HU president discusses residential teardowns and priorities

HU president discusses residential teardowns and priorities

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

A university-community advisory group is being formed to bridge community and HU


New Hamline University President Fayneese Miller is telling campus neighbors and the activist group Historic Hamline Village to work together with her administration on the controversial issues of residential teardowns and campus expansion. But her message to “let it go” got a decidedly mixed reaction from a crowd of more than 125 people Oct. 14 at Hamline Church United Methodist.

With a self-imposed one-year moratorium on demolitions ending soon, many campus neighbors want to know what the new president has planned.

Miller’s message? “We are not ready to demolish a bunch of homes,” she said.

Feat8_14HamlineTearDownPhoto left: The “White House” at Hamline University, torn down as part of a number of properties that were demolished by Hamline University.

That message was welcomed by neighbors who are still unhappy about the sudden demolition several months ago of homes along Hewitt Ave., and the destruction of the White House, the former on-campus president’s home, a Greek Revival mansion. The university has a 2008 master plan that shows the demolition of 27 properties, mainly homes outside of the city-approved campus boundary. The recent loss of homes, as well as a citywide focus against residential teardowns, has galvanized the Historic Hamline Village group.

One focus was 1549 Minnehaha Ave., a home some neighbors want to be saved. Miller said there had been no offers yet on the property. It has been toured by interested parties. University staff has made sure the house is weatherproofed, and work has been done on the home’s exterior, but Miller has made no promises about the property’s future.

Miller repeatedly stressed her responsibilities for looking out for the university’s finances and economic health, noting that Hamline University is not a wealthy school. She defended the decision to tear down the White House by noting that it needed extensive work.

And while emphasizing that she wants to have a clean slate with neighbors and wants to do things differently than preceding administrations, Miller also made it clear that neighborhood preservation isn’t her top priority. Neighbors said they understood that but want it to be a priority. There were also some mixed feelings about being told to “let go” of what has been a hard-fought issue.

Miller also noted that one looming challenge is what to do with the university’s law school facilities when a planned merger with William Mitchell School of Law is completed.

Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark noted that while the request for a fresh start is understood, “The slate isn’t clean because there is history.” Stark said Miller’s attending the meeting was a chance to move forward.

Stark said he is looking for a funding source for a historic survey of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood. A survey could be used in the future if neighbors decide they want to seek conservation district status.

Historic Hamline Village spokespersons Robin Hemenway and Roy Neal reviewed their work over the past several months, restating their goals of saving homes and having a better relationship with the university. They outlined a list of priorities including asking that 1549 Minnehaha be saved and that a new campus master plan be considered.

Neal said that until Miller arrived, Hamline University didn’t see adjacent properties as historic. “They saw them as vacant lots,” he said. Neal, Hemenway and audience members said it’s important that the university considers creative solutions, such as selling back some homes, and using some homes as student houses for students learning a language or wanting to live with others who share their values and lifestyle.

Historic Hamline Village representatives also said they’d like better communications and ways to address what they see as inconsistencies between what the university is doing, and the district council and citywide comprehensive plan. One point repeatedly noted is that the neighborhood and city plans call for the preservation of homes.

Questions and comments from audience members were mixed. Some students spoke for more housing opportunities. Neighbors said they want better communication with the university. Some faculty members also criticized past school actions and said they hope a new administration is bringing positive change.

The group also reviewed an ongoing, citywide campus boundary study that is still being reviewed by the Planning Commission. A current recommendation that would affect the university is that if a lot’s primary structure is torn down within ten years, a college or university cannot add that property to its campus.

The meeting was also used to announce the formation of a university-community advisory group, the Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee or HUNAC. It will include a representative from the University, Historic Hamline Village, HHV, Hamline Church United Methodist, neighbors, Hamline Midway Coalition, and the city.

Neighbors can apply for committee spots as well. Deadline is Nov. 15. Submit applications to Mariah Levison, Minnesota State Officer for Collaboration and Dispute Resolution. Applications may be submitted via email to Mariah.Levison@state.mn.us, or mailed to 1380 Energy Lane, Suite Two, St. Paul, MN 55108. Levison can send applicants a form. Committee members will be announced by Dec. 15.

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Election: In with the new, in with the old

Election: In with the new, in with the old

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Four new school board winners will make up majority; council incumbents stay


The results are in, and St. Paul voters made it known that they want to see a completely new slate on the school board.  The four candidates who were selected to run with the backing of Caucus for Change, a movement supported by the St. Paul Federation of Teachers and comprised mostly of parents and teachers, easily won Tuesday’s election. The four winners also had the blessings of the city DFL endorsement.

Mary VanderwertMary Vanderwert (left), 64, was the leader with 17,777 votes that translated to 20.27 percent of the votes in a 10-candidate race.   She had stated that her 25-year career in early childhood education, both in the classroom and in administration, would be unique to the school board.

