Archive | June, 2018

TCGIS denies request by 600 petitioners to delay building project

TCGIS denies request by 600 petitioners to delay building project

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Calvin

But, board postponed final vote for demolition to pursue ‘real estate opportunity’

The Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) has denied the request of 600 petitioners to wait for an expansion until June 2020. Instead, the board is moving forward with its plans to demolish the former St. Andrew’s Church building and construct a new building on the site.

Board members considered the petition from neighbors and the group Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) during its May 23 meeting, but the majority voted to deny the delay.

However, during a call for a vote to approve the proposed building and demolition plan, TCGIS Facilities Committee Chair Nic Ludwig requested that additional time be granted him to pursue a “real estate opportunity” related to the proposed expansion of the school.

“The board voted to postpone taking official action, which SHSA sees as a positive step toward saving an iconic, historic structure of significant importance to many in St. Paul,” stated SHSA founder Teri Alberico.

Plan to raze Aula, replace with a larger structure
The school facilities committee is made up of volunteers with experience in architecture, structural engineering, and city planning. Members also include school staff and teachers.

Photo right: The Twin Cities German Immersion School Board is deciding the fate of the St. Andrews Church building. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

After a year of study, the facilities committee presented the option of tearing down the existing church building, called the Aula, and building a new facility for use starting with the 2019-2020 school year.

A listening session for neighbors was held on Apr. 9 and neighbors were told that the school did not have anything set in stone and that this was the first of many listening sessions.

Residents had expressed concern that this timeline didn’t give them much time to investigate options, such as raising money to save the former church building.

Among the options studied by the facilities committee were leasing space, splitting campuses, reducing class sizes, and purchasing property.

However, a study of various alternatives concluded that replacing the 1927 Aula with a new, three-level structure is more cost effective than retrofitting the existing Byzantine-Romanesque structure. The project is estimated to cost $5.7 million. The existing structure needs an estimated $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades, including a new roof, boiler, windows, doors, insulation, and tuck-pointing.

According to a memo distributed at the board meeting, the facilities and finance committees do not support preserving the Aula because “it is inadequate for the school’s educational needs.”

Specifically, the Aula cannot house a gym large enough for two sections to operate at one time. Nor is there room for six additional classrooms, additional office space, special education spaces, and a cafeteria.

“Delaying the building project by a year will not change the fact that the Aula cannot provide the educational or professional space that the school’s students and teachers need, in order to provide the best learning environment possible,” stated the memo.

The facilities and finance committees believe that the cons to delaying the project include: higher interest rates, higher construction costs, and paying for the cost of the Aula’s operations and repairs for another year.

Plus, there’s the programming impact for teachers and kids who use the gym, cafeteria and specialty classes, and as well continued uncertainty for families and staff about the future plans of the school.

The committee is also concerned that the historic designation process may play out in a way that is harmful to the school, according to a facilities committee report from its May 8 meeting.

600 petitioners
Save Historic St. Andrew’s collected 600 signatures from neighbors and others concerned about the proposed expansion at the TCGIS.

The petition points out that an increase in the number of students at TCGIS would magnify the existing issues at the school site including inadequate off-street parking for staff and visitors.

Calling the former church a meaningful anchor and visible symbol of stability to its surrounding neighbors for over a century, the petition notes that this structure has historic significance worthy of historical preservation status.

As “TCGIS seeks to be a responsible neighborhood partner, committed to the welfare of its neighborhood community,” and “a delay in the current planning schedule will provide for important input from the surrounding community,” petitioners requested that the proposed plan for the St. Andrew’s Church Structure be delayed until June 2020.

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St Andrews facade

Neighbors band together to save historic St. Andrew’s Church

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Calvin

Group seeks historic status for church turned school, gathers petition signatures, places lawn signs, and more

A neighborhood group has formed to save the historic St. Andrew’s Church building.

The future of the former church building built in 1927 is in jeopardy as the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) has proposed razing it to construct a larger, 3-story facility in its place.

Photo right: Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) group members include (left to right) Anna Mosser, Bonnie Youngquist, Ron Greene, Steve Greenwood, and Teri Alberico. They are concerned about tearing down a beautiful historic building and replacing it with another structure the school might grow out of, as well as traffic, parking and noise issues. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

For years, Warrendale/Como neighbors have sought to resolve concerns about parking, traffic and pedestrian safety near the school through dialogue facilitated by the Land Use Committee of the District 10 Community Council.

“Unfortunately, the proposed expansion plan offers little or no solution to these issues, only particulars that would exacerbate these problems—and elimination of a significant historic structure that has served as a meaningful anchor and visible symbol of stability for nearly a century,” said Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) founder Teri Alberico, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1986.

600 sign petition
SHSA is a neighborhood coalition focused on the preservation of the historic and residential character of the Warrendale/Como neighborhood.

“SHSA is working to find solutions that will meet the needs of the school without negatively impacting the surrounding community,” explained Alberico.

The group has about 25 members and recently circulated a petition asking that the TCGIS school board hold off on making changes until 2020. (See related story on page 1.)

