Archive | COMO


Eight Como staff members retire

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como’s virtual commencement ceremony on June 1 successfully celebrated each of the 248 graduates from the Class of 2020.

Como Park Senior High School

By Eric Erickson
Social studies teacher

The 2019-2020 school year has concluded. Distance learning during the coronavirus became even more challenging following the fear and destruction in the community surrounding the death of George Floyd.
The Class of 2020 endured a teacher strike, global pandemic, economic collapse, a societal tragedy and civil unrest during the spring of their senior year without the ability to process with peers and teachers in person.
As many have suggested, 2020 could be a chapter in future history textbooks all by itself, the scope of which has completely overshadowed the accomplishments of a special and resilient class of high school students.
In that context, it was joyful for graduating students to spend the evening of June 1 viewing the Como virtual commencement ceremony with their loved ones. The pre-recorded video featured pictures of every graduate during the pomp and circumstance processional music, followed by messages from Principal Stacy Theien-Collins, district administration, Como teacher David Stahlman, and student speaker Ridwan Yussuf.
After the inspirational messages from the speakers, each of the 248 Como graduates was featured in their own unique cap and gown photo, alongside their name on the screen for several seconds. Enough time for joyful cheers in each home, and enough time for every student to celebrate their friends and classmates when they appeared in the alphabetical rollout.
The graduation ceremony was shared out in a link to all Como families, can be viewed on spps.eduvison.tv, and will be replayed on St. Paul Cable Channel 16 several times this summer.
With the close of distance learning for underclassmen on June 9, eight longtime Como staff members concluded their careers in education. Each retiree has positively influenced countless students, with their own unique gifts, skills, dedication and service.
Kathy Kahn – teaching for 37 years, including the last 30 at Como as a biology instructor.
Maryclare Bade – health teacher at Como for the past 34.5 years. She has spent 36 total years in education.
Carole Whitney – Como Park choir director and theater director for 26 years.
Lori Belair – 26 years with the St. Paul Public Schools. She has been teaching Family and Consumer Sciences at Como since 2009.
Dave Stahlman – social studies teacher at Como for 25 years.
Walt Lofquist – a math teacher at Como for 20 years, and has 21 total years in St. Paul.
Joy Fausone – worked in the Como cafeteria with nutrition services for 30 years.
Ruth McPhillips – educational assistant for 28 years, with fout years of service at Como.
That’s 229 combined years of service to kids, all concluding with a retirement year of 2020, a time that no one – in education or any walk of life – will ever forget.

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D10 Food Drive

Dock & Paddle open at pavilion

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Michael Kutchta

District 10 Como Community Council

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director

Dock & Paddle
The restaurant in the Como Lakeside Pavilion opened June 5 with a new name – and at least one feature that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Dock & Paddle (which is under the same management as last year’s version of Spring Café) debuted in a scaled-back version in order to meet the outdoor dining limits required under state pandemic restrictions. 
The initial menu started with grill fare such as sandwiches and burgers, a children’s menu, and locally sourced salads. Dock & Paddle’s biggest coup, however, is an exclusive arrangement with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. The Guild will curate a rotating selection of brews from around the state. That means Dock & Paddle will serve beers on tap that are rare – or even impossible – to find in the Twin Cities. Dock & Paddle intends to open weekdays 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

‘Como Kindness’ lawn signs
Our first printing sold out in the first weekend, but “Como Kindness Dwells Here” lawn signs are available once again. The design, by Como artist Monique Hussey, was chosen after the Como Community Council put out a community call for ideas.
After the district council covers costs, proceeds go to the Como Park block nurse program, which works to handle the health-care and everyday needs of neighborhood seniors. Suggested donation is $15. Order yours at: www.district10comopark.org/kindness.html

Bird sightings in park soar
There are a lot more bird species around Como Lake and the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom than there used to be, according to a newly released report. The new bird survey, carried out by 15 community volunteers from February 2019 through January 2020, counted 109 species around the lake and 80 species in the Woodland. That’s a big increase from 2006, when a similar survey counted only 84 species around the lake and 48 species in the Woodlands.
Get a full summary of the survey, including comparison tables, on District 10’s website.