Zuki EllisComing in at second with 15,290 votes or 17.44 percent was Zuki Ellis (right), 41, a parent trainer for St. Paul Federation of Teachers’ Parent Teacher Home Visit Project.  Ellis had said that she hoped to leverage her community ties in working with educators, students and families to keep the district communicating better with the community. That lack of communication was one of the major faults the Caucus for Change cited against the present school board.

Jon SchumacherWith 14,652 votes, at 16.71 percent, Jon Schumacher (left), 63, came in third. He has been the executive director of the Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation since 1999. He called on his experience serving on school site councils and committees, his experience with board management, mediation and community building to strengthen his position as a school board member.

Steve MarcheseSteve Marchese (right), 48, a Pro Bono Director at the Minnesota State Bar Association, was the fourth candidate elected with 14,524 (16.56 percent) of the votes. Marchese emphasized the need for a more inclusive, transparent and effective district, one with clear goals, objectives and strategies for improving achievement.

The incumbent in the race, Keith Hardy, 52, had decided to run even though he was not endorsed by the DFL. Hardy, who has been the only African-American on the board for the past eight years, said he helped create the racial equity policy and anti-bullying policy in the school district and cited his practice of observing learning and authentically listening to principals, students, teachers and staff.

But that was not enough for voters who seemed to be in an anti-incumbent mood, and Hardy earned 8,548 votes, or 9.75 percent, to come in fifth in the election.

Following him were Linda Freeman, at 5,914 votes (6.74 per cent); Greg Copeland, 4,468 votes (5.10 percent); Scott Raskiewicz, 2,810 votes (3.20 percent); and Aaron Benner, who had dropped out of the race but received 2,660 votes, or 3.03 percent.  Rashad Turner had staged a write-in campaign, but it was not determined how many of the 1,047 (1.19 percent) write-in votes were for him.

City Council results
In the City Council races in the Monitor’s readership areas, the incumbents prevailed. Ward 1 saw Dai Thao, 40, running for re-election, earning 2,503 votes or 84.19 percent. His opponent, Trahern Crews, received 416 votes for 13.99 percent.  The number of votes for write-in candidate Mohamed Said was not available, but there was a total of 54 votes for write-ins, which was 1.82 percent.

Dai ThaoThao, who had earlier been elected as the first Hmong-American council member when he replaced Melvin Carter III, said during his two-year experience he had focused on social justice, affordable housing, road and pedestrian safety, parks and green spaces.
Crews, a spokesman for Black Lives Matter in St. Paul, had also been promoting social justice issues.

Russ StarkIn Ward 4, incumbent Russ Stark, 42, won re-election with 3,293 votes (61.36 percent).  His opponent, Tom Goldstein, 58, a lawyer by training, got 2,039 votes (37.99 percent). Write-in votes were 35 (.65 percent).

Stark noted among his accomplishments support of the Green Line high-quality streetscape and maintaining high-quality services despite flat or shrinking budgets.  Goldstein had taken an opposite view, criticizing Stark for doing little to prevent the light rail from harming existing businesses along University Ave.

Amy BrendmoenAmy Brendmoen, 45, succeeded in her re-election bid in Ward 5, with 2,202 votes at 56.23 percent. David Glass received 1.485 votes for 37.92 percent, and David Sullivan-Nightengale, 41, had 215 votes for 5.49 percent. Write-ins accounted for 14 votes (.36 percent).

Brendmoen stressed her accessibility to the community, ability to get a district council boundary change, increase of services and programming at the Como Lakeside Pavilion and increase in jobs were among the strengths she brought to the table.

Glass, who had been in a dispute with Brendmoen over his former restaurant in Como Park, stressed the fact that residents felt they had been left out of the city’s decision-making process.  He expressed concern about the lack of equipment in recreation centers and advocated holding neighborhood meetings.

Sullivan-Nightengale, a safety engineer, had raised concerns about safety issues in the neighborhood and the city.

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Como Ultimate Team

News from Como Park High

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Compiled by Eric Erickson, Social Studies Teacher

• The Academy of Finance (AOF) held its second annual Career Fair at school on Oct. 20.  Over 50 professionals came to spend the morning speaking with the 218 AOF students in small group settings.  Many ELL students also participated in the Career Fair, with many students being exposed to opportunities in finance, business and technology they were not aware of previously.  It was a successful event enjoyed by both the adults who shared their experiences, and the students who are creating paths toward higher education and employment.

• French College in the Schools (CIS) students from Como Park went to the University of Minnesota Field Day last month.  They spent the day with 350 fellow French students from around the Twin Cities interviewing professionals who use French in their careers, Francophone U of M staff and professors, and U of M students.  They also participated in a “French Fun Facts” scavenger hunt across the campus.  Madame Patricia Teefy said, “a great, enriching experience was had by all.”

• Keith Eicher has added another prestigious award to accompany his National Merit Scholarship Finalist status.  Keith was recently named a finalist for the National QuestBridge Scholarship.  This is a scholarship for high achieving, low-income students that provides students with full ride tuition, room/board, and books.  Only a select few in the country are deemed finalists for this scholarship.  Keith’s competitive application has been submitted as he continues onto next steps in the finalist round.

