First public lecture at new United Theological Seminary tackles immigration issues

First public lecture at new United Theological Seminary tackles immigration issues

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A significant change is coming to Christianity, Naso observed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Paolo speaker

Technology drives new United Theological Seminary space

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Environmental review petition further delays TCGIS project

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

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

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

TCGIS officials view the petition as yet another delay tactic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both of those deadlines are now null.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keane Sense of Rhythm 20

Keane Sense of Rhythm builds community through tap dance

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Metro Automotive

Monitor In a Minute, March 2019

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Lancer takes over Spring Café
For the third time in three years, there will be a change in operators at the Como Park pavilion restaurant. Lancer Hospitality has taken over the Spring Café, which reopens this spring. Lancer is no stranger to Como, as the company has long operated the food service at the nearby Como Zoo.

Lancer, who began in Madison in 1976 as an ice cream truck operator, is taking over Spring Café from Matty O’Reilly. Lancer is also taking over another spot of O’Reilly’s, Red River Kitchen, which now operates in a converted grain elevator head house and sack house just out of downtown.

Lancer has assumed the operating contract with the city for the two restaurants, said Parks and Recreation spokesperson Clare Cloyd. Lancer has indicated that it isn’t planning major changes at Spring Café or Red River Kitchen, and a specific opening date hasn’t been announced.

O’Reilly will continue to own restaurants Bar Brigade in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood and Republic in Minneapolis. He has announced that he is scaling back his operations to allow for more family time and to complete a master’s degree.

Lancer began in 1981 in Minnesota and operates food service at Minnesota Zoo, Science Museum of Minnesota and other venues around the country. The firm was sold in 2017 to Elior North America, a large national food service and catering company.

Como Dockside opened with fanfare in spring 2015, after a legal battle between the city and former pavilion restaurant owner-operator David Glass. Glass obtained an $800,000 settlement from the city after he claimed that his lease for Black Bear Crossings was improperly terminated. It was the third-highest legal settlement in city history.

Como Dockside was operated by restauranteurs Jon Oulman, his son Jarret Oulman and John Mandelnan, the owners and operators of Amsterdam Bar in downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis’ 313 Club. Como Dockside closed in November 2017, citing slow business during the winter months.

O’Reilly then took over the pavilion’s Spring Cafe in 2018. Lancer will take management in 2019.

Como area residents filled a meeting after Como Dockside closed, to indicate what kind of venue they’d like to see at the pavilion. Split opinions were voiced, with some people wanting a full bar and others contending that a bar isn’t appropriate in a family-friendly place.

City staff indicated that the pavilion will continue to be used for entertainment programming, including the Music in the Park series. The pavilion hosted more than 100 events last year.

Metro Automotive is sold
Metro Automotive, 675 N. Snelling Ave., has a new owner and new license to do business. The St. Paul City Council approved the business license and conditions on Feb. 6.

Metro Automotive has operated at the Hamline-Midway location for 27 years. Longtime owner Brian McConnon is retiring and selling the business to Ramon Rosas. Metro has a nonconforming use permit; which Rosas and his business manager will assume responsibility for. It spells out operating conditions. The permit was reviewed at a legislative hearing last fall, where one neighbor appeared to complain about noise and vehicles in the alley.

The auto repair license has 11 conditions. Conditions dictate hours of operation, restrict where customer and business vehicles can park, ban exterior storage of vehicle parts, indicate that all repairs will take place inside of the building, and outline steps to mitigate noise. The business can continue to be an auto repair shop, but auto body work and vehicle painting cannot take place there.

Concordia withdraws proposal
Concordia University-St. Paul has dropped its bid for conduit bond financing to purchase the Central Midway building at 393 N. Dunlap St. The City Council was informed of the change of heart in mid-February, so an action item on the Feb. 20 City Council agenda was withdrawn.

Concordia has used space in Central Midway, formerly Central Medical, for several years, and has offices and learning space on 3½ floors. The building is across Interstate 94 from the university’s campus. School officials said the space is needed for a growing student body and programs.

But City Council members fought the property sale and the bond issue, citing the potential loss of property tax base and a lack of information before the plan was brought forward. Concordia worked with the St. Paul Port Authority on the bond issue, which needed final city approval.