The Como Community Council collected 25 car loads of food and household supplies May 31 donated by neighborhood residents. The donations were distributed to food drives being organized by other district councils in Frogtown, Hamline Midway, and on the East Side. (Photo by Jill Henricksen)

Updates to be aware of
• New Apartment Building: The city council was scheduled to vote June 10 on whether to approve rezoning 1015 Bandana Blvd. from B3 commercial to T3 traditional, to allow construction of a 152-unit apartment building atop the existing parking ramp. The city’s Planning Commission voted 12-0 on May 1 to recommend the rezoning.
• Another Rezoning Request: The city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously May 29 to recommend rezoning 978 Front Ave. from B2 community business to T2 traditional neighborhood. The property, at the southwest corner of Front and Chatsworth, now is mixed use – with a dog-training business on the first floor and residential on the second floor. The property’s owners say the rezoning would give them more residential options than they have now. The request now goes to a public hearing and vote before the city council.
• Get Appointed: Saint Paul currently has 20 committees, commissions, and specialized boards that have vacancies just waiting for the right community volunteers. Some of the vacancies are set aside exclusively for members of the Como neighborhood. Take a look at the District 10 website for an overview of what’s available, where to find out what the panels do, and how you could apply. Among the most timely: The Saint Paul Charter Commission is taking applications for nine vacancies: seven of them are four-year terms that begin Aug. 1, two are existing vacancies that run until July 31, 2022. Applications are due June 17.
• High School Gets Sign Variance: The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved zoning variances May 18 that will allow Como Park Senior High School to mount new outdoor signs as part of the school’s multi-year renovation. The main variance allows the school to mount a 10-by-12-foot version of its Cougar logo 60 feet up the chimney, facing the intersection of Rose and Grotto. The other, smaller signs would be the school’s name and address over the main entrance. The signs are not lighted.

Online voting ends June 16
Community members in District 10 have until Tuesday June 16 to request a ballot and vote online in the 2020 board elections for the Como Community Council. Because of pandemic restrictions, there is no in-person voting this year. All voting is absentee.
Ballots can be requested at: www.district10comopark.org/ballot_request.html. Community members can request an online ballot until 5 p.m. June 16; voting closes at 7 p.m.
Renters, homeowners, and other residents of District 10 who are at least 16 years old can vote. Information about candidates is available on District 10’s website.

Call or video into D10 meetings
District 10 board and committee meetings are continuing but, for the time being, they take place using technology rather than face to face. To obtain links, phone numbers, or other information to join a meeting remotely, send a request by email to district10@district10comopark.org. Or, call in your request to 651-644-3889.
Upcoming meetings:
• Annual meeting: June 16
• Land Use: July 1
• Neighborhood Relations: July 7
• Environment: July 8
All meetings begin at 7 p.m.

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Graduation goes virtual, celebrate with lawn signs

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School

Yard signs to honor Como’s Class of 2020 will soon appear in the neighborhood.

By Eric
Social studies teacher

With schools closed through the remainder of the school year, spring of 2020 will certainly be unforgettable. The harsh loss of shared celebrations for graduating seniors will guarantee that.
Rites of passage including final concerts, awards ceremonies, prom, graduation, the all-night senior party, and even the entire spring sports season have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Distance learning is keeping academic growth possible, but predictably, the personal relationships that students and staff enjoy are sorely missed.
Hundreds of Como students will conclude their college-level course studies with Advanced Placement Exams between May 11-May 22.
AP Exams are traditionally taken on site at schools across the nation during the first two weeks of May. This year because of COVID-19, the College Board will be administering online exams for students to take at home during specified times in each subject area.
The rollout of a plan to make testing accessible yet safe is appreciated by students and teachers, but also comes with uncertainty and stress. Anticipating there may be technology glitches, the College Board has reserved the first week of June for make-up exams in case of uploading errors or issues.
Testing formats will be altered with only essays in a shortened timeframe instead of a combined three-hour exam including multiple choice and extended writing. In all, 294 Como students will be taking a collective 529 AP Exams across 20 different subjects.

Shar Too earns Athena Award
The cancelled spring sports season has left hundreds of Como student athletes without the opportunity to pursue their passions and make memories with teammates. Traditional end-of-year banquets and ceremonies have also been scratched from the usual schedule, although honors have still been awarded.
Como senior Shar Too earned two special distinctions for her achievements. A four-time all-state soccer player for the Cougars who became the St. Paul City Conference’s career scoring leader, Shar Too was selected as Como’s Athena Award winner.
Shar Too was also a stellar badminton player for the Cougars, helping the squad to third-place state finishes in 2017 and 2018. In the classroom, she achieved a 3.59 grade point average (4.12 weighted) and earned several academic honors during her four years including a State History Day qualification.
Shar Too was also chosen as one of just six finalists for the St. Paul Downtown Lions Club Athlete of the Year. The club selects its honorees from all the high schools in Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties. The elite recognition has been humbly downplayed by Shar Too. She will be a first-generation college student next fall at Bethel University.
Como’s graduation ceremony will still be held at its originally scheduled time of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 1, but it will be “virtual.” A plan is being constructed in accordance with St. Paul Public School directives.
While there is no way to replicate what students and families always anticipated, one small gesture to try and celebrate this special senior class prior to their commencement includes yard signs for each graduate.


