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The Pitch meets delays

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE MCCLURE
Too-high groundwater levels and rising construction costs have slowed the start on the Pitch, a six-story mixed-use development west of Allianz Field.
The six-story project, which was to break ground this fall, is delayed until 2020. Union Park District Council’s land use committee heard an update Nov. 18 from developer Wellington Management.
The Pitch is to be located at 427 N. Snelling Ave., the longtime home of Bremer Bank. The bank recently moved into temporary space at Spruce Tree Center and is to occupy part of the commercial space in the new building. The bank building is expected to come down in December.
The building will have about 158 units of varying sizes and 13,000 square feet of commercial space. Dwelling units will be a mix of micro-units, studios, one and two-bedrooms, at market-rate rents. Walgreens has been suggested as one of the other commercial tenants.
The high water table has been a key factor in the delay, said Casey Dzieweczynski, Wellington project manager. “We put meters into the ground and over the last spring, we saw that the groundwater level was up seven to eight feet.”
That meant eliminating one of two planned underground parking levels for residents and reducing the amount of parking to 55 spaces on one level, said Dzieweczynski. To offset the reduction Wellington is considering adding an automated car lift to the underground level that would allow for approximately 30 more stalls, bringing the total to 85.
The parking change doesn’t require another round of St. Paul Planning Commission approvals. The original development had 142 parking spaces, with 25 for commercial patrons and 117 for residents. The second level of underground parking would have been for residents, as is the first level. But because the development site is zoned traditional neighborhoods three and is within one-quarter mile of Green Line light rail, there is no minimum number of parking spots required.
“I’m excited to hear that there is less parking,” said Henry Parker, a member of the UPDC board and committee. “It will show other developers and investors that there is not as much of a need for parking.”
The Planning Commission in April approved a conditional use permit, floor area ratio variance and nonconforming use permit for the project. A conditional use permit is needed for height. The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods three use, which allows a height of up to 55 feet. A height of up to 90 feet is allowed with a conditional use permit; a height of 75 feet is proposed.
The nonconforming use permit allows the new development to have two drive-through lanes, one of the bank and one for the pharmacy. The existing bank building has two drive-through lanes.
Another change is in contractors. Original contractor Watson Forsberg has been replaced by Hopkins-based Frana Companies. Frana is building the six-story Scannell Properties project north of the Wellington site. This fall the old Furniture Barn and World of Wireless building came down to make way for that new development. Frana is also working with Exeter Group to build an apartment building at Marshall and Western avenues this fall.
A third change is in project architect, with UrbanWorks Architecture replacing Pope Associates. New building drawings haven’t been completed, but Dzieweczynski said the structure would be similar to what was originally announced.

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Building a Stronger Midway- Holidays: a time for giving

Building a Stronger Midway- Holidays: a time for giving

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

As you look outside, you know winter is upon us. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we are in a busy time – between holidays, office/company parties, and wrapping up projects by the end of the year. But many also look for ways to help, in a popular time for giving back. According to Patrick Kirby, founder of Do Good Better Consulting, nationally 20-25% of fundraising is done in the fourth quarter with many organizations seeing much higher numbers.
In and around the Midway, there are several nonprofits. While we live in Minnesota, jokingly the land of 10,000 nonprofits (there’s actually only 9,127 nonprofit employers in the state) – there is an even bigger concentration the closer one gets to University Ave. Why?
For starters, we are closer to the State Capitol and many nonprofits are busy during the legislative session lobbying on behalf of their interests. A good transit system also helps, as many nonprofits rely on buses and trains to get their employees, volunteers and clients to their door. With cheaper rent than either downtown, the Midway and University Ave. are better on the budget while still being serviced by transit lines. There is also a synergy which occurs when several groups of a similar mission are close to each other. Like tech companies in Silicon Valley, nonprofits often want to be close to other nonprofits.
And nonprofits are good for the region. They make up 13.3% of the total workforce in Minnesota, and in two local zip codes (55104 and 55115) there are 425 nonprofits. Over 50% are in the category of human services and represent a broad range of ways to give back.
How do people help nonprofits? In several ways. For some, donating financially requires little time but can make a big difference. For those wanting a more hands-on approach, they volunteer their time. My family likes to shop for others, by buying gifts requested from families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. For some, giving back is something to do as a family or a group of friends. For others, it can be an office bonding opportunity.
At the Midway Chamber, each November we help support and promote the Shop with Cops program. The program features a cop shopping with a child for the child’s family; often the gifts purchased that day are the only gifts the family will receive for the holidays. Many times, the day starts with a shy child walking to Target with a police officer, and ends with the two laughing together as they wrap the presents. While there are similar programs throughout the country, it started here with the Saint Paul Police Department when a local resident wanted to see a better relationship between cops and youth.
In December, we hold a Celebration of Nonprofits at Hamline University where we feature programming geared at the nonprofit community. Up to 40 of our nonprofit members participate in an expo and directories of our nonprofit members are given to all attendees.
This holiday season, I hope you can think of nonprofits in our community who could use a helping hand and find a way to support any way you can.
Statistics used in this article are attributed to the 2018 Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report, published by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. The data in the report comes from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and Internal Revenue Service. Additional information about the nonprofit sector is available on the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ website, minnesotanonprofits.org.

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Development Roundup December 2019

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

New Taco Bell restaurant?
A controversial plan to rebuild the Taco Bell at 565 N. Snelling Ave. is going back before the St. Paul Planning Commission and its Zoning Committee. Plans for Zoning Committee hearing 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 at City Hall, and a commission vote as soon as Dec. 20.
Planning Commission decisions on conditional use permits are final unless they are appealed to the St. Paul City Council.
There has been a Mexican-style fast-food restaurant at the site since 1973, including Zantigo and Zapata as well as Taco Bell. In 2015 a new restaurant was proposed but plans were set aside after objections from neighbors and Planning Commission members. At the Planning Commission, there was debate as to whether or not allowing the current business to keep operating was a good outcome.
Restaurant owner Border Foods wants to tear down and replace the existing restaurant, retaining its current drive-through service. Plans call for moving the drive-through service farther away from residents, adding a wall and other buffering features, and reducing the amount of on-site parking.
Taco Bell has been a source of controversy. Late-night and early morning patron behavior at the drive-through has drawn complaints over the years, including noise, fights, loitering and other behaviors.
One complication for Border Foods and for neighbors is the lack of clarity in city records. At some point a drive-through window was installed, although a conditional use permit was never issued for the window. It’s not clear why that didn’t happen because the permits are a longtime requirement for all types of drive-through services. With no conditional use permit for Taco Bell, the city never had a chance to place conditions on operations such as speaker placement and noise levels, and hours.
Another wrinkle is that the site’s longtime commercial zoning was changed to traditional neighborhoods use, as part of a larger study for North Snelling. That type of zoning is meant to promote denser, more walkable neighborhoods and deter uses such as drive-through services.

Parking ramp changes hands
One of the few city-owned parking ramps outside of downtown has a new owner. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) November 13, approved the sale of the Spruce Tree Center ramp to the adjacent office building owner, Spruce Tree Center LLC.
Sale price is $1.5 million.
A license agreement with the city will allow for 200 ramp spaces to be used for events at Allianz Field, the Major League Soccer stadium just east and south of Spruce Tree Center. The terms of the license agreement allow for up to 25 professional soccer matches and up to 10 other events, as well as a gold cup soccer event.
The center and ramp are at the southwest corner of University and Snelling avenue. A purchase has been negotiated for more than a year.
In 1987 the city worked with Metro Plains development to build the office building and the ramp. The building, with its bright green exterior, is meant to resemble a spruce tree. The building was in private ownership, but the ramp was a city-owned ramp.
The operating agreement gave the building owner the right to purchase the ramp.

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Monitor In A Minute December 2019

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

Dale Street Bridge schedule unveiled
The $14.7 million Dale Street Bridge over Interstate 94 will bring improved walkways and bike access when it is completed in 2020. But the project will bring months of disruption to area neighborhoods. More than 70 people joined the Ramsey County Department of Public Works Nov. 21, 2019 for a preview of construction timing and one more look at bridge plans.
The project goes out for bid in February, with work starting after that. The bridge is to be fully open for traffic in fall 2020, although some landscaping and other work could extend later.
The new bridge will provide 16 feet of pedestrian, bike and plaza space on either side, two 11-foot lanes of motor vehicle traffic in each direction, and 12-foot turn lanes. Dale between University and Iglehart avenues will be rebuilt, with new sidewalks, new street lighting and corner bump-outs added.
A former service station property at the northeast corner of Dale and St. Anthony will be open space, with a direct sidewalk and a winding “switchback” walkway to allow for easier access of what is a steep slope.
The $14.7 million project is covered with a mix of federal, state and local funding. The only assessments for adjacent property owners along Dale will be for above-standard street lighting. Those costs haven’t been calculated.
Those at the meeting had questions about detours, cut-through traffic, access for buses, snow plowing and access to homes, place of worship and businesses. County officials plan to post a question and answer section on the project website. The project will also have a dedicated community engagement worker to help get the word out about detours and other issues.
Bridge planning and community involvement in bridge design have taken place over the last few years, with several community meetings, said Ramsey County Project Engineer Erin Laberee. Much of the historic Rondo neighborhood was wiped out during freeway construction, and one goal is to have a new bridge’s public art honor that community.
“The original bridge was built in 1961, and expanded in 1983,” said Laberee. “It’s time for it to be replaced.”

Fate of BP station up in the air
It will likely be early 2020 before the fate of the crime-ridden BP gas station at 1347 University Ave. W. is known. The troubled business was the focus of an administrative law judge hearing in mid-November. St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) officials contend that the business should have its operating licenses revoked. Owner Khal Aloul has fought the city’s actions and is trying to keep the business open.
A homicide in the parking lot and ongoing allegations of drug dealing, fighting, loitering, city license violations and other crime have area residents and business owners demanding change. Incidents at the property have been live-streamed.
In one Police Department video shown at the hearing, an employee explains how scouring pads and glass tubes were used to make kits for smoking crack. The employee also admitted selling single cigarettes and cigars in violation of city ordinances.
At the hearing, Hamline Midway Coalition presented testimony that included more than 280 survey responses. The focus was on how behavior at BP impacts neighborhood residents, businesses and commuters. DSI and the City Attorney’s Office have focused on a long history of license violations and crimes.
St. Paul has used an administrative law judge process in license matters since the 1990s when facts in a case are in dispute. Attorneys for the city and the business have until Dec. 20 to submit their first round of closing arguments, with further filings possible until Jan. 10. The judge then has up to 30 days in which to make a ruling, which then goes back to the St. Paul City Council for action. That is expected in February, where there will be another public hearing. No date has been set.

Trash rates to be reduced
St. Paul’s 2020 residential trash disposal rates will decrease, over protests from the six-member garbage hauler consortium serving the city. The St. Paul City Council Nov. 13 voted unanimously to approve 2020 rates. The total decrease is $1 million for the $27 million contract, and not the $2.5 million increase haulers initially sought.
Nor would the city agree to freeze rates at the 2019 level for the first six months of 2020, another request the haulers made. The rates go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
On average, property owners will see about a $10 per year decrease.
At public hearings in November, an attorney for St. Paul Haulers LLC spoke against the rate package, as did Sue Stewart of Highland Sanitation. Both cited increased costs.
Organized collection, which is entering its second year, serves one to four-unit residential buildings. Council members and Department of Public Works staff said that with one year’s data on hand, they have actual garbage tonnage to factor in. The tonnage collected for the first year of the program is 56,000 tons.
Council members and Department of Public Works staff stood firm, saying that if tonnage went down, so should rates paid.

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World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Rolf Erdahl (double bass) and Carrie Vecchione (oboe and English horn) make up the musical duo OboeBass! Erdahl said, “By returning to Lyngblomsten nearly every month, we’ve gotten to know people and hear their music stories. One woman told us, ‘I wish I’d listened to classical music before I was 80!’ We hope our programs inspire people to expand their own musical experiences, because it’s never too late to learn.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl just finished their first year of monthly music education programs at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, and they will be back in 2020. Performing as the duo Oboebass!, their series explored composers, ensembles, instruments, conductors, ideas, and compositions that make up the multi-faceted world of classical music.
Barbara McClelan is a Falcon Heights resident who didn’t miss a first Friday performances all year. She said, “I like how well thought out the programs are, and how much fun Carrie and Rolf have playing music together.” McClelan is a member of the Lyngblomsten Community Sage Singers: a group made up of resident and non-resident singers and directed by Macphail Center for Music faculty.
On the first Friday of November, the duo introduced Igor Stravinsky’s piece “The Rite of Spring,” which premiered in Paris in 1913. Vecchione and Erdahl called their presentation, “The Riot of Spring.” They explained that the public had reacted to the Paris debut with an actual riot. Members of the audience heard the first strange, uneven bars of music and began to fight, shout, and throw things at the conductor. Was the piece a reckless abomination, or a work of genius? It’s a matter of personal taste, but “The Rite of Spring” became the most talked about musical composition of the 20th century.
Vecchione and Erdahl approach each session this way. They offer a piece of music or a composer for consideration, tell stories, play selections, and sometimes invite audience participation. They also provide resources for further study, in the form of suggested readings and supplemental listening. OboeBass! presentations are engaging and educational, and give listeners the rare opportunity to hear classical music played just a few feet away.
Both members of OboeBass! earned doctoral degrees in music performance: Vecchione on the oboe and English horn, and Erdahl on the double bass. Former professors at Ball State University in Indiana, they moved to the Twin Cities in 2006. They have been tenure track music professors, and professional orchestra musicians. At this point in their long careers, they are focused on performing and teaching as a duo – and they keep finding new ways to make that happen.
Erdahl said, “We started as a married couple looking for repertoire written for our instruments, and quickly learned that there wasn’t much. Fortunately, we have composer friends, and continue to find new composers and performance opportunities. The wide range of styles and expression, and the high quality and appeal of the music written for us, convinced us that we could pursue a career as a duo specializing in new music for oboe and double bass.”
Since 2008, OboeBass! has received several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. They first started doing music education programs for elementary schools, but have since developed programming appropriate for all ages and life stages. Vecchione said, “We’ve had a lot of success doing our programs inter-generationally, as well.”

“We value the bridge that OboeBass! provides
for young and old to come together
to enjoy and appreciate the power
of music in all of our lives!”
~ Andrew Lewandowski, Lyngblomsten

Listen on the first Friday
The year-long series at Lyngblomsten will be offered again in 2020. Toward the goal of building an intergenerational audience, community members are encouraged to attend. Neighbors, families, homeschool groups, and music classes are all welcome to join the residents of Lyngblomsten for these lively presentations. The recommended minimum age for participation is upper elementary school.
Vecchione explained, “Our ultimate goal is to keep live music performance alive. We’ve travelled to more than 100 senior care facilities across the state. We’ve particularly enjoyed the year-long series at Lyngblomsten, because it gives us a chance to get to know the people who attend regularly. We are not just providing entertainment here; we are providing an opportunity for active listening. Some people may not appear to be actively engaged because of mobility issues or health conditions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.”
OboeBass! is on an exciting trajectory, inspired by their love of lifelong learning. While both Vecchione and Erdahl still aspire to play with orchestras at a high level, they are involved in creating a rich repertoire of their own chamber music to perform.
Erdahl said, “We received a grant from Chamber Music America, and were able to commission a piece by Valerie Coleman. She’s a very ‘in’ composer, and we should be receiving the piece any day now. We had three amazing pieces written for us this year.”
OboeBass! performs in the Nelson Benson Chapel at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, 1415 Almond Ave. There is a small parking lot, and plenty of on-street parking. The performances are free and open to the public. Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl will present their programs at 10:30 a.m. on the first Friday of each month in 2020, except February and April.

Mary Ann also belongs to a couple of book clubs, one in their old Longfellow neighborhood that she has attended for 40 years.
“One of the things that has helped both of us,” said Mary Ann, “is that we really like to keep learning, and we are involved with things that help us keep learning new things all the time.”
Lowery also noted that their spiritual life is important to them. They belong to Bethlehem Covenant Church, and over the years have gone on six mission trips to Chile.

Lowery said he also believes strongly in family, and hosting family celebrations over the years as well as adventurous trips to the Grand Canyon, Switzerland and other destinations has been something he really enjoys.

Enjoy the view
And then there is the view. The Smiths live on the 20th floor of an apartment in St. Paul that overlooks the Mississippi, and the city. Every room of their apartment has a large window that lets the light in.
“The other morning, when I was going to Toastmaster’s, it was still dark out when I was getting ready. We could see the rowboats down on the river, from the rowing clubs. There were lights on the ends of the boats; I hadn’t noticed that before,” Lowery said.
“In the fall, the river turns crimson,” he added.
“One of our hardest years was when we decided to move out of our house, but every day we are glad we chose this place,” said Mary Ann. “It’s refreshing to wake up to these views every morning.”
“The weather is amazing up here,” she added. “You can see the storms coming in.”

 

In addition to the EP, KFC recently released a music video filmed and directed by Keegan Burckhard. Vagle acknowledges that being in a band (and doing the communications/marketing piece) is challenging as a fulltime student, but that it’s what she wants to pour her energy into.
Here are the links to the EP “Get Along” online:
• Bandcamp: https://keepforcheap.bandcamp.com/album/get-along-2
• Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3QffWplEQYSkoMviShc9r7?si=sUlVzPmtR-S5t7vN3IRkkQ
• Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/get-along-ep/1483261945
For more information about KFC, email Autumn Vagle at info@keepforcheap@gmail.com.

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Zero Waste Saint Paul is on a mission: to advocate, connect, and educate for a better environment

Zero Waste Saint Paul is on a mission: to advocate, connect, and educate for a better environment

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Erin Pavlica, co-founder of Zero Waste St. Paul and longtime Midway resident. During a recent Intro to Zero Waste training, she said, “We’re not expecting anybody to be perfect. Come as you are, and do what you can. ZWSP is a way to connect with others who have the same concerns. It can be lonely if you’re trying to challenge the status-quo all by yourself.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Zero Waste Saint Paul (ZWSP) co-founder Erin Pavlica has a passion for low waste living. To hear her talk, that passion drives almost every aspect of her busy life.
The longtime Midway resident is an active member of the Hamline Midway Coalition’s Environment Committee, one of the driving forces behind the Facebook Barter/Sell page in Midway and Frogtown, and a principal player in the recent successful effort to ban black plastic and Styrofoam take-out containers in St. Paul (effective January 2021).
Pavlica offered a class through St. Paul Community Education on Nov. 19, called Zero Waste Recycling 101. She fielded questions about composting and recycling, and offered encouragement, as well as information. A few students were overwhelmed by the effort they thought was needed to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.
One myth about reducing waste is that householders need to buy a bunch of fancy stuff to get started, and Pavlica was quick to burst that bubble. She said, ”Almost everything I use as a zero waster comes from our kitchen, like mason jars. A lot of what we buy for our family of six comes from the bulk section of grocery stores and co-ops. I also carry my own silverware everywhere I go, even to parties. I might look kind of kooky, but I don’t care. Most of the events I go to would probably have compostable products, but those take energy to make too. I’d just as soon skip them. We have to be thinking about upstream pollution, as well as downstream.”
More than 40% of what goes into the trash is food scraps and other organic waste. Recycling food waste converts it to compost, which puts nutrients back into the soil in about 90 days. Ramsey County collection sites enable people to drop off food scraps that would otherwise be thrown in the trash – these are then processed into compost and used for gardening and landscaping.
Pavlica said, “A lot of people don’t think about food recycling, but it’s huge. If residents don’t use the drop-off organic waste sites or compost on their own, their food waste is trucked to the municipal incinerator and burned. Food waste is wet, heavy, and inefficient as a fuel source. The average American family of four wastes about $1,500 every year on food that’s just thrown away, so it’s a money issue, too.”
Pavlica had a long list of suggestions for people wanting to clean up their recycling as well. Since switching to no-sort (or single stream) recycling, the quantity of recycling in St. Paul has gone up – but the quality has gone down. They suggest downloading the new, more user-friendly app from Eureka Recycling to get the definitive answer on what is and is not recyclable.
Pavlica said, “Don’t ‘wish-cycle.’ Just find out what’s true.”

Top 10 suggestions for better recycling:
1 Anything smaller than your fist is not going to get recycled, and will likely just mess up the equipment at Eureka Recycling. For example, save reasonably clean tin foil once it is no longer usable. Keep smashing it into a firm ball until it is the size of your fist; then put the ball in your recycling bin for pick-up.
2 If you must use plastic water bottles, make sure they are empty before recycling. If a plastic bottle isn’t empty, it’s too heavy to be sorted at the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility). They use an air puffer to sort and direct plastics to the right place.
3 If you have a plastic bottle with a cap, screw the cap onto the bottle before tossing it in your recycling bin. The cap alone is too small to be recycled.
4 Recyclables should stay in their original shape (except cardboard boxes, which should be broken down.) For example, don’t crush aluminum cans to save space.
5 Do not recycle metal aerosol cans – they can explode. Put them in the trash.
6 Non-food related glass is not recyclable, because it is tempered and melts at a different temperature. Putting it in the recycling is wish-cycling.
7 Many plastic films can be brought to big box stores (CUB, Target, Home Depot) that have collection bins.
8 Dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused medications for free at public drop boxes in Ramsey County. The nearest location is the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center at 425 Grove St. The CVS at Snelling and University avenues also accepts controlled substances, aerosols, inhalers, illicit drugs, and chemotherapy waste. Do not flush any medications down the drain. Note: CVS destroys the medications; they are unable to redistribute them.
9 When it comes to plastics, only numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 can be recycled.
10 Holidays are the most wasteful time of the year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s last year, USPS, FedEx, and UPS together delivered around 2 billion packages in the U.S. Where is all that cardboard and plastic going—and what is it doing to the environment along the way? Buy local, reduce packaging, and skip the wrapping paper.

What can St. Paul residents bring to their Ramsey County drop-off site?

• Vegetables, fruits, meats (including fats, oils and grease), poultry, fish, bones, grains, dairy, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags.

• Non-recyclable paper including greasy pizza boxes, paper towels, tissues, non-foil wrapping paper, and paper bags.

• Compostable cups, plates, utensils, and bags. Check for the compostable logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) on the item or packaging to make sure it is compostable. Remember, composting is a process that requires air. If compostable products are put in the garbage, not the compost bin, they are no better than trash.

Upcoming events:

The ZWSP is offering a six-week Zero Waste Challenge Feb. 2-March 15 at the East St. Paul Mississippi Market. Cost is $45 for members/ $50 for non-members.

For a one-day primer, register for Saint Paul Composting 101 on Jan. 11 from 3-5 p.m. at Fly Freak Studio, 755 Prior Avenue North. Cost is $12. Or sign up for Intro to Zero Waste on Jan. 18 from 1-3 p.m. at Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave. Cost is $20.

For more information about upcoming events and classes, visit www.zerowastesaintpaul.com or check out their active Facebook community, Zero Waste Saint Paul Connections Group.

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Two schools strengthen their longstanding partnership

Two schools strengthen their longstanding partnership

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Hamline Elementary and Hamline University Connection

Felipe Vasquez (left) is a freshman at Hamline University majoring in education/psychology. He is one of more than 90 HU students who tutor at Hamline Elementary, tailoring instruction to small groups and lowering adult to student ratios. Fifth grader Isabella Martinez Rodriguez (right) practiced her reading.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
There’s only one thing that separates Hamline Elementary and Hamline University, and that’s Snelling Avenue.
Last year, the two neighboring schools agreed to expand an educational partnership they began in 1991 (the partnership actually began over 100 years ago but became official in 1991).
Dozens of Hamline University students are in Hamline Elementary classrooms every week working as tutors, mentors, and student teachers. Hamline Elementary students regularly engage in enrichment activities offered at Hamline University, such as all 4th and 5th graders learning to swim in the campus pool.
The result is an innovative model that brings best practices in educational theory, research, and direct experience to students in both institutions.
Hamline Elementary is called a Collaborative Learning University School. Principal Kristin Reilly said, “There isn’t another school like ours in the state. We are building the program in the two schools simultaneously. We share a tremendous learning synergy.”

Hamline Elementary Principal Kristin Reilly in front of one of the “Wonder Walls” seen throughout the school. In the inquiry-based model, students begin with the phrase, “I wonder,” and follow a process of discovery toward learning. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

How did this all come about?
Reilly said, “When Hamline Elementary changed from a language academy to a community school a few years ago, our enrollment decreased. We were in that place of needing to find a new identity. Our staff, our parent group, and community members had many conversations about how to increase enrollment. We decided to deepen what already existed: our longstanding partnership with Hamline University.”
She continued, “The new Hamline Elementary program builds on an Inquiry-Based Learning Model rooted in curiosity, asking questions, and following an active path toward learning. School staff and all of the education partners at Hamline University use this model to help students meet their individual learning styles and needs.

“Everything happening in this building has to do with strengthening relationships and maximizing community connectedness.”

The partnership model
Last year a fifth grade teacher gave his class an assignment: to design a functional tennis shoe. Working in pairs, students learned basic design elements, how to make form match function, and how to create an advertising and marketing campaign. College students from the digital media arts department at HU taught the elementary school students how to develop and print a 3-D model of their designs.
Reilly said, “This project illustrates how we’re two campuses, but we’re connected. Because of our connection, elementary school students know how to navigate a college campus (with their teachers.) It’s normal for our students to be there, and many of them are from families where college was not part of their experience. Another advantage for our students is that many of the education partners at Hamline University are people of color, which allows our students to see themselves as college students. The majority of our staff at Hamline Elementary is white.”

Inquiry-based teachers

Hamline University Literacy Professor Maggie Struck (center) in a de-briefing session with graduate students in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. The partnership with Hamline Elementary gives HU students experience in an inquiry-based learning environment. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

All student teachers at Hamline Elementary now come from the education department at Hamline University. The student teachers have studied and experienced the model of Inquiry-Based Learning firsthand. They have likely spent significant amounts of time tutoring or mentoring at Hamline Elementary before becoming student teachers.
Education grads right out of college sometimes struggle to get their first fulltime job. Reilly said, “We had three student teachers last year, and they were all hired for permanent positions in the district. The feedback I got from the hiring principals was that these new teachers were very well-prepared – that they were, and I quote, ‘completely different educators.’ That’s because we trained them from the beginning. They left our school understanding what inquiry-based teaching was, and how they could use it to help all children succeed.”
Hamline Elementary is part of the St. Paul Public School system, and is located at 1599 Englewood Ave. For more information or to schedule a visit, call the front office at 651.293.8715.

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Practicing what they preach

Practicing what they preach

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

CRWD building showcases native plantings, pocket park, rain gardens, tree trenches, permeable pavement, and more
By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Midway resident Anna McLafferty said, “We can’t survive without healthy water. CRWD is helping to reduce the negative impact of people on the environment. We live in the neighborhood and our kids love the pocket park, especially the pond.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) held its Grand Opening Celebration on Friday, Oct. 11. The new headquarters are located at 595 Aldine St. Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests enjoyed local food from Los Ocampo, live music by the Americano Trio, art-making, kids’ activities, and building tours. CRWD broke ground on its new building in May 2018.
The transformed site includes a pocket park with a water feature, native plantings, and an interactive educational exhibit on the corner of Thomas Avenue and Aldine Street. Also visible are rain gardens, tree trenches, and permeable pavement. These features do the good work of collecting and cleaning rainwater by allowing it to soak into the ground, rather than creating storm water runoff.
Administrator Mark Doneux, said, “Our mission is to protect, manage and improve the water resources of Capitol Region Watershed District. The work of CRWD has grown immensely over the past 20 years. We are excited to be able to demonstrate best practices for managing storm water runoff here at our new office.”
Building tours showcased a rainwater capture system including a 3,000-gallon cistern, local art, reclaimed wood from nearby Willow Reserve, solar panels and many other sustainability features. The Backyard Phenology Project’s Climate Chaser was on site with their mobile lab to record and share stories of people’s observations about the changing climate.

Did you know…
CRWD, established in 1998, covers 40 square miles and includes portions of Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Maplewood, Roseville and Saint Paul. CRWD is governed by a five-member Board of Managers that works to protect, manage and improve the water resources of the watershed district.

Emily Baskerville (right) and Suzy Lindberg (left) explored the outdoor, interactive water feature. Both are connected to CRWD through their work at Houston Engineering, and were pleased to see how the new headquarters reflects CRWD’s commitment to the arts and community. Lindberg said, “CRWD makes me proud of our St. Paul water.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Janice Erickson (holding daughter Azalia) attended the grand opening with her family on Oct. 11. Her sons Rocky and Alexander are photographers participating in the “Our Sacred Water” exhibit, which received a Partner Grant from CRWD and was shown, in part, at the grand opening event. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

 

Phyllis Panzer (left) attended the event with her son-in-law, Jordan, and grandson, Cooper. She said, “I’m here to celebrate that business and industry care enough to partner in the management of local water resources.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

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Touring University Avenue

Touring University Avenue

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway
By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Recently, the Midway Chamber’s Economic Development meeting took a bus tour of University Ave. to see all the progress being made with new buildings and redevelopments. If you have not looked at all the projects happening, our neighborhood has already changed and continues to do so with more investment. Here’s a sampling of what we saw on our tour.
We started our tour at Hmongtown Marketplace, 217 Como. Owner Toua Xiong has an amazing back story, from refugee to keeping his business afloat. Located at the old Shaw lumber site, Hmongtown Marketplace has well over 100 vendors who can sell you anything from authentic Hmong cuisine to clothes, insurance and many more items.
Once on University Ave., we headed west and saw the former Old Home site, now the mixed-use housing and retail Western-U Plaza. At 769 University, a new bright, colorful building is about to open – the Mini Oski Ain Dah Yung Center. The site will be home to 42 units of affordable housing development serving American Indian youth experiencing homelessness. Our first stop was at 1000 University, a building that re-opened in 2015 and is managed by Suntide Commercial Realty. Suntide has been a strong supporter of the Midway, also managing locations farther west like the Case Building and the Court Building.
Another example of mixed-use is at the northeast corner of Hamline and University – Hamline Station. The development has over 100 units of workforce housing and 13,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. The Magic Noodle, one of the most hyped new restaurants in our neighborhood, opened earlier this year to rave reviews.
Our second stop was next to Allianz Field. We did our tour days after the first playoff game and the Tommie-Johnnie game both played there. Now that the team (and stadium) have wrapped up its first season, we’ll see what other events will be hosted there. The space is available for corporate events and nonprofits, as well. The site next to the field is in the process of being redeveloped; much like Allianz Field itself, Mortenson is working on the site. With Allianz Field has come new bars. The Black Hart of Saint Paul and the Midway Saloon have both opened in the past year across University from Allianz. Mixed-use will also go west of Allianz, as Bremer Bank’s old location will be redeveloped with housing above it and the old Furniture Barn site will also be mixed-use.
Our final stop was a tour within a tour – this time of the new murals from the Chroma Zone festival. Twelve murals are in the Creative Enterprise Zone, created by artists from all over the world. Many of the murals can be seen on a walking tour, and they brighten up the neighborhood. For more information on the murals, go to https://creativeenterprisezone.org/chroma-zone.
Our tour ended back where we began, at Hmongtown Marketplace where we ate at the food court. If you have not had a meal at the food court, you’re missing out on a great place to enjoy Hmong food. Most vendors leave around 6 p.m. and the food court offers several options. Hmongtown Marketplace may be expanding in the future, making it an even larger cultural destination.
University Avenue is continually changing, with billions of dollars spent on investment along the corridor since Green Line construction began. That investment has included several housing projects, a new Senate building, new restaurants, homes for nonprofits and businesses alike and the home of the Minnesota United FC.
If you take the same route as we did, you will also see a new mural at the northwest intersection of Dale and University, which reads “Development without Displacement.” As someone who lived in Frogtown for close to 10 years, this message resonates with me and I do hope developers will think about the community beyond their project. At the Midway Chamber, we strive to “build a stronger Midway.” My hope is developers will embrace both messages.

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Theatre 55 21

Theatre 55 provides stage for elder actors

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Lola Watson (left) and Brent Berheim (right) anchored the cast of “Pippin,” Theatre 55’s second production which just closed at Mixed Blood Theatre on the West Bank. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Company enriches lives of people as actors, audience members, and lifelong learners
By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Richard Hitchler spent 20 years managing Stepping Stone Theatre for Youth in St. Paul. When he left that position in 2015, he knew he wanted to start his own theatre company, but the Twin Cities already had so many. What he saw missing, locally and beyond, was an opportunity for people 55+ to take to the stage. Hitchler is now artistic director of the company he founded last year, called Theater 55.
Hitchler said, “I know the ins and outs of running a theatre, and the creation of this one was certainly helped by an ‘aha!’ moment. I was listening to MPR in my car one day, and heard that it was the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production of ‘HAIR.’ I was aware that the History Center was also having their 1968 exhibition at that time, and that it was attracting a lot of interest.
“I knew then and there that I going to make Theatre 55 happen, and that it was apropos to launch ourselves with a revival of the musical ‘HAIR,’” he said.
Their inaugural production was proudly advertised as “HAIR, by those who lived it,” and there’s a lot to be said for artists who bring life experience to their performance. Who could interpret the turbulent 1960s better than those came of age then?
“HAIR” sold out performance after performance last winter, and its success encouraged Hitchler to mount a second show.
“Pippin: a Mid-Life Crisis” just finished a run at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Told by an ensemble of actors, “Pippin” is the story of a prince searching for his purpose in life. The protagonist dabbles in warfare, romance, and politics, only to discover that true happiness is more complicated than it appears.

All levels of experience
Theatre 55 is what Hitchler calls a semi-professional ensemble. The actors bring a mix of experience levels from first-time to seasoned. Staging, choreography, artistic direction, and instrumental musician roles are all filled by professionals.
Hitchler created Theatre 55 to enrich the lives of elders as artists, as audience members, and as lifelong learners.
He said, “There’s a natural mentorship that happens between the more experienced actors and those that are cast in their first play. Our auditions are friendly and easy to do. We publicize them through MN Play List, and also at senior centers and care facilities. Every show we do stands alone, and is cast separately. It’s important to me that our actors, no matter what their experience level, are paid a stipend made possible through ticket sales.”
There is a third production planned for 2020, with auditions scheduled for the first week of December. The name of the show will be released at that time.

Being onstage is empowering
Hitchler is frequently asked what it’s like to work with senior citizens after two decades of working with teenagers. He said, “In some ways, it’s not that different. Everyone is vulnerable and has a fear of being judged at first, but older actors bring so much life experience and wisdom with them. And every person finds a new, stronger voice when they’re on-stage.
“The process of being on-stage is very empowering. ”
There are many ways to be involved in the work of Theatre 55 in addition to acting. Hitchler said, “We welcome volunteers in every capacity from helping in the box office, ushering, managing the front of house, assisting with costuming, lighting, and set construction. Whatever your contribution to the production, it’s a community building thing.”
Learn more at www.theatre55.org.

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