• The fall musical “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was performed on the evenings of Nov. 5-6 in the Como Auditorium.  The cast and choir also performed a dress rehearsal for Murray students that took a field trip to Como to see the production.  Leading roles were played by seniors Angel Khang and Erianna Jiles, juniors Madeline Moody, and Chimeng Lor, and sophomores Kou Lee, Anthony Phelps and Heather Rogers.

• The annual Close Up trip to Washington D.C. is slated for the first week of March, but fundraising is already in full swing.  Students from AP Government classes will be bagging groceries for customers at the Roseville Cub Foods on Larpenteur from 4-8pm on Tue., Nov. 24 before Thanksgiving.  Cub customers generously support the effort of the students with donations that help defray the expense of the educational adventure.  Three other full days of grocery bagging for the Close Up students are also scheduled for December during winter break.

Como Section 4A Champions• For the fourth consecutive year, the Como Boys’ Soccer Team won the Section Championship and qualified for the State Tournament.  After a very challenging regular season, the team persevered through the Section 4A Tournament to claim a berth in State.  The Cougars knocked off the #1 seed Mahtomedi in the semi-finals before proceeding to dominate Mounds Park Academy in a 3-0 victory in the championship game.

Entering the State Tournament with a record of 9-6-5, the Cougars were unseeded and placed in the bracket against #2 seed Orono, who entered the tournament with a record of 19-1.  Snow covered the field for the game on Oct. 28, but Como played tremendously before eventually falling in overtime by a score of 2-1.  Coach Jonah Fields said the team going to State was “a special reward for their hard work and determination.” (see photo)

• The brother and sister cross country running duo of Innocent Murwanashyaka and Florence Uwajenza are the St. Paul City Champions, each crossing the finish line first in their respective races at the Como Golf Course on Oct. 20.  Senior captain Mary Miles finished in 2nd place, while senior Geleto Roba finished 6th on the boys’ side.  Innocent followed up his City Championship on Oct. 28 with a 3rd place finish in the Section Meet, qualifying for the State Meet at St. Olaf College on Nov. 7.

• Como’s Volleyball team won the St. Paul City title for the 2nd time in 3 years.  The Lady Cougars wrapped up the conference crown at home in the Como Gym on Oct. 22 with a 3-0 win over Central.  The team posted an overall record of 19-6 (11-1 in the conference), before falling to Holy Angles in the section tournament.

Como Ultimate Team• Como’s Ultimate Frisbee Team once again traveled to Winnipeg, Canada during MEA weekend to participate in the annual “Hold Back The Snow” tournament.  This unique tournament is co-ed, with boys and girls playing on the field at the same time, against international competition.  The Como Ultimate players stayed with host families in Winnipeg, building international relationships with peers from the St. John’s Ravenscourt School.  Como’s longtime Ultimate Frisbee advisor and coach Ross Savage describes the tournament as “spirited, fun, and sportsmanlike.” Seventeen student-athletes on the team experienced that spirit last month, as have hundreds of Como alumni who also played the role of international ambassadors through their dedication to Ultimate Frisbee. (see photo)

• Give to the Max Day is Nov. 12!  Please consider an online donation to the Como Booster Club now and help support the extracurricular activities, athletics and clubs that expand student opportunities and experiences at Como.  Last year the Booster Club provided supplemental support to the school’s diverse cultural clubs, athletic teams, art and music programs and sponsored the following activities: Homecoming, Taste of Como, and the Senior All Night Party.

To donate, please go to https://givemn.org/organization/comoparkboosterclub
Donations of $100 or more received on or before November 12th will be entered into a drawing to win a Power Cougar Jacket and other great prizes. Your donation, large or small, directly benefits Como students.

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Proponents plead for projects left out of capital improvement list funding

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Capital projects to be approved next month
Several capital improvement projects are headed for approval at year’s end as part of the 2016 city budget. But proponents of projects left out are still making their case for funding. That includes the boosters of the Victoria Theater in Frogtown, who filled a city budget meeting room in October to ask that $200,000 previously allocated be restored.

City Council members said they are seeking money to restore the old theater near University and Victoria, but that they need to find the funding it is eligible for. One possible source is sales tax dollars.  The Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) recommended funding for Victoria Theater, but city staff said it isn’t eligible for the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds suggested.

Mayor Chris Coleman also cut funding recommended for the Model Cities Central Exchange mixed-use development near University and Victoria to reallocate funds and balance the capital budget. He also dropped funding for work on the long-planned Pierce Butler Route expansion. That was shelved because city officials are concerned about project costs and want to see a sustainable source of long-term money identified before a multi-million dollar project moves ahead.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao said he wanted to see funds restored for the projects. He is especially concerned that the theater restoration project will lose momentum. He is also unhappy that area residents who have waited for Pierce Butler Route reconstruction must continue to wait.