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Absentee voting may happen

Absentee voting may happen

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

District 10 Como Community Council

Michael Kutchta

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director


The Como Community Council board will vote May 19 on whether to allow absentee voting for 2020 board elections. An advisory committee is recommending a two-week window in June during which community members could vote by mail or by using an online ballot.
Under the district council’s bylaws, elections were supposed to take place April 21 at the District 10 annual meeting. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the board postponed the in-person meeting and elections that go with it, in order to comply with Minnesota’s ban on public gatherings. Changing voting procedures requires changing the district council’s bylaws, which the board expects to do this month.
Under a draft proposal, eligible community members in District 10 would request a ballot, then return it before June 16. The ability to vote absentee will allow community members to participate more on their timeline, rather than requiring them to show up in person at a particular time in a particular place one night a year.
Details on how to request a ballot will be posted on the district council’s website after May 19: www.district10comopark.org.
Still time to run: The website will also have details on candidates. Nine seats are up for election this year. In most of the positions, no incumbent is running. The deadline for candidates to file is Tuesday, May 19.

Zoo will keep parking free
After months of study, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory says it will not implement paid parking this year, in 2021, or likely anytime soon. Research suggests that, if Saint Paul charged for parking, frequent visitors would visit less often and spend less when they do visit.
Charging even $1 an hour for parking would drive down attendance by more than 20 percent during the summer, according to projections by Zoo Advisors, an outside consultant hired by the city. Although parking itself would turn a profit, the revenue gain would not offset the revenue lost from sources such as voluntary admission donations, food and souvenir purchases, tickets to Como Town amusement rides, and fundraising, projections show.
“Some version of paid parking has been a topic in Como Park for many years,” says Michelle Furrer, director of the Zoo and Conservatory. “It was our intent to gather accurate data to inform decisions. The feasibility of this as a revenue source shows it would not be a long-term benefit to the city.”
Opponents said charging for parking would compromise the Zoo and Conservatory’s long legacy of free access, in which visitors are admitted regardless of their ability to pay.

Neighborhood construction
• The Board of Zoning Appeals holds a public hearing Monday, May 18 at 3 p.m. on outside sign variances being sought by Como Park Senior High School.
• Saint Paul now says Como Ave. will not be rebuilt between Hamline and Snelling this year. The city and Ramsey County still intend to rebuild Como between Snelling and the Raymond/Cleveland intersection in fall 2020 (presumably after the State Fair). That work includes the off-street Como Ave. Trail that goes with it. But the stretch east of Snelling is put off until 2021, unless something dramatic changes.
• The city’s Planning Commission on May 1 approved rezoning 1015 Bandana Blvd. from B3 commercial to T3 traditional to allow construction of a 152-unit apartment building atop the existing parking ramp. The commission also approved a setback variance. Both votes were 12-0.

Fresh path builds on local ideas
A newly rebuilt bicycle and pedestrian path in Como Regional Park begins implementing recommendations from the Como Community Council’s Pathways Project. The path stretches roughly two-thirds of a mile from Schiffman Fountain, across Lexington, then along the golf course and up the hill toward Montana.
The portion west of Lexington was dug up and repaved. The portion east of Lexington was widened to 12 feet; it now officially allows two-way bicycle traffic through a stretch of the park that badly needs it.
Those improvements are among recommendations from the Pathways Project. The project’s final report gives Parks and Recreation specific suggestions to improve the condition and function of pedestrian and bicycle paths in the regional park; to upgrade signs; to create maps, kiosks, and other “wayfinding” tools; and to upgrade amenities along paths. The recommendations were the result of more than a year of study, including ideas from more than 300 park users.
The community council now is talking with Parks staff on how to incorporate more recommendations when the department rebuilds the parking lots outside the Lakeside Pavilion and the golf course. That construction is penciled in for fall 2020 or early 2021.

