junior Achievement Foundation of the Upper Midwest, providing the organization with funding to meet new demands for program expansion, operating needs, technology upgrades and the ability to continue providing programs to local schools at little or no cost. Currently, JAUM is based in Maplewood.

Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest has been serving students in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin since 1949. During the 2016-17 school year, JAUM reached more than 163,000 students in grades K-12 with financial literacy, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurship education. JAUM programs are implemented by nearly 10,000 volunteers, mostly business professionals, who share their skills and experience to motivate and inspire students to succeed.

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Development Roundup

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin


St. Paul City Council awards $2+ million in STAR funds
The 2017 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) competitive grant and loan program includes projects to help immigrants and refugees, thanks to area nonprofits. The St. Paul City Council July 19 approved grant and loan funding for 19 projects. A total of $2,024,063 won approval—$1,462,063 in grants and $562,163 in loans. Project matches total $10,852,263.

The top-ranked project citywide is for the renovation of Capital Deals, a store on Smith Ave. on the city’s West Side.

The highest-ranked project in the Midway area is African Economic Development Solutions, which finished ninth. The development group, which is located at 1821 University Ave., will use a $100,000 grant and $123,000 match to provide a revolving loan fund for African entrepreneurs citywide. The nonprofit has worked with several African businessmen and women on N. Snelling Ave.

Ranked 11th is the International Institute of Minnesota’s Second Century Campaign, which was given a $200,000 grant. The match is more than $5.18 million. The International Institute plans to expand and renovate its facilities at 1694 Como Ave. to help new immigrants and refugees in its New American Workshop program.

Improvements to the commercial building at 704-738 University Ave. ranked 12th. A $47,500 grant and $47,599 loan were approved, with a match of $181,000.

Twelve projects weren’t funded, including a capital campaign request from Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. Junior Achievement is renovating a building at 1745 University Ave. for it programs. The group sought $1 million for a $15.3 million project. The project is going ahead without the city funds.

Other area projects that weren’t funded include a request from the Joy to the People Foundation toward a multi-sports facility at 890 Cromwell Ave. and Lifetrack Resources’ request for facilities improvements and a new preschool at 709 University Ave.

Thirty-one projects were considered for the $2 million in this year’s funding round, as compared to 39 in 2016. The 31 submissions sought $5,038,315, with $4,356,902 in grants and $681,413 in loans. Matches proposed by applications totaled $33,907,471. All Neighborhood STAR projects require a minimum one-to-one match of money, material and professional services.

Target renovations complete
Months of getting lost while shopping have come to an end as Target Corporation has completed remodeling its Midway store at Hamline and University avenues. The store at 1300 University Ave. is one of three stores around the state Target is remodeling.

Work wrapped up in July. The store features changes in décor, brighter lighting, and more checkout lanes. Many departments were moved from their longtime locations. The grocery area was also expanded.

Ryan Companies led the remodeling work.

The St. Paul-Midway store was one of 110 Target stores across the country receiving a top-to-bottom overhaul in 2017, according to Target. The other two Minnesota stores undergoing remodeling are on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis and in St. Louis Park. Other Twin Cities Target stores will get smaller upgrades.

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Man dies in July Green Line crash

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

A 29-year-old Saint Paul man died after the vehicle he was driving was struck July 15 by a METRO Green Line train at the intersection of Eustis St. and University Ave.

Nicholas Redlin Westlake’s car was struck just after 9pm. He and a passenger, Neli Petkova, were traveling southbound on Eustis when a westbound light rail train collided with their car. St. Paul firefighters extracted Westlake from the vehicle and transported him to Regions Hospital where he died July 17. Petkova was able to get out of the vehicle on her own and was transported to Regions where she was treated and released.

Westlake was a 2005 graduate of Central High School.

The Metro Transit Police Department’s crash reconstruction team is leading the investigation. Witnesses have reported to media outlets that they believed Westlake had the right of way with a green light. Investigators are looking into that possibility, as well as ensuring that all lights were operating as expected. Investigators also are examining whether the train operator followed all Metro Transit’s standard operating procedures and all traffic laws as he crossed into the intersection.

The train operator, Abdellatif El Maarouf, a 12-year Metro Transit employee, remains on standard administrative leave.

Westlake and Petkova were dancers from Midpointe Event Center, 415 Pascal St. N. The Event Center celebrated the life of Westlake on July 21. The Center released a statement saying, Westlake “was a passionate competitor and instructor who loved introducing people to ballroom dancing. He and his dance partner and life partner, Petkova, were magic together on the dance floor as they continuously earned high rankings in National Championships. He was generous with not only his talent but also his time, as he spent countless hours working with local dance programs and volunteering with organizations that promote ballroom dance in the Twin Cities. His fire, his light and his smile will be missed by his family, friends, and students from across the globe.”