Several area projects are still in the running for city dollars, including Hamline-Midway neighborhood’s May Park improvements, relocation of Fire Station 20 in the Cretin-Vandalia area, Frogtown’s Scheffer Recreation Center design, and work on Frogtown Farm Park on Minnehaha Ave. But, unless there is change, other projects including additional work at Dickerman Park at University and Fairview, and completion of the Charles Avenue Bicycle Boulevard, will languish.

The committee and its citizen task forces spent several months reviewing more than 130 projects and city programs. Requests totaled more than $166 million, far more than was available. For 2016-2017, the committee allocated $22 million in capital improvement bonds, $14.8 million in municipal-state aid (MSA) and $8 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars.

Funding site cleanup
Two Midway area redevelopment sites are vying for regional funding. The St. Paul City Council Oct. 28 unanimously approved several applications for funding. The city’s Department of Planning and Economic development (PED) will seek contamination cleanup and investigation grants for the former Sholom Home site at N. Snelling Ave. and Midway Pkwy. and the former Lexington Branch Library at 1080 University Ave. They are seeking the grant funds from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account Program.

Both sets of applications were due Nov. 1. West Side and Highland neighborhood projects are also vying for funding.

Both sources of funding are frequently tapped by the city for cleanup and site redevelopment. Several redevelopment sites along Green Line light rail have reaped the benefits of the funding.

In the case of each type of grant, the city typically applies in conjunction with developers and acts as an administrator the grants if they are obtained.

The city is a participant in the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Grant Program, which allows it to apply for grants including the tax base grant project.

A decision on the grants is expected by year’s end or early 2016.

Development project is still vacant, city says
One of University Avenue’s many redevelopment projects hit a road bump Oct. 21. The St. Paul City Council voted to assess a $2,025 vacant building fee on the developers of the former Old Home Dairy building at University and Western avenues.

A partnership of Sand Companies and Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation is working together as Old Home Plaza LLC to redevelop the former dairy building into mixed-use development. New housing is under construction behind the building. The project will create 60 units of housing. Total cost is $16.9 million.

The original dairy building is considered historic and is more than 100 years old.

The developers and city officials have been debating the building’s status since March.

City building officials contended that the original Old Home structure needed to be re-registered as a vacant building. The developers objected, noting that they have pulled the required permits needed to renovate the building and are working with city officials on redevelopment. They questioned whether they should continue to pay  the vacant building fee. But developers didn’t attend public hearings to contest the fee.

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‘Tis the season: time for fairs, festivals, and dinners!

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Calvin

Central craft fair scheduled Nov. 14
Central Lutheran School, 775 N. Lexington, is hosting their 3rd annual craft fair on Sat., Nov. 14, 9am-3pm. Local vendors will be there selling creative gifts, and refreshments will be available. Please come and join them for a fun shopping event.

St. Columba hosts dinner and bingo
St. Columba Church, 1330 Blair Ave., is planning Turkey Bingo, Nov. 14, 6:30pm. Adult tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and include a Turkey buffet dinner with beverage plus two Bingo cards for each game. Bingo play runs about 2 hours with chances to win turkeys as well as special prizes and drawings. Doors open after mass at 5:30pm with dinner and bingo starting at 6:30pm. For more info or tickets call 651-646-4419 or the parish office 651-645-9179.

Fall craft and bake sale set for Nov. 21
Zion Lutheran Church, 1697 Lafond Ave., will hold its annual fall craft and bake sale on Sat., Nov. 21. from 9am to 1pm. Crafts, bakery, raffle, and recycled Christmas decorations will be for sale. Cookies and coffee will be for sale throughout and a lunch for $4 will be served from 11-12:30. For additional information call 651-645-0851.

Art and Craft Fair scheduled Dec. 5
For more than 15 years, St. Paul landmark GINKGO coffeehouse (721 N. Snelling Ave.) has hosted an art and craft fair for local artists. The 2015 fair is planned for Sat., Dec. 5, 9am-4:30pm.

This shopping opportunity showcases 15 local artists, with unique, high-quality items at reasonable prices. The products include handmade glass beads, knit and felted items, quilted products, wooden items, metal sculptures, chain maille and other types of jewelry, and much more.

For more information or to  find out about participating in this year’s fair, call 651-645-2647 or email kathy@ginkgocoffee.com.

Annual sale now through December
Nettie and Friends 12th Annual Sale of the Season is open daily through December from breakfast through 2pm at Egg and I, 2550 University Ave. W. (University and Hwy. 280). The sale features creative, hand-crafted gifts, with the benefits going to benefit Maxwell School.