Call or video into D10 Meetings
District 10 board and committee meetings are continuing but, for the time being, they take place using technology rather than face to face. Renters, homeowners, and other community members are always welcome to participate, through either video conference or by phone.
To obtain links, phone numbers, or other information to join a meeting remotely, send a request by email to district10@district10comopark.org. Or, call in your request to 651-644-3889. Whenever possible, agendas are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org

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Getting curly-leaf pondweed under control

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Lake getting Fluridone, alum treatments this spring

Britta Belden, Water Resource Project Manager (left), and Bob Fossum, Monitoring and Research Division Manager (right), co-led two public information meetings this month to keep the public up-to-date. Capitol Region Watershed District is overseeing the chemical treatment of Como Lake this spring to reduce algae and curly-leaf pondweed, shown at left. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Como Lake looks relatively clean at this time of year, but a menace to its water quality has had another busy winter.
Curly-leaf pondweed is an invasive aquatic plant visible as a dense surface mat on the lake toward midsummer. It manages to grow vigorously beneath the ice and snow, giving it a huge advantage over native plants in the spring.
Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) is the organization working to improve water quality in Como Lake. CRWD believes that the most effective solution for reducing curly-leaf pondweed is to apply the herbicide Fluridone to the entire lake; this was done on April 13. Fluridone will target curly-leaf pondweed, which currently makes up 90% of plant-life in Como Lake.
Britta Belden is a Water Resource Project Manager with CRWD. She said, “The District selected Fluridone for this project because it is safe (no contact restrictions), and is effective at targeting curly-leaf pondweed before native plants start growing. Staff will closely monitor the lake’s response to determine whether future treatments are needed.”
Curly-leaf pondweed usually dies off in late June/July. With the application of Fluridone, die-off will be in April/May. This will prevent curly-leaf pondweed from producing seeds, one of the two ways that it usually spreads.
The treatment will also cause curly-leaf pondweed to die off before it reaches maturity, so there will be much less plant matter decomposing in the water. Decomposing curly-leaf pondweed reduces oxygen levels in the water, and makes phosphorous available for algae to consume. Algae blooms are typical following plant die off, so the less plant matter there is – the better.
Belden continued, “The hope is that eventually only spot treatments will be needed to reduce curly-leaf pondweed, as opposed to whole lake treatments. The surface area of Como Lake is 70 acres. We will never see complete eradication of curly-leaf pondweed, but we can at least get it under control so that native plants can grow.”

Why herbicide?
Bob Fossum is the Monitoring and Research Division Manager with CRWD. He said, “We didn’t want to use an herbicide in the beginning, but we’ve realized through careful study that this is our best option. Curly-leaf pondweed has overrun the ecosystem in Como Lake, making it difficult for native plants and other aquatic species to survive. Herbicide application is the only way we can address an infestation at this level. Mechanical harvesting of this particular invasive species can actually encourage its spread by creating plant fragments.”
The herbicide will be applied at a low concentration of four parts per billion, have no airborne particles, and be safe for humans, pets, birds, and insects. According to Fossum, “Fluridone has a minimal impact of native plants because it is applied so early in the season, before they begin growing.”
Fluridone does not pass from plants to insects to birds, and on up the food chain. The herbicide was applied by a licensed contractor; the application plan was reviewed and approved by the Minnesota DNR.

Alum treatment in May
Decades of stormwater runoff have resulted in phosphorous levels in Como Lake that are three times higher than the state standard. High phosphorous levels cause algae blooms, which choke oxygen from the lake and kill fish. CRWD and its partners have achieved a 20% reduction in phosphorous from stormwater runoff over the last two decades, but water quality in Como Lake remains poor.
To lower phosphorous levels, alum (aluminum sulfate) will also be applied to Como Lake. Alum is a chemical compound historically used in drinking water, and it is a proven lake management tool. Alum is safe for humans, animals, and aquatic life. It has no known adverse effects.
This treatment involves applying liquid alum beneath the surface of the water from a barge. When liquid alum comes in contact with water, it turns into a fluffy, non-toxic floc, which settles to the bottom of the lake. The floc binds to phosphorous in the water and forms a barrier, making the phosphorous unavailable to algae.
Depending on weather, a whole-lake alum application will take 4-10 days. During application, the Duck Point Parking Lot and Compass Point will be closed. Signage will notify and redirect visitors.
Visitors will see an immediate change in the water quality and clarity of Como Lake.
Email questions to Water Resource Project Manager Britta Belden at bbelden@capitolregionwd.org, or call 651.644.8888. Go to www.capitolregionwd.org and follow Capitol Region Watershed District on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn more about the Como Lake Management Plan.

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subdistrict mapSM

What can we do together?