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Monitor in a Minute

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin


Hot Rod’s penalized
Hot Rod’s Bar & Grill, 1553 University Ave., will be penalized for not following license conditions, the St. Paul City Council decided July 19. But the council put a stay on part of the penalty, as an incentive for no more violations.

Hot Rod’s, like many other establishments, is required to have video surveillance. Tapes are to be turned over to the St. Paul Police Department and city licensing officials as requested. Businesses are also to have video surveillance plans filed with the city.

The longtime Midway business not only didn’t file its plan by a required Dec. 31, 2016, deadline, it also failed to turn over requested video from April of this year in a timely manner. Another red flag for city officials was finding that not all patrons were wanded when entering the establishment.

The council weighed testimony and heard steps taken by the business to prevent future issues. The council agreed that while Hot Rod’s would pay a $2,000 fine, a 10-day suspension will be cut to five days, starting Aug. 13. But if there are additional violations in the next 18 months, the additional five-day suspension will be imposed.

Work on Dickerman Park
Work on Dickerman Park continues, following a formal dedication and ceremony last month. The St. Paul City Council July 26 authorized city staff to execute an easement for the existing encroachments at 1745 University Ave.

The property is part of Dickerman Park, a century-old linear city park on the north side of University. The park extends from Fairview Ave. to Aldine St. Commercial and institutional properties along the street used the area as front yard space for many years. Only recently has the city taken steps to reclaim and improve the park.

The building at 1745 University, which is the planned new home for Junior Achievement, has some unique issues tied to the park property. It has window wells, building light fixtures, building steps, an access ramp and a portion of its parking lot that encroach upon city property. These items have been on city property for many years.

While other parking spaces and other encroachments have been removed from Dickerman Park in recent years, the St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation has agreed to design the park around the existing encroachments at 1745 University given their integral relationship to the function of the building. The change is being made now because the building is being sold for use by Junior Achievement. The encroachments can remain in place under the city agreement, but nothing new can be placed in the park area. When and if the building is torn down, the encroachments will be removed.

The St. Paul Parks and Recreation Commission recommended approval of the agreement.

City updates bike plan
After several weeks’ delay, St. Paul has an updated citywide bike plan. The St. Paul City Council, on July 19, approved plan amendments covering the Grand Round, a citywide bike and pedestrian trail system which extends through the Como, West Midway, and Desnoyer Park neighborhoods, and downtown’s Capital City Bikeway.

The plan has been the topic of three public hearings. Although it has drawn strong support from cyclists, the plan amendments have drawn fire from affected property owners. Most of those have been St. Peter merchants and property owners. At this time there aren’t set plans for bike facilities on St. Peter, said Council President Russ Stark. Extensive community outreach is going to be needed. “But to be realistic, it’s going to be difficult to fit everything in.”

The July 19 vote to amend the citywide bike plan allows the St. Paul Department of Public Works to seek additional funding for engineering design for St. Peter, said Reuben Collins. He oversees bicycle facilities planning for the city. Having other plan amendments approved and an updated plan also helps other projects as funding is sought.

The Grand Round has been on the books for more than a century. It was the vision of parks planner and visionary H.S.W. Cleveland. The Grand Round travels throughout the entire city. Some sections have been in place for many years, while other sections need to still be completed.

Bye-bye to co-named streets
What’s in a name? Saying there are better ways to honor prominent city residents, the St. Paul City Council voted July 19 to drop its longstanding practice of co-naming streets.

While the change will disappoint those wishing to bestow honors or be honored themselves, City Council members said the loosely regulated honors need to stop.

The adopted resolution states “a street co-name sign has confused some in the public who do not recognize the official street name, resulting in the potential for miscommunication in an emergency situation.”

The change was made at the instigation of Ward Two Council Member Rebecca Noecker. She asked the council earlier this year to look at street co-naming and was surprised to learn that the city had no consistent policy.

Co-naming a street is not the same as a street name change. For many years the city has given co-names to stretches of streets, allowing a second white and black street sign to be placed below the street’s official name on a green and white sign. It’s not clear how many co-named streets there are in the city—likely more than a dozen. Most co-names are for only a block or two.

Ellen Biales, program manager for Public Works, said there hadn’t been a consistent policy on co-naming of streets. “The expectations people have had when seeking the co-naming is hard to judge,” she said. “Some people may think it’s a permanent change.”

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City Council fills another funding gap for soccer stadium

City Council fills another funding gap for soccer stadium

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

Tax increment financing (TIF) proceeds will be used to fill a $900,000 gap in environmental cleanup funding needs for the Major League Soccer stadium under construction at Snelling and University avenues. On July 19 the St. Paul City Council voted 5-2 to support the use of TIF to help pay for the cleanup of the former Metro Transit bus garage site.

Use of TIF was opposed by council members Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince, as well as speakers including Hamline-Midway resident and mayoral candidate Tom Goldstein, noting that final agreements with Midway Center developer and center owner RK Midway aren’t complete, “We’re pursuing a project that is a leap of faith. We seem to be pulling out every stop for this.” Goldstein disputed claims that the stadium will provide economic revitalization for the area.

Work at the site is well underway. The $10 million building permit issued July 14 is for excavation, site work and footings only. Much of the property has been excavated, leaving a large hole.

The financial hole stems from a plan the City Council approved more than a year ago, for $18.4 million for infrastructure and site cleanup. The St. Paul Port Authority is leading site cleanup efforts. Last year Port officials said they’d seek $1.5 million in grant funds to help with pollution cleanup. Grants have been elusive. The bus barn property, which is owned by Metropolitan Council, isn’t eligible for the council’s own cleanup grants.

Of $3.1 million in project grants, the Port has obtained only $325,000 to be used on the bus barn property. A shortfall of $825,00 to $1.18 million is anticipated. A Ramsey County grant is pending. Most council members agreed that not being able to use Metropolitan Council cleanup funds on a polluted site the council owns is an odd situation.

Jonathan Sage-Martinson, director of the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED), outlined the situation of cleanup costs and grant complexities. He said the city and Port Authority wanted to use pollution cleanup-specific grants, but TIF would be a second potential funding source. That was always the city’s intent, he said.

Metropolitan Council has pledged up to $4.5 million to help redevelop the old bus barn site for redevelopment. But that isn’t through traditional redevelopment or cleanup grants the Council gives. In an email to city officials, Metropolitan Council stated that the grants for tax base revitalization are supposed to bring about property tax-generating redevelopment, and not be used for tax-exempt property. The stadium, which is being built by Minnesota United FC at the cost of $150 million, will eventually be owned by the city with the city leasing the former bus barn site from Met Council. Noecker called the situation “mind-boggling.”

It’s estimated that cleaning up the entire stadium property, on both public and private land, will cost more than $7 million.

Prince and other council members also criticized the Metropolitan Council for not letting the city use its grants for cleanup since transit operations resulted in some of the site pollution. “This is the Metropolitan Council’s site that the Metropolitan Council has been polluting,” said Prince.

“It’s a zero-sum game,” said Noecker.

The TIF funding, which the St. Paul Port Authority Board recommend for approval in June, takes tax increment proceeds from two other sites and uses them at Snelling and St. Anthony avenues.

Port Authority and City Council actions amended the Midway Industrial Development District, which is now named Snelling-Midway. The amendments then take revenue from two other industrial development districts, Maxson Steel on Dale St. near Como-Dale-Front, and the Energy Park Development District. TIF will be used from Maxson Steel’s sub-district Great Northern Business Center Phase II and Energy Park’s sub-district Energy Lane Business Center. These two sub-districts currently have TIF receipts greater than the amount of money needed to pay their current costs. With the changes now in place, the money is available to be used at Snelling-Midway. The changes free up $375,000 from Energy Lane and $500,000 from Great Northern to use at the stadium location.

Sage-Martinson asked the City council to look at the “opportunity costs” of use TIF to help pay for cleanup and the stadium project. The stadium is seen as a catalyst for redevelopment of the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St.

“This is a high priority site to clean up,” Sage-Martinson said.

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Dickerman Open House.indd

Saint Paul breaks ground on new Dickerman Park along Green Line

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Calvin

City leaders broke ground in mid-July on Saint Paul’s newest park. Dickerman Park is a quarter mile stretch of land located north of the green line on University Ave. between Fairview Ave. and Aldine St. The first phase of park construction—between Fairview Ave. and Wheeler St.—will conclude this November.

The land that will become Dickerman Park was originally donated to the City of St. Paul in 1909 by the Dickerman family in the hopes of it one day becoming a park. The space has had many makeshift uses over the years, including a parking lot and playground.

Photo right: This rendering of Dickerman Park was presented at the design process open house in 2015. The park will be built largely based on the rendering, but certain features have been altered or omitted. (Photo provided)

“Saint Paul has one of the best park systems in the country,” said Mayor Chris Coleman. “We have a system that serves all of our residents in every neighborhood. We have always planned for green spaces along the Green Line, and I hope that Dickerman Park will become a community landmark, and a catalyst for further investment and development in the area.”

To fully realize the original vision of the park, the space will feature walkways, seating, plaza space, public art, lighting, and planting areas. The existing white and burr oak trees throughout the park will be maintained and incorporated into the park’s design. Once completed, Dickerman Park will have low-growing, brightly colored gardens that span the park’s entire width and highlight the iconic oaks.

“The vision of the Green Line is not just about improved transit and additional development, but about spaces like parks where people want to stay and linger,” said Russ Stark, St. Paul City Council President and Ward 4 councilmember.

Dickerman Park is a part of the City of Saint Paul’s larger initiative to create vibrant gathering spaces along the green line corridor.

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