The Port bond issue was for $5.5 million. Using the bonds would have meant an interest savings of about $60,000.

In letters to the council, university officials said they are taking a different route to the property purchase and won’t use the bonds.

The sale will still mean a loss of property taxes for the city, county and school district. The building this year will pay $202,526 in local taxes.

Concordia will still pay taxes on floors of the building with for-profit tenants, but it’s not clear what the bottom line will be in the future.

The proposal had the support of Ward One Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward includes the university and Central Midway. But other council members opposed the bond issue and purchase, and it became clear it lacked the votes to proceed. The council laid the matter over twice.

Event space receives approval
A former furniture store at 786 University Ave. can become an event space, the St. Paul Planning Commission decided Feb. 8. The commission approved a conditional use permit for Francesco O’Ryan. The decision became final ten days later when no-one appealed to the City Council.

O’Ryan is using part of the building as an event center. A furniture store operated there until recently. A bakery in the building will remain. The one-story commercial building was built in 1926.

The building is zoned for traditional neighborhoods 2 use. It was rezoned several years ago as part of zoning studied tied to Green Line light rail. It is in the Victoria Street Station area.

The building has 14 parking spaces, which will remain in place. It isn’t required to have additional parking, even though it could have more than 100 people at events. That is because it is near the Green Line, said City Planner Tony Johnson. That surprised some Planning Commission Zoning Committee members.

Summit-University Planning Council met with O’Ryan in January and recommended approval of the permit. No one has attended neighborhood or city meetings to raise objections.

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Development Roundup, March 2019

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin


Pawn America changes
A new bank will rise at the southeast corner of University Ave. and Fry St. in the months ahead, replacing a-vacant Pawn America building. TOLD Development vice president Trent Mayberry outlined plans in February for Union Park District Council’s land use committee.

The project doesn’t need any specific city approvals such as zoning changes or variances, so the presentation was for informational purposes. The bank is to be built this construction season. The bank won’t have a drive-through lane.

The one-story building will be occupied by Bank of America and will be about 4,700 square feet. Its exterior will be feature stucco and simulated stone. The main entrance will be at University and Fry.

The new building will have parking on its east side and at the rear. One complaint about Pawn American was that it had some off-street parking off of Fry, which created a hazard for other vehicles and pedestrians. That parking area isn’t in the new building plans.

Sale of the property means significant changes. The site itself is about 7,800 square feet. It is zoned for traditional neighborhoods use.

Some UPDC committee members discussed whether or not a mixed-use development, or even a more substantial development, should be considered, especially because a former dental office east of the old pawn shop has also been vacant for some time. But Mayberry cited the space constraints of the former Pawn America site. Also, a new occupant for the former dental office may be announced soon.

Pawn America had operated at 1636 University Ave. since 1997. In 2014 plans were announced for a building facelift, that never materialized.

Pawn America officials contacted city licensing staff in 2017 about canceling their license to operate a pawn shop there. The business closed but sought to reopen last year. Rixmann Companies, which owns Pawn America, told city officials that the store was closed during bankruptcy and reorganization of Pawn America.

In Aug. 2018 the St. Paul City Council approved a request to reopen the pawn shop. Some neighbors objected, but city staff determined that since the pawn shop use had been discontinued for less than one year, a new conditional use permit didn’t have to be sought. The building has remained vacant.

Vandalia Tower is sold
Vandalia Tower, the former King Koil mattress factory that has become a key piece of its neighborhood creative enterprise zone, was sold last month for about $14 million.

Owner-developer First 7 first sold the property to Chicago-based NorthPond Partners.

The property at 550 Vandalia St. was a King Koil mattes factory for many years. It was transformed into a hub of activity, as new features were blended with historic architecture.

The 5.5-acre property has seven buildings with an iconic water tower, and has tenants including Lake Monster Brewery, Independent Film Maker Project, Munster Rose, Hackwith Design, Union Park Marketing, and other entrepreneurs.

Development grants
Area projects are among those receiving state and Metropolitan Council grants. On Feb. 29, the St. Paul City Council voted to accept more than $4 million in grants from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Metropolitan Council Livable Communities (MCLC) grants.

The Raymond Station 126-dwelling unit mixed-use development, planned for 2250 University Ave. W., received an MCLC grant of $483,900.