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

District 10 Como Community Council

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director

Now – when we need to build community more than ever – is the time to have a bigger say in your neighborhood. Nine seats are up for election to the Como Community Council; most do not have an incumbent running. Any renter, homeowner, or other resident of District 10, age 16 or older, is eligible to run. So are representatives from a business, institution, or nonprofit in District 10.
Board seats on the ballot this year are
• vice chair
• treasurer
• one representative each from the neighborhood’s four sub-districts
• two representatives from the neighborhood at-large
Those positions serve two-year terms. In addition, there is a special election to serve the one year remaining on a term from Sub-District 4, which essentially is South Como and Energy Park.
To learn more and to get on the ballot, see https://tinyurl.com/tmwp7jo.

Call or video into D10 meetings
Como Community Council board and committee meetings are continuing, but take place using technology rather than face to face. To obtain links, phone numbers and other information to join the meetings remotely, go to District 10’s website (www.district10comopark.org). Find the meeting by clicking on either the Calendar in the right column, or the “Committee Agendas” link in the “Board News” section (which is toward the bottom of the center column of the home page).

What won’t happen right away
The physical distancing required to fight the Covid-19 pandemic means District 10 has cancelled or postponed a number of spring events. A quick rundown:
• The annual meeting and elections, originally planned for April 21, will be rescheduled. (Candidate applications are still being accepted.)
• The Citywide Drop-Off, originally scheduled for June 6 at the Fairgrounds, is postponed, likely until September.
• Swap Till You Drop, originally planned for April 19, will be rescheduled.
• The Como Neighborhood Garage Sale, originally scheduled for the weekend of May 15, is postponed.
• The Historic Streetcar Station is closed to the public until further notice.
• The final three Sunday Series presentations – “Nature in Your Own Backyard,” “Old Media in a New Era,” and “In Search of Justice” – will be rescheduled later in 2020 if possible.

New apartments proposed for Bandana Square
A Saint Paul developer is proposing a four-story, 150-unit apartment building atop the existing parking ramp west of the Best Western hotel in Bandana Square. The market-rate apartments would be a combination of studios, alcove studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units, none larger than 1,000 square feet, says Jim LaValle, principal for TJL Development LLC. Early designs show a 60-foot-tall, E-shaped building.
LaValle told District 10’s Land Use Committee that rents will be “competitive” with other apartment communities in Energy Park. The project would provide secure underground parking for tenants, and lease 150 public parking spaces back to the hotel. The parking arrangement means the project would need rezoning from B3 commercial to T3 traditional. A city rezoning hearing was scheduled for April 9.

Hmong College Prep expands
Hmong College Prep Academy expects to build a new middle school and outdoor playground beginning this July on land it owns southwest of Brewster and Pascal. A skyway over Brewster would connect the three-story addition to the existing school.
The K-12 charter school says current enrollment of 2,350 pupils is about 150 over capacity. The proposed project would expand capacity to 2,400 students. The new building will have 42 classrooms and a gymnasium. Related construction will eliminate some classrooms in the current buildings in order to expand the cafeteria, add more commons space, and expand administrative space.
The school expects to seek $22.5 million in tax-exempt conduit revenue bonds through Saint Paul’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority in May.

Metro Transit to cut 4 stops on Route 3A
This summer, Metro Transit will eliminate three stops in District 10 along the 3A Como route. Spokeswoman Karyssa Jackson says the changes are part of systemwide streamlining that eliminates low-use stops to increase speed and reliability for routes overall. The stops being eliminated in District 10:
• Como and Winston, which averages 4 riders a day
• Como and Arona, which averages 6 riders a day
• Como and Albert, which averages 3 riders a day
(Farther west, Metro Transit will eliminate the stop at Como and Fifield, which averages 10 riders a day.)
Jackson says the stops likely will disappear when Ramsey County reconstructs Como Ave. between Hamline and Raymond/Cleveland this summer. Notices with the last dates of service will be posted on buses and at the disappearing stops.

Speed limits are going down
Saint Paul and Minneapolis will reduce speed limits by the end of the year to 20 mph on most residential streets in both cities, and to 25 mph on most city-owned arterials. The current limit on those streets typically is 30 mph. The new policy does not affect speed limits on county and state roads.
More details on the District 10’s website: https://tinyurl.com/swfmhwc

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Como front entrySm

COMO HIGH SCHOOL: Still a community during distance learning

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como’s new front entry was completed and opened by the beginning of March. During the coronavirus pandemic, buildings are closed and education has shifted to distance learning. (Photo by Eric Erickson)

By Eric Erickson
Social studies teacher

In mid-March, educators across the state followed the executive order of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to begin preparation for distance learning due to the dangers of the Coronavirus. At Como Park High School, staff intensely developed and modified academic content for an entirely new form of online instruction and delivery.
Before classes resumed in early April, I asked Como Principal Stacy Theien-Collins about the dramatic changes that have occurred and what she anticipates going forward.
How do you feel the students and families have responded to the educational disruption and change?
Our families have responded in a positive and supportive way, even with such unusual circumstances. The number of emails I have received with positive messages and well wishes to our team has been overwhelming. We all look forward to reconnecting with our students and families through our new distance learning model.
Could you describe the work Como staff has done in response to the Governor’s executive order for distance learning?
Our Como team has been laser focused on being prepared to launch distance learning and I so respect how each and every member of our Como Park Senior High family has stepped up to meet the challenge. I am here to report, we are ready.  We are ready to reconnect with our whole school community, we are ready to teach and most importantly, we are ready to listen to our students and learn what they need in this new learning platform. In addition to all the academic planning, we have been planning for the social/emotional needs of our learners.
What do you think will be the greatest challenges to the distance learning?
I think the challenges could be as diverse as our community. This is a brand new platform and we don’t yet know what we don’t know. I think our job will be to listen and learn and adjust to support all members of our community as we launch this new initiative.
How are you, as the building principal, handling the stress of this educational challenge?
This certainly is a stressful time for all of us and for many reasons. Besides worrying about our school community and planning, we are all worried about the news, our health, the health of family and friends. However, I believe all of us are using that to fuel our planning for our students. We have a strong team of educators and I know that we are ready.
During this unprecedented time, is there a message about Como you would like to share with the larger community?
It is important to me that our community knows how we are committed to support our learners through this unprecedented time. The uncertainty of the past few weeks and of what is to come makes me grateful that I am a part of the Como Park Senior High community. Our students, families and staff are the heart of our community. Together, our efforts will directly impact our success.

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Is there enough parking at former Sholom site?

Is there enough parking at former Sholom site?

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Former Shalom development plans

City staff, neighbors and board members debate whether 80 spots is enough for 150 apartments

By Jane McClure
The former Sholom Home, which has been vacant for more than a decade, will be redeveloped as a 150-unit apartment building.
The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Feb. 24, 2020 unanimously approved two variances needed by developer Midway Community Group LLC for the conversion. That decision is final unless it is appealed to the St. Paul City Council within 10 days. As of the Monitor deadline no appeal had been filed.
Sholom closed in 2009 when a new facility was built in the city’s West End. Its old complex consists of four buildings, the oldest one dating from 1922 and the newest from 1970.
Several developers have looked at the property since the Sholom moved out. A conditional use permit allowing 170 dwelling units was granted in 2015 but has expired.
How such a new use will coexist across the street from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and just a few blocks west of busy Como Park, remains to be seen. The developers contend that the new housing will be an option for people who want a vehicle-free lifestyle, with its proximity to A Line rapid bus service and other transit. Project foes are skeptical.

Parking, unit size variances
The former nursing home, which is on a site zoned for RM2 multi-family residential, needs two variances for the project to go ahead. One is for unit size. The zoning code requires a minimum lot size of 1,500 square feet per unit. The developer is proposing 882 square feet of lot area per unit, for a variance of 678 square feet per unit.
Another variance, which sparked the most debate, is for parking. The zoning code requires 166 off-street parking spaces, but 80 enclosed and lot spaces are proposed, for a variance of 86 parking spaces. Parking was a flash point during the Feb. 24 debate. City staff recommended denial of the variances. Matthew Graybar of the BZA staff said that adding more than 80 vehicles “would flood the area.”
Planning staff, in a memo, also recommended denial. City staff suggested a smaller, 80-unit building but the developers said that didn’t make sense financially.
One wrinkle in the issue is this: the property’s underlying RM residential multifamily zoning could face changes as a result of an ongoing St. Paul Planning Commission study. The study and a future city council decision to change the zoning code could mean the site could accommodate a new five-story building with more than 350 apartments if the Sholom complex came down and a new multi-family structure went up. That study, and a second study calling for relaxed parking standards citywide, could compound the area’s parking problems
BZA members debated the issues at length and voted on the variances separately. They made requests including asking the developers to provide incentives for transit use. Some Snelling Ave.developers in recent months have given tenants a bus card at the start of their leases.
“The problem is where this site is,” said board member Luis Rangel-Morales. “You can provide all kinds of incentives, but people will still drive.”
“That area really struggles with parking issues,” said board member Daniel Miller. But board members ultimately agreed that the project should go ahead, noting that if parking is a problem the developers will have to find a solution or lose residents.