Holiday craft fair planned Dec. 5-6
The 12th annual Holiday Craft Fair will be Dec. 5-6, at Roseville City Hall. Spread out over two levels, more than 70 local crafters and artists will be selling their all-handmade wares. Items include soaps and balms; natural stone, fused glass, beaded and other fine jewelry; photography; pottery; knitted items; fairy and bird houses; paintings; fine chocolates and delicious canned jams; and so much more. And once again the annual Bake Sale by the Friends of Roseville Parks (FOR Parks) will be onsite, Saturday only, raising money to support all the parks in our city.

After a bit of shopping, take a break and sit down with a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

Coffee and food will be served up by Dunn Brothers (Fairview Ave. location).
Sale hours are 10am-4pm on Sat., 12-4pm on Sunday. There’s no admission charge and free parking. Roseville City Hall is located at 2660 Civic Center Dr.

The Holiday Craft Fair is put on by volunteers from the Harriet Alexander Nature Center (HANC); all vendor fees go to HANC to support environmental education programs. For more information about the event, including a list of participating crafters and a gallery of some of their work, go to HolidayCraftFair.com.

Craft, art, and bake sale planned Nov. 21
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 285 N. Dale St., is planning their annual Craft, Art, and Bake Sale for Nov. 21 (9am-3pm) and Nov. 22 (10am-3pm). In addition, Kim Tann, the pastor’s wife, will stop your cravings for stir fried rice and egg rolls; to go, or to eat while you shop.

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New Midway group takes aim at senior health

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Calvin

On Sat., Oct. 3, the Hamline Midway Health Movement (HMHM) will partner with Hamline Elementary School’s Fall Festival in a local scavenger hunt. Participants will walk from Hamline Elementary south on Snelling Ave., visiting local businesses and then return to the school. ‘Hunters’ will be given a Bingo game card with a listing of the participating local businesses noted on the card.

The goal of the scavenger hunt is for participants to walk into the businesses named on the card and receive a sticker from that business. Once the card is filled, the participants will return to Hamline Elementary and enter their completed card in a drawing for a grand prize. The Fall Festival will take place between noon and 4pm on the Hamline Elementary School grounds.

HMHM hopes the event will benefit the community in several ways. Participants will receive the benefit of exercise, fun, socialization, and getting to know neighborhood businesses. Local business will benefit from the prospect of new customers. Participating businesses are encouraged to provide the ‘hunters’ with a business card or flyer; perhaps a coupon or some other incentive to encourage our hunters to purchase from that store. This event wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of the local businesses along Snelling Ave.

Together with our community partners, we hope to improve the health of Hamline Midway adults over the age of fifty and have the Hamline Midway community be known as a “wellness district.”

HMHM is a volunteer, community-based, “grass roots” initiative whose goal is to inspire and engage seniors in the Hamline Midway area to incorporate healthier lifestyle choices into their daily lives.

Within the Hamline Midway senior community, the HMHM will host monthly educational and informative seminars, as well as provide physical and social activities with the goal of increasing the awareness and importance of self-care and prevention strategies. The larger intent is to reduce chronic health issues and the subsequent unsustainable dependency on healthcare services and a diminished lifestyle. Most importantly they hope to address the physical, mental, social and emotional concerns seniors experience and help them live their lives more fully and continue to be contributing and integral members of our community.

HMHM is in the early planning stages, but already there is synergy between this group and the community. The goal is to host a free, once-a-month gathering for Hamline Midway seniors. It could be followed by the educational programs on such topics  as Alzheimer’s and dementia, resources for caregivers, end-of-life planning, managing limited finances, teaching basic computer skills, gardening tips etc. Attendees will receive a light, healthy dinner, followed by activities such as educational speakers, exercise programs teaching yoga and Tai Chi, organized walking groups, ballroom dancing, board games, and yes, Bingo.

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St. Paul moves to encourage soccer stadium in the Midway

Posted on 09 September 2015 by Calvin


If a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium is built near Snelling and St. Anthony avenues the site would be exempt from property taxes. That exemption, adopted unanimously Aug. 26 by the St. Paul City Council, is in a non-binding resolution that outlines other goals for the property.

One goal is that the team owners build and operate a facility entirely with their own money. Another is that any stadium deal should involve payments to Metropolitan Council, which owns the 10-acre site. Those payments, suggested by Council President Russ Stark, would be used to support operations of the region’s transit system.

Council members Chris Tolbert and Dai Thao brought forward the resolution seeking the tax exemption for the 10-acre site. They noted that the property, which was the site of the Metro Transit bus garage or bus barn for more than 50 years, has been tax-exempt for that length of time. The resolution also states that a soccer stadium could be the needed catalyst to spur redevelopment of the bus garage site, as well as 25 adjacent acres owned by RK Midway. Much of that property is now occupied by Midway Center.

Stark said his intent in amending the resolution was to emphasise the long-awaited development of the entire Midway Center superblock. In 2011, the shopping center and adjacent land were the focus of the Snelling Station Area Plan, developed in conjunction with the Green Line light-rail service. More recently, RK Midway, City, and Metropolitan Council members, have developed a long-range plan to redevelop the site. Getting the long-awaited redevelopment in motion is another goal.

Stark amended the resolution to ask that a stadium accommodate many other uses and public events.

The amendment also asks that “a fair, sensible plan can be developed for the construction of needed public infrastructure around the site.” This infrastructure would include streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, park or public space, shared parking and storm water management. The adjacent Midway Center, bus barn property, and another vacant parcel have been eyed for various redevelopment ideas for more than three decades. But costs of infrastructure have been a hurdle.

Soccer team owner Bill McGuire has indicated that if the Midway site is chosen, the team would like additional land for offices and spinoff development. But that has raised concerns about current Midway Center tenants, who worry if they could stay. Big Top Liquors could especially be affected because of the city’s one-half mile distance requirement between off-sale liquor stores. A move could put that store out of compliance, and it could be forced to relocate.

Stark said one thing everyone can agree on is that the vacant property needs to be redeveloped. Even if a soccer stadium isn’t built there, the recent focus on the site could bring in other proposals. He called the current site conditions “unacceptable.”

The property tax exemption for the stadium would require approval from the Minnesota Legislature. There would also be federal approval, as well as Metropolitan Council approval required to sell the site, as federal dollars were used for the bus garage years ago.
City Council members said they have heard a range of comments for and against a soccer stadium and the property tax exemption. While city officials would like to see MLS soccer in St. Paul, “obviously this doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Tolbert. “There’s no deal.”

But the resolution does send a positive message about the site and its advantage sincluding proximity to I-94. and bus and rail transit.

“I know there’s a lot of fears and uncertainty about the possibility of a stadium,” said Thao. The site is in his ward. “This says what we’re willing to offer and what we’re not willing to compromise on.”

Stark, whose ward is adjacent to the site, said he too has heard support and opposition. He acknowledged that the discussions have moved very quickly and that there’s been concern about having neighborhood input. Union Park District Council (UPDC) drew a large crowd to a community input meeting this summer and is continuing to gather neighborhood feedback. This summer UPDC voted to support studies of the possible soccer stadium if development planning incorporates the entire superblock.

But the vote has drawn criticism from City Council candidates Jane Prince, David Glass and Tom Goldstein, who are running in Wards Seven, Five and Four. All have been vocal on social media against any stadium proposal. Prince posted a picture of a deteriorated East Side recreation center soccer field to make a point about the city supporting the wrong priorities.

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Development Roundup

Posted on 09 September 2015 by Calvin


Dickerman Park development means parking changes for Griggs Midway
Development of Dickerman Park along University Ave. means the Griggs Midway Building Corporation must vacate space it has used for many years for parking. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, voted unanimously Aug. 12 to approve a forgivable loan of up to $200,000 to assist with a parking lot redevelopment project.

Funds will come from the Neighborhood Commercial Parking Pilot Program, which wasset up by the HRA in 2009 during Green Line light rail construction.

The Griggs Midway Building Corporation owns five buildings on the block at the northeast corner of Fairview and University. Two of the buildings front on Dickerman Park, which is being reclaimed by the Department of Parks and Recreation after decades of private use for parking. That eliminates about 57 parking spaces. Also, a parking lot was developed along Fairview that encroaches upon city right-of-way. Another 27 parking spaces will be lost as the city also wishes to reclaim that property.

Redesigning parking behind and beside the Griggs Midway complex will make up for most of the lost parking. Because it is within one-quarter mile of an LRT station, there are no parking requirements for Griggs Midway. No additional city or HRA approvals are required. No existing businesses will be displaced or relocated.

Groundbreaking for Prior Crossing planned Sept. 21
Construction starts this fall on a University Ave. site just east of Prior Ave. The groundbreaking event for Prior Crossing, as the housing is called, will take place Mon., Sept. 21, 5-6:30pm, at 1949 University Ave. State and local officials expected to attend include St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Rep. Alice Hausman, Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark, and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Mary Tingerthal.

The building will house Ramsey County’s first supportive housing for youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness. It will be within blocks of the Green Line’s Fairview station, making housing conveniently accessible to both downtown areas and plenty of job and educational opportunities.

Capital funding for the 44-unit, $10.7 million project was finalized with $8 million in state tax credit funds awarded to Beacon in 2014 when the state legislature authorized $100 million for affordable housing bonds. Other public funders include the City of St. Paul ($1.1 million) and the Metropolitan Council ($927,000). St. Paul Public Housing Authority awarded the housing 32 Section 8 project-based vouchers that will keep rents affordable.

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, working with The House of Hope Presbyterian Church and other local congregations and the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, made Prior Crossing a reality. The House of Hope congregation donated $500,000 in initial funding to leverage further private and public capital and operating funds. Wilder Foundation will provide on-site supportive services to the 44 young tenants who will live at Prior Crossing.
Raymond Ave. Flats project moves ahead with changes

The Raymond Ave. Flats project can proceed, but with changes meant to mitigate its impacts on the University-Raymond Commercial Heritage Preservation District. The St. Paul City Council unanimously upheld an appeal last month by Exeter Group and overturned project denial by the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).
Planned is a five-story, 119-apartment addition to the General Motors Truck Company Building at 2390-2400 University Ave.

“This was a difficult one,” said Council President Russ Stark. The development is in his ward. Stark said he could support the project with changes in design that would balance the site’s traditional neighborhood zoning and its historic district issues. The design changes have already been submitted to city officials.

Stark also asked Exeter to work with the HPC staff on issues including placement of HVAC equipment, demolition of a chimney, and exterior materials for new construction.
Thomas Nelson, who is leading the project for Exeter, said the developers are satisfied with the outcome. “We’ve agreed to the changes and will continue to work with the city,” he said.

The historic district is centered on historic industrial and warehouse uses, the West Midway trucking industry and the Minnesota Transfer Railroad. The projects’ building is considered contributing to the historic district.

Stark said that the project changes should address concerns that HPC raised in its June vote to deny the project. He said that some HPC findings are speculative. One of the concerns the HPC raised was that extensive alterations to the building could potentially affect the historic status of the property and possibly, the entire historic district. But Stark questioned that, as did consultants hired by the developers.

The truck company building, which was built in 1928, is one story high. It is between two multi-story buildings. It is L-shaped and wraps around the former Twin Cities State Bank. It is west of another Exeter project, the seven-story C&E Lofts. Until recently the building housed an armored vehicle company.

Streetscape project gets support from city
Allocating $1 million from the city’s sales tax revenue Pay-Go Economic Development Fund will help cover costs of Snelling Ave. streetscape work, as well as planning for the former Ford Motor Company site redevelopment, commercial zoning vitality funding, the St. Paul Design Center budget, and other projects. But the Aug. 19 vote by the St. Paul City Council wasn’t unanimous as council members Dave Thune and Dai Thao voted against.

The program, which was set up last year by the City Council, is meant to provide flexible approach to commercial revitalization throughout the city by investing in neighborhood commercial corridor districts that have assets with potential, organizations with capacity, and community-developed plans. The intent is to leverage other investment. Most of the funding goes for plan implementation, with a smaller amount toward planning.

Thao objected to a $75,000 allocation to reduce street assessments and help pay for streetscape work along Snelling Ave. in Hamline-Midway. The street is being rebuilt this year to accommodate the A Line rapid bus improvements. He contended that other businesses have also had to pay high street assessments. But other council members noted that the city has reduced other assessments in commercial districts in the past, including along Green Line light-rail.

The allocations also included $200,000 for Ford planning, $50,000 toward the design center and its work implementing various community plans, and projects on Rice St., Payne Ave., Phalen Village, and E. 7th and Arcade streets.

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Monitor in a Minute

Posted on 09 September 2015 by Calvin

Compiled by JANE MCCLURE

Campus boundary study postponed over objections
A campus boundaries study, which would restrict how St. Paul colleges and universities use properties they own outside of their boundaries, has been postponed. The postponement would give St. Paul Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff more time to discuss issues with college and university officials.

That delay disappoints area residents concerned about Hamline University’s trend of buying houses outside of its boundaries and tearing them down. The university’s year-long, self-imposed moratorium on further teardowns expires this fall.

But after a public hearing last month where college and university officials objected to the study and its recommendations, a Planning Commission committee voted Aug. 26 to table the study and allow for more discussions. Hamline University, University of St. Thomas and Macalester College complained that the proposed restrictions were too onerous.

According to city staff, the recommendations are meant to discourage institutions from buying properties outside of their city-approved boundaries and tearing them down. The proposed zoning code change states that any property where the primary structure has been demolished within the past 10 years shall not be eligible for inclusion in a college, university or seminary boundary. The intent is to have more discussion about future use of those properties. Once a building comes down, that is seen as changing the surrounding neighborhood.

Trend Bar fined
A University Ave. bar has been penalized after an employee took part in charitable gambling on the premises. The St. Paul City Council last month imposed a $500 fine on the Trend Bar, 1537 University Ave. The bar owner didn’t appeal the decision or ask for a hearing before the City Council.

The council action stemmed from an April complaint to the city. The Minnesota Gambling Board found that a bartender/employee had been gambling at the Trend Bar, collecting $3,800 in pull-tab winnings in March. State law and city code prevent employees of an establishment that offers charitable gambling from taking part in gambling there.

Bars in St. Paul offer pull-tabs in conjunction with nonprofits. The pull-tabs in question would have benefitted Adonis Eco-Housing, a nonprofit that works on affordable housing issues. When pull-tabs are sold at a bar, workers can sell the pull-tabs at a booth. Or, pull-tabs can be sold at the bar. It’s up to the nonprofit to provide training for bar staff.
The Minnesota Gambling Control Board is reviewing the case and will decide whether it will take action against Adonis Eco-Housing. After the incident was reported, the nonprofit no longer sells pull-tabs at the Trend Bar.

Park plans materialize
A 5.4-acre site along Griggs St. will become a park as a result of St. Paul City Council action Aug. 19. The council approved spending $1.5 million from the city’s 8-80 Vitality Fund toward acquisition of the property, which is one-half block south of University Ave.
The park will extend south to St. Anthony Ave. along the east side of Griggs. The concept for the park was brought forward by Gordon Parks High School students and has been known since 2011 as Three Ring Gardens Park. That name was chosen because the area was known historically as “Circus Hill”—traveling circuses would set up there. City officials have been using the name “Lexington Commons.”

City officials will work with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit group that helps units of government purchase and preserve space for parks use. The Trust recently helped the city buy the a Frogtown for conversion into an urban farm and park space there. The Trust will help with fundraising for the project.

Much of the Griggs St. property was used for years as parking lots for University Ave. motor vehicle dealerships. The site is between the Central Medical Building and current Wilder Foundation complex, and Skyline Towers and commercial-industrial development. The property has three owners.

The Trust for Public Land will raise $1.035 million for the project.

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Como 9th grade orientation

News from Como Park High School

Posted on 09 September 2015 by Calvin

Como 9th grade orientationBy ERIC ERICKSON

• Photo left: Freshmen Orientation for Como High’s class of 2019 included get-to-know you activities in the school gym on Thur., Sept. 3 with leadership from Como’s Link Crew. The first day of classes was Tue., Sept. 8.

• Principal Theresa Neal collaborated with Sharon Sayles Belton to host the Como Park faculty at the Thomson Reuters corporate office on the morning of Mon., Aug. 31. Sayles Belton is the Vice President of Community Relations and Government Affairs at Thomson Reuters, former Mayor of Minneapolis, and longtime friend of Neal. The two leaders helped arrange a new Como partnership with the multinational mass media and legal business firm that was formerly West Publishing.

Como staff boarded school buses on Mon., Aug. 31 to attend informative sessions with Thomson Reuters’ senior management about 21st century work expectations and desired skill sets for future employees. Consistent themes emphasized were collaboration, communication, global awareness, adaptability, cultural competencies and a growth mindset. Financial Literacy was also a key theme and component that the employer covets, dovetailing with Como’s successful and growing Academy of Finance (AOF). Como teachers and staff identified overlapping and consistent goals that coincide with Thomson Reuters’ and are looking forward to connecting Como students with ongoing opportunities, such as internships and employment, that will be supported by the partnership between Como and Thomson Reuters.

• Como Park Robotics (aka BEASTBot) took part in “Robots Invade the Plaza” at 3M on Friday, August 7. The team networked with other teams and employees from 3M, Como’s largest financial sponsor during the STEM-focused summer festival. The team is recruiting new members and mentors for this upcoming season. Please contact beastbot2855@gmail.com with any questions or interest.

• One of Como’s teachers performed at the State Fair on STEM Day, Thur., Aug. 27. Donna Norberg, a science teacher, is also a member of the University of Minnesota’s Physics Force – an outreach troupe promoting physics to primary audiences of elementary and middle school students. The Physics Force brought the physics fun for three shows throughout the day at the Carousel Park stage.

• Five Como teachers recently spent a week participating in the BestPrep Technology Integration Workshop. Sessions included strategizing tactics and methods to increase student engagement and achievement. As part of the workshop, teachers also spent an afternoon job shadowing professionals at Travelers in downtown St. Paul. Discussions centered on the “soft skills” that students need to be successful after high school.

• Freshmen Orientation was held on Thursday morning, Sept. 3, with Como’s Link Crew! Link Crew consists of upperclassmen mentors and leaders that help all freshmen become associated with their new school and guide them throughout the school year. 50 juniors and seniors spent parts of their summer in leadership training, and enthusiastically welcomed the class of 2019 with activities to get their Como careers off to a great start. (see photo)

• Students and the community will be celebrating Spirit Week and Homecoming beginning Sept. 14. Events include dress up days during the week, along with the “Battle of the Classes,” Homecoming Coronation, and Fall Sports Pep Fest at an assembly. Homecoming games at Como during the week include:
—Volleyball on Thur., Sept. 17 at 7pm vs. Johnson;
—Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer on Fri., Sept. 18, vs. Humboldt (boys at 3:15pm, girls at 5pm); and
—Football on Sat., Sept. 19, vs. Concordia Academy at 2pm. The football game will be played at Griffin Stadium.

• Sat., Sept. 19 will be the annual Homecoming Parade, beginning from the school at 11am. The parade route runs north on Grotto, turning left on Wheelock toward the lake, then left on E. Como Blvd. before heading back into the school grounds. The parade will feature Como’s marching band, sports teams, academic groups, the Cadets from the MCJROTC and more. Parents, neighbors, friends of the community, and alumni are invited to line the parade route and then attend the picnic at school following the parade.

• Sports fans can check schedules for all Como and St. Paul City teams at sports.spps.org.

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