Fairview Business Center, a project of Minneapolis-based Hillcrest Development, also received $441,600 in MCLC Tax Base Revitalization (TBRA) funds.

North West University Dale received $949,250 in MCLC Demonstration Account Transit Oriented Development funding and $233,700 in a TBRA grant.

DEED Contamination Cleanup and Investigation grants were awarded, including $228,300 for Fairview Business Center, 641 Fairview Ave. N., $237,630.00 for North West University Dale, and $93,813 for O’Gara’s Vintage 2 (Selby-Snelling) sites.

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Como Pk HS Culinary team on news

News from Como Park High School, March 2019

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• The Como Culinary Club participated in the St. Paul Public Schools Culinary Arts Competition on Feb. 23 at St. Paul College. The club has eight dedicated members who are passionate about cooking. They have taken classes at Como including Introduction to Culinary, Advanced Culinary, and International Cuisine. Courtney Gbolo teaches the Culinary Arts courses and coordinates the club.

Photo right: Como Park chefs swept the St. Paul Public Schools Culinary Arts Competition on Feb 23. Members of the Culinary Club are (l to r) Ong Vang, Jillian Brenner, Emma Luchsinger, Robbie Link, Miguel Ortiz-Loveland, Dina Thoresen, Audrey Westerberg, and Isaac Vu. (Photo by Courtney Gbolo)

To promote the St. Paul event and display the skills they’ve learned, Como juniors Isaac Vu, Ong Vang, and Miguel Ortiz Loveland did a cooking demonstration on the Feb. 19 edition of the Fox 9 Morning News show. “Anytime students have the opportunity to showcase something they’re passionate about, the sky’s the limit,” Gbolo said.

As for the competition, which required students to prepare a three-course meal in an hour, Como’s students shined brightly. The team of Robbie Link, Ong Vang, Jillian Brenner, and Emma Luchsinger came in second place. They prepared a starter of pink gnocchi with pesto, ricotta and beet sauce, an entrée of glazed black cod with honey cream and crunchy grapes, and a chocolate, avocado and lime parfait.

Photo left: Como students Isaac Vu, Miguel Ortiz-Loveland, and Ong Vang promoted their dish on the Feb. 19 Fox 9 Morning News with the hosts and their Culinary Arts teacher Courtney Gbolo. (Photo courtesy of Fox 9 News)

To complete the Como sweep of the competition, the team of Dina Thoresen, Isaac Vu, Audrey Westerberg, and Ong Vang took first place. They prepared a starter of vegan scallops and a citrus fennel salad, an entrée of ravioli with acorn squash, marjoram, sage and butter, and a dessert of strawberry and pistachio Fraisier.

The club kept cooking after school and prepared for the State ProStart Competition on Mar. 7 after the Monitor went to press. Look for results in the next Monitor!

• The Academy of Finance (AOF) and Math Department are partnering with local businesses to bring in mentors to help serve Como Park students. Every Wednesday, ten mentors visit Como to tutor 20 freshmen with their algebra skills during the advisory period. The mentors are from Math Motivators, coordinated with the Actuarial Foundation, and represent companies and institutions including Securian Financial, Travelers Insurance, the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.

AOF Coordinator Kris Somerville believes the external support from the foundation can help students achieve while strengthening partnerships in the community. “By getting help with math freshman year, students will be more confident academically in their high school years while also building relationships with outside professionals and mentors. Win! Win!” Somerville said.

Arden Ashley-Wurtmann is the Program Coordinator for Math Motivators. She understands the challenge of bringing in extra help for individual math tutoring. “As a former teacher, I often had volunteers who were excited to mentor students but didn’t have the math confidence to help them with their work. Recruiting tutors who are either professionals or students majoring in math-related fields has been critical to the success of the program,” Ashley-Wurtmann said.

Any public school or math-related business desiring partnership with Math Motivators may contact arden.wurtmann@actfnd.org.

• Lori Nakamura, who has been Como’s school nurse since 2008, coordinated a project with the Helen Keller Institute that provided every Como student an opportunity to receive a free eye exam at school and obtain free glasses.

Many Como students don’t have access to regular eye exams or resources to secure corrective eyewear. In total 869 students were screened and 194 students are getting glasses. An additional 32 were referred for further treatment.

“Students were thrilled to see clearly! Being able to choose their frames brought a whole new level of excitement!” said English Language Learner (ELL) teacher Jane Sevald. ELL teacher Jill Wielgos added, “even for students who had glasses, many had frames that were outdated or damaged. Students were extremely thankful for an updated pair.”

• History Day at Como featured the presentation of final products culminating weeks of research and development by 11th grade U.S. History students.

History scholars who qualified for the St. Paul regional competition on Mar. 9 include the following students from their respective categories:
—Group Exhibit: Dinnea Riley, Deleela Robinson, Anisa Moreno, and Kayla McDonald for Emmett Till.
—Group Website: Noelia Marin Leal, Mai Chue Xiong, Najma Adem and Moo Soe for Women’s Suffrage; Gemma Phan, Kaw Mu, and Paw Say Wah for Jonas Salk’s Polio Vaccine; Alicia Rivera, Dulce Ruiz Contreras, Mariana Zubke and Angeles Caballero for Frida Kahlo’s Paintings; Way Htoo and Shar Too for WAVES (Women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve); and Ly Xiong, Rose Say and Maisee Her for the Immigration Act of 1924.
—Individual Website: Melody Yang for Pennhurst State Hospital; Jorge Nieto Pliego for Warren Robinett’s Easter Egg; Ethan Lee for the My Lai Massacre; Mai See Her for Anne Frank; and Lillian Sticha for NASA’s Human Computers.
—Individual Documentary Film: Lisa Saechao for the Hmong Genocide; Wyatt Hanson for Sound in Film; and Yeeleng Vang for 9/11.
—Research Paper: Issac Vu for the Tragedy of Pearl Harbor; and Aleeyar Keh for the State of Minnesota v. Dennis Linehan.

• For the fifth consecutive season, the Como Girls Basketball team won the St. Paul City Conference Championship. Dating back to 2015, the Cougars are on a 52-game winning streak within the conference. Como capped off its regular season with another Twin Cities Title by defeating Minneapolis South, the champion of the Minneapolis City Conference, with a dramatic 56-55 victory.

The annual Twin Cities Championship Game is always an intense game with city pride on the line. The Cougars have won all five of their Twin Cities games to keep bragging rights in St. Paul. The Cougars were practicing for the Section 4AAA semi-finals in early March as the Monitor goes to press. Their overall record was 23-2.

• Como sophomore Stone Frasl qualified for the State Wrestling Meet by placing second in the 138-pound division of the Section 4AA Meet. Sophomore Kaleb Sears and senior Alonte Johnson finished third in their weight classes, narrowly missing a chance to wrestle at state. They joined other teammates at the Xcel Energy Center on Mar. 1 to support Frasl, who lost his match but had an unforgettable experience representing Como on the big stage.

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Como Community Council Corner, March 2019

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

Annual elections will take place Apr. 16 for two-year terms on the District 10 Como Community Council board. Nine board positions are up for election; in at least five of them, the incumbent is not seeking re-election. That makes it an excellent opportunity for new activists to seek an open seat. The positions on this April’s ballot:
• Chair
• Secretary
• One representative from each of the four geographic sub-districts
• Three at-large representatives

Any renter, homeowner, or other resident of District 10 who is age 16 or older, is eligible to run. So are authorized representatives from a business or nonprofit organization located in District 10.

To get on the ballot: Submit your name and a brief biography no later than Tues., Apr. 9. Nominations submitted after that date will be treated as write-in candidacies. The nomination form, a list of board member responsibilities, and other information is available on District 10’s website at www.district10comopark.org.

Sunday Series
Yes, we’re rushing the season

District 10’s 2019 Sunday Series is guaranteed to get you thinking about spring and summer.
First up: mosquitoes. On Sun., Mar. 24, 1-2:30pm, one of our most invisible government agencies—the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District—talks about how they control the blood-sucking and disease-spreading pests, middle-of-the-night maneuvers, what’s in those fog machines, and even what those red triangles on storm grates mean. This free series takes place in the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

One week later: Tornadoes. Floods. Fire. Civil unrest. If disaster strikes, how prepared are you to evacuate your home in a hurry? Saint Paul Emergency Management talks about their role in preparing for the unexpected, what you can do to prepare yourself and your family, and what you should pack in your “go bag.” “Preparing for an emergency” will take place Sun., Mar. 31, 1-2:30pm, also in the Como Park Streetcar Station.

Upcoming events
• Sunday Series: “How to be a citizen scientist,” Sun., Apr. 14.
• Sunday Series: “Reduce, reuse, recycle: What do you really know?” Sun., May 5.
• Como Neighborhood Garage Sale, the weekend of May 17.
• Como Community Seed Library’s “Seed Your Dream,” Sat., May 18.
• District 10 Community Yoga, Sun., June 9.
• District 10 Ice Cream Social, Fri., July 12.
• Como Neighborhood Pollinator Garden Tour, Sat., July 13.

Upcoming District 10 meetings
• Como Community Council Board: Tues., Mar. 19.
• Environment Committee: Wed., Mar. 27.
• Neighborhood Relations Committee: Tues., Apr. 2.
• Land Use Committee: Wed., Apr. 3.
All meetings typically begin at 7pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station. Renters, homeowners, and other community members are always welcome to attend and participate. Whenever possible, agendas are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website.

We’re open once a month
The Como Park Streetcar Station is now open on the first Sunday of each month. It is a great chance to pick up organics recycling bags or kitchen starter kits, or chat with a District 10 board member who is staffing the day. Hours are noon to 4pm. The next open date is Apr, 7. (Beginning in May, the Streetcar Station will open every Sunday afternoon through September.) The Historic Streetcar Station is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

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Hamline Midway Coalition News, March 2019

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Hamline Midway Coalition was a proud sponsor of the first session of “Criminalization of Poverty.”

Hamline University launch­ed the year-long educational series focusing on the Criminalization of Poverty, hosted by the University’s Center for Justice and Law. The first event was a Feb. 22 and focused on the criminalization of poverty in Minnesota.

For more information on upcoming sessions, visit https://www.hamline.edu/center-justice-law. Tickets for the 2nds session are almost sold out so get your tickets now!

Online business directory
Hamline Midway Coalition encourages neighborhood business to register for an online business directory.

The Coalition has spent the past few months improving their website to make hosting and sharing information easier. Hopefully, the changes are noticeable.

The business directory is one area on the website that has seen improvements and now they are encouraging Hamline Midway businesses to sign up! To do so, visit the website at https://www.hamlinemidway.org/community/business-directory to view or sign up.

Why shop locally? Each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns three times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain. This fact isn’t enough? Learn more on our website.

Garage sale weekend returns May 3-5!
In 2015, the Hamline Midway Neighborhood Garage Sale started as a one-day sale and opportunity to meet neighbors, all while clearing out the items you no longer wanted or needed. Now, in its 4th year, more people are collaborating with neighbors to increase their visibility, coordinate this as a fundraiser for their school or team, and have hope that it is a way to boost the local neighborhood economy.

This year the fee to enter your sale is $12. This cost goes to advertising, fees for the interactive-online mapping tool, and for the signage that goes put all around the neighborhood. Now is your chance to start planning for this year’s sale and something we call all look forward to for warmer days!

Sign up at www.hamlinemidway.org/garagesale or contact us at garagesale@hamlinemidway.org.

Environment Committee
Hamline Midway Coalition is seeking applicants for the Hamline Midway Environment Committee. Do you have an interest in tracking, discussing, and taking action related to sustainability and the natural environment? If yes, this committee is for you. Anyone interested should call or email Melissa at 651-494-7683 or melissa@hamlinemidway.org.

A few exciting upcoming projects will focus around water quality with Adopt-a-Drain, and native species in an urban setting in the Pierce Butler Meadows! Visit us online to learn more.

Community Engagement Intern needed
The Hamline Midway Coalition (District Council 11) is one of 17 District Councils that serve the neighborhoods of St. Paul. A dynamic organization with a rich history, HMC is dedicated to making the Hamline Midway neighborhood a great place to live, learn, work and play. The neighborhood is a vibrant community that is home to a diverse and active population as well as many businesses and institutions.

For the position description visit https://www.hamlinemidway.org/news_events/331/community-engagement-intern-needed.

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