Will lack of parking affect how many rent?
The community development corporation, Northeast Neighborhoods Development Corporation, is a development partner. Its executive director, Chuck Repke, said developers wouldn’t be moving ahead with the project if they didn’t think it was viable. The developers met four times with neighbors to discuss the project.
The developers raised several arguments, including financial viability and building reuse, in making their case for the variances. Plans call for 22 studio apartments; 97 one-bedroom apartments; 24 two-bedroom apartments of 800-900 square feet; and seven three-bedroom apartments. Apartments would be market-rate. Repke describes prospective residents as empty nesters and graduate students.
He predicted many residents won’t own vehicles but will rely on transit and possibly a shared-use vehicle or vehicles at the building. “You’re not going to find better transit than Snelling Ave.,” Repke said.
“Clearly there are limitations on parking,” Repke said. “I’ve been there during the state fair and it is insane.”
Como Community Council/District 10 recommended approval of the variances.
One neighbor, Kathy Kelly, appeared in opposition to express concerns about parking. She said her block of Midway Parkway is already greatly affected by spillover parking from the frequent uses of the fairground and park activities. “Now summer weekends will be every single day of our lives,” she said.
Repke said the developers would personally work with neighbors on parking issues and even help them submit applications for residential permit parking.

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D.C. close up, MCJROTC retreat, teaching honor

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School
By Eric
Social studies teacher

Como AP Government students spent six days in Washington D.C. from Feb. 23-28 as participants in the national Close Up program. (Photo by Eric Erickson)

Twenty-seven seniors currently studying AP Government and AP Macroeconomics spent the last week of February 2020 in Washington D.C. The participating students were part of the national Close Up program, which promotes civics education and participation in our democracy with the capital city as a living classroom.
Como student highlights included study visits to national monuments and memorials including Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lincoln, World War II, Vietnam and Korea. There were also study visits at museums of the Smithsonian, the Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, Holocaust Museum, and unique Washington neighborhoods.
Students met with Congresswoman Betty McCollum in her House of Representatives Office and also discussed policy with staff and legislative aides from Senator Smith’s and Senator Klobuchar’s Capitol Hill offices.
While observing the House of Representatives in session from the House Gallery, Como students witnessed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez present the Green New Deal Resolution. For several students who enthusiastically advocate for and support the proposed legislation, it was inspiring to see a Congresswoman they know speak passionately about the issue.
Throughout the week, Como students were engaged in policy discussions and simulations with peers from across the nation and beyond in workshop groups. A total of 150 students represented the states of California, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, as well as Puerto Rico and Panama.
The annual adventure to Washington D.C. for Como AP Government students is made possible through student and school-sponsored fundraising activities, with generous scholarship support from individuals in the Como community. The Como Park Booster Club, Rice St. Athletic Club, and Friends of Como Athletics (FOCA) are also significant contributors.

Cadets from Como’s Marine Corps JROTC spent Feb. 21-23 at their annual Winter Cadet Leadership Camp in central Minnesota.(Photo by James Kirkland)

Fifty-seven cadets from Como’s Marine Corps JROTC spent the weekend of Feb. 21-23 at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn. and Camp Shamineau in Motley, Minn. The Winter Cadet Leadership Camp included evaluations in the standards of cross-country skiing, ice wall climbing, rock wall climbing, hiking, horseback riding, winter survival skills, zip lining, broomball and even sledding.
Cadets meeting or exceeding standards in those or any of the other five activities earned a Distinguished Military Training Award (DMT). All cadets performed exceptionally well – rising to challenges and strengthening bonds. They returned to Como with great stories of adventure.
Family and Consumer Science teacher Courtney Gbolo was selected as a semifinalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Of 134 nominees, 36 were selected as semifinalists.
Ms. Gbolo teaches Culinary Arts and has developed an International Cuisine course that incorporates knowledge she gained from a grant to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She values the opportunity to create a classroom culture which allows students to explore and collaborate.
“Teaching CTE (Career and Technical Education) classes provide students with real-world opportunities to explore career paths,” Gbolo said. “I have former students who are thriving in fields that our programs have exposed them to, which is really rewarding.”

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Curious about latest Sholom Home site plan?

Curious about latest Sholom Home site plan?

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

District 10 Como Community Council

Former Shalom development plans

By Michael Kuchta,
Executive Director

Developers have officially filed for parking and density variances so they can convert the former Sholom Home property into rental apartments. Midway Community Group LLC wants to renovate the former nursing home at Midway Parkway and Snelling to create 150 rental apartments. Variances are necessary because the developer’s plan does not meet the city’s existing zoning code for the property, which is zoned RM2 multi-family.
The zoning code presumes 1,500 square feet for each unit. After adjustments, that means code allows a maximum of 82 apartments, not the 150 units the project envisions. The plan calls for 22 studio apartments, 97 one-bedroom apartments, 24 two-bedroom apartments, and 7 three-bedroom apartments in the existing buildings. All apartments would be less than 1,100 square feet.
For that mix of units, the zoning code also requires 166 off-street parking spaces. The developer’s latest architectural site plan, however, provides only 80 spaces: 51 surface parking spots on its Canfield side, plus 29 new indoor spaces. That means the project is 86 parking spaces short.
Therefore, the developer is seeking a parking variance of 86 spaces and a density variance to allow 150 apartments.
District 10’s Land Use Committee was scheduled to consider the variance requests on Feb. 10; any committee recommendations would go to the full Como Community Council board on Tuesday Feb. 18. (The board meeting, which is open to the public, is at 7 p.m. at the Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Parkway N.)
The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals is tentatively scheduled to hold a hearing on the Midway Parkway requests on Monday Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. in City Hall.
More details are available on the Como Community Council website: www.district10comopark.org.

Expand Your World
with 2020’s Sunday Series
The Como Community Council’s annual Sunday Series gives you six opportunities to expand your world, six Sundays in a row.
All the events are free, all events the events run from 1-2:30 p.m., and all events include presentations and plenty of time for Q&A. For full information, see the Como Community Council’s website: www.district10comopark.org. A quick rundown of this year’s Sunday Series lineup:
Feb. 23: Trash or Treasure. Unclutter your space, unclutter your life. With Laura Gilbert and Jennifer Victor-Larsen. Where: Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Parkway N.
March 1: “Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate.” This film from Will Steger’s Climate Generation features six stories about how climate change already is changing our state. In cooperation with the Saint Paul Public Library’s Read Brave Documentary Film Series. Where: Como Zoo and Conservatory’s Visitor Center Auditorium.
March 8: Forgotten Como History: The 1917 Winter Carnival’s 500-Mile Winnipeg-Saint Paul Dog Sled Race. With Drew Ross. Where: Mount Olive Lutheran Church Fireside Room, 1460 Almond Ave.
March 15: Nature in Your Own Backyard. With John Moriarty, author of “Field Guide to the Natural World of the Twin Cities” and the Como Lake Turtle Study.
March 22: Old Media in a New Era: What’s the Future of Local News? With Kelly Smith from the Star Tribune, Tesha Christensen from the Midway Como Monitor, and Chuck Carlson from the Park Bugle. Where: Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Parkway N.
March 29: In Search of Justice: The Purpose and Promise of Bail Reform and Juvenile Detention Alternatives. With Ramsey County District Court Judge DeAnne Hilgers. Where: Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Parkway N.


Family homeless shelter?
Interfaith Action and Ramsey County are exploring the feasibility of opening a homeless shelter and day center for families inside the Minnesota Cameroon Community Center in Bandana Square.
“There are no solid plans, but it’s an exciting opportunity with lots of possibilities,” Sara Liegl, director of Interfaith Action’s Project Home, told the Como Community Council’s Land Use Committee in January. The groups are working out renovation and code requirements; costs; construction and operational funding; staffing; and logistical needs, Liegl said. Late summer is the earliest she envisions a shelter could open.
Ramsey County currently does not have a permanent shelter for homeless families. Instead, Project Home provides 40 beds a night in a rotating group of faith communities and schools. Families must move every 30 days. Project Home also operates a day center for families at First Baptist Church downtown.
The shortage of beds for families is mind-boggling, Liegl says: At any given time in 2019, there were at least 120 parents and children in Ramsey County on a waiting list for shelter.
The Cameroon Community owns about 57,000 square feet of space in the northwest corner of Bandana Square, in Energy Park. The space used to be a medical clinic. It still has more than 70 exam rooms with sinks, plus public bathrooms and other public space. The belief is that exam space could be converted into flexible, dormitory-style rooms. That could provide private space for 40-60 families of different sizes, and perhaps older women, Liegl says. Other space could be used for meals, showers, storage, laundry, and case management services.
“When we found out about the plight of the homeless families, the school children, it was heartbreaking,” said Christian Akale, a board member of the Minnesota Cameroon Community. “We hope the building will be part of the solution.”

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory