Archive | March, 2019

Welllington – Snelling & Shields Ave B

University-Snelling housing developments en route to City Hall

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin


This simulated aerial view of the proposed Wellington housing development at 427 N. Snelling shows how it would fit into the surrounding neighborhood. The new Allianz Stadium is across Snelling, and directly in back of the building is Central Baptist Church. It does not show the proposed Scannell housing development at 441-453 N. Snelling Ave. (Photo provided)

Two six-story mixed-use buildings planned for the University-Snelling area won votes of support from Union Park District Council (UPDC) Mar. 6, and are now en route to City Hall. In February Wellington Management’s development at 427 N. Snelling and Scannell Properties’ development at 441-453 N. Snelling Ave. won recommendations of approvals from UPDC’s land use committee.

If both win needed city approvals, the University and Snelling area would likely have two large mixed-use projects under construction at the same time. That has impacts ranging from traffic and noise disruption for neighbors to concerns about how two adjacent churches and the many community services programs they run could be affected.

Both projects need the St. Paul Planning Commission to grant conditional use permits for additional heights and floor area ratio variances for increased density in the traditional neighborhoods 3 district. Developers hope to submit formal requests to the city this month.

With the developments under construction at the same time, committee members and neighbors said that good communication is essential. “It’s not every day you have two large developments going up next to each other,” said John Lassaux, Scannell’s development manager.

Representatives of Wellington and Scannell are working together on their plans and will work closely with church, commercial, and residential neighbors. Wellington’s project backs up to Central Baptist Church, and Scannell’s is adjacent to Bethlehem Lutheran Church-in-the-Midway.

Many church representatives were among the two dozen people attending the February land use committee meeting. “We’re so close, we wonder how we can not be affected,” said Tom Nichols, a member of Bethlehem Lutheran. That church recently replastered walls and repaired windows. Lassaux said the company would work with the church to try to mitigate possible damage and impacts including noise, dust, and traffic.

Open Hands Midway at the church feeds 150 to 300 people with a weekly meal and provides other services. Both churches host clothing closets, many support groups and programs, and Bethlehem Lutheran rents to a second congregation. “We don’t want to lose the great community work both churches do,” said Dean Nelson, co-chair of the land use committee.

“It’s a big change,” said Rev. Scott Simmons, Bethlehem Lutheran’s interim pastor. “We want to see where opportunities are and mitigate any challenges.”

But Simmons said his concerns go beyond the adjacent projects. He and others said they worry about gentrification and people being displaced from the area.

Image right: Architectural view of what the proposed building at 427 N. Snelling would look like. It would be be approximately 10 feet taller than the nearby Spruce Tree Center. (Image submited)

“We hear those concerns, and we’re not tone-deaf to that,” said Casey Dzieweczynski, Wellington project manager. Wellington is currently working on a mixed-use project with affordable housing and University Ave. and Dale St. He said the Wellington and Scannell projects would be among the first east of Fairview Ave. to be market-rate rather than affordable housing.

The buildings will also be among the tallest in the area. Spruce Tree Center, at the southwest corner of University and Snelling, is about 64 feet tall.

The Pitch, Wellington’s building, is six stories tall with 156 dwelling units and a proposed height of 74-75 feet. Dzieweczynski outlined project changes including enclosed drive-through lanes for tenant Bremer Bank and potential tenant Walgreens, and a proposal to vacate less of the north-south alley shared with Central Baptist. The alley will be truncated, which should reduce cut-through traffic for Roy St. residential neighbors southwest of the development site.

Pedestrian safety and the drive-through lanes were discussed by the land use committee. They asked Wellington to consider ways to mitigate any potential safety hazards.

Deliveries for future retail tenants will be off of Snelling, which raised concerns among audience members. They questioned how much traffic would back up along Snelling

Wellington needs a conditional use permit to allow for a height of 73 to 74 feet. The underlying zoning allows heights up to 55 feet. Site plan approval, a variance for floor area ratio for additional density, alley vacation, and a non-conforming use permit to continue drive-through lane use for commercial tenants are sought.

Wellington plans micro, studio, one and two-bedroom units in its U-shaped building. Two levels of underground parking are planned, with some first-level enclosed parking for retail customers. Wellington and Central Baptist are also working together on shared parking that would front Roy St.
Shields Ave. and a north-south alley will provide access for business drive-through and business and resident parking.

Scannell needs a conditional permit to allow a height of about 71 feet, as well as a floor area ratio variance to allow increased density.

Scannell’s building is to have 122 apartments in a mix of small and standard studios, one, two and three-bedroom units and 72 resident parking stalls. It will also have 5,700 square feet of commercial space.

Scannell plans 15 “public” parking stalls, which would be used by a tenant or the general public. The latter use raised questions from neighbors, who questioned whether soccer fans would vie to park there. How the spaces are used will likely be determined once a retail tenant is named.

Scannell’s parking would be accessed from Shields and Spruce Tree Dr., and a north-south alley. That is also where any retail deliveries would be made. Lassaux acknowledges that the alley is already a cut-through and that the developer and church need to work with city officials to see how that can be resolved.

Both developers are planning similar strategies to encourage transit use and reduce motor vehicle use, through ample bike racks and giving tenants a $50 transit card when they move in. There are some differences. Wellington wants to use parking along Snelling for its building. Scannell wishes to eliminate parking and widen its sidewalk.

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Cafe Biaggio 03

Café Biaggio to host annual St. Joseph’s Day Feast on Mar. 24

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Café Biaggio co-owner John D’Agostino in the restaurant named for his maternal great-grandfather, Biaggio. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

St. Joseph’s Day is a traditional Italian holiday celebrated around the world. Thanks to Café Biaggio co-owners John D’Agostino and Shari Breed, it will be observed in the Midway neighborhood too. Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily and recognized as the husband of the Virgin Mary.

D’Agostino said, “On Sun., Mar. 24, starting at 1pm, we’ll be serving our annual St. Joseph’s Day Buffet. There’s no charge to come and eat, though you can leave a donation for local charities and families in need. We bring any leftover food to the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, where the sisters serve the urban poor every day. This tradition was started locally by my mother 52 years ago at her restaurant ‘Sammy D’s’ in Dinkytown on the U of M Campus. ”

“Mama D,” as she was affectionately known, passed away in 2006 at the age of 95. “I told her I would keep this tradition going because it was important to her,” D’Agostino said. “In small towns in Italy, families still walk from door to door enjoying a dish at each home. Last year, we served about 700 people, and it’s not just for Italians. We get a lot of clergies; the sisters from the Visitation Monastery will bring a bus load of neighbors from North Minneapolis. People come who are poor, and who are not poor. In the old days, my mother’s friends and family would contribute dishes, but the Health Department doesn’t allow that anymore. Everything is prepared right here; we’ll make 100 pounds of meatloaf and about 40 pounds of mashed potatoes. We’ll have fish, vegetables, breads, and desserts—something for everybody.”

Sysco, Twin City Produce, and Greco and Sons are all generous donors to the event. D’Agostino and his business partner pay for the rest. D’Agostino said, “Last year, I watched a guy who came in for the St. Joseph’s Day Brunch. I could tell he was homeless. Afterward, he came over and said, ‘Thank you—this is the first good meal I’ve had in a long time.’ If we feed even one person out of the whole bunch who really needs it, then I think it’s worthwhile.”

Café Biaggio has been in its current location at 2536 University Ave. W. for 18 years. The menu is the owners’ interpretation of simple, rustic Italian foods found in small cafes in Chicago, on the East Coast, and throughout Italy. Many of the recipes have been handed down through D’Agostino’s family. Mama D’s classic antipasto salad, which first graced the menu at Sammy D’s Restaurant in the 1960s, remains unchanged.

Features of the “made-from-scratch” menu include homemade pasta, an all-Italian wine list, hand-turned gelatos, and an Italian specialty called semifreddo: a creamy, semi-frozen concoction made with amaretto, egg whites, and macaroon cookies.

Café Biaggio has a large parking lot behind the restaurant (enter from the Raymond Ave. side.) Regular hours are Mon.-Thur., 11am-9pn; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., 4:30-10pm; Sun. closed.



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Create, connect, craft at camps over the summer months

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Friends School, Hamline Young Writers, St. Paul Urban Tennis, St. Paul Ballet, Camp Como, and others make summer memories they’ll never forget

Create a cardboard castle, a cigar box guitar, or a Lego robot. Connect with long-time friends and make new ones while learning how to kayak, juggle or sew. Make a puppet, animated cartoon, stationary, or your own song. There are so many summer camp options in the Twin Cities area your kids will have trouble picking just one!
Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


Experience outdoor activities including swimming in an outdoor pool, horseback riding, use of a ropes course and climbing tower, group games, or hiking. Enjoy sensory crafts, gross motor activities led by a registered occupational therapist, music groups led by a board-certified music therapist, boating, and sports during a Wahode Day Camp in Eagen where campers arrive each morning and leave each afternoon. Two residential camps where campers stay several days and nights are also offered in northern Minnesota at several locations. AuSM camps are tailored for youth and adults with autism. AuSM camps are available for individuals ages 6 and up who are AuSM members.

Blackhawks offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.

Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!”. Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors. Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.

Free Forest School of the Twin Cities is a free group, open to young children and their parents or caregivers. This is a welcoming and non-judgmental group where parents and caregivers can practice giving children space and autonomy to explore and create in nature. Free Forest School meets every day of the week throughout the year at wilderness areas around the metro. Share a snack, take a hike, play in the woods, and have circle time. Parents get a chance to unplug and step back… Kids and their imaginations take the lead.
Cost: Free

Want to make a film just like the professionals? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that—and more—from June to August for ages 4-14. There are weekdays, half- and full-day options available. Extended daycare in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, and learn about life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language and song. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun with outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, fairy camp, and much more. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
651-487-6700 x202

Summer sessions for ages 6-14 are run by the University of Minnesota’s Rec & Wellness Camps. Camps also offered in partnership with MIA and Richardson Nature Center.

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Paint with pizzazz. Search out connections between visual art and creative writing, and explore the life of a story in journalism. Options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12.

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a “mommy and me” baby class.

Located at 30+ sites, with several locations in the Midway Como neighborhoods, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options for preschool and up, as well as day camps, overnight camps, Teen Wilderness, family camps, and more.



Be initiated into an ancient and esteemed House of The Realm, jump into live-action adventure gaming, build your own arms and armor, and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 8-17.

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.

Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun at one of four AHS locations,

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like puppetry, world cultures, If I had a Hammer, animation, art car, public art and activism, printmaking and more offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.

Write your own songs, start your own band, build cigar guitars from the ground up, and learn electric guitar.

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a free, seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions and one-day sampler camps offered for ages 6-15. New this year is Teen High-Flying Adventure Camp for ages 13-18.

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.

Campers have fun while gaining an appreciation for nature by meeting live animals, building forts, and getting their hands dirty during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.

Day camps exploring science, technology, and engineering are offered in partnership with local community education programs. Sessions, length and price are varied per location and type of camp for ages 4-14.

Make butter, ice cream and bread while learning about science, agriculture and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts during three four-day sessions.

Fiddle Pal Camp Minnesota is four days to discover, learn and play for children, adults and families at three locations.

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.

Experience the outdoors, or the lives of the engineers and grenadiers who called Fort Snelling home. Go back to the past and explore the stories of children who lived in Fort Snelling at Bdote area. Camps range from one to four days.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-13 at the Germanic American Institute.

Summer camps allow time for more in-depth projects, such as Wild & Wooly, Fairies, Critters, and Sea Creatures, for kindergarten and up.

Enjoy Summer Tennis in Minneapolis parks for ages 6-17. Free and reduced programs available.

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration and build self-confidence.

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway with daily field adventures.

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 120 classes available over ten weeks, including a Harry Potter Theme Week with giant Hogwarts Castle build.

There’s something for everyone—from the youngster just learning to put pen to paper to the seasoned high school senior with a novel already under her belt. Sessions run in week-long blocks July and August, full and half-day options available for ages 6-17.

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.

A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including baking basics, woodcarving, viola and cello, Ev3 robots, Hispanic Culture Camp, fencing, stop motion, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons, and weekly off-campus activity.
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Play music, get creative, bake bread and construct books while exploring the rich culture along the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.

With camps happening at the new Discovery Center in Minneapolis Uptown every week of the summer, as well as at various schools and educational partners around the Twin Cities, Snapology has got you covered for kiddos as young as 3 and as old as 14—Robotics, Coding, Science, Technology, Drones, Pre-K, Engineering, Architecture and more.

Learn about devised theater, music and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those preK to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.

Learn about track, motors, and controls and how the crew does their jobs at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum in Minneapolis. Each child ages 6-11 will have the chance to climb into the Motorman’s seat and run the car down the line.

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the week-long, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines—including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze.

Animal encounters, canoeing, hiking, swimming, pond-dipping, mud-mucking, and gardening adventures await for ages 3-13.

Painting, drawing, clay, theatre, writing, glass and much more for ages 6-14.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

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Como author publishes a life-long collection of short vignettes

Como author publishes a life-long collection of short vignettes

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Como resident Paul Kotz (photo right by Jan Willms) wanted to write a book for his daughters. “I was trying to write something that they might know their dad in a different way,” he said. A number of years passed and in 2018 Kotz published “Something Happened Today.”

It is still a book for his daughters, now young adults, but it is also a challenge to other readers to find something positive and unexpected in the simple experiences of everyday living.

His publication is some short excerpts that can be read in one or two sittings or can be read as a message a day to search for the positive elements of life.

Kotz, who initially came from a corporate background, has been an educator for the past 27 years. He currently teaches a doctoral program in leadership at St. Mary’s College in Minneapolis.

“I love to observe what is going on in the world,” Kotz reflected. “So I started writing stories, looking for good and hope in the world. I think a lot of it springs from seeing what people experience each day.”

Kotz said that, especially with his students, over the last 20 years he has seen a myriad of things happen, from the horrific to simple acts of kindness. And it is these acts of kindness that he has showcased in his book.

“There is a sense of humor throughout the book,” he continued, “but you also see ‘Oh, Wow! That happened?’ in its pages, also.”

One example he writes about is a young man named John, who has come from Kenya and needed a host family for a couple of weeks. Kotz and his family took him in, and a neighborhood celebration was being planned to welcome him. The evening before that took place; John learned his father had died.

Kotz writes about the feelings of joy in being welcomed to a new place while at the same time the feelings of sadness at losing a parent thousands of miles away.

“We had to make this into a celebration for John,” he noted. “We tried not to reflect on the loss, but at the same time we recognized it.”

On a different note, Kotz describes coming across a young man in LA Fitness who was screaming and yelling expletives. Kotz said he had his fears and was not sure whether to engage him. “I just told him I hoped it would get better. He swore at me again, but after a little time with this man, he let me know he was struggling; he had lost his job and broken up with his girlfriend, his car was not working, and he was in economic straits. Sometimes you just have to listen, and I wonder, are we doing that enough?” Kotz said. “Are we taking the time to listen and to care about others?

He said that in gathering the information for his book, he kept his ears open and his eyes receptive to people’s experiences.

“In my line of work when I hear a story or observe something, it is a gift just to take it in,” Kotz said. “As an advisor in St. Mary’s leadership program, people will ask me what they should do. They want advice on what their next step should be. In the grand scheme of things, I can’t give them advice, because all our stories are different. I have to stay open and listen.”

He said he listens and stays present and hears what is going on in the world. And this has been his experience in writing “Something Happened Today.”

“I love to write,” Kotz said, “and I will write about the things I see and the people I meet.” He said he might meet someone during the day and write it down that night, or think about an experience he had in the past couple days, and write it down.

He said his goal in teaching is to make his students better decision-makers and help them make better ethical decisions. He said some readers have asked him if his ideas are not too Pollyannaish. “They say you can’t trust people, because they will burn you.”

“My answer is yes, we have all been burned, but every person has some good in them. You don’t always see it, and sometimes you have to dig really deep.”

Looking back on his own life, Kotz said that there were always other people who would look out for him and steer him onto the right path. He was born in New York and came to Minnesota when he was 11. “I am now 55, and I have seen a lot in my life. But when I was young, if I would drift off the path I would have people who would tell me that if I wanted to be in this community, I needed to act a certain way. “

Kotz said there were always people who could see the goodness in him and see his potential. “A lot of kids don’t get that opportunity today,” he explained. “A lot of adults don’t get that opportunity.”

Kotz also mentioned the mentoring of strong women in his life, including his mother. She had a bumper sticker on her car that read “Women are natural-born leaders. You are following one.”

The students Kotz works with now are primarily adults, and he said they go through a lot. “How do you integrate work life with the rest of how you want to live your remaining days?” he asks them. And he tells them there is not a lot of time until they retire to savor the goodness, so why not start now?

“I go to bed, tired, with a lot of responsibilities like everyone else,” Kotz said. “But I wake up and ask God to help me be a better man. I am present to people. I sometimes don’t do the best job, but I try. And I start the day out that way and capture the good moments.”

Kotz said this book is a collection of surprises about what life has to offer. “I think the world is an amazing place, and I look for the good to see hope in society and that everybody has something good to give back. As a nation and as a world, it is imperative to keep this world going in a good way. We can really learn from others, and you can alter your perspective on how you deal with the daily grind of life.”

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Resurrection City Church 06crop slider

Resurrection City Church meets at Hamline Elementary School

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Julie (center left) and Joel Stegman (center right) are co-pastors of the newly planted Resurrection City Church, which meets weekly at Hamline Elementary School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Resurrection City Church (RCC) is a newly planted church that meets in the cafeteria of Hamline Elementary School on Sundays at 9:30am. Their vision is to glorify God by seeing people, the city, and the world made new in Christ.

Julie Stegman and her co-pastor husband Joel live near the State Fairgrounds. “We’d been working at a church in downtown Minneapolis,” Julie said, “but felt like we really wanted to be more a part of the community where we lived. It seemed like the right time to plant our own church. Hamline Elementary School was welcoming, and willing to let us rent.”

To hear Stegman describe it, starting a church from scratch is a lot like starting a business. “A team of about 35 people helped us turn our vision into a reality,” she said. “Most of them live in the Hamline- Midway or Como neighborhoods, and some are people we’d met at our previous church. The team helps us set up in the cafeteria every week, among a hundred other things. We’re all at the school by 7am on Sundays, unfolding chairs and making coffee.”

RCC appears to be a young congregation, with an average age of less than 30. There are a lot of young families moving into the neighborhood, and the congregation reflects that. Stegman said, “We have a strong emphasis on community here. There are small, community groups that meet in people’s homes throughout the week to pray and to be a supportive part of each other’s lives. We’re also involved in the broader community; several of our members volunteer at Hamline Elementary School through their Reading Partners Program.”

On the first Monday of each month, RCC sponsors a conversation at Groundswell Coffee called “Views and Brews” from 7-9pm. According to Stegman, “This is a time to talk about life and faith, and anyone can come. We’re very polarized in our country right now. It’s hard to have respectful conversations with people we disagree with—we’re hoping this will be a place to have respectful conversations about many different things. The next meeting is scheduled for Mon., Apr. 1. The March discussion topic was: is Christianity still relevant?”

Stegman said, “Obviously, we believe it still is. We chose the name of our new church carefully because we see the resurrection as the sign that Jesus was exactly who he said who he was. We believe that he’s making people new every day; and that these people are being called to make their city new, and the broader world they live in.”

Hamline Elementary School is located at 1599 Englewood Ave. The parking lot on Hubbard St. offers the easiest access, near the Rec Center. Dress is casual, and the fellowship time wraps up around 11am. There is childcare for children under five, with a secure check-in process. Brake Bread donates muffins and pastries, and the RCC provides coffee. Email co-pastor Julie Stegman at julie@rescitychurch.org with any questions.



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First public lecture at new United Theological Seminary tackles immigration issues

First public lecture at new United Theological Seminary tackles immigration issues

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

By Tesha M. Christensen
On Feb. 8 the first free public lecture at the new United Theological Seminary building, the topic was “Prayers of the Immigrants” presented by Paolo Naso, national coordinator of Being Church Together, a partnership between Protestant groups in Italy and North America.

He uses his skills and experience in immigration and communication to bring immigrants into Italy’s Waldensian and Methodist churches. Naso was a scholar-in-residence at United through early March.

“It’s very timely with what’s going on in the country right now,” remarked Gina Lotzer, assistant to the president, who pointed out that Naso is involved in how Italy is managing a flux of immigrants from Libya.

“We’re just really lucky to have someone of his caliber to be with us in our new space,” stated Lotzer. “Hopefully, we’ll have lots more events like this.”

Photo right: During a free public lecture on Feb. 8, Paolo Naso stated, “Tell me how you pray, and I will tell you what your immigrant experience is.” Naso is the national coordinator of Being Church Together, a partnership between Protestant groups in Italy and North America. The United Theological Seminary plans to hold more public events in the future. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Most immigrants are Christians
Religion and piety have always played a crucial role during massive migrations: both among many of those who welcome and assist migrants as well as among migrants who adopt religion as an essential tool of resilience, and Naso addressed the role that religion plays in global migrations. Immigration has led to a diversity of religious belief systems coexisting in societies in Europe.

In general, religious life in Europe is growing increasingly secularized. In Sweden, Estonia, and Denmark, only 10-19% claim a religious dimension in their personal lives. In Norway, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, and Finland it is 20-29%.

“In Sweden, church attendance is 4%,” said Naso.

After Catholicism, Islam is the second largest religion in Italy, Spain, and France. When it is seen, Islam is practiced in many different forms, and sometimes it is a secularized Islam. “Don’t consider Islam a monolith with just one dimension,” Naso encouraged. “Islam itself is fragmented.”

Yet in some countries, such as Italy, the majority of immigrants aren’t Muslim–they’re Christian, the Italian pointed out.

A significant change is coming to Christianity, Naso observed.

“In 25 years, the epicenter of Christianity will not be in the cathedrals of Europe, but in Africa,” Naso said. “Christianity is moving to the global south.”

In 2000, Europe had 560 million Christians. That will fall to 555 million in 2025. At the same time, the number of Christians in Latin America in 2000 was 480 million and will grow to 640 million in 2025; and the number of Christians in Africa was 360 million in 2000 and will grow to 633 million in 2025.
He stated, “In 2050, only one-fifth of the 3 billion Christians in the world will be non-Hispanic white.”

Naso quoted author and theologian Phillip Jenkins, “Soon the phrase ‘a White Christian’ may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as a Swedish Buddhist.”

The prayer life of non-Europeans and non-Americans looks different, Naso said. It often involves continuous movement and energy, as it embodies the struggle against evil. Immigrants might spend three hours praying.

The Americanization of African spirituality has led to prayers that link how much money someone has in their bank account to being a blessing from God.

Due to an anti-Islamic trend in Europe and lack of religious freedom, Muslims can’t build mosques, and so they pray in the streets.

Naso suggested that interfaith prayer might be a way to create social cohesion, and noted that the Pope is leading the way on that.

“We find that pastors need to be trained inter-culturally,” he observed.

The migrants who have been coming by boat to Italy and the migrants crossing the desert into America–what are they carrying with them?

“They are bringing the Bible as an example of identity and spirituality,” stated Naso. “Tell me how you pray, and I will tell you what your immigrant experience is.”

Many are working to dehumanize the immigrants in Italy by saying they are the reason the economy is not growing. Yet, immigrants “get the jobs Italians don’t want to do,” said Naso.

The humanitarian groups Naso works with seek to welcome immigrants and practice civil disobedience to help them. Their practical theology involves pastors going to the boats in the Mediterranean and praying.

“Thank you for coming and participating in this important conversation,” said Reverend Karen Hutt, a United vice president with responsibility for innovation. “You’re always welcome here.”




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Technology drives new United Theological Seminary space

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

United notes how religion is changing while continuing a strong social justice program in a busy corner of St. Paul

The floors in the new United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities space in the Case Building are plain concrete, but the technology in the classrooms is state-of-the-art.

United Theological Seminary President Lew Zeidner explained that the seminary used its money on improvements that would directly benefit students rather than on fancy flooring.

Large offices for staff didn’t make the cut either. At the New Brighton campus, “I had an office that a family of six could live in,” pointed out Zeidner, who served on the seminary board for eight years before being hired as president in July 2016.

Photo right: “For me, this is the kind of space contemporary students want to be in,” said United Theological Recruitment Specialist Silas Morgan. To serve their distance education students, each classroom has high-quality video cameras, microphones, speakers and screens so distance learners can more fully participate in classroom discussions. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

That old model isn’t one that United Theological Seminary copied at its new space in the renovated Case Building (767 N. Eustis St., Suite 140). Designed by Doug Pierce, an architect with Perkins and Will, Zeidner’s office is like all other offices and includes a crank sit-stand desk. Several of the offices house two staff, so there are a few rooms—called huddle rooms—that are set aside for meetings and phone calls, or used when a staff member needs to spread out.

“We put maximum dollars in student education space and technology—into things that matter in the training of students,” said Zeidner. He said that if he needs more space, he can go into the library and be among students.

When designing the seminary, they worked to balance open and airy with the work they do dealing with tough issues and the emotions they bring up, Zeidner remarked.

Classes for the spring term began at the new campus on Jan. 14, for the seminary’s 122 students.

Space contemporary students want to be in
“For me, this is the kind of space contemporary students want to be in,” said United Theological Recruitment Specialist Silas Morgan as he gave tours before a public lecture on Feb. 8.

The former campus in New Brighton consisted of about five acres with four buildings, while the new space in the Case Building is 25,000 square feet.
Morgan observed that the old space was so large that not all of it was used, and things were very spread out. With the newer space, students gather in the intersection between the library, classrooms, dining area and chapel.

“There’s a very different form to the space, and it’s very functional,” observed Zeidner. “There’s a vibrancy.”

“We love it here,” added Gina Lotzer, who is assistant to the president. “It is so nice to see students in this space. You can feel the energy here.”

Photo left: United Theological Seminary President Lew Zeidner stands in his simple office as he explained that the seminary used its money on improvements that would directly benefit students. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

A key feature of the new building is the Innovation Lab, a space for student projects from podcasts to artistic expressions of faith. Under the leadership of the Reverend Karen Hutt, a United vice president with responsibility for innovation, this lab will serve as a space for speakers and series, such as “The Art of…” series, and focus on topics such as improvisation and conflict resolution. According to Hutt, they also plan to serve the community by opening the lab and other parts of campus to caregivers and change makers who are seeking a place where they can be refreshed and re-energized for their work.

There are three classrooms, a conference room, computer area, “living room,” and several break-out rooms, as well as a mother’s room/meditation space and archive room.

To serve their distance education students, each classroom has high-quality video cameras, microphones, speakers and screens so distance learners can more fully participate in classroom discussions. Recognizing that learning takes place outside the classroom, the 25% of seminary students who are distant learners can also participate in student and faculty conversations in student huddle rooms, the Innovation Lab and even the dining area thanks to technology placed there.

While the library did downsize to accommodate a more compact footprint, most of the books came with to the new space and are stored on racks that can be rolled out and expanded.

Large windows allow lots of natural light, and there are also skylights and urban green space.

Practical ministry training
Ministry has changed significantly since United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities opened its doors in 1962. Founded by the United Church of Christ as an ecumenical seminary serving all Protestant denominations, today’s leaders recognize that faith leadership requires more than theological understanding. Whether seminary students become ministers, chaplains or nonprofit executives, they also must develop innovative, financially viable programs to address the needs of the populations they serve.

The staff believes that this new location in St. Anthony, near the Green Line, University Ave., Highway 280 and Interstate 94, will provide many opportunities for students to be involved in social justice work.

“This positions us right in the middle of the city,” observed Morgan.

“Religious leaders need to be comfortable outside of church buildings, working within diverse communities ministering to the needs of people in everyday settings,” said Zeidner. “Our new campus and innovation focus will ensure that students develop strong practical ministry leadership skills in ways that are well integrated with their rigorous academic training.”

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Environmental review petition further delays TCGIS project

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

An environmental review has put the Twin Cities German Immersion School construction progress on hold.

A team of Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA) members, led by Roy Neal, asked the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on Feb. 22, for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the proposed demolition of the former St. Andrew’s Church and the addition to the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS).

TCGIS officials view the petition as yet another delay tactic.

The EQB has determined that the petition is consistent with state requirements and that the city of St. Paul is the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) for determining the need for an EAW, pointed out SHSA member Bonnie Youngquist. “State rules governing environmental review (including EAWs) prohibit the city from taking final action on any zoning applications until all environmental review processes have been completed,” explained Youngquist.
Because of this, the planned Mar. 6 hearing on the appeals of the requested TCGIS variances and the site plan was canceled.

A City Council hearing on the appeals will be rescheduled after the city has either determined that an EAW is not needed or until an EAW process is completed.

In all, 126 people signed the petition asking for the review. Of them, 80 percent live outside the district, according to the District 10 Community Council.

Petitioner’s concerns
The petitioners have asked for a review citing four environmental impacts:
1. The loss of a significant and irreplaceable historic resource, the former St. Andrew’s Church
2. Increased traffic and safety concerns in a small, residential neighborhood
3. Increased noise levels from higher student population and more traffic
4. An increase in net carbon production near homes, and an unsustainable plan

The petition, and more description of the four points, can be read in its entirety at www.district10comopark.org/uploads/eaw_petition_partial.pdf.

According to the government website, “The EAW is a brief document designed to lay out the basic facts of a project necessary to determine if an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required for a proposed project. In addition to the legal purpose of the EAW in determining the need for an EIS, the EAW also provides permit information, informs the public about the project, and helps identify ways to protect the environment. The EAW is not meant to approve or deny a project, but instead, act as a source of information to guide other approvals and permitting decisions.”

Appeals on hold
The city had been planning to hear appeals on Mar. 6 by the Dist. 10 Como Community Council and by SHSA which had sought to overturn decisions by the Planning Commission.

If there had been no action, the school’s original variance requests would have automatically gone into effect on Mar. 26.

Both of those deadlines are now null.

District 10 filed an appeal on Feb. 19 questioning the Planning Commission’s Feb. 8 decision to not vote on the school’s most recent variance requests and site plan. According to the documents filed with the city, District 10 alleges that “the Planning Commission failed its fundamental role of ensuring that a project complies with the city zoning code. As a result, by a violation of law, three variances and a site plan that violate the zoning code will take effect. In reaching the point leading to its Feb. 8 action, the commission made errors in fact, finding and procedure.”

On behalf of SHSA, Kevin Anderson filed two appeals on Feb. 15, one pinpointing the TCGIS site plan and the other the three variance requests.

Both cite an error in procedure and decision at the Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting.

“The Planning Commission process has been incredibly confusing for everyone involved,” said Ward 5 Council member Amy Brendmoen. “I appreciate both parties’ appeals as it will provide the City Council an opportunity to evaluate the planning staff report and make an unambiguous decision.”

Historic preservation
The city has yet to decide on giving historic designation to the former church building, which would prevent the school from tearing it down and constructing a 25,000-square-foot addition.

The City Council may hold a public hearing on the issue on Wed., Mar. 20, followed by a City Council vote on Mar. 27.

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One block to change from one-way to two-way as part of traffic changes

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Long-awaited traffic study for Allianz Field development still not released six weeks before the opening game

A one-block section of Roy St. between Spruce Tree Dr. and Shields Ave. will be converted from one-way to two-way traffic, the St. Paul City Council decided Feb. 27. No date has been set for conversion, but it is expected before Major League Soccer starts at Allianz Field in April. Roy St. between Shields and St. Anthony avenues remains one-way going north.

The change is being made as part of the changes in the University and Snelling avenues’ area, in response to soccer stadium development. The traffic signal was removed at Snelling and Spruce Tree Dr. A new signal was placed at Shields and Snelling avenues. A median and fence were placed on Snelling south of University.

More changes could be possible, as the traffic study for Allianz Field and Midway Center redevelopment is supposed to be released soon. Initial studies were done a few years ago as part of an alternative urban areawide review, but area district councils, residents and businesses have waited many months for the more detailed study.

The change, which won support from the Union Park District Council, was discussed several weeks ago at a neighborhood meeting. It’s not exactly known why the block was designated for one-way traffic. Some longtime area residents believe it was an effort to prevent cut-through traffic from heading from University Ave. to Interstate 94 almost 50 years ago. Fry south of Shields and north of St. Anthony Ave. will remain one-way.

“This is only affecting one block that for many years has been a one-way street,” said Elizabeth Stiffler of St. Paul Public Works.

The street is wide enough to have two-sided parking, even with the traffic change. “I know parking is critical in that area,’ said Stiffler.

A neighboring church, Bethlehem Lutheran Church-in-the-Midway, 436 N. Roy St., raised concerns about parking and traffic. Another concern brought up by Interim pastor Scott Simmons is that the church had only a few days’ notice about the pending change and public hearing.

“We’re not necessarily opposed to the two-way idea,” Simmons said. “but we want to raise strong concerns about parking.” This winter, the snow is piled so high on city streets that two-sided parking and two-way traffic isn’t possible in many places. “You can’t get two-way traffic up and down that street now.”

Simmons spoke not just on behalf of the church but also for Open Hands Midway, a social services nonprofit it houses that serves up to 300 people each week with a meal and other assistance. Some services and meals are offered outside during the summer, with hundreds of people lining up for help.

Simmons also asked the city to consider looking on an ongoing basis at parking as well as traffic. The change to the Shields stop light has meant more cut-through traffic in a north-south Roy-Snelling alley beside the church. With new housing planned along Snelling, Simmons said there need to be measures taken to address traffic.

Ward Four Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson said she’d continue to work with the church, other neighbors and the district council. Changes can be made later to address traffic and parking concerns.

Owners of Spruce Tree Center and the Midway Chamber of Commerce, which has offices at Spruce Tree, weighed in to support the change. Other tenants of Spruce Tree, which is at the southwest corner of University and Snelling avenues, also support the change. A recently installed Snelling median means northbound motorists can no longer make a westbound or left-hand turn onto Spruce Tree Dr. Spruce Tree Center representative said the two-way street was offered as a way to address the traffic flow issues with changes to Spruce Tree Dr.

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Keane Sense of Rhythm 20

Keane Sense of Rhythm builds community through tap dance

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Ellen Keane and Cathy Wind have co-directed the Keane Sense of Rhythm dance studio and company for 22 years. They recently won a $5,000 grant from the UCare Foundation to expand the curriculum of their wildly successful Tappy Hour, which is offered free of charge at Can-Can Wonderland every Friday from 4-6pm. During Tappy Hour, anyone can borrow a pair of tap shoes and take to the dance floor for free tap dance lessons.

The focus of the UCare Foundation grant is health equity—with the goal of addressing wellness, lifestyle, and health improvement. In this case, Keane will use the grant to continue broadening the Tappy Hour mission of getting people to tap who wouldn’t normally come to a dance studio. The expanded curriculum will be developed into a series of classes and offered through St. Paul Community Education later this year.

Photo right: Ellen Keane (center) led the advanced class through a tap routine at the Keane Sense of Rhythm Dance Studio. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

How does tap dance improve health? “It integrates new neuropathways in the brain,” Keane said, “and helps people improve or maintain balance. It’s an aerobic way of moving; it requires strength and coordination.”

There will be two beginning classes offered at Central High School in the summer, and one beginning and one advanced beginning class in the fall.

Keane continued, “I want more people to have access to this way of expressing themselves, and to be able to socialize while improving their health.”

Tappy Hour attracts dozens of new and returning tappers every week. Both there and in her studio classes, Keane said, “I work hard at finding music that people instinctively want to move to. My roots are in jazz, but I’ve got a great collection of funk, country swing, and lots of old rock and Motown, as well as music from around the world.”

In another community initiative, Keane Sense of Rhythm has developed a comprehensive school program incorporating tap dance to enrich students’ after-school experiences. Their outreach in the St. Paul public schools introduces students to a new form of art. They’ve worked with over 2,000 students since the program began in 2008, and have expanded to six schools with Title I designation (a high percentage of low-income students).

Keane noted, “The improvisational and collaborative nature of tap dance and culture allow us to teach problem-solving skills, respect for diversity of voices and talents, how to accept leadership roles, and how to share knowledge by kids teaching peers.”

Keane Sense of Rhythm will be hosting their annual National Tap Dance Day Festival at Como Park Pavilion on Sun., May 19 from 1-3pm. The festival showcases percussive dance styles including African traditional, Irish step, Hollywood swing, and contemporary rap. The event is free and usually draws a full capacity crowd. “It’s a big deal for the kids,” Keane said. “Principals, teachers, and parents come to see our students from the studio and the after-school programs. There will be tappers of all ages and abilities performing, and dancers from other studios and affinity groups besides ours.”

Keane Sense of Rhythm is located at the Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Ave. Check the website at www.tapcompany.org for class times, or talk with Ellen Keane on Fridays between 4-6pm at the weekly Tappy Hour class at Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave. N. Kids are welcome too.

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