In all, 600 people signed the petition. SHSA has also distributed hundreds of flyers and placed more than 65 signs on lawns throughout the adjoining neighborhood.

“SHSA believes that language immersion programs are important to child development and genuinely support the programs and the families that make up TCGIS,” she added. “However, the proposed expansion has not included sufficient community engagement, adequately addressed impacts on the residential character of the Warrendale/Como neighborhood, or considered the cultural importance of the historic St. Andrew’s building and its significance to our surrounding community.”

A historic site?
Save Historic St. Andrew’s is pursuing a historic designation for the church building, which can be done with or without the cooperation of a landowner.

In a 1983 formal assessment, the Historic Resources Survey, this Romanesque church building was declared “worthy of consideration for the National Register of Historic Places,” and listed as a “Site of Major Significance.”

The building is described in Larry Millett’s American Institute of Architecture Guide to the Twin Cities as, “one of St. Paul’s best Period revival churches.”

The design of the St. Andrew’s building is believed to have been done by a small pool of excellent 1920s architects, according to committee members Anna Mosser and Steve Greenwood who have been delving into historic documents.

A history of the St. Andrew’s parish lists Charles Hausler as the church’s architect, and an entry in a ledger dated 1927 shows payment of $1,000 to C.A. Hausler. However, city documents do not include a specific architectural attribution. Millett’s AIA Guide to the Twin Cities attributes the design to either Frederick Slifer and Frank Abrahamson or John W. Wheeler.

Charles Hausler was St. Paul’s first city architect (1914-22) and apprenticed under Clarence Johnston, Harry Wild Jones, and Louis Sullivan.

He designed many libraries, churches, commercial buildings, and homes. Six of Hausler’s buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places. A significant part of Hausler’s practice involved churches where he used to experiment with Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine Revival styles. One of these, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hague, ND, built in 1930, is listed on the National Register as part of a historic district.

To get St. Andrew’s listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, several studies are needed. The initial one will cost about $1,500, and the more in-depth study an estimated $8-10,000. SHSA is fundraising through Go Fund Me to pay for these studies.

If listed on the National Register, the structure could not be torn down, and improvements and changes would need to be approved ahead of time. Grants would be available for preservation work.

“St. Andrew’s is a unique structure that is not like anything else,” stated Greenwood, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1983. “I support keeping the building because it’s so beautiful and elegant.”

He added, “Never, in the 42 years that I have lived in St. Paul, [have I] ever witnessed such a divisive project.”

School shares block with 11 homes
Committee members range from lifelong St. Andrew’s church members to atheists who never attended church there.

Kevin Dahm is a former District 10 board member who still serves on the land use committee. He got involved in the issue after hearing from neighbors concerned about how noise from the playground affected a house 10 feet away. Neighbors have also talked about how difficult it is to park on the street as the school does not have adequate parking for staff and parents, and how dangerous pick-up and drop-off time is on the streets around the school when about 350 cars are coming and going.

“Eighty percent of the kids are driven here and 20% bus,” observed local resident Ron Greene, who is concerned about traffic safety.

While schools today typically take up an entire city block, the TCGIS shares the block with 11 houses, according to 25-year neighborhood resident Bonnie Youngquist.

When it was a church school, the student population ranged from 100-300. When the tuition-free, K-8 German Immersion School moved into the neighborhood in 2013, it had 370 students. This year, that number has reached 548, and it is projected to top out at 648.

Alberico pointed out that while school officials have said no attrition has taken place, that isn’t entirely accurate. Students have left. But rather than keep the space empty, staff have pulled in a new student to fill the space even in the older grades.

Dahm is concerned about the school’s lot size and the number of students on it. “That amount of space seems small to me for that many students,” said Dahm.

SHSA has suggested that TCGIS consider partnering with the nearby Central Lutheran School (775 Lexington Pkwy. N.), which faces closure due to a low student enrollment. The school has a gymnasium, which is one of the main reasons TCGIS is considering a new building.

“We’re trying to work with the school on solutions,” stated Youngquist.

Enough space?
Given the popularity of the German Immersion School and how it’s currently turning away students, Dahm isn’t sure that the school’s current plan will work for the long-term and he thinks the school will once again find itself outgrowing its buildings.

“They could easily grow out of that space and we’ll lose a historic building in the process,” he pointed out.

Alberico is concerned that the school seems willing to spend $5.7 million on a new facility instead of $1.2 million on maintaining the old building—but it has not addressed the maintenance costs needed later on at that new building.

The cost to demolish the church building, issue debt, and create a contingency fund is estimated by the school to be $2.2 million.

In order to move forward with the tear-down and construction project, TCGIS will need to seek a variance request from the St. Paul City Council. The District 10 Community Council will state its opinion on the request before it goes before the city’s zoning board.

“One way to stop this from happening is to deny the various requirements,” observed Dahm.

Should residents get a say?
Some people have asked SHSA members why they think they have a say in this school project.

“It’s a public school funded by our taxpayer dollars, and I feel that as a resident I have a say,” responded Mosser.

The group has set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/savehistoricstandrews. By Monitor press time they had raised $3,775 of their $10,000 goal.

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Developer named for 25 acres around Allianz Field stadium

Developer named for 25 acres around Allianz Field stadium

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

Changes great and small are coming to the Midway Center superblock, where the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium is going up. Those changes include the announcement of Mortenson as lead developer of the Midway Center property.

Also, city officials are taking steps to make traffic signal and signages changes in and near the property. It’s part of a flurry of activity before the stadium opens for Minnesota United FC games next year.

RD Management LLC, as representative of RK Midway LLC, announced the selection of Mortenson to lead the redevelopment of its property for office, retail, entertainment, hospitality, and residential use. That includes the remaining sections of Midway Center and its parking lots.

A master plan for site redevelopment won St. Paul City Council approval two years ago. The site is about 25 acres in size.

Illustration right: The vision for the superblock from just two years ago that won approval from the St. Paul City Council. It was called a master plan, but it was only a suggested concept of what the superblock could be around the new Allianz Stadium. (Illustration provided)

The $250 million stadium itself is more than 50 percent complete and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. Allianz Field has been hailed by team officials and city leaders as a catalyst for redevelopment.

Over the years numerous redevelopment plans were floated for the shopping center, the former Metro Transit bus garage site, and parking lot at Pascal St. and St. Anthony Ave. The possible plans included hotels, movie theaters, a National Guard Armory, and headquarters for the healthcare company Allina. But none moved forward. The center has sat unchanged since it was built in the 1950s and given a facelift in the 1980s.

In a press release, Richard Birdoff, the principal at RD Management and owner of the property for over 25 years, said he has long wanted to redevelop the site and the construction of the iconic, architecturally-significant Allianz Field provided a reason to move forward.

“Great future developments will be linked to transportation-supported locations that foster accessibility, higher densities, and interesting amenities for businesses, residents, and visitors,” Birdoff said. “The Midway is centrally located in a dynamic and growing community that offers a great foundation for future enhancements. We are pleased to be part of this exciting redevelopment effort in such a great community and are particularly excited that Mortenson is leading the effort.”

“Urban redevelopment opportunities of this scale are rare. Rarer is the case that a redevelopment is kick-started by a $250 million professional sports stadium. In these exceptional situations, our development experience at the intersection of sports and entertainment tells us that powerful new opportunities are in store for the Snelling Midway area,” said Jeremy Jacobs, director of real estate development at Mortenson.

Mortenson continued, “We look forward to partnering with an incredible team, the City of St. Paul, RD Management, and the local community, to continue to transform this important piece of the St. Paul fabric.”

S9 Architecture, a national architecture firm based in New York City that has designed large-scale mixed-use projects across North America, is the lead architect for the partnership.

It could take several years beyond the stadium’s construction for the changes to be made and could include the addition of park space, streets, and interim parking. The proposed move of the Big Top Liquors to the former Midway Perkins site as an interim step is before the St. Paul City Council this month, with a decision as soon as June 13.

Development has always been discussed in the context of moving west to east on the site. Businesses in what is left of Midway Center have leases in place.

Changes to infrastructure around the Allianz Field soccer stadium got a green light May 23 from the St. Paul City Council. The council allocated an additional $355,000 in Municipal-State Aid funds toward the project, which is also drawing on $750,000 in tax increment financing and $612,000 in Minnesota Department of Transportation trunk highway funding.

A big change, which was debated in area neighborhoods for several months, is to remove the traffic signal at Snelling Ave. and Spruce Tree Dr. A signal would be put at Snelling and Shields, which will be extended east through the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues, and Pascal St. Median changes would be made on Snelling, as well as traffic signal changes at St. Anthony and Pascal.

The city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget committee recommended approval of the changes in May.

A third change coming is city ordinance changes to allow sports sponsorship signs at Allianz and at the Treasure Island Minnesota Wild practice facility downtown. For Allianz, zoning code changes are sought to allow sponsorship signs at the main spectator gate entrances and on wayfinding kiosks. The zoning code changes would allow the sponsorship signs.

The St. Paul Planning Commission June 1 recommended approval of the changes, which now go to the St. Paul City council for a final public hearing and approval. No date has been set.

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CR Watershed District starts construction for new headquarters

CR Watershed District starts construction for new headquarters

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

Above: Capital Region Watershed District new headquarters building at 595 Aldine St. as envisioned by the architects. (Photo provided)

The building will showcase best practices in sustainability and water resource management

On May 22 the Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) hosted a groundbreaking event to mark the official start of the construction phase of the organization’s new headquarters at 595 Aldine St. in the Midway neighborhood. The event took place in the building that once housed the MacQueen Equipment company.

The new building will include community gathering spaces, a watershed learning center, and on-site educational opportunities to showcase CRWD’s work to protect, manage and improve water resources in the district. Plus, the site will feature a pocket park, combining the natural and built environments with interactive elements for neighbors and visitors to enjoy.

Photo right: Capital Region Watershed District staff at the groundbreaking May 22. (Photo provided)

Another unique feature will include water being reused from the cistern to flush toilets, wash bottles for monitoring and to support the water feature in the pocket park. B

Representatives from MSR Design, architectural firm of the project, and JE Dunn, the construction manager, joined CRWD representatives and board members, members of the Citizen Advisory Committee, local dignitaries, and community partners in a ceremony that marked the beginning of the demolition process. Guest speakers included: Mary

Texer, Board of Managers, Capitol Region Watershed District; Russ Stark, Chief Resilience Office, Mayor Melvin Carter’s Office; Janice Rettman, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3; Toni Carter, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 4; Samantha Henningson, Ward 4 City Council; and Michael Jon Olson, Executive Director, Hamline Midway Coalition.

Photo left: Speakers at the Groundbreaking included (l to r) Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter; CRWD Board Managers Mary Texer and Rick Sanders; CRWD Administrator Mark Doneux; Councilmember Samantha Henningson, Michael Jon Olson of Hamline-Midway Coalition; and Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman. (Photo provided)

“Capitol Region Watershed District is a critical partner of the City of Saint Paul in our work to protect the Mississippi River from pollution, prevent flooding, and be good stewards of water, our most precious natural resource,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “I am excited about CRWD’s new location in the Midway and look forward to many more years of partnership.”

“Our new space will create a sustainable, healthy workplace for our staff while conserving natural resources and protecting water resources,” said Mark Doneux, administrator at CRWD. “By adopting the City of Saint Paul’s Sustainable Building Policy, the building will be able to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.”

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CRWD Rendering_Exterior1

Public reacting to organized trash collection now that it is certain

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

The costs of organized trash collection, which starts Oct. 1 in St. Paul, continue to meet pushback from some homeowners, as well as owners of small multi-family properties. Those who espouse recycling and composting more, and throwing away less, are making their feelings known in a variety of ways—including a civil lawsuit.

Highland resident and former city financial analyst Peter Butler filed the lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court May 21. He contends that the proposed organized collection system and its fee schedule violate Minnesota’s Waste Management Act.

City officials aren’t commenting on the lawsuit. They have 20 days in which to reply in court. That must happen by June 11 (as the Monitor went to press). But with a signed contract with a garbage hauling consortium in place, it’s not clear how much, if anything, can be changed by the lawsuit or by other citizen action.

Proponents of organized collection say it will create consistency in trash disposal prices, reduce neighborhood traffic and wear and tear on streets and alleys, and force those who haven’t had trash service in the past to pay for disposal. They cite illegal dumping of trash as a constant problem.

But opponents argue that having the city choose a neighborhood hauler, or haulers, takes away their freedom of choice and ability to negotiate for service.

“Zero waste” advocates point out that the city contract with residential haulers doesn’t provide incentives to reduce waste through recycling, composting, and changes in consumption. The five-year contract eliminates the possibility of single-family homeowners and residents of small rental buildings from sharing a trash cart.

It’s not clear how many residential properties don’t have garbage service now. While there are those who refuse to pay for service, others share carts or take their trash to garbage transfer stations.

Butler shares trash service with neighbors and doesn’t contract for his pickup service because he doesn’t need it. “I just don’t generate that much waste,” he said. “Now even with every-other-week service I’ll pay for service I’ll barely use.”

The waste management act, which was originally adopted by state lawmakers in 1980, outlines waste management practices to protect the state’s land, air, water and public health. The act requires municipal solid waste collection systems to charge for disposal based on volume or weight of waste collected. Butler said the city’s planned charges provide no incentive for people like himself who generate very little solid waste. Those who generate the most waste get the best discounts under the fees planned.

Waste reduction, recycling, and reuse are among the state act’s top goals. Landfilling or “land disposal” of waste is considered to be the least-preferred option, which Butler points out in court documents.

The city is offering four monthly levels of service. Homeowners and landlords of small rental properties had until June 1 to choose their level of service. There is no option of sharing a cart as most rental properties, and some single-family homeowners have been doing.

The smallest and least frequent service, a 35-gallon cart collected every other week cost $20.28 per month. That breaks down to $9.36 per collection or 27 cents per gallon.

The largest cart with weekly service is a 95-gallon cart, collected weekly, at $34.15. That cart user will pay $7.88 per collection or eight centers per gallon.

Butler said that the state law requires a base rate, which would result in a higher rate for those who generate more trash. Instead, he points out in the lawsuit that St. Paul’s pricing system decreases the cost per gallon of waste collection as the volume increases.

Others continue to object to the contract. A small group of residents met with Mayor Melvin Carter May 31. Frogtown resident Kristin Becker collected copies of residents’ cart selection postcards, where they had indicated the size cart they were ordering and the size of cart or service they actually need.

Like Butler, Becker said her household strives to generate as little waste as possible. She’ll be paying much more for trash service as will many of her neighbors.

Becker said she practices zero waste and needs minimal trash service. “We needed to bring a loud voice to the mayor’s office about this change,” she said.

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Springboard after street view

Springboard for the Arts purchases University Ave. building

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

The building at 262 University Ave. as envisioned for the new location of Springboard for the Arts. (Photo provided)

Springboard for the Arts has purchased the building and lot at 262 University Ave. W. The space will be used for community events, expanded programming, and new market opportunities during the planning and pre-development phases, before permanent renovations and improvements are made.

An Open House event for community members to see the space and connect to opportunities for programming will be held on Sat., June 23, 10am-2pm. All are welcome.

“For over 27 years, Springboard for the Arts has supported our vibrant community, while shaping a national conversation about cultural policy,” says St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “I am excited about the creative development of this new space, which will allow them to further provide dynamic community engagement and innovative arts programming.”

Photo right: The building at 262 University Ave. W. as it appears when Springboard for the arts purchased the property for development. (Photo provided)

“We are excited to make this move because of the opportunity to increase access to Springboard’s growing resources, to hold space for neighborhood activity and community development and to find new ways to support artists making a living and a life,” says Laura Zabel, Springboard’s executive director. “This opportunity is only possible because of the vital creative work and partnership of artists, neighbors and community organizations in Little Mekong, Frogtown, and Rondo and many others across the city and region.”

In partnership with the Asian Economic Development Association, Springboard for the Arts new site will be a host for the popular Little Mekong Night Market on Aug. 4-5, Sept. 1-2, and Oct. 6-7, 2018. Learn more about Little Mekong: http://littlemekong.com.

Lowertown-based architecture firm 4RM+ULA has been selected as the architect for the project.

Photo left: The future view of Springboard for the Arts at 262 University Ave. W. It is envisioned as a “space for neighborhood activity and community development and to find new ways to support artists making a living and a life.” (Photo provided)

From Minnesota, Springboard for the Arts has built national models for professional development and resources for artists, as well as artist-led community development and participation models. One such project, the “Irrigate” initiative which ran from 2011-2014 along the Green Line construction zone, was a partnership with the City of Saint Paul, Twin Cities Local Initiative Support Corporation, and six St. Paul district councils, with major support from ArtPlace America. The effort trained more than 650 local artists in creative placemaking and partnership-building skills, funded over 250 creative projects along the corridor, and resulted in 51 million positive media impressions of the neighborhoods along the corridor. The Irrigate “Art Happens Here” neighborhood celebration in 2012 was held on the site of 262 University Ave. W., bringing this work full circle for Springboard for the Arts.

The purchase and pre-development of 262 University Ave. W. are the first steps in a larger community design process and funding campaign to support renovations, funding of programming and sustainability, and development of new markets and entrepreneurial opportunities for local artists and makers. The Saint Paul Foundation, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, and Mardag Foundation have made founding commitments to this effort with grants totaling $500,000.

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Como High Badminton 3rd in State

Plenty to celebrate at the closing of the Como High School year

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

By ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• Nearly 300 Advanced Placement (AP) students at Como Park High School completed their rigorous coursework by taking national AP Exams in May. In total, over 600 tests were taken in 20 different AP courses ranging from U.S. History to Calculus, English Literature to Biology and several other academic disciplines.

Student exams are a comprehensive assessment of college-level curriculum including multiple-choice and written formats, which are evaluated by college professors and highly-trained AP teachers from across the nation. Colleges and universities grant credit based on student scores that meet the school’s standards, which has meant hundreds of college credits for Como students on an annual basis. Como’s College Board certified AP teachers are confident this year will produce similar results and were impressed by the work ethic of their students.

Photo right: Academy of Finance (AOF) students who earned 16 credits each from St. Paul College through their advanced studies at Como are pictured with their certificates at a recognition ceremony in the auditorium. They are joined by Andrew Kubas, Dean of Liberal and Fine Arts at St. Paul College, Theresa Neal, Como Principal, and Dan Mesick from the College and Career Readiness Office. (Photo provided)

• 16 Academy of Finance (AOF) students at Como were participants in another college credit program in partnership with St. Paul College. By taking business courses within the AOF at a collegiate level, students can earn credits from St. Paul College that are transferable to any university or college they attend. The students in the cohort each earned 16 college credits and have been accepted into institutions of higher education for next fall.

• VocalEssence, a 50-year-old professional choral organization based in the Twin Cities, invited Como Park High School choirs to participate for the third time in ¡Cantare! program as part of their education service. Bernardo Feldman is a Mexican composer who directed the Como singers.

Feldman currently lives in Los Angeles but came to Como in September to get to know the Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. He returned home to write music specifically for those Como singers. In March, he flew back to St. Paul and started to help the musicians, including the Como Orchestra, learn the new piece.

Choir Director Carole Whitney and Orchestra Director Dr. Philip Fried continued to guide their musicians with the challenging material through April and May while continuing other pieces and concert events. The ¡Cantare! concert came together splendidly on the evening of May 22 after Feldman spent the prior week preparing the performers for the show at the Ordway Theater in downtown. Students, families, teachers and the honored guest were all pleased with the spectacular performance in St. Paul’s premier concert hall.

• Honors Night for Como students and families was held at the school on the evening of May 29. Students were recognized for outstanding academic performances, service awards, and athletic recognition.

Additionally, college scholarships earned by members of the senior class were announced, and several scholarships that were unexpected by the recipients and their families were made public. Those included the Wallin Scholarships, Como Park Schultz Scholarships, the Hiway Federal Credit Union Scholarship, and the Fred Kaiser Awards for outstanding student athletes which included scholarships for the first time courtesy of the Rice St. Athletic Club.

• The creative literature and arts of Como students were published in the Cougar Journal. A variety of skilled and budding writers that are part of the Cougar Journal Club voluntarily contributed their stories, poems, artwork and creative expression in the journal that was released in May at an after-school event. The Journal allows students to have a place where they can be heard without judgment as well as an audience who will benefit from seeing their work.

• For the second consecutive season, the Como badminton team took third place (out of 25 teams) in the state tournament, which was held at Burnsville High School May 14-15. After finishing fourth in the St. Paul City Conference, the Cougars peaked and earned the third place team trophy at state with improved skills and gritty effort.

Photo right: The Como Cougars badminton team proudly displayed their third place medals from the 2018 Minnesota State Badminton Tournament. (Photo provided)

In the individual competition on May 16-17, Cougars’ senior captain Tu Lor Eh Paw earned third in the state. In doubles, two Como teams advanced through the brackets and ended up playing each other for third place in the state. In the end, sophomore Shar Too and senior Maria Aye Meh took third when they defeated senior teammates Yia Yang and Zoua Xiong who finished fourth. The experience of playing each other was nothing new since they play each other in practices throughout the season. But to meet deep in the state tournament was a special accomplishment for the players and the program.

• Como senior Florance Uwajeneza qualified for the state track and field meet by finishing 2nd in the 3200 meters in a section meet on June 1. In that meet at Stillwater, Uwajeneza ran a personal best of 11:35 and edged out her competition in a photo finish to earn the final qualifying position from Section 4AA. State was held at Hamline University on June 8 after the Monitor went to press.

• Ultimate Frisbee at Como was quite successful this spring at Como with both boys’ and girls’ teams making deep runs in their divisions at state on June 2 and 3. The Aurora Ultimate girls from Como played in the D2 tournament and advanced to the semi-finals (out of 16 teams) before falling in two extremely competitive one-point games to finish fourth.

The boys’ Como Area Ultimate team (CAU) had strong senior leadership and good depth which they rode to success in the state D2 tournament as well. (There are four divisions for boys with 16 teams in each one.) After advancing to the semi-finals and defeating Cretin, they took on Robbinsdale Cooper in the championship game. The boys of Como came out ahead, clinching an 8-7 victory to claim the D2 state championship trophy. The spirit of the team was outstanding and the accomplishment was appreciated and enjoyed by all the players, families and supporters.

• The 2018 Como Park High School Prom was held May 19 at the J.J. Hill Library in downtown St. Paul. The unique location provided a memorable setting for the Como juniors, seniors, guests and staff that enjoyed dressing up and celebrating with a festive dance.
The annual senior barbeque was held on June 1 at school, the last day of classes for the 2018 graduates. The barbeque is hosted by the Como

Booster Club and assisted by Como staff and community sponsors. The Graduation ceremony was on June 6 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium downtown in the RiverCentre.

Graduation concluded with the annual all-night party at school, which was transformed by the volunteers of the Como Booster Club. A wide range of activities and free food in a safe, fun environment with friends was a wonderful way to celebrate the end of a journey and make a final Como Park High School memory.

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June 2018 Development Roundup

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin


Neighborhood STAR recommendations
Twenty-five projects could split $2,713,295 if the 2018 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) recommendations are approved by Mayor Melvin Carter and the St. Paul City Council. Projects recommended in late May by the Neighborhood STAR Board lean heavily toward small business efforts, reflecting a direction urged last year by the St. Paul City Council. Projects near the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium also fared well.

The council is expected to approve the funding allocations this summer.

Fifteen projects didn’t make the cut, and one project was withdrawn out of the 41 submissions.

The recommendations and applications reflect changes approved in time for the 2018 cycle. Those changes allow small for-profit businesses to apply for 100 percent grant funding. Priority is provided to proposals that would fill vacant commercial storefront space. The city has also eliminated the need for matching dollars on the first $50,000 of a loan request. Larger for-profit entities are still eligible to apply for a loan or loan/grant combination. Grant requests still require a $1 to $1 match.

Requests this year topped the $5.4 million mark. Matches proposed totaled more than $28.4 million. Not every request recommended for approval is for its full ask.

The highest-ranked project citywide is in the Little Africa area of North Snelling Ave. Sabrina’s Café and Deli, 518 N. Snelling Ave., is recommended for a $10,000 grant with $10,000 match for interior and exterior improvements. That is one of four projects near the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium that is recommended for grants and/or loans.

SC Upholstery, 641 N. Snelling Ave., ranked third with its request for $34,000 grant, $36,000 loan and $434,000 match for building improvements.

Snelling Coffee, 638 N. Snelling Ave., ranked 12th with its request for a $7,000 grant, $16,000 loan and $7,000 match for building and parking lot improvements.

Black Hart Properties, which recently purchased the Town House bar and restaurant at 1415 University Ave., ranked 23rd with its request for a $50,000 grant and $531,770 match for interior and exterior improvements. Plans call for the business to become a soccer-themed establishment.

Other Monitor-area projects are also recommended. Modernization of a building at 860 Vandalia St. for the Jobs Foundation Tech Dump electronic recycling program, ranked seventh. A $130,000 grant and $170,000 loan are recommended, with a $3.42 million match.

Can Can Wonderland’s request for lighting and sound improvements ranked tenth. The entertainment venue’s request is for a $44,976 loan.
Other area projects missed the cut.

Hamline Midway Coalition’s request for a grant to help develop two handball courts at Clayland Park wasn’t recommended. The park is at 901 N. Fairview Ave.

St. Paul Fellowship, 868 Sherburne Ave., had its request for church building improvement funds turned down. A co-working space proposed by guild842 was also tuned down.

Two of three groups wanting citywide program funds to encourage ethnic business development are still in the hunt. The African Development Center request for a $100,000 grant and a $300,000 loan, with a $400,000 match, for a small business revolving loan fund, ranked 11th.

Asian Economic Development Association’s bid for was cut in half, to a $125,000 grant with $125,000 match for small business improvement loans. A match of $250,000 is proposed. The request ranked 14th.

African Economic Development Solutions’ request was turned down.

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Monitor in a Minute Wheeler Graphic

June 2018 Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin


Sidewalk to be built
A new sidewalk will be built on the west side of Wheeler St. between Thomas and University avenues, as a result of St. Paul City Council action May 16.

The project, which has a cost of $100,000, would provide a needed connection between neighborhood residents and destinations including the Midway YMCA and its daycare, Fairview Green Line light rail station, Dickerman Park and other destinations.

Photo right: From this satelite image image you can see that Wheeler St. has no sidewalk access. Streets on either side, Fairview Ave. and Aldine Ave. N. do. The cost to add sidewalks on Wheeler is approximately $400,000. (Satelite graphic from Google Earth online image).

“The need for the sidewalk is pretty clear,” said Reuben Collins. He leads bicycle facilities planning for St. Paul Public Works. “You don’t need to stand out there for very long before you see a lot of people walking in the street.”

The area doesn’t have a complete sidewalk grid, Collins added. Three property owners, who own four parcels, would be assessed for the costs. The Midway YMCA and Griggs Midway Building are two affected owners.

One property owner, representing HCI Acquisitions, spoke against the sidewalk citing the costs and poor condition of Wheeler. His company sees no need for the sidewalk and wouldn’t benefit from it.

Two Hamline Midway residents spoke for the project, saying that the lack of sidewalk means families must walk in the street. The route is extensively used to access the Y and its many programs.

Hamline-Midway resident John Bailey attended the hearing to speak for the project, calling the lack of a sidewalk “an accident waiting to happen.”

Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson said the project should go ahead, noting that it has been discussed for a long time and would rectify a safety hazard. Delaying the project until it was scheduled by the city would mean completion “when my son is 16.” He is a preschooler.

Accessory dwelling units advance to City Council
A proposal to allow accessory dwelling units citywide won approval June 1 from the St. Paul Planning Commission and is headed to the City Council for final action. The council will hold a public hearing before voting this summer.

The proposal would allow homeowners whose single-family residential properties are large enough to add an extra dwelling unit, in the form of a small house in a backyard, dwelling unit over a garage, or renovation or expansion of an existing single-family home. St. Paul has allowed the units in neighborhoods within one-half mile of Green Line light rail, and in places where historic carriage house units existed in the past. Only one unit has been built, on Sherburne Ave., since the Green Line regulations were passed.

Residents of several neighborhoods, including Hamline-Midway and the Union Park districts, had requested that the city consider expanding where the dwelling units can go. The units are touted as allowing families to stay together while maintaining some level of privacy, and for providing affordable housing. The units are not the same as so-called tiny houses or small portable houses, which the city is considering separately.

City Council members asked for the study last fall in response to constituent and district council requests. Since then city staff has met with staff or committees from 15 district councils where interest has been expressed in accessory dwelling units. While support was generally heard, concerns were raised about the potentially high costs of adding units, increased parking demand, and whether or not the units could be turned into short-term rentals such as AirBnBs.

Some district councils recommended the proposal go citywide. Other councils haven’t taken a position. A few other councils have had longstanding concerns about adding the dwelling units but haven’t weighed in this time around.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on accessory dwelling units in April and is recommending to the City council that the units be allowed citywide in single-family residential zoning districts. Specific space requirements would have to be met for the total property and the added dwelling unit.

Como trail project moves ahead
Work on a section of the Como trail can move ahead. The St. Paul City Council May 23 approved allocating additional Municipal State Aid funds from the state to Como and to two other projects. The local project will receive $431,881.

The project is the off-street bicycle trail along the north side of Como Ave. between Raymond and Hamline. MSA funding will allow for the design process to start this year. The need for the trail has been discussed for several years, and it is in the cycle’s 2015 Bicycle Plan.

The project is one of three funded through an additional $1.2 million in MSA funding. The city sometimes receives more of the funding than anticipated so that projects can be added.

Capital budget process
A redesigned process for review and approval of St. Paul’s capital project process goes out to the city’s 17 district councils and the greater community for input starting in June. The redesign, reviewed May 14 by the St. Paul Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee, will transform what has been criticized as a time-intensive, cumbersome and sometimes political process. But does it contain enough funding for neighborhoods across the city to justify spending time submitting projects? And will city staff have the time and resources to engage in additional community engagement?

The redesign, which has been in the works for several months, is meant to address goals of fiscal responsibility, strategic investments, and racial equity, said City Budget Analyst Abdiwahab Ali. It was reviewed this spring with the mayor’s administration and City Council and is underwent review in May with city department heads.

Committee members May 14 generally expressed support for the proposed changes. CIB Committee Chairperson Amy Huerta and several other committee members said the process needs much more outreach to include groups that haven’t participated in the past.

“Having the community come to us in the basement of City Hall may have worked 40 years ago, but it isn’t the model that works now,” he said.

Another change is in name. What St. Paulites have known for many years as CIB will become CIP—for Capital Improvement Plan. That reflects a longer-term focus on assets, maintenance, and needs, said Ali.

The changes would affect how the city as whole scrutinizes and spends money on its brick and mortar needs. One ongoing effort is to complete a five-year comprehensive capital plan for all city departments. This would focus on recently completed reports on city assets and their condition, racial equity, neighborhoods where there are concentrations of poverty, and community use and need issues.

City departments are to have their five-year capital plans done by this fall. Then everything would be wrapped into a citywide plan in early 2019. The comprehensive plan would be led by a working group of city staff and two CIB committee members. The plan would be reviewed, and project recommendations made by the committee for 2020.

The 2020 recommendations would be for city departments only. If the process is adopted, City departments will submit projects for review and approval only during the first year of the funding cycle.

Community-led submissions would come in for review and approval the second year, starting in 2021. Ali said that should level the playing field between big projects, such as a new fire station or recreation center, and a tot lot or small-scale neighborhood project.

Proposed is a $500,000 allocation in capital improvement bond proceeds. It’s not been determined yet how much in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding could be allocated. That funding would be earmarked for projects in low-income neighborhoods,
But some district councils and community groups have already questioned the $500,000 amount that is to be shared citywide for community-led projects, saying that isn’t enough funding for more than a few projects.

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Hamline Midway Library The Art of Fielding

Summer fun swings into high gear at the Hamline Midway Library

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

The Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., is your neighborhood spot to connect with your community, enjoy great programs, access the Internet, and stock up on books, CDs, and DVDs, all free with your library card.

For families and kids
Preschool Storytimes in English happens Fridays, 10:30-11am, with upcoming events on June 15, 22, and 29, and July 6 and 13. Storytimes feature stories, songs, puppets, and more. They’re a great way for caregivers to bond with children and build social skills, listening comprehension, and letter and number recognition while creating a solid foundation for lifelong learning. Children of all activity levels are welcome.

The Library is also offering Tuesday Evening Storytimes from 6-6:30pm on July 3 and 10.

On Sat., June 16, 1:30-3pm, the library presents the popular Science Saturdays program, where school-aged participants and their families can enjoy fun, hands-on science, and art activities. No pre-registration is necessary—just come by when you can. The Science Saturdays theme for June will be Optical Illusions (rescheduled from April, due to weather).

The Summer Spark program presents America’s Fun Science on Thur., June 21, 10:30-11:30am. Join in the fun as Dr. Tyronne E. Carter demonstrates some cool visual science experiments!

The Summer Spark fun continues as Dodge Nature Center presents “Raptors,” on Sat., June 30, 1:30–2:30pm. Meet a raptor up close, and learn about these amazing birds of prey. These programs are part of the summer reading program at the library, which lets children and teens earn a free book by tracking their reading hours and suggested fun, hands-on activities.

On Sat., June 23, school-aged children can attend “Celebrate Urban Birds: Make and Take Birdfeeders” between 1:30-2:30pm. Elpis Enterprises is providing bird feeder materials for participants to build and take home. This is a Nature Smart Program.
The Show and Tell Book Club for grades 1-3 meets on Sat., July 14, from 1:30-2:15pm.

Opportunities for Adults
On Wed., June 27, 1-3pm, Jody’s Documentary Film Series will feature a free documentary film from PBS’s acclaimed POV series. This month, the film being screened is “Homegoings” by filmmaker Christine Turner. Witness up-close what brings comfort to the rituals and customs of African-American funerals, through funeral director Isaiah Owens. Enjoy the free film and snacks and stay for the post-film discussion facilitated by Jody. This program is a collaboration of the award-winning POV documentary series and Hamline Midway Elders Association.

The Novels at Night Book Club meets on Thur., June 28, 6:30-7:30pm. This book club, aimed at adult fiction enthusiasts, will discuss “The Art of Fielding” (photo right from the internet) by Chad Harbach.

On Sat., July 7, 1-2pm, the Saints and Sinners Book Club meets to discuss good mysteries. Contact volunteer G. Balter for book lists and more information at gerribalter@gmail.com or 651-224-5570.

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory