Archive | November, 2018


TCGIS postpones partial demolition of former St. Andrew’s Church

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Save Historic St. Andrew’s holds forum to update community on ideas and plans to save the building

After picketing for several days, Save Historic St. Andrew’s supporters agreed to stop at the request of the Twin Cities German Immersion School and maintain a “fence of love” instead. (Photo submitted by Save Historic St. Andrews)

In October, partial demolition for St. Andrew’s historic church was slated by property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS), but the plan was taken off the table after intense discussions with the Save Historic St. Andrew’s community group.

A forum to increase community awareness was held later that day on Thur., Oct. 11, and was attended by about 100 people. The event was held at the Mission Church across the street from historic St. Andrew’s (now called the Aula by TCGIS) but was not endorsed by the church.

‘No one imagined it would be threatened’
Save Historic Saint Andrew’s (SHSA) member Roy Neal was the first speaker of the evening and pointed out that his wife attended school at St. Andrew’s.

“Quite frankly, no one ever imagined that the Aula would be threatened with demolition,” Neal said.

He explained that the first goal of SHSA is to stop the demolition of the church, which the school voted to do on July 30 and replace the structure with a new, three-story building.

“What we’re asking for is collaboration,” stated Neal. “We want to see if we can come up with a win-win situation.”

According to Neal, the building is important to group members who feel that history matters. During the last 100 years, St. Andrew’s “has been the heart of the community in many ways,” he said. “It feels unthinkable to remove that from the community.”

Photo right: St. Andrew’s is significant for a number of reasons, according to architectural historian Rolf Anderson. The architect, Charles Hausler, is known for his high-quality designs and diversity of styles which had an important impact on the city. St. Andrew’s is also significant for its association with the “Hungarian immigrant experience. The broader impact of the church was demonstrated by the five new congregations that were created from the area served by St. Andrew’s Church,” wrote Anderson in his preliminary findings. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

He stressed that engagement matters and that SHSA hopes to engage the school to work together around a goal.
Neal observed that SHSA was concerned that the school planned to begin partial demolition of the church building just before the review of the structure by the Historic Preservation Commission, and finish the demolition in the summer of 2019. “We’ve seen that pattern before,” Neal said. He pointed out that partial demolition is a tactic used to deface a structure enough to undermine historical recognition and spite opposition.

SHSA members met with school staff, and TCGIS agreed to hold off and complete a full demolition next June as originally planned, he reported to applause in the room. “We think this will restore trust,” said Neal.

Stewards versus destroyers
TCGIS purchased the former St. Andrew’s Church structure in 2013 and completed an $8.3 renovation project that included the demolition of the rectory and rehabilitation of the Aula. “The demolition of the Aula was not included in the plan,” pointed out Neal, who added that the buildings on the property considered “classic” at the time by the school.

Community members learned in March 2018 that the school had been investigating options to increase their space for the past four years, and might destroy the Aula and build a new building in its place. In May, the school board held off on a vote to move forward with demolishing the former church sanctuary to investigate the purchase of the Central Lutheran School site nearby. In July, the school board voted to move forward with building a new structure.

“We don’t like the plan, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like TCGIS,” stressed Neal. “Just because we oppose the plan does not mean we don’t like kids either.”

However, the plan replaces the irreplaceable, he explained.

“We hope they can see themselves as a steward of the facility rather than a destroyer,” Neal said.

Photo left: Save Historic St. Andrews member Roy Neal observed that SHSA was concerned that the school planned to begin partial demolition of the church building just before the review of the structure by the Historic Preservation Commission, and finish the demolition in the summer of 2019. SHSA members met with school staff, and TCGIS agreed to hold off and complete a full demolition next June as originally planned, he reported to applause in the room. “We think this will restore trust,” said Neal. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Neal recognizes that the school intends to build an energy efficient structure, but pointed out, “It can take 80 years for a new energy-efficient building to overcome the impact created by its construction. The greenest building is the one that is already built.” According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 80 percent of Minnesota’s 1.6 tons of construction and demo waste ended up in a landfill in 2013.

Neal observed that the estimates for work on the existing building that were obtained by SHSA are significantly less than the ones shared by the school board’s building committee, and pointed out that the exterior is in good condition. According to SHSA, before the school took over the building, it cost $10,000 to maintain the roof each year, $2,500 to repair the brick and exterior, and about $4,000 to remove snow. “This doesn’t sound like a big burden to me,” said Neal. TCGIS has estimated building repairs and upgrades at $1.2 million.

SHSA is also concerned that TCGIS will outgrow the site and move to a larger space. “If they move, the consequences of this demolition won’t matter to TCGIS,” said Neal. “The neighborhood will have to live with the consequences.”

Neal encouraged school representatives not to be afraid of a historic preservation status. While there may be an extra step while doing projects, “it doesn’t stop respectful remodeling,” he said. “Preserving the building will be good for resale. Usually, preservation increases value. Historic properties bring value to the entire neighborhood.”

Eligible for historic status, funding?
A Go Fund Me campaign by SHSA raised money to fund a study of the former church building aimed at determining the building’s potential eligibility for historic preservation status.

Architectural historian Rolf Anderson pointed out that the church was built in a distinctive Romanesque Revival style inspired by churches in south France and Italy.

“The building is very complex and well-designed,” stated Anderson, “and among St. Paul’s most impressive neighborhood churches.”

He pointed out that there are seven distinct types of brickwork in the building. “It’s quite amazing just to look at the brickwork,” Anderson said.

The structure was designed by well-known architect Charles Hausler, who was St. Paul’s first city architect. He is known for his high-quality designs and diversity of styles which had an important impact on the city, stated Anderson.

St. Andrew’s is also significant for its association with the “Hungarian immigrant experience. The broader impact of the church was demonstrated by the five new congregations that were created from the area served by St. Andrew’s Church,” wrote Anderson in his preliminary findings.

The former church building is eligible for local designation under four of St. Paul’s Heritage Preservation criteria, and will be reviewed by the Heritage Preservation Commission. A public hearing was set for Nov. 5.

The District 10 Land Use Committee (composed of the community members who attend the meetings) and Board will also be voting for or against the TCGIS demolition and any variance requests before they are forwarded to the city council for consideration.

U OF M architect’s ideas
Minnesota Design Center Director Tom Fisher of the University of Minnesota reiterated that the greenest building is reusing the buildings one already has rather than tearing them down.

He pointed out that the TCGIS design for its new facility would replace the entrance of the church with the tall, blank wall of a gymnasium facing the street.

“They are turning their back on the neighborhood,” stated Fisher.

In his work, he looks for win-win solutions, and offered several suggestions at this site. Fisher began by asking what the school is trying to achieve and then trying to figure out how the school and community can both accomplish their goals.

He remarked that although the charter school views the old sanctuary as a challenge or deficit, it could instead be viewed as a desirable asset. He pointed out that schools today are moving from standard classrooms to large flexible spaces like this.

“The nave of the church is the kind of educational space a lot of schools are trying to build,” stated Fisher.

The Emily Program nearby recently kept a church building and dramatically changed the interior to meet their program needs.

He stated that charter schools still need to “be connected to and responsive to the community.”

Fisher suggested that TCGIS consider building an addition where the existing parking lot is, and observed that the coming autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking, a concept the design center is studying courtesy of a National Science Foundation Grant. Or, TCGIS could add another floor to the existing school wing.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here,” stated Fisher. “There are other options for you to meet your needs and still keep the church,” he told school representatives when he met with them. “I think there are ways to add to the facility without downsizing the church.”


TCGIS opposes historic designation

While the community group Save Historic St. Andrew’s is working to save the former church building, the charter school that occupies it is mobilizing against a historic designation.

Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) sent out an email blast asking supporters to send letters to the Historic Preservation Commission before its Nov. 5 public hearing.

In his letter to the commission, TCGIS Executive Director Ted Anderson pointed out, “The school is a model for successful charter schools in both cities.”

He added, “The non-profit school’s future is at stake if it is to be forced into maintaining an old building that is falling apart and is functionally obsolete.”

Anderson stated that TCGIS opposes the petition to designate the building as a historic site for a number of reason.

TCGIS does not think that historic designation should occur over the property owner’s objections—“Especially when the property owner is a non-profit entity such as a public charter school,” wrote Anderson.

“It is one thing when a for-profit entity is asked to use some of the profits that it derives from the neighborhood to preserve the historic character of that neighborhood. It is quite another to ask the same thing of a non-profit entity that is not deriving a profit from the neighborhood, but is providing a service to the neighborhood.”

Additionally, he wrote that historic preservation is not a benefit to non-profit like a school, it is a burden. “Thus, any historic preservation over a non-profit property owner’s objection should be funded by an assessment on the nearby properties that will derive the benefit from that designation,” said Anderson.

Letters against designation
In three sample letters sent out during the email blast, TCGIS supporters were urged to ask the Historic Preservation Commission to avoid giving “a crumbling former church building, owned by the Twin Cities German Immersion School, an historic designation that will put an unrealistic financial burden on this public charter school.”

The letters referred to it as a “short-sighted petition” that is “being presented by a small, vocal and selfish minority of neighbors.”

The letters TCGIS school supporters were asked to send to the commission also stated: “The petition to designate the property as an historic structure is selfish—and self-serving—and is taking money away from kids in a successful school environment: Every dollar the school spends on opposing the petition, or on complying with historic designation requirements, is a dollar that is taken away from the kids the school is entrusted with educating.”

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For 77 years Our Lady of Peace offers hospice care, compassion

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Our Lady of Peace Hospice Residence is an oasis of kindness at the intersection of St. Anthony and Cleveland avenues. Outside, the traffic roars by on Interstate 94 but inside, the atmosphere is peaceful and calm. Large windows open to a memorial garden at the back of the property; natural light blankets the interior spaces. It is the stated, sacred duty of Our Lady of Peace to provide care, comfort, and compassion to people needing end-of-life services—regardless of social status, religion, or ability to pay.

Photo right: The Medicare-certified, residential facility at 2076 St. Anthony Ave. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In addition to providing a full range of hospice services at their residential site, Our Lady of Peace Community Hospice can come to wherever patients are: in their own homes, in senior communities, long-term care facilities, or homeless shelters. They also bring their Home Health Services to wherever home is, including skilled nursing, psychological support, massage therapy, music therapy, spiritual care, and bereavement support.

Begun by Dominican nuns in 1941, the original Our Lady of Good Counsel Home was a free end-of-life facility that served the city’s “cancer poor.” By 2009, the self-described “humble organization” had provided care for more than 15,000 patients. At that time, the operation of the home transitioned to the Franciscan Health

Community; in 2015, they underwent a name change to Our Lady of Peace.

While the non-profit organization is Catholic and four nuns are still part of the care team, people of all faiths (or no faith) are welcome. Their mission has expanded over the years to include adult patients with diagnoses other than, but including, cancer, and children with terminal cancer.

Photo left: Social worker Kelly Pietrzak (left) and nurse Sister Polsy (right) have different jobs at Our Lady of Peace, but share the commitment that no one should be turned away from high quality end-of-life care. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Residential nursing supervisor and hospice educator Frezgi Hiskias said, “There are a lot of misconceptions about what hospice is. Many people think that patients must be actively dying to be in hospice, but we generally serve patients in their last 4-6 weeks of life. In the 14 years I have worked here, I have seen the turnover rate grow faster. At Our Lady of Peace Home, we now admit 30+ patients per month. We wish that people wouldn’t wait until the end, because in hospice we see the patient as a whole person, including relationships with family members and friends. We are very inclusive.”

Hiskias explained, “This model of inclusion extends to the way staff members work together too. Every Wednesday we have something called an Interdisciplinary Team Meeting, where the whole care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplaincy comes together. We maintain 21 beds for patients on two separate floors: one for men and one for women. We are passionate about cleanliness and hygiene. We are passionate about providing care in the most dignified and gracious way possible. Dying is not easy for most people, and when I started I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the dying process. It’s a touchy subject, and one that wasn’t taught in nursing school.”

Social worker Kelly Pietrzak agreed. “On the social work side,” she said, “we help to bring things to a close as gently as possible. I work primarily with patients who are in home-based care. Despite the enormity of losing a loved one, rent still has to be paid, and everything goes better when there’s food on the fridge. We take care of all those practical things, plus a hundred other details. We provide services in all seven metro counties, and we need volunteers out in the community as well as at the Our Lady of Peace Home. When I started working here ten years ago, we had an average daily census of four patients out in the community. We currently serve more than 60.”

“As our patient count has grown, we’re fortunate that our volunteer base has too,” Pietrzak said. “At this time, we have 70 dedicated volunteers—many of them are family members of loved ones we have cared for. Our volunteers provide the equivalent of two full-time employees, with a variety of skills and interests. We especially need volunteers who are willing to travel beyond our residential facility right now. We serve patients at the Episcopal Church Home and Gardens Facility on University and Fairview avenues, Heart to Home’s four residential houses in Mendota, and the Wheeler Ave. Rahkma Home (near St. Catherine’s)—which are all nearby. We ask for a time commitment of at least one hour per week for one year. We provide training to get a new volunteer fully integrated into our hospice model, and into what their volunteer role and responsibilities will be.”

Finally, Our Lady of Peace has a Bereavement Department that connects with families during hospice care, and for 13 months after their loved one has passed. Grief groups and grief events (like the annual Celebration of Life in December) are open to community members. Check their website at www.ourladyofpeacemn.org for complete details.

For information on volunteering with Our Lady of Peace, call Tara Burns at 651-789-6824 or email tarab@ourladyofpeacemn.org.

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Proir Affair 040

Prior Affair hosts events to support community arts movement

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Betsey Giles started knitting last May and creates her double knit scarves and hats on flat or circular looms. Through her business Three Bears Fun Fur, she has been crafting ultra-warm, faux fur hats for years.

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
BlackStack Brewing hosted 33 artists during business hours on Oct. 27-28, once again lending support to the community arts movement Prior Affair. The weekend event, called “Meet your Maker,” introduced emerging and established artists to shoppers in a friendly, face-to-face exchange.

Photo right: Prior Affair organizers (left to right) are Elizabeth McAllister, Skot Rieffer, and Addison.

Prior Affair has been organizing events like this for the past year. Co-founders Skot Rieffer, a sculptor, and Addison, a papermaker/book illustrator, met through theater work, learned they both were practicing visual artists, and decided to collaborate. Prior Affair was born, and they have hosted nine events so far—all at BlackStack Brewing (755 Prior Ave. N.) Painter and textile artist Elizabeth McAllester recently joined them as part of their planning team.

The three will convene a community meeting at 6pm on Sat., Dec. 8 at BlackStack Brewing. Artists and neighbors are invited to discuss where Prior Affair is headed in the New Year in a casual, round-table conversation. One of the items for consideration is whether Prior Affair will move forward in filing for non-profit status in 2019.

Photo left: Rita Drury of Drury Lane sews pillows and every size of bag imaginable. She uses empty coffee sacks provided by True Stone Coffee Roasters to create globally sourced, one-of-a-kind products that are impeccably well sewn.

Prior Affair organizes two large spring and fall events annually, and smaller, monthly events that present artists and neighborhood businesses before mutual audiences.

Rieffer said, “Addison, Elizabeth and I had all participated in art and craft shows before, but didn’t particularly like the way they were organized. My favorite thing about Prior Affair is that we’re approachable—artists can come to us and suggest ways to make our events even better.”

Photo right: Shoppers responded to clay works by Ollie Schminkey of Sick Kitty Ceramics. They make molds of fingers and teeth, and use them to adorn hand thrown cups and bowls. They said, “Dentists are always interested in my work, but never buy anything because it might scare their patients.”

These are some of the neighborhood businesses that have lent support to artists in the form of product donations for events, or contributing space for event hosting: Work It, Celtic Junction, Pura Vida Massage, True Stone Coffee Roasters, Vistabule, Flanneljax, MN Tool Library, Brady Studio, Hamline Midway Coalition, Expertise Fitness, BlackStack Brewing, and the landlords of 755 Prior Ave. N., Rod and Michelle Musson.

Photo left: Painter Kelsey Oseid owns Kelzuki Art and Goods and heard about the Prior Affair event through local “art murmurings.” Her medium is gouache, a paint somewhere between watercolor and acrylic.

The next event is scheduled for Sat., Nov. 24, 2-7pm at (of course) BlackStack Brewing. Each of the Prior Affair events is loosely themed, and November’s theme is gratitude.

Email prior.affair@gmail.com to inquire about participating as an artist. There is a $25 application fee, negotiable in the case of financial hardship.

Photo right: MN Tool Library brought in 100+ pumpkins, sold them for $8, and provided tools for people to create Halloween masterpieces. Egg beaters were used to scoop out the insides, which were then brought to the county compost site a few blocks away.

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Barbara Wiener 84

Local filmmaker makes her mark with ‘sentencing films’

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

(All photos submitted)

Local filmmaker Barbara Wiener (photo right) can add to her resume that she helped to liberate an African country. This accomplishment comes as part of her journey on the path of making sentencing films.

Wiener has been a filmmaker and teacher for the past 30 years. She has worked in public television and currently teaches film at Film North, 550 Vandalia Ave., and at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park. She also founded TVbyGIRLS, a nonprofit that collaborates with and mentors teen girls using the tools of filmmaking to develop critical thinking, leadership, and social change film work.

She did her first sentencing film in 2014. She has completed two more.

“They’re called sentencing films because they are used in sentencing,” she said. “In general, it’s not a trial. The defendant has already said yes, I am guilty of the crime. All the legal arguments have already been made, and now it’s up to the judge to sort through all the information for both the prosecutor and defense attorney.”

Wiener explained that the films are usually created for the judge to view to get the perspective of the defendant in the case before pronouncing sentencing.

“The first one I did, I knew the lawyer, Robert. His son had been in one of my films. Robert was one of the lawyers defending five Gambian American men,” Wiener said. The middle-aged men had been part of a small coalition of Gambians living in America who planned a bloodless coup of the Gambia government after their countrymen had been living under a brutal dictatorship for 21 years.

“I had never heard of The Gambia (officially the Republic of The Gambia) and did not even know where it was,” Wiener recalled. It is the smallest country in continental mainland Africa, and in 1970 The Gambia became a republic within the English Commonwealth and established as a democracy.

But in 1994 Yahya Jammeh overthrew the government, became the new leader, and banned all opposition political activity. Jammeh turned into a brutal dictator, according to the accounts of The Gambian people and based on his own words, caught on video. Reporters were jailed and tortured, as were his political enemies or anyone who disagreed with him.

Gambians in America had appealed to the US State Department, European Union, the UN, and the African Union; anywhere anyone would listen. It seemed that no one cared, according to Wiener.

The coup by Gambian Americans was not successful. Wiener said she learned they had been betrayed, some killed and the rest ran for their lives back to the United States.

“They violated a US law written in 1874 called the Neutrality Act that makes it illegal for American citizens to take up arms against a county we are at peace with,” Wiener explained. The FBI charged them with a federal crime, and the men were facing up to 30 years in prison.

Wiener met with the lawyers and looked at the charges. The attorneys admitted the men had broken the law, but they were good people. “I don’t think it matters whether they are good people,” Wiener told them. “I think we have to do a film where we get the judge to feel like he is walking in their shoes…they were doing what early Americans did, saying no to oppression.”

In this film, Wiener never interviewed the defendants but instead, with an assistant, went to five different states and talked to Gambian Americans who could describe the imprisonment, the torture, and the fear The Gambian people had lived under for the past 21 years. She was also able to obtain videos of Jammeh describing his acts of violence and even footage of his guards beating up American citizens in Washington, DC, who protested during a visit he made to the United States.

The one-hour film, “The Pain of a People,” was entered in evidence and shown not just to the judge but to the courtroom. After viewing the film, the judge in the case asked for an extra day to make the sentencing decision.

“The longest sentence given was nine months, and some were given parole,” Wiener said. Although the coup had not worked, the bravery of those involved was celebrated, and within a year The Gambia was liberated. Jammeh had been defeated in a fair election, and when he refused to give up his power, the African Union stepped in and escorted him out.

“The Gambia is still struggling,” Wiener said, “but it is a democracy again. It shows the power of courageous heroes. If you can hear a story of people willing to be heroic, then people gain hope, and they can be heroes, too.”

Wiener was again called by her lawyer friend about another case, a man who had a wonderful career, beautiful home in the suburbs and a great family with two sets of twins. But he risked it all to go to the Dark Internet and view child porn, and he was caught in an FBI sting. He was removed from his house immediately, and his children were not allowed to see him.

“He was not a pedophile and did not hurt his children, but he did something terrible because children were hurt somewhere who were in these pictures,” Wiener said. But his children wanted their voices heard. This was the guy who went to all their sports events, supported them and was the guy they adored. They felt no one was listening to them.

“I was called in to work with the kids,” Wiener said. “I interviewed them and captured each one of them and how they felt, got their family interactions. The goal was for them to have a voice, and work that into the sentencing so they would not be completely isolated from their dad.”

He was sentenced to three years. The tragedy was compounded when the mom fell and died from a hemorrhage while doing laundry in the basement six months after he went to prison.

The children were left without either parent.

“I wouldn’t have done a film for the father, because I wouldn’t do something that would support a person watching child pornography, but I felt it was really important to do that film for the children.”

Wiener recently completed another film in which she interviewed a defendant who had admitted his guilt and did not repent. The case is so current Wiener cannot discuss the details.

“This is the only one in which I have interviewed the defendant,” she said. “He told what happened, what his experience was, what he did and why. It is important if you break a law that it has a component to it,” Wiener noted, “that takes a look at a bigger law and morality of choice.”

Wiener said that she gets very drawn into the story when making these sentencing films. “I try and communicate the truth of whatever is the subject,” she said. “I feel strongly about people and their stories, and the flip side is I get very involved.”

Putting out real stories that resonate and are about how people are resilient in what they do is Wiener’s goal. She said she has always had a passion for social justice and hopes to continue creating sentencing films along with all of her other work.

“Unless you really think about the emotional aspects in telling a story, you end up with cat videos,” Wiener commented with a smile. “Those may be fun, but we need people telling real stories with skill.”

Wiener said her father once told her she was too sensitive, but she said she feels very strongly about the kinds of films she does and feels very connected. “I don’t know if that makes me a better filmmaker, but it makes me a happier one,” she said.

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Jim Bohen 15

Poetry readings will celebrate new book by Jim Bohen

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Local poet Jim Bohen (photo right by Margie O’Loughlin) just experienced something that doesn’t happen every day. Not only did he publish a poem, but he also published 82 of them in a newly released collection called, “I travel in rusting burned-out sedans.”

“I submitted my collection to more than 20 publishers before getting picked up by Unsolicited Press in Portland, OR,” he said. “There are a tremendous number of good poems in this world that don’t get published.”

Bohen has lived in the Merriam Park neighborhood with his wife, Bonnie, for 34 years. They raised two children there, and are now helping care for their 16-month-old granddaughter. At 71, Bohen has been writing poems and songs for more than 50 years. He writes quietly at his desk and prefers longhand on real paper for early drafts.

He doesn’t multitask much. If he goes for a walk, he takes a notebook with him and jots down ideas for poems—but he stops walking while he does it. He said, “I do something related to poetry every day, whether it’s writing myself or reading other poets.”

He held is first book launch event on Nov. 7. His second will be Tues., Nov. 13 (7pm) at Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.

In addition, on Tues., Nov. 27th at Common Good Books (38 Snelling Ave. S.), and on Wed., Nov. 28 at Subtext Books in downtown St. Paul (6 W. 5th St.), Bohen will have a shared reading with local poets Joyce Sutphen, Sharon Chmielarz, and Norita Dittberner-Jax. He said, “I’m so pleased to be reading with these women who, in addition to Michael Bazzett and Ethna McKiernan, are some of my favorite Minnesota poets.”

A Minnesotan through and through, Bohen has stayed pretty close to his roots. “I grew up four blocks from where we live now, attended St. Mark’s Catholic School, St. Thomas Academy, the University of St. Thomas, and finally the U of M.”

He went on to have a long career as a writer, but it didn’t always involve poetry. Looking back, he said, “I first got published in my 20’s, and that maybe wasn’t so good for me. When I was a graduate student at the U of M, the editor of the student newspaper gave me a front-page box in the Arts and Entertainment section. That set up an unreasonable expectation that I would get paid for writing poetry.”

As it turned out, poetry soon got put on the back shelf. In different chapters of his life, Bohen would go on to play in a rock band and a folk trio, work as program director for the Irish American Cultural Institute, learn the ropes of book publishing, and finally begin freelance writing in 1993. “Most notably,” he said, “I wrote about cars for the Star Tribune and articles for various trade magazines. I didn’t love it, but sometimes I got to write stories on things I cared about—like car seat safety for children.”

Bohen continued, “A few years ago, a poet friend invited me to join her writing group and I quickly got back into writing poetry. I had lived a lot of life by then, and I realized that it was okay to write about that. When I was young, I thought poetry was supposed to be profound, and grandiose—with high toned language. Suddenly I was writing about ordinary stuff, like preparing for an estate sale after my Mother’s death.”

By his description, Bohen writes three kinds of free verse (which means no formal rhyming pattern): short, lyrical poems; “prosier,” sometimes humorous poems; and more difficult, obscure pieces, ones that sometimes even he doesn’t understand.

Laying in for winter
By James Bohen
Tell me a story, any story,
so I have something to pocket,
something to pull out one dark
day, the kind when you clean
out every nook, every place,
then look for more, to find
something – anything –
you can use.

For more information about upcoming events or to schedule a reading, contact Jim Bohen at 651-645-4797 or email him at jamesbohen@yahoo.com.

Copies of the book “I travel in rusting burned-out sedans” will be available for purchase at any of the scheduled events. Discounts are available for book clubs and other large orders.

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Legends at Berry entrance

Development Roundup Nov. 2018

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin


Lumberyard site transformation goes on
The transformation of the old Weyerhaeuser Lumberyard site into the Legends of Berry housing goes on, as the St. Paul City Council and the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) acted on various aspects of the project in October.

St. Paul Leased Housing Associates is redeveloping the site at 777 and 778 Berry St. into two buildings, one of workforce housing and one for seniors. The project won a needed variance Oct. 22 from the BZA.

Photo right: The concept drawing for the Legends of Berry at 777 and 778 Berry St. The two buildings would be across the street from each other and is moving forward through City of St. Paul Council approval. (Illustration provided)

The two buildings will have front entrances directly across the street from each other. The zoning code requires a front yard setback of at least 10 feet. The proposed developments each have a covered front walkway with a zero setback, driving the need for a variance.

The variance request drew no opposition and had a recommendation of support from St. Anthony Park Community Council.

Earlier in October the St. Paul City Council approved a financing and spending plan for the Department of Parks and Recreation for $323,191, to use parkland dedication funds for the creation of a new park at 700 Emerald St.
The city requires that new developments provide funding for park space, donation of property, or do a combination of both.

Photo left: The concept drawing for the Legends of Berry front entrance at 777 and 778 Berry St. The proposed developments each have a covered front walkway with a zero setback, driving the need for a variance from the regulation requiring a 10 foot setback. (Illustration provided)

The new development will have three lots, tow parks and three streets, in a plat approved by the council in May. Park space has been called out as a need in this part of West Midway, in various land use studies dating back to 2008.

University-Dale project moves ahead
Redevelopment of the northwest corner of University Ave. and Dale St. continues to pick up needed support. In October the Metropolitan Council and St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), gave the project needed approvals.

Northwest University and Dale received $949,250 in Metropolitan Council Livable Communities grant funds to support affordable housing near existing and planned transit service. The project was one of four that split almost $4.5 million.

“The Livable Communities program goes a long way toward supporting and promoting economic growth and prosperity in the region,” said Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “A critical component to achieving prosperity is the availability of affordable housing. These grants all support the creation of affordable housing that’s close to transit and other types of transportation. Each project focuses on a different group of people in need of affordable housing.”

The mixed-use development would replace commercial and office buildings, along with a vacant lot that was once the home of the Flick, an X-rated theater. The Flick and its across-the-street neighbor, the Faust, were part of a cluster of “adult” businesses in the University-Dale area, along with the Belmont Club. The city bought out the business owners in the 1980s.

The Flick was torn down years ago and has been green space since then. The mixed-use development eyed for its site and adjacent properties could create 32,000 square feet of office and commercial space and 40 affordable housing units near a plaza and green space.

Since the Livable Communities program became law in 1995, the council has approved grants totaling nearly $375 million to assist projects that have created or retained more than 52,000 jobs, cleaned up 2,300 acres of polluted property for redevelopment, created or preserved nearly 22,000 affordable housing units, and leveraged billions in additional public and private funds.

Northwest University Dale is led by Wellington Management and will be owned by University and Dale Limited partnership. It will include 40 housing units from single rooms to three bedrooms, at varying rates of affordability based on area median income.

The project cost is estimated at $13.5 million including private funds, housing tax credits, and Metropolitan Council, state, and Ramsey County grants. The project was one of two on University Ave. that received Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the HRA in October, and one of four citywide. The Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 created the Low Income Housing Tax Credits Program, which provides a reduction in federal tax liability to owners and investors of qualified low-income housing developments that comply with federally-imposed rent and tenant income restrictions for 30 years. The credits are coveted by developers.

Northwest University Dale has up to $298,793 in reserved credits for 2019.

Northwest University Dale is also in the hunt for additional dollars, and was one of six projects the city submitted to site cleanup and tax base revitalization dollars.

Other area development
PPL Ain Dah Yung Supportive Housing has $217,700 earmarked for its new housing for homeless Native American youth at 769 University Ave. The $13 million project includes 42 housing units.

Another $366,266 is allocated for the St. Paul Preservation Project, which includes some multi-family properties around the city including two in the 800 block of Englewood Ave.

Another area project submitted was for work at 641 N. Fairview Ave. and at Raymond Station, a development near Raymond and University avenues.

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Central comes short of the prize but not done

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Prep Sports Notebook By MATTHEW DAVIS

Central boys soccer coach David Albornoz doesn’t see his team’s trip to the Class 2A state semifinals at US Bank Stadium Oct. 31 as a one-hit wonder.

He hopes to see his program back at the Vikings stadium the next two seasons as he had freshmen playing in the Oct. 31 loss to defending state runner-up Stillwater, 2-1. The Minutemen beat the Ponies earlier in the year on a penalty kick after a 3-3 tie in late August.

“This is not a one-time deal; we want to keep showing up,” Albornoz said. “As I told the boys … they have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Central, which came into the semifinal game unbeaten at 18-0-1 struck first with when senior midfielder Aiden Cavanaugh put the Minutemen up 1-0 in the second half. The first half had been a defensive deadlock.

The Minutemen held the lead for six minutes until Ponies sophomore attack Gora Gora knotted the game at 1-1 with a goal. Ponies senior attack Spencer Scott then stunned the Minutemen with a goal kick immediately after setting the ball, which put the Ponies ahead 2-1.

Albornoz said “we weren’t even ready” when Scott kicked the ball. Minutemen junior goalkeeper Owen Brooks couldn’t get to the ball in time as it sailed to the left of him into the net.

Owen, who had a 16-0 record in goal going into the game, is among the key players who could be back for the Minutemen next fall. Midfielder Max Hand, who led the team in assists, and forward Makatar Yarrow, who had three goals and four assists before state, also have another season left of eligibility.

Central graduates leading scorer Daniel Barrett, a senior forward who had 14 goals and seven assists coming into the tournament. Fellow senior Mac Staloch had seven goals and ten assists at midfielder.

Central finished its season with the third place game against Minnetonka Nov. 2.

The Minutemen went unbeaten for the regular season and won the St. Paul City Conference with a perfect mark. They won the Class 2A Section title with a 1-0 win over Eastview Oct. 16, capping a tournament where the Minutemen didn’t allow any goals.

Central beat St. Cloud Tech 6-1 on Oct. 25 in St. Cloud to open the state tournament and reach US Bank Stadium for the semifinals.

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Tobacco shop receives variance; raises larger questions

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

A shuttered University Ave. convenience store can become a smoke shop, the St. Paul City Council has decided. But with more business owners seeking distance variances for tobacco shops, council members are also asking city staff from the Department of Safety and Inspections to clarify how the distance between shops is measured.

The Oct. 24 vote is a win for Mussie Embaye, who operated the Little Grocery, 1724 University Ave. before closing it several months ago. He plans to open his new tobacco shop there.

But it is a disappointment for the Association of Non-Smokers Minnesota, who appealed a September Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) decision to grant the shop a distance variance. Neighbors, health and anti-tobacco groups sent letters in support of the appeal.

The BZA has acted on three similar variance requests in the past several weeks and has at least three other requests pending. As of Nov. 1, menthol tobacco products cannot be sold in convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations and businesses that aren’t dedicated tobacco or “smoke” shops. The definition of products is broad and includes cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco and liquids used in electronic cigarettes.

The other wrinkle is that tobacco products shops are to be at least one-half mile apart. That regulation has been in place for several years. But the enabling ordinance isn’t clear on how that distance should be measured, a point council members, city staff and tobacco foes all raised. Jerome Benner II of the BZA staff said a clarification for the distance would be submitted for City Council action soon.

Ward Four Council Member Mitra Nelson, whose ward includes the tobacco shop, said she didn’t find that the BZA erred in granting the variance. The only way the City Council can overturn a variance is if an error is found.
Council members Dan Bostrom, Amy Brendmoen, Dai Thao, and Chris Tolbert agreed with Nelson. Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince voted against denying the appeal, saying that they sided with the association and its arguments based on the distance issue.

Brendmoen indicated that the influx of new tobacco shop requests was something predicted when the city enacted the menthol restrictions. She noted that before the ban, there was no tobacco shop in her Fifth Ward.

That’s not the case now.

What council members hope will control tobacco sales is a cap of 242 licenses citywide for tobacco sales, which the council adopted last summer. Embaye told the council at an October public hearing that he has already obtained such a license, and could find another place to open if he was denied approval for the former grocery store site. But opening there allows him to retain his current lease.

1724 University Ave. is 2,600 feet from Vape Pros, 681 N. Snelling Ave. Vape Pros sells e-cigarettes and accessories. A variance of 40 feet was needed to allow for the new shop to open.

The anti-tobacco association, which has championed several city restrictions on tobacco products in recent years, has worked on restricting youth access to tobacco products. Menthol is seen as a gateway, or introduction, to tobacco use.

Jeanne Weigum of the anti-tobacco group said the variance requested by Embaye doesn’t meet all of the BZA’s required findings. One objection is that granting a variance is inconsistent with the city’s intent to have a minimum set distance between shops.

Weigum added that allowing a variance, and more shops, promotes tobacco use. Allowing the shop isn’t consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, and will change the character of the area.

But Embaye said he should be granted the variance and that he had shown hardship. He told both the BZA and the council that selling tobacco products is the only option he has at this point. Many of his sales are of menthol products. By becoming a tobacco product shop, the University Ave. storefront can have more than 90 percent of its sales from tobacco products, including the sale of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, loose tobacco, plants, herbs, and smoking devices.

BZA staff recommended approval of the variance, citing the business’s location in a commercial district, the fact that Little Grocery has long sold tobacco products, and the distance requirement hardship.

Union Park District Council made no recommendation.

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Bank sign 2

Orphan bank signage can stay; but only for one year

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

The sign at the corner of Snelling and University has been a long-time fixture and remained even after the banks that used it ceased to be at the location. The City Council overrode a unanimous vote of the St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals to remove the sign. Midway Center reeceived a variance to keep the sign for Midway Center advertising, but only for one year. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

A longtime bank sign at University and Snelling avenues can remain in place for one more year, and be used to promote the remaining Midway Center businesses. Then it must come down. That is the decision of the St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), which voted 6-0 Oct. 22 to force the sign’s removal.

The board rejected an appeal by property owner RD Parent Investors LLC, one of the New York-based entities that own Midway Center. Since summer RD Parent has sought to retain the sign, which served Midway Bank and later, American Bank, for decades.

Shopping center representatives have argued that the sign is part of the center. But city staff ruled that the sign was the bank’s sign, was abandoned and should come down. Allowing the sign to stay in place for one more year is seen as a compromise

Over the past year, Midway Center and its superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St., has changed dramatically. The Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium sprung up after Rainbow Foods, Walgreens, and other smaller storefronts were torn down. Big Top Liquors’ longtime home was razed after that business moved into the former Perkins restaurant. Less than half of the original strip mall is still standing.

Midway Bank operated at the Snelling and University corner from 1960 until 2001, when the bank was sold. It then operated under new ownership as Dakota Bank and later as American Bank. A bank hasn’t operated at the property since 2013, although the property was used for internal operations and storage after customer service ended.

The bank building was eyed as a site for Midway Walgreens and went through the Planning Commission review and approval process for a drive-through window and building addition in 2014. That project never materialized. The building later hosted city task force planning meetings for Midway Center. It was torn down several months ago.

The shopping center owner contended that the sign should be considered part of Midway Center and should remain. City zoning staff disagreed and indicated that the sign was part of the bank, which for many years was under separate ownership from the shopping center. The zoning administrator said that the sign was abandoned and should come down.

In St. Paul, business owners who leave a location yet wish to preserve a sign for a future occupant are to paint their signs a neutral color or reserve the sign face within 30 days. If a sign isn’t reused in one year, the sign is to come down. City staff received a complaint about the sign in May.

The sign is also considered by city officials to be off-premises advertising, akin to a billboard.

The city staff decision was appealed to the BZA. The board held a public hearing in September and laid the matter over twice. One layover was because the board split 3-2 on one vote. A majority of four votes is needed for the BZA to act. A second vote was laid over to allow city staff and property owner representatives time to reach a solution.

Eric Galatz is an attorney for RD Parent and its two affiliated shopping center ownership companies, RK Midway. He said the sign would be used to advertise Midway Center businesses and Allianz Field. Because the property is under the control of lessee Snelling-Midway Redevelopment LLC, Galatz said it should be considered as one parcel.

Other commissioners disagreed about the sign, with some saying it needs to come down and others saying the redevelopment presents unique circumstances due to the size of the superblock and the sign’s past and proposed use

Galatz contended that the sign is needed by the remaining Midway Center businesses. “The businesses are really struggling,” he said.

BZA Chairperson Gloria Bogen said the bank property is a separate platted lot, and that the bank property is now a construction site. She questioned the claim that it is part of the shopping center. Jerome Benner II of the BZA staff noted that Midway Center’s superblock has long operated as a group of large and smaller parcels, with no set sign plan.

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Hamline Elementary mural

Hamline Elementary School News Nov. 2018

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin


A big thanks to Midway Public Art Working Group for helping Hamline Elementary become the home of the latest mural in the Midway (photo right submitted). This beauty faces Snelling Ave. and was created by Hamline U graduate Sarah Lentz. The mural is the final piece of a more extended partnership that brought Sarah into Hamline classrooms to talk to students about how to take a small picture and make it mural-sized and gave students an opportunity to create their own vision for the mural. We’re grateful to everyone involved for a beautiful experience.

Drawing left: A student-generated concept for the mural that was eventually put onto Hamline Elementary School. Students took part in the educational part of the process prior to the final design and painting. (Photo provided)

All members of the community are invited to Hamline Elementary’s 2018 Welcoming Days on Nov. 13 and Dec. 11, 9-10:30am. We’ve made these no-appointment, drop-in daytime hours available to introduce our neighbors to the people, partnerships, and programming that make Hamline one-of-a-kind in St. Paul. Children are always welcome on welcoming days. As always, school tours can also be scheduled at any time by calling the school at 651-293-8715.

Hamline Elementary is collecting cold weather gear for students and families. Donations of new or gently used coats, snow pants, boots, hats, mittens, and scarves can be dropped off at the school or arrangements for pick up can be made by e-mailing the Hamline PTA at hamlineelementarypta@gmail.com. Items in need of repair can also be donated thanks to our partnership with Mobile Menders.

For neighbors who shop Amazon, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating Hamline Elementary PTA to receive a percentage of eligible purchases. Our fundraising dollars support school-wide learning, enrichment, and family-supporting activities and fulfill teacher and staff requests for everything from classroom supplies to field trips to weighted blankets. Your support makes a world of difference—thank you!

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