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Archive | May, 2018

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TCGIS neighbors want community ‘anchor’ to remain

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

School discusses razing former St. Andrew’s church building and constructing more efficient and larger building

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) neighbors are concerned that the school has already made up its mind about razing the old St. Andrew’s Church building at 1031 Como Ave., and is moving with a sense of urgency on the project that may not be necessary

“I’m very opposed to the possibility that the church could be razed,” stated Muriel Gubasta during a community meeting on Apr. 9. She attended grade school at St. Andrew’s, along with all six of her children.

Gubasta thanked school staff for holding the informational meeting, and stated, “I’m very happy to see this as a school.”

Photo right: About 100 people attended an informational session in the former church building that the school uses as a cafeteria and gym space. A majority of those present raised their hands to let school representatives know they were neighbors. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

But she encouraged the TCGIS to take its time making a decision and not rush into anything. “Let’s not rush to failure,” Gubasta said. “You have a lot of people here who really love this beautiful space.”

Fellow neighborhood resident Kate Konkel agreed and pointed out that TCGIS isn’t the first school to operate in the space. In fact, it was preceded by the French Immersion School, which was only there a few years.

“The history of schools in this area has been transient,” Konkel said. “This building is very much a part of this neighborhood and the history of St. Paul.”

According to TCGIS Facilities Committee Chair Nic Ludwig, “We’re not set in stone. The board has not approved any of this. This is the first of hopefully many listening sessions.” Ludwig pointed out that he spends time every day considering the issues around tearing down or keeping the existing Byzantine-Romanesque structure built in 1927.

However, Ludwig observed that the school board could vote on this issue within the next few months to keep with a schedule that opens the new space for the 2019-2020 school year.

Photo left: TCGIS Facilities Committee Chair Nic Ludwig (front) and finance chair Sam Wallig explain the choices driving the school during a community meeting on Apr. 9. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Residents were concerned that this doesn’t give them much time to investigate options, such as raising money to save the former church building.

A space crunch
When the tuition-free, K-8 German Immersion School moved to its current location in the fall of 2005, organizers planned for three sections in grades K-4 and two sections in grades 5-8. Based on the lack of attrition at the school, planners are working to figure out how to expand to three sections for grades 5-8 for a total projected student population of 613 in the 2021-22 school year.

The school began experiencing a space crunch this year.

“Teachers and students are already using hallways and other nooks,” pointed out Ludwig. Some teachers don’t get prep time because they are sharing their classrooms with other teachers. The kindergartners and first graders have gym in the cafeteria. The school has eliminated spaces such as the computer lab and plans to eliminate the boardroom/gathering room next year. Next, they’ll need to rotate students through lunch, but that will cut into the time that the space is also used for students to be active.

Planners project that the school needs four additional classrooms, two specialty spaces, four special education/student auxiliary spaces, five administration/staff spaces, gym space and a larger cafeteria for the 2019-2020 school year.

When some in attendance questioned how much of this was necessary, TCGIS Principal Ted Anderson stated, “We don’t spend a lot of time talking about our wants. We talk about our needs.”

Finance Committee Chair Sam Wallig pointed out that whereas St. Paul Public Schools typically received about $15,000 in funding per student, TCGIS receives $10,000. TCGIS is a public charter school, but it is not part of the St. Paul Public School district.

Number of students
Of the 560 students at TCGIS, 250 come from St. Paul, 50 from Roseville/Falcon Heights, and 130 from Minneapolis, so planners want to remain in the area they’re in. Plus, TCGIS is working with Central High School, which has added a German tract that is in its second year for TCGIS students to move into seamlessly.

Each year, the school receives more student applications than there is space for. Priority is given to siblings and students of staff, observed Anderson.

The school currently employs 80 full-time staff and nine part-time. This is projected to increase to 90 full-time and ten part-time.
Some attendees expressed their concern about the number of students at the school and stated that they don’t think this site can handle more.

Steve Green, a neighborhood resident since 1983 and a former member of St. Andrew’s, said, “I’m opposed to your expansion.” He cited existing traffic problems that will get worse with more students. He encouraged TCGIS to put a cap on enrollment where it is now.

“This is a beautiful building. It’s unique. It shouldn’t be torn down,” Green said.

Buy or lease?
The school’s facilities committee has spent the last year looking for space and has considered buying and leasing, which is expensive in the long-term. The spaces nearby are either too big or too small, according to Ludwig. TCGIS isn’t interested in having two campuses because of the duplicated administration costs.

The Mission Orthodox Presbyterian church across the street wasn’t interested in selling and plans to lease that space didn’t work out. The school is working with the city on the possibility of using parking at the nearby Como Pool.

As charter schools cannot own property, the current site is owned by the TCGIS Building Company. To purchase the site and renovate it, the building company issued $9 million in bonds that are paid by the lease payments the school makes. Bond payments are currently between $500,000 and $560,000 a year. The state of Minnesota pays up to 90% of the lease payments, up to $1,314 per pupil unit. A portion of the lease payments can be used to improve the building, and this fund currently has about $400,000.

Old buildings need work
The projected maintenance costs at the former church building, or the Aula, are estimated to be $1,195,000 over the next seven to 10 years, while the classroom building needs about $535,000.

Photo left: To solve its space needs, the Twin Cities German Immersion School has considered a variety of options, including tearing down the existing Byzantine-Romanesque structure built in 1927. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The long-term maintenance needed on the former church building includes: a boiler ($120,000), water heaters ($20,000), windows/doors ($75,000), roof ($500-750,000), masonry ($120,000), sound dampening ($10,000), and an optional sprinkler system ($100,000).

Items at the classroom building include: a boiler ($120,000), asbestos in the boiler room ($40,000), unit heaters and thermostats ($65,000), water heater ($10,000), roof ($150,000), south windows ($65,000), north windows ($65,000), and entry doors ($20,000).

Spread over seven years, the annual cost of maintenance is $250,000. That will consume most of the surplus—which is $260,000 this year, pointed out finance chair Sam Wallig.

The school’s growth may support a new bond issuance, but the school can’t support the projected maintenance costs plus additional bonds, said Wallig. The school could restrict enrollment to two sections per grade, but that wouldn’t be enough to pay the maintenance costs and make the bond payments.

If the school doesn’t build and offers three sections, programming will suffer from lack of classroom space and the maintenance costs of the Aula, according to Ludwig.

A new building
The proposed three-story, 20,600-square-foot-addition built on the site of the Aula would have two gyms on the first floor. The second floor would house classrooms.

A phase two addition on the east side would add a total of 23,150 square feet on three levels.

The project cost is an estimated $5.7 million. Ludwig pointed out that project costs will go up if the school waits.

The next steps are to meet with staff and user groups to develop a schematic design, and to create a construction plan, while also completing a bond underwriter review.

District 10 Community Council’s Land Use Committee anticipated hearing about the project at its May meeting, and from there it will need to go to the city council.

An anchor
“This is an anchor place in this community,” pointed out Mary Burnison. “It’s more than a building.” She added, “It’s holistically, organically a part of this community.”

Ludwig responded that he has lived in the neighborhood for the past seven years. “I also like the church building,” he said.

However, school representatives have met with companies that have worked on this building in the past to figure out the scope of the work needed and to obtain quotes, and believe that it is more cost effective to raze the former church building.

Andy Ashton’s family moved to the neighborhood because of TCGIS, and his father-in-law attended school at St. Andrew’s. He pointed out that the building is important to his family, as well, but it is more important that the school stay in the neighborhood.

Some residents proposed keeping part of the church building, such as the facade, retaining the shell, or reusing pieces within a new structure. However, Ludwig noted that the existing footprint of the church building is not large enough to add the space needed.

Ninety-seven-year-old John Forliti’s dad began attending St. Andrew’s at age 14. Forliti is happy to see a school community active at the former church. “Whether people went to this church or not, it’s still an anchor,” he pointed out.

Upcoming meetings
Neighbors expressed a desire to be more involved in what happens at the school. They were encouraged to attend public board meetings and facilities committee meetings (second Thursdays at 6pm), which are posted on the school’s website.

 

Committee formed to save St. Andrew’s Church building

Editor’s Note: the following was received after deadline. Watch for more comprehensive coverage in the following months.

Neighbors in the Warrendale neighborhood of Como Park formed a neighbor-led ad hoc committee to prevent the demolition of the former St. Andrew’s Church. Demolition is being considered by the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS). The committee is circulating a petition calling for “the proposed plan for the St. Andrew’s Church Structure be delayed until June 2020.”

According to Bonnie Youngquist, the project delay would provide:
— Time to select 1-2 architects to review the needs of the school and offer alternative solutions and estimates
— Obtain expert advice from Thomas Zahn, former Preservation Planner for the City of St. Paul.
— Meet with Thomas Fischer, UMN professor, Director of the Minnesota Design Center, and Dayton Hudson Chair in Urban Design
— Time to get a second opinion on the condition of the Aula roof and provide an additional cost estimate for maintenance
— Generate alternative solutions not previously considered
— Time to determine whether or not a historical designation is feasible.

The committee says that they aim to connect community stakeholders to create a viable solution for both the Warrendale neighborhood and TCGIS as they develop their expansion proposal. Neighbors say that they have been working with the school to resolve issues, but there is still much to be done even at the current size. Neighborhood concerns include parking, noise, traffic flow, bike and pedestrian safety, etc.

Built in 1927, St. Andrew’s Church is a Romanesque building is listed as a “Site of Major Significance” in the 1983 Historic Resources Survey (the most recent completed for the neighborhood). The structure has a designation in Larry Millet’s “American Institute of Architecture’s Guide to the Twin Cities” as, “one of St. Paul’s best Period revival churches.”

“The former St. Andrew’s Church is a historic structure that has served as a meaningful community anchor and a visible symbol of the stability of the surrounding neighborhood for nearly a century,” according to neighbor Mary Burnison.

According to the committee, the proposed demolition of this building also does not support the District 10 Community Plan.

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Central Lutheran School sign

Central Lutheran School seeks $450,000 in GoFundMe campaign

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

‘In order to pay our faculty, staff, and many bills, we must raise lots of money quickly.’

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Staff members hope that a GoFundMe campaign will keep Central Lutheran School (CLS) open. The 130-year-old school (775 Lexington Pkwy. N.) seeks to raise $450,000 through the campaign, enough to cover payroll and pay down old debt.

Photo right: Citing deep financial trouble, Central Lutheran School launches GoFundMe campaign to raise $450,000 and keep the school doors open. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

This may give the school time to reboot and move to a new funding model, according to Principal Elizabeth Wegner.

She pointed out that staff has spent the last eight months getting the school’s books and accounts in workable shape to try to understand its cash flow issues. An angel donor paid for accounting services, which provided staff its first accurate numbers in January.

“Now, we have a good grip on our issues,” said Wegner. “We needed to get the word out quickly and involve more than our usual mailing list.”

“The story is simple. We are in deep financial trouble,” explains the GoFundMe page. “In order to pay our faculty, staff, and many bills, we must raise lots of money quickly. If we don’t, the great things we do for Jesus at CLS will end, and the school will close. Act now and be very generous, more generous than you thought you could. It is time to SOS (Save Our School).”

In its first 18 days, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $10,321.

As the school struggles to find new revenue streams, the five full-time and two part-time teachers who manage the 80 students in the K-8 school have been working at lower pay for the last couple of months. The school’s separate year-round toddler care and preschool section, with 34 students, gets some state and county funding.

The funding model of the one-story 27,000-square-foot yellow brick school building has changed over the years. While tuition covered most expenses at one time, today roughly 80% of CLS students receive some form of financial aid, and more than half receive free or reduced-price lunches. Only about five families can pay the full tuition.

The mission-based school does not turn away students based on financial need.

A chunk of the school’s $950,000 operating budget is paid by four Lutheran churches: Bethel Lutheran, Emmaus Lutheran, Jehovah Lutheran, and St. Stephanus Lutheran.

Immigrants have always been part of CLS
Students and families come from many different ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds.

In the last 5-6 years, the ethnic profile at CLS has changed drastically.

“We went from about 70% white and 30% other to 50% white, 30% African American with a large portion of that number being immigrants from East Africa (Eritrea and Ethiopia), 15% Karen and 5% other,” remarked Wegner. “This brings challenges in the areas of ability to pay tuition, as families achieve their footing in a new country, and also language barriers. However, we are still close-knit and revel in our differences.”

The school itself was started by immigrants from Germany, who started their school before they’d even started their churches.
When the school association came together and built the current facility, there were about 600 students attending.

These association churches experienced a shift in membership as people moved from the city to the suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, taking members to other churches. That, in turn, affected enrollment and funding at CLS, as did the 2008 recession.

When Wegner and her husband started at CLS, K-8 enrollment was 225 with a small preschool.

A family affair
CLS has been a family affair for the Wegners.

“From when we first walked in when we were looking for first grade for our son, there was a feeling of family and community,” remarked Wegner. “This atmosphere, plus a Christ-centered focus and our commitment to mission and ministry at CLS, keeps us at this school.”

Her son Ben graduated from eighth grade at CLS in 2006, and her daughter Abby in 2009. Both are now educators. Husband Bruce is the head custodian.

Wegner began working at CLS as the music director in 1998. In 2014, the school board asked her to take on administrative duties, as well.

She’s found much to love about CLS.

Diversity sets school apart
“Other than the big draw of family and community, the rising level of diversity sets us apart,” Wegner observe. “Also, because of combined grades, each child has a two-year relationship with each teacher (except kindergarten which is a single grade). We all know each student and family very well.”

In knowing each child personally, the staff knows their strengths and challenges. “We work together to address these,” Wegner pointed out. For example, if an upper-grade student has trouble in reading, a lower grade teacher is right there to suggest other resources.

There is a time in the day for Reader Friends during which older students and younger students read together.

Because CLS only uses St. Paul Public School busing in the afternoon, its school day is 7 hours long. This allows for a 25-minute outdoor recess period for each class every day.

CLS implemented a new curriculum in 2016 grounded in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). The school also offers social studies, art, music (vocal and instrumental) and PE throughout the school year instead of by quarter or trimester. Plus, students compete on sports teams, play in musical ensembles, and participate in choir trips. Students focus on giving back to their community and recently donated Play-Doh to the cancer ward at Children’s Hospital.

Wegner hopes people consider donating through the GoFundMe campaign, and she also asks for prayer.

“Come over and visit us. Meet our faculty and kids,” she encouraged. “Spread the word!”

To donate to the GoFundMe campaign go online to www.gofundme.com/saving-central-lutheran-school.

For more information or to schedule a tour of the school, contact Elizabeth Wegner at ewegner@clssp.org.

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Mac and Dunkin diagram 1

Planning Commission rejects drive-through for Mac’s and Dunkin’ D’s

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

Photo above: Ground level illustration of the proposed Mac’s Fish and Chips and Dunkin’ Donuts at Larpenteur and Hamline. The pickup window, which is shown on the left side of the building, has been rejected by the Planning Commission. (Illustration from the St. Paul website)

By JANE MCCLURE
Mac’s Fish and Chips and Dunkin’ Donuts could provide an interesting taste combination at Larpenteur and Hamline avenues. But a restaurant-coffee and donut shop development proposed there cannot have a drive-through lane. On Apr. 20 the St. Paul Planning Commission rejected a conditional use permit needed to allow for the drive-through lane at 1330 Larpenteur Ave. W. and 1672 Hamline Ave.

The developers had ten days in which to appeal the Planning Commission decision to the City Council. As of Monitor deadline no appeal had been filed.

Photo right: Site plan for Mac’s Fish and Chips and Dunkin’ Donuts at Larpenteur and Hamline. The Planning Commission rejected a conditional use permit for the drive-through in the plans. (Illustration from the City of St. Paul website)

A development with the two businesses could still be built at the corner where Mac’s and Midtown Cleaners & Tailors have stood for many years. Mac’s is in a converted gas station and would stay in a new development. Midtown would relocate.

Sarin Development wished to tear down the buildings and replace them with one new 3,000 square foot one-story structure. That required a conditional use permit for the drive-through lane, as well as modifications to city-required conditions.

But developers seeking drive-through lanes in St. Paul have collided with complaints. The specter of the traffic tie-ups, wrong-way turns and vehicle mishaps at Marshall and Snelling avenues where Starbucks opened more than a year ago have raised red flags citywide. That was also on the minds of the Zoning Committee during its Apr.12 public hearing.

The Union Park District Council has called for the Starbucks drive-through’s conditional use permit to be revoked, citing traffic tie-ups and vehicles blocking the Marshall Ave. bike lane. City staff and Starbucks have responded by trying different turn restrictions and site modifications.

Earlier this year when a Dunkin’ Donuts and a pizza restaurant were proposed just a few blocks to the south at Snelling and Hague avenues, one of the first questions asked was whether there would be a drive-through. That building has no drive-through planned.

“The big question is, what will be the impact on the neighborhood?” said Zoning Committee Chair Daniel Edgerton.

The Planning Commission and its Zoning Committee heard from several neighbors who oppose the Larpenteur-Hamline project. Concerns were raised about street and alley traffic and potential changes to neighborhood character. A SuperAmerica store to the west already causes traffic tie-ups when it is busy. Neighbors also objected to a building design that was right up to the corner, especially if the design had few windows. A Walgreens recently built at Larpenteur Ave. and Lexington Pkwy. has drawn complaints because it lacks windows and eyes on the street.

“To paraphrase our (State) Fair lingo: this is congestion on a stick,” said neighbor Craig Norman. “With just SA across the street from this project, things can get interesting during rush hour. Adding another busy driveway on the other side will really mess things up.” Other neighbors said that while they want to see new development, it needs to happen with more consideration for traffic issues.

Como Community Council (District 10) Land Use Committee gave the project conditional support, asking that improvements to plans be made. The district council committee raised concerns about potential traffic backups and traffic flow, as well as queuing capacity for vehicles using the drive-through window. Plans called for vehicles to enter off Hamline and exit onto the north-south alley that is east of the site.

Developers and their architect said changes had been made to the project to address neighborhood concerns, and that the conditional use permit should be modified to meet site conditions.

A minimum 60-foot separation is needed for a drive-through lane and residential property. The closest residential property is 54.9 feet away. The vehicle egress is to be at least 60 feet from residential property; the actual distance would be 20.9 feet. A six-foot buffer with screen planting is also required between the development and residential property. An opaque fence is proposed on top of a wall that would be 2.5 feet high. Zoning Committee members said they are concerned about the impact on adjacent residential properties.

Another objection is noncompliance with the city’s comprehensive plan. The area is defined as a residential corridor with established neighborhoods to the south. A drive-through is an inappropriate use because commercial development at corners needs to have buffers that protect adjacent residences. The potential for increased noise and traffic, and the need for more evaluation of the drive-through’s impact on area streets and traffic, also had to be considered.

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Como Harbor A Full House

Como Harbor coming in late 2019

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

New space at Como Zoo will more closely resemble natural habitat for sea lions and seals and be home to Sparky

Photo above: Como’s seals and sea lions have been living in a space built in the 1930s during the WPA as Monkey Island. The freshwater area was retrofitted for seals and sea lions in the 1970s, and an amphitheater added. (Photo courtesy of Como Zoo)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Minnesota’s beloved Sparky at Como Zoo is getting new living quarters this year, thanks to a public-private partnership.
In addition to providing a healthier home for the sea lions and seals in the heart of Como Zoo, the $20 million makeover in the existing Seal Island and amphitheater area will also improve the public experience.

Como’s seals and sea lions have been living in a space built in the 1930s during the WPA as Monkey Island. The freshwater area was retrofitted for seals and sea lions in the 1970s, and an amphitheater added.

One of the biggest changes that the new 64,500-square-foot Como Harbor will bring is a transition to salt water.

Photo right: Sparky loves the play and interaction with his humans, and doesn’t mind “hamming it up” for the camera. (Photo courtesy of Como Zoo)

The new heated saltwater environment will minimize the eye and coat irritation that can be caused by freshwater environments pointed out Como Marketing and Public Relations Manager Matt Reinartz. It will increase the animal’s enjoyment of their environment as it will more closely resemble their natural habitat.

Also, because the water will not freeze, they can stay in the same place year-round. Currently, Como Zoo must move pinnipeds off Seal Island every fall with the approach of freezing temperatures, leaving it empty almost half the year. The new design allows for easy underwater transfers from one area to the next.

With the new design, the public will be much closer to the animals and their care and training. At the underwater viewing areas, they will be a pane of glass away. At the care and training stations, the public will see how they live behind the scenes.

Acknowledging that animal training is key to their well-being by keeping them active and engaged, the new facility features a state-of-the-art training facility.

Other upgrades include larger and better bathrooms, a new and better restaurant, and a new picnic area. All of the areas will be fully wheelchair accessible. Plus the design features a shade structure over the new amphitheater.

Pacific coastline design
Designed to reflect a northern Pacific coastline, the exhibit will include rocky outcroppings where seals and sea lions can bask, deeper pools for diving, a natural substrate, and trees and shrubs to provide natural shade throughout the day. The new design will feature an indoor, underwater viewing area similar to the one at Polar Bear Odyssey.

Photo left: The new Como Harbor will open in late 2019. It will feature two saltwater pools and an indoor, underwater viewing area similar to the one at Polar Bear Odyssey. Designed to reflect a northern Pacific coastline, the exhibit will include rocky outcroppings where seals and sea lions can bask, deeper pools for diving, and natural substrate, trees and shrubs to provide natural shade throughout the day. (Image courtesy of Como Zoo)

The updated space will have two new pools, a 5,000-square foot central exhibit pool, and a 900-square foot “Cove Habitat” pool that will dramatically expand the swimming areas for up to eight seals and sea lions from 146,000 gallons to 244,000 gallons.
When Seal Island is renovated, all the seals and sea lions will be housed together, rather than in groups of two or three which makes it more efficient for training.

Working to rehab animals
“Como is one of the last free zoos in the country. It is also the sixth-most visited, outdrawing the main zoos in New York and Los Angeles,” pointed out Reinartz.

The current Seal Island could not be upgraded for salt water, and the aging infrastructure needed more maintenance. The habitats were not built with training and updated standards of animal management. The space was not expected to meet the new standards and regulations for marine mammal care and conservation about to be released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and other governing bodies.

Photo right: “Sparky is an ambassador for conservation education through the 2 million-plus visitors to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory each year, including 500,000 school age kids taking part in some educational programming. Today we see multi-generations visiting and making connections with the animals like Sparky, and our hope is that this will continue for generations,” said Como Marketing and Public Relations Manager Matt Reinartz. (Photo courtesy of Como Zoo)

“If Como does not make the necessary changes, our ability to receive new animals in the future will be limited. Como has been an approved facility working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to bring in animals from the wild that are deemed unreleasable,” said Reinartz.

All of Como’s seals and sea lions are rehabilitated animals—wild animals that had been injured and were rescued but had a physical limitation that prevented a return to the wild.

Subee, for example, was found eight years ago injured on the coast of California and was recommended to Como because the staff has experience with older animals and so could deal with her possible arthritis issues as she ages. Sparky V was the second oldest captive sea lion in North America when he passed away after performing for more than 20 years.

Chino, another seal lion, was found near death with a fishing line caught around his head. The scarring made it impossible for him to fish on his own and so he was deemed nonreleasable. When he arrived at Como, he was underweight and had pneumonia. With the care of the Como team, he recovered and thrived, gaining over 500 pounds. Now he is in a breeding group at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.

Vision for the future
The update to Seal Island follows the $15 million Polar Bear Odyssey that opened in June 2010 and the $11 million Gorilla Forest that opened in June 2013. These new exhibits are elements of a larger strategic vision for Como, according to Reinartz.

“The new Como Harbor will be the most dramatic example of Como’s vision for the future. The public experience will be more intimate, and the conditions for the animals will be greatly improved,” he said.

Reinartz added, “Sparky is an ambassador for conservation education, through the 2 million-plus visitors to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory each year, including 500,000 school age kids taking part in some educational programming. Today we see multi-generations visiting and making connections with the animals like Sparky, and our hope is that this will continue for generations.”

After seeking funding for several years, the 2017 Minnesota Legislature approved $15 million for the project. Como Friends, the non-profit partner of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, is raising the remaining needed $4.9 million with gifts from Minnesota foundation, corporations, and individuals.

“This continues the success of the city’s public-private partnership with Como Friends, which has invested more than $38 million in projects and programs since 1999,” said Reinartz. Lancer is also investing in the project to pay for a food service building.

The Marine Mammal Building will remain open during construction, so visitors can continue to see Sparky and the other seals and sea lions, along with the penguins and puffins.

The new Como Harbor will open in late 2019.

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Music & Memory 02

Music & Memory program at Lyngblomsten helping dementia patients

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

Therapeutic recreation coordinator Emma Flotterud (pictured right) brought a Lyngblomsten resident her personalized iPod for music enjoyment. The Music & Memory program has been implemented at Lyngblomsten for two years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Music & Memory is the name of a national non-profit organization started in 2010. Grounded in research about how the human brain responds to music, the Music & Memory program puts the healing power of music to therapeutic use by bringing iPods loaded with personalized playlists to people with dementia and other forms of cognitive loss.

The Lyngblomsten Care Center in the Como neighborhood brought the program to their residents two years ago. According to Music & Memory co-director Shelli Beck, “Our goal is to have an iPod available for each of the 237 residents in our Care Center. We believe that by having them choose music from their past, they feel more connected to their memories, to their lives, and to each other.”

Therapeutic recreation coordinator Emma Flotterud explained, “The reason these connections work is because of how music memories are stored. I’ve seen Parkinson’s patients who can’t speak without stuttering, but they can sing a song from beginning to end with no problem. We’ve had patients who don’t speak or tend to speak only in whispers, and they can sing a long-remembered song at normal volume.”

While the program may sound simple, its benefits are substantial. In addition to being an enjoyable pastime, listening to music has been shown to awaken memories from the past, lessen reliance on certain medications, and enhance social skills. Initially designed for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Music & Memory has been used successfully with older adults suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

Flotterud explained, “As a health care professional, my goal is to try non-pharmaceutical interventions before medication. There may be a need for medication for some dementia patients, but there are many alternatives worth trying—and Music & Memory is one of them.”

Another reason for the program’s success is the volunteers at Lyngblomsten who help make it happen. Como resident (and Central High School junior) Andrew Tisell is one of them. “As soon as I could, I signed up to be a volunteer here,” Tisell said. “When I was 12, I started playing the piano for sing-alongs. Three years ago, Shelli Beck approached me about wanting to bring in the Music & Memory program. I was intrigued. Being a classically trained cellist and pianist, I love listening to music, and I thought it would be a chance for me to broaden my musical understanding. Initially, we started out with a handful of CD’s and began a music library of our own.”

“My first involvement,” Tisell continued, “was programming the iPods, and writing a manual so that other people could understand how to do that too. Then I started doing interviews with residents about what kind of music they liked, and how music has been part of their lives. I think Music & Memory is an amazing program—the science behind it is proven. When someone starts to experience memory loss, the part of their brain responsible for music memory is the last to go. Music brings back memories in ways that nothing else can.”

The model of iPod that Lyngblomsten prefers for their residents is called the iPod Shuffle. It is no longer manufactured, so gently used donations are the best way for them to grow their inventory. There is a donation box in the front lobby located at 1415 Almond Ave. iTunes gift cards are also appreciated. Contact Shelli Beck, Music & Memory co-director, with inquiries about volunteering at sbeck@lyngblomsten.org.

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Saint Paul Art Crawl 48

Spring Saint Paul Art Crawl included many Midway Como locations

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

Photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The 2018 Spring Saint Paul Art Crawl took place throughout the city on the last weekend of April. This was the 27th year for the art crawl, and over 400 artists showed their work in 34 different locations—more than 70 of those artists were in the Hamline Midway and Como neighborhoods alone.

Photo left: Burning Brothers Brewing at 1750 Thomas Ave. was a first time participating venue. In the shadow of their brew kettles, Goblets of Fire showed their hand-blown glass art in the form of platters, vessels, and collectible animals.

 

 

 

Photo right: Artist Marcia Soderman makes paintings in acrylic, watercolor, and digital media. She has had a varied career as a studio artist, WARM mentor (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota), and professor of art history at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University. 

 

 

 

Photo left: Designer Amy Mills of Kasasagi Designs, worked on-site on her beaded jewelry and accessories. She creates custom jewelry with seed and crystal beads, specializing in commissioned pieces that can’t be found in a store.

 

 

 

 

Photo right: Khanh Tran is the owner of the Dow Art Gallery, and a master framer. “We moved in three years ago, right after the Green Line opened,” he said. “There are 35 independent artists who exhibit their work in this space. They’re an eclectic group of artists, and their work is available for purchase six days/week. 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: At the Dow Building, 2242 University Ave., multi-media artist Mary Gross explained her suit of armor, saying, “I believe we all wear a suit of armor, of sorts. We’re armored with the skills we need to cope and survive.” Gross exhibits her mixed media sculpture, pencil drawings, and paintings at the Dow Art Gallery year round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo right: Wood turner Mark Reshke brought an assortment of hand-turned wood accessories to the art crawl. He said, “The process of woodturning starts with a raw log and a chainsaw. I’ve been lucky to be able to do this work for 35+ years. ”On hand were his lefse turning sticks, dipping cups, and flawlessly carved spoons of different sizes. 

 

Photo below: Ceramic artist Michael Egan has been throwing pots for a remarkably short time—only eight years. Outside of a handful of community education and Northern Clay Center classes, he has taught himself the craft of making functional stoneware that is as beautiful as it is durable. 

Fall Saint Paul Art Crawl planned Oct. 11-14

For more information, email info@saintpaulartcrawl.org.

The Saint Paul Art Crawl is a program of the Saint Paul Art Collective. The art crawl dates back to 1977 when the founding artists of the Saint Paul Art Collective had their first group exhibition at the Union Depot. In the 15 years that followed, the artists of the collective continued to hold loosely organized group events in and around downtown St. Paul. In 1991, the collective decided to coordinate a multiple building, weekend long, open studio event, and the Saint Paul Art Crawl was born.

The St. Paul Art Collective has been hosting the art crawl ever since, with the number of visitors averaging around 20,000 for each semi-annual, three-day event. The collective and its member artists receive a tremendous amount of support from residents, businesses, and local government to stage an event of this size. In return, they give St. Paul a close-knit, vibrant, and energetic art community that actively contributes to the greater Twin Cities cultural landscape.

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BP elevation

Planning Commission overrules staff recommendation, will allow BP rebuild

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

The East Elevation (top illustration), facing Hamline Ave., will be the entrance point to a newly constructed BP gas station. The South Elevation (bottom), with a drive-through car wash door on the left, faces University Ave. (Illustration from the St. Paul city website)

By JANE MCCLURE
An aging BP gas station, convenience store and car wash at the northwest corner of Hamline and University avenues, can be replaced with a new, larger structure. The St. Paul Planning Commission Apr. 20 approved a conditional use permit needed to replace the business at 1347 University Ave.

The station’s location is in an area eyed for future mixed-use redevelopment. It was rezoned from commercial to traditional neighborhoods (TN) zoning in 2011 as part of the Hamline Station study area. One challenge for the Planning Commission was to weigh the intent of city plans for change versus the site itself and what is practical.

Commissioner Daniel Edgerton, who chairs the Zoning Committee, said the committee could have voted the project up or down. At an Apr. 12 Zoning Committee hearing, the committee debated the merits of allowing the facility to be replaced, or strictly adhering to the city’s vision for the area.

While there are long-term goals for mixed-use development, those must be weighed against issues including site size, and the need to pull fuel tanks and clean up any potential pollution when and if the gas station use goes away.

The city’s comprehensive plan identifies University as a mixed-use corridor, with a goal of adding new land uses with higher densities. The site is covered by the Hamline Station Area Plan, which calls for increasing density specifically in the area around the light rail station. It also calls for redevelopment that creates a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly space.

Senior City Planner Josh Williams said that a new BP station isn’t consistent with those plans. But he also noted that achieving the vision and goals for change along University will take time. Recognition of the potential for longer-term change was a factor in the Planning Commission recommendation to ultimately let the project go forward.

City records indicate there has been a gas station on the property since at least 1969. The business and other St. Paul gas stations and auto convenience stores in St. Paul are required to have conditional use permits, which allow the Planning Commission to place restrictions on a wide range of site issues. These two types of business must meet additional conditions. The current station received a conditional use permit in 1992. Demolishing and replacing the building triggers a new permit requirement.

City staff had recommended against the conditional use permit, citing noncompliance with the comprehensive plan and building requirements that call for new structures to fill more of the site. Practical difficulties weren’t found in designing a building that meets the city requirements that redeveloper be denser. Nor does the site have any unique circumstances that create a hardship for the owner.

But the commission and its Zoning Committee reversed the staff recommendation. Station representatives indicated that a city suggestion to build a two-story building for more density isn’t practical and would be difficult to finance. Midway University and Hamline Properties LLC is the owner, working with Rosa Architectural Group.

Two permit modifications are needed to replace the BP station. One is to allow the fuel pump islands to be between Hamline and the building.

More complicated is a variance of minimum floor area ratio (FAR) required under its zoning. A .5 FAR is required, and a .16 is proposed. FAR is the relationship between the total amount of usable floor area that a building has, and the total area of the lot on which the building stands. Higher FARs are encouraged in mixed-use districts.

The site is a little larger than one-half acre, at 22,333 square feet. The current building has a FAR of .07. The staff report stated that the failure to “even come close to meeting the minimum FAR is not consistent” with the underlying zoning. The zoning is meant to foster compact, pedestrian-oriented commercial and residential development that in turn can support and increase transit use.

One change that will make the area safer for walking is that the new station will have fewer vehicular egress point. St. Paul and Ramsey County Departments of Public Works are requiring that a driveway on University just west of Hamline be closed. That will mean one egress point on Hamline and one on University.

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A downsized Big Top wants variance on distance requirement

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
Longtime Midway Center tenant Big Top Wine & Spirits could become a lot smaller. The liquor store must relocate as part of the Allianz Field soccer stadium development. But will city officials amend a longstanding policy of distance requirements between liquor stores, to allow even an interim move?

Plans call for the store to move temporarily from Snelling and Spruce Tree Drive to the former Midway Perkins restaurant building at 1544 University Ave. The Union Park District Council (UPDC) Land Use Committee voted Apr. 16 to support the liquor store’s efforts to relocate. That includes support for a pending city ordinance change as well as a waiver of the 45-day waiting period on the changed address.

Nancy Rosenberg, managing partner for Big Top, said the interim move is needed because the current store’s lease expires January 20, 2019. The building will be torn down and replaced with an extension of Shields Ave. to the east, as well as sidewalks and an interim parking area. Longer-term, part of the site is slated for denser redevelopment.

The move to the former restaurant is temporary, said Rosenberg, and will be only until a new location is found. Perkins closed in the fall of 2017. Big Top could wind up in a redeveloped Midway Center or elsewhere in the area.

This temporary location for Big Top wouldn’t be as big, dropping from about 15,000 to 6,000 square feet. The relocated store would also sell more prepackaged foods including sandwiches, salads, meat, and cheese.

“The look and feel of the store would be very different from what you see now,” Rosenberg said.

Most UPDC committee members said they’d like to see the city find a way to address the distance issue. Several people said Big Top has been a good community business and should be able to stay at Midway Center.

Committee member Scott Berger said he’d like to see more done to address behaviors around a relocated store, especially one so close to a busy transit area. “It’s a liquor store, and things happen that are not the most appealing,” he said. Berger asked what Rosenberg would do to make a relocated store more appealing and attractive.

The relocated store would open at 9am Monday through Saturday, instead of the current 8am opening. That could reduce some problems, Rosenberg said. The store would continue to close at 8pm Monday through Thursday, and 10pm Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours would remain 11am to 6pm.

How liquor stores in St. Paul are regulated complicates the move. Big Top has been at Midway Center since 1978, founded as part of the late entrepreneur Sid Applebaum’s empire of grocery stores that included Applebaum’s, National Tea, Rainbow Foods, Holiday Food and other Big Top locations. Rosenberg, who is one of Applebaum’s daughters, said the family has had some retail presence at or near University and Snelling for more than 60 years.

What could trip up a move is an existing city ordinance.

In the 1980s the St. Paul City Council set distance requirements between off-sale liquor stores. The concern was that some neighborhoods had concentrations of several liquor stores, which caused problems with public drinking, loitering, and bad behavior. Existing stores, including Big Top and Snelling Avenue Fine Wines and Liquors to the north (500 N. Snelling Ave.), were grandfathered in. New stores, and existing stores that try to relocate, now have to meet a minimum one-half mile or 2,640-foot minimum distance separation. Over the years a few stores that wanted to relocate couldn’t because of the distance requirement.

The ordinance change hasn’t been released yet by the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office. One idea would be to allow liquor stores to move within a development area under the same ownership and waive the distance requirement. A future Big Top move outside of Midway Center would likely mean an additional license approval process.

If any neighbors file a complaint with the city, the license issue will go to a legislative hearing officer before moving on to the St. Paul City Council.

City officials have never allowed the distance requirement to be waived in neighborhoods, but whether it is still needed is debatable. Having too many liquor stores in an area has been criticized as being a blighting influence by some. Others say the distance requirements are onerous.

Enforcement has not been consistent. In a 2005 disagreement between Macalester-Groveland stores Thomas Liquors and Wine Thief over distance requirements, city staff ruled that the measurements need to be building to building.

In 2014-2015 when Midway SuperTarget made plans to add a liquor store, Big Top and some area residents questioned if the new store met the minimum distance requirement. The controversy then was how distance was measured. City officials measured the distance from the shared store-liquor store door. Then Big Top and its allies contended the distance should be measured from the westernmost corner of the SuperTarget store and shouldn’t be granted. Measuring from the western wall didn’t meet the half-mile requirement, but measure from the store door did. City staff and Target corporate officials said the measurement should be from store to store.

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Deneen Pottery 18

Deneen Pottery rooted in the past while looking to the future

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

The Deneen Pottery company motto is, ”Our life’s work in is your hands.” Their 170 glazes are all mixed from scratch, and based on recipes developed by company founder Peter Deneen. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Deneen Pottery is a second generation, family-owned business in the Midway that, according to President Niles Deneen, “produces the finest mugs on the planet.” Their mission is to collaborate with integrity, sharing the legacy of their craftsmanship and the beauty of their products with the world. With retailers located as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Pico, and Germany, it appears that they are doing just that.

The wholesale company was started in 1972 by Niles’s parents, Peter and Mary, in their two-car garage. Deneen said, “Custom designed, hand-thrown ceramic mugs have always been our mainstay. In the beginning, most of our customers were innkeepers.

Over the years, our customer base has grown to include restaurants, breweries, state and national parks.”

Photo left: Company president Niles Deneen said, “In our family, pottery runs in our blood.” Pictured with Olive, the Deneen Pottery Canine Executive Officer. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Mugs made by Deneen Pottery are easily recognizable, despite there being 16 mug styles and 170 color choices, for a total of 2,400 possible variations on a coffee mug. No matter what shape or color, every mug that comes out of the pottery bears their signature, glaze-engraved medallion personalized for the company that ordered it.

Photo left: A potter at the wheel, using the custom blend of red-bodied clay that gives Deneen Pottery mugs their strength and durability. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“It’s not easy to stylishly represent the essence of a place or business on a paper-thin, two and a quarter inch piece of clay,” Deneen explained. “Thanks to our talented designers, and the collaboration that we share with our clients, we have the ability to do that. Once the medallion artwork is set into the medium of clay, it will last a lifetime. Many of our customers never change the design of their medallion; they just select different styles or colors of mugs—year in and year out. We figure that customer retention is like employee retention: treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and your business will do well. It’s worked for us.”

“We have a vibrant, dedicated workforce here: currently 56% Hmong and 44% Caucasian,” Deneen said. “Our middle management reflects the ethnic and gender diversity of our employee base almost to the decimal point. When I came onboard in 2005, we had 22 employees and were making 500-600 mugs per day. Our business volume has grown 20% every year for the last five years. We currently produce 2,500 mugs per day and have a staff of 85 employees, including 12 full-time ceramic artists working at the wheel. No fewer than 24 pairs of hands touch each mug before it is packed for shipping.”

Photo right: One of 85 employees at Deneen Pottery. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Deneen Pottery received a leadership award from the Midway Chamber of Commerce last month, in recognition of significant contributions made to the chamber and the community.

Deneen said, “We were surprised and delighted to be chosen for that award. Our next big project is that we’re installing solar panels on the roof of our building, located at 2325 Endicott St. We purchased the historic brick building in 2015 (after years of leasing it), and bringing in solar was at the top of our list of improvements. We’ll have a total of 400 panels, and the system capacity is estimated to be 127kW.”

“All 14 of our kilns are electric, so the benefits of solar power will be significant. We use a lot of electricity! We’re excited to get the system plugged in so we can say, “Our mugs are 100% crafted by hand, and 50% fired by the sun.”

“Our approach has always been ‘to leave it better than we found it.’ Of necessity, we have to ship our products, but we’ve chosen to use biodegradable packing peanuts made of water-soluble starch, and recyclable packing paper and corrugated boxes.”

Deneen Pottery has prospered through almost four decades of environmental, economic, technological, and workforce changes. The only thing that hasn’t changed is their commitment to creating beautiful, functional, hand-thrown stoneware for their customers. To learn more about their wholesale business, visit www.deneenpottery.com.

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Friends 02037

Friends School offers unique summer classes to stimulate and entertain

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

By JAN WILLMS
(All photos were submitted)
Summer is approaching, and with the season comes a multitude of camps for children that are offered in the Twin Cities. (See the March Monitor for dozens of summer opportunities.) But one organization, the Friends School of Minnesota, has been offering a wide selection of camps for the past 20 years.

The Quaker school has “a long tradition” of offering unusual camps for children preschool through the 8th grade, according to Andrea Hasan, summer camp director.

This is her first year as director, and she said one of the offerings that she is most excited about is a series of camps for preschool and kindergartners that explore different cultures.

The camps explore countries of the North, South, East, and West.

“Each week campers will journey in a different direction and learn about people and cultures around the world,” Hasan continued.

“They will be doing cooking and art activities, and have a lot of hands-on art experiences and play outside. One of our Quaker values is peace, and through understanding and appreciating diversity, we hope to build a foundation for that.”

Hasan said the school has always done preschool and kindergarten camps, but this is the first year they have cultural awareness themes.

She said another exciting new camp this year is an alternative energy camp, where kids will build solar-powered cars and other creations out of LEGOS, learning about alternative concepts and engineering.

There is also an amusement park camp, in which campers will build all the components of an amusement park with LEGOS. These camps are being partnered with Snapology, an art organization in Minneapolis that focuses on children learning through interaction and creativity using LEGOS.

“We are also partnering with SteppingStone Theater for youth development,” Hasan continued. “We will be offering creative writing and improvisational camps.”

Another camp that is new this year is one on robotics.

Travis Bell, a librarian and front office manager at the school, is putting on a Harry Potter camp. “I mentioned the idea to Andrea, and there got to be a lot of excitement,” Bell said.

“The first day we will be having a sorting ceremony, with the kids divided into different houses, representing four values that are part of the Friends School culture.” He said there will be a day focusing on herbology, where someone will teach the campers about planting. Another day a science teacher will explore potions, presenting science experiments for the kids to work on.

“We have another teacher here, Max, who will be teaching the kids how to play Quidditch,” Bell said. Quidditch is a game played on a field, with the participants riding broomsticks. The game was created by J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books.

“Max is a member of the Twin Cities Quidditch Club, and he has played in national tournaments, so he’s the real deal,” added Hasan. “We’ll be creating a junior version of Quidditch.”

Bell said they would also be crafting things, and the last day of the camp will have a more reflective celebration, feast, and camp ceremony.

The majority of the camps will be held at the Friends School at 1365 Englewood. The biking camps will meet at the school and then explore different parts of the city by bike. “We have a bus and a trailer for the bikes so that they can go pretty far,” Hasan said.

One other camp, Nature, Art and the City, will meet at the school and then children will have the opportunity to visit some of the best nature areas in the Twin Cities, where they can explore and play.

There are also camps on film production, outdoor activities, bike riding, chess, art history and craft labs.

All of the camps are open to the public, except some overnight Skipping Stone weekend camps, which are only for students of

Friends School. At these camps, participants will build campfires and stay in a campground.

“Our school is for kids K-8,” Hasan said. “Offering camps for the public for pre-K gives families an opportunity to become connected with our school. Incoming kindergartners can have the experience of being in our building and meeting the staff, and it eases the transition.”

She said the camps begin June 18 and end the week of July 9. Camp size varies, but most are capped at 20. “For some, like the bike camps, we try to limit the size to 12 to keep the experience personal,” Hasan said.

“I think the thing that makes our camps stand out is the quality of teachers,” she explained. “Some camps have random high school and college students, but everyone leading our camps has a vast number of years of experience and a passion for what they do. We pride ourselves on creating a diverse and inclusive community.”

Hasan said the Friends Summer Camps values time spent outside and in nature. “You can tell some of our camps really reflect that,” she said. “Our Skipping Stones overnight camps are sold out right away, but we have a waitlist.

Husan suggested that parents register online at the school’s website, www.fsmn.org. “Click on the tab for summer camps and register now,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged if a camp is sold out. Get your kids on a waitlist. And we still have openings in some of the camps.”

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Discovery Club