NAMI headquarters

NAMI provides hope for those dealing with mental illness

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

Minnesota NAMI office moves near Fairview/University light rail station

A new location means the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Minnesota has more space for classes and training to help people dealing with mental illness.

NAMI moved its offices from 800 Transfer Rd. near the Amtrak train station to 1919 University Ave. W., Suite 400 in March, and staff members have been enjoying the larger, better-lit location.
Plus the office is just a few blocks from the Fairview and University light rail station, which makes it easier for both staff and others to use public transit to get to NAMI, pointed out NAMI Minnesota Executive Director Sue Aberholden.

Photo left: NAMI moved its offices from 800 Transfer Rd. near the Amtrak train station to 1919 University Ave. W., Suite 400, in March, and staff members have been enjoying the larger, better-lit location. (Photo submitted)

There’s also parking behind the building for those who come by vehicle.

Ramsey County Mental Health Center is also located in the same building. Plus, common spaces are shared with ASPIRE Minnesota, an organization that provides children’s mental health services.
Perkins + Will of Minnesota designed the interior space, while the FR Bigelow Foundation helped pay for new cubicles.

“I encourage people who are in the neighborhood to stop by,” stated Aberholden. “We have lots of resources. Check our website for upcoming classes.

“We are a great resource for the community, and we want people to use us.”

Photo right: Sue Aberholden has worked at NAMI for almost 17 years, and she’s focused on disability-related issues for her entire career. “I’ve stayed because I can see how every day our organization makes a difference,” stated Aberholden. (Photo submitted)

Making a difference every day
Aberholden has worked at NAMI for almost 17 years, and she’s focused on disability-related issues her entire career.

“I’ve stayed because I can see how every day our organization makes a difference,” stated Aberholden.

Like many other NAMI employees, she has family members who live with depression and anxiety. Through that, she knows the importance of treatment and community support.

What is mental illness?
Every year, NAMI Minnesota serves over 160,000 people across the state through advocacy, education, and support. NAMI does not provide treatment, but the organization hosts the annual NAMIWalk, Spring Gala, and educational conferences. Staff members give presentations and provide resources to increase awareness and promote understanding of people living with mental illnesses.

What is a mental illness?

“Basically it’s a medical condition that affects 1 in 5 adults that affects a person’s feelings, thinking or mood,” explained Aberholden.

The number one diagnosis is anxiety, followed by depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and personality disorders.
Mental illness can affect people of any age, race, religion or socioeconomic status. Mental health disorders account for more disability than any other illness, including cancer and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It doesn’t only affect adults, either.

Four million children and adolescents in the United States suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school, and with peers.

“Half of all mental health issues appear before age 14,” observed Aberholden. “If we keep thinking it’s an adult issue we miss the boat.”

30 classes
Education and public awareness play an integral role in NAMI Minnesota’s mission to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through changing public attitudes associated with mental illness.

NAMI Minnesota offers over 30 different classes and provides vital information about mental illnesses, treatment, and resources through publications, presentations, and newsletters.

Classes are offered throughout the state, and NAMI’s 30 staff members are on the road quite a bit.

Some classes help family members learn how to help their loved one. Others focus on suicide prevention and mental illness in the workplace.

A support group for those dealing with anxiety uses the book, “Embracing the Fear” to go over strategies people can use themselves.

Teens are taught to recognize mental illness in themselves and others. NAMI has found that peer support groups work best for teens who share their life experiences and help others.
One of NAMI’s most popular classes is Mental Health First Aid. “A lot of people have learned first aid over the years,” pointed out Aberholden. Learning Mental Health First Aid is the next step.

“It’s all of us working together that will help,” she said.
Another popular offering is the 12-week Family-to-Family class for those with a family member dealing with mental illness.

This year, the State Fair has designed Mon., Aug. 27, as its first Mental Health Awareness Day. The event will include mental health and wellness resources through inspiring stage performances, music, demonstrations, yoga, information, and more.

Over 4,000 people attend NAMI’s Annual Walk, set for Sept. 22 this year at Minnehaha Park. There is no registration fee. “It’s a really uplifting and joyful event,” stated Aberholden.

Suicides have doubled
NAMI staff members go into schools to provide the national Ending the Silence program and have reached over 9,000 students in Minnesota through the one-hour health class. Staff members often offer evidence-based suicide prevention training to teachers before the class so that they are prepared to answer questions from students who start conversations afterward.

Aberholden wants people to know that it is okay to ask if someone is suicidal, and that doesn’t mean you are “planting a seed.”

However, research has shown that discussions and news articles about exactly how someone committed suicide are contagious and should be avoided.

“The number of suicides using the means Robin Williams did increased dramatically after his death,” she pointed out.
Suicides have been increasing nationally and statewide. In 2001 in Minnesota, there were 400 people who committed suicide. That number has jumped to 800.

“It’s a public health crisis that isn’t going away,” stated Aberholden.

Get help
Last year, over 4,000 people were helped through the NAMI Helpline at 1-888-NAMI-HELPS or namihelps@namimn.org. NAMI guides people who are trying to navigate the mental health system and identifies resources and treatment that can help.

For parents who feel isolated and overwhelmed by their child’s behaviors, NAMI offers a Parent Email Warmline. Email parent.resources@namimn.org to connect with a parent peer specialist.

Photo left: Over 4,000 people attend NAMI’s Annual Walk, set for Sept. 22 this year at Minnehaha Park. There is no registration fee. “It’s a really uplifting and joyful event,” stated Aberholden. (Photo submitted)

Since April, a text-based suicide prevention service has also been available. People who text MN to 741741 will be connected with a counselor who will help defuse the crisis and connect the texter to local resources. Crisis Text Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Mobile Mental Health Crisis Teams can also be valuable in trying to decide whether or not someone needs more assistance, according to Aberholden. “They can provide advice on the phone, come to someone’s house and offer stabilization,” she said.

This is a good option for those who don’t need hospitalization but need help. Each county has a different line to call; find a list on NAMI’s website.

NAMI staff members hear many misconceptions about mental illnesses.

“People sometimes blame parents, and it’s not okay because illnesses happen,” pointed out Aberholden.

Another misconception is that people aren’t trying and if the person exerted a little more willpower they could get over it. “Serious depression isn’t about willpower,” stated Aberholden. “This is something that isn’t someone’s fault.”

She added, “We wouldn’t do that with other illnesses.” When someone is bleeding, he or she isn’t told to exert a little more willpower to heal.

While well-meaning people often tell loved ones to “reach out if you need me,” that doesn’t always help. “If you’re seriously depressed, you’re not going to do that, so people need to learn how to reach in,” observed Aberholden.

Text and say, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood. Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested. That has multiple benefits as the exercise also gets the endorphins going in the brain.

“Send get-well cards and bring over a hotdish,” said Aberholden. “We do these kinds of supports for people who have cancer, but we don’t do that for people with a mental illness.”

You don’t see CaringBridge sites for people with mental illnesses, she added. Yet she knows of one man who started one at the urging of his wife. He commented that his hospitalization was tough because the decks of cards were all worn out, and they didn’t stock his favorite soda.

“Every day someone showed up with cards and pop,” noted Aberholden. “It turned into the shortest hospital stay he’d ever had.

“Providing hope for the future is critical.”

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Emily Zoltai

Fundraiser growing with the help of neighborhood businesses

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

Emily Zoltai will be in her third year of graduate school this fall at Concordia University, St. Paul (1282 Concordia Ave.), working toward her MS in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Orthotics and prosthetics are devices that help people who have missing or under-functioning limbs achieve fuller mobility and greater independence.

Zoltai is passionate about her studies and is completing a six-week clinical internship in Quito, Ecuador this summer with an organization called the Range of Motion Project (ROMP). ROMP provides prosthetic devices to children and adults in poverty, who could not otherwise afford them. Their two clinics are located in Quito, Ecuador, and Zacapa, Guatemala.

Zoltai has had a strong connection to ROMP since she graduated with a BS in human physiology from the University of Oregon five years ago.

“At that time,” Zoltai said, “I had a chance to volunteer for two months with the ROMP Clinic in Ecuador. I figured I would eventually go on for an advanced degree in physical therapy, like most of my classmates were planning to do.

She continued, “For the first week I was in Quito, I spent every day in the physical therapy wing creating rehabilitative exercises for patients. The next week, I wandered into the prosthetics wing. I was curious! What were routers, sanders, and band saws doing in a hospital? I was able to watch a prosthetist at work, and it seemed like the perfect combination of art and science. I was hooked.”

Photo right: Emily Zoltai, ROMP ambassador and Concordia University graduate student in Prosthetics and Orthotics said, “Our organization is very grateful for the support of Motion Physical Therapy and the Brewery Running Series event at Lake Monster Brewing. The combined efforts of those organizations, along with our many other community partners, will make it possible for ROMP to continue working toward full mobility for those who lack it – regardless of ability to pay.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

While living in Quito again this summer, Zoltai is organizing her fourth annual ROMP fundraiser—and doing most of her organizing via email. Motion Physical Therapy, which is located at 550 Vandalia in the Midway neighborhood, has offered to support her fundraising efforts in two significant ways.

On Sun., Sept. 16, a 5K run will begin and end at the Lake Monster Brewery—just outside Motion’s front door. Organizer Jack Lunt of the Brewery Running Series said, “10% of our donations from this event will go directly toward ROMP. Our goal is to sign up 200 people and sell out the run. At every event we host, there are families pushing strollers, retirees walking, runners just getting started, as well as experienced runners—all kinds of people for whom mobility is empowering.”

The mission of the Brewery Running Series is to be active, have fun, and give back to the community. The cost for this event is $30; more information and registration forms can be found at ­www.­breweryrunningseries.com.

After the Sept. 16 brew run at Lake Monster, Motion Physical Therapy will be hosting an open house in their offices at 550 Vandalia, #105, with two documentary ROMP videos playing on a loop. The Brewery Running Series will also hold a raffle and social time there.

The fundraiser that Zoltai is organizing from Quito will be held in solidarity with a major climb in Ecuador this summer, where some of the world’s most elite, physically-challenged athletes will attempt to summit Mount Cotopaxi in the Andes, elevation of 19,347’.

On Sun., Sept. 30, anyone wanting to support ROMP locally can come to the Minneapolis Bouldering Project at 5pm. The Bouldering Project is located at 1433 W. River Rd. N. in Minneapolis.

The Sept. 30 line-up of events and presenters will include Motion Physical Therapy; a panel of speakers on mobility issues, including some who are living with limb loss; a prosthetics building station; extensive resources on adaptive sports, including demonstrations by Wiggle your Toes and Mind Body Solutions; and two short-film screenings about highly successful amputee climbers. Participants are also welcome to try climbing at the Bouldering Project, with complimentary climbing shoes included. Donated items from Patagonia, Osprey, Kleen Kanteen and many others will be raffled off or given away.

The goals of the ROMP fundraising events being held around the globe this summer are the same: to show the power of mobility, the importance of access to prosthetic care, and the need for legislation that protects the rights of those with mobility issues.

For more information on the local fund raiser, contact Emily.zoltai@gmail.com. Tickets can be purchased at www.crowdrise.com/romp.minneapolis. To learn about the impact of ROMP in Ecuador and Guatemala, visit www.rompglobal.org.

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2103 Wabash building

Wabash development dropped; Historic Places nomination moving forward

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

An ambitious proposal to redevelop a century-old West Midway meat packing plant at 2103 Wabash Ave. into apartments has been shelved.

But, the property still is eligible for historic designation and possible use of low-income housing tax credits for a future developer. The St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) July 26 reviewed a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the property. The report goes to the State Historic Preservation Office. State review is another step in the designation process, which can take several months.

The HPC and its staff provided comments on the report, which was commissioned by the previous development team. The report, which is almost 60 pages long, gives an overview of the history of livestock slaughter and meat packing at the site.

Photo right: Industrial neighbors objected to the rezoning of 2103 Wabash Ave. to allow residential use. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

HPC comments on the report were generally favorable, with most focus on the building design. HPC members noted it’s remarkable that there was a meat packing plant operating in the middle of the city until the late 1970s.

The meatpacking plant, located on the Wabash Ave. rail spur of the Minnesota Transfer Railway Company was originally built as the Henry G. Haas Slaughterhouse in 1886. The slaughterhouse operated as the Midway Abattoir from 1898 to 1927. The Superior Packing Company purchased it in 1928 and began plant upgrades. While the original wood frame slaughterhouse is gone, many early parts of the plant remain.

But how historic designation would be used by a new developer remains unclear. The property has long been a challenge for redevelopment. It is zoned for industrial use but has sat largely vacant since 1979. Its first floor in recent years has housed uses including pet boarding, guitar repair, and industrial tire sales and service.

The oldest part of the building dates from 1886. It was added to in 1911, 1928 and 1947. Different roof and floor heights pose one challenge for redevelopment. Sections range from one to three stories in height. Another challenge is that the building fills much of the property.

Previous developer Superior LLC obtained a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission in February to convert the largely vacant structure into 64 apartments. The developers had hoped to start work in June. One wrinkle in the project was their desire to seek historic designation and use state and federal historic tax credits. Changes to the tax credits were made at the federal level this summer, which affects how developers can finance projects.

The conditional permit approved was to generally allow residential use in an industrial area. It allowed more than six dwelling units on an industrially zoned property. Plans called for 39 dwelling units on the first floor. Typically, when residential uses are allowed in an industrial area, those are on upper floors.

The permit also allowed 90 percent of the first floor to have residential use. Typically, 80 percent of the first floor would be for non-residential uses.

But in the face of opposition, the conditional use permit request was withdrawn in the spring.

That means a new developer will have to start over once a proposal is developed.

Preserving industrial land versus allowing the apartments to go ahead was an issue debated at length by the Planning Commission Zoning Committee in the spring. One concern was the rezoning of the industrial property.

But the St. Paul Port Authority and Midway Chamber of Commerce spoke for the apartment project, noting that an appropriate new industrial use for the site hasn’t been found. The Zoning Committee and full commission opted to approve a conditional use permit and allow the underlying industrial zoning to remain.

Future site neighbor American Engineering Testing (AET) appealed the conditional use permit in the spring. AET recently purchased the former Rihm Kenilworth truck facility at the southwest corner of Cleveland and University avenues, 567 Cleveland Ave. and 2108 University Ave. The testing firm is expanding and would move its drilling and other services to the site.

In the appeal, AET pointed out that Superior LLC’s project would put apartments very close to its planned new facility, raising the potential for complaints about living next to a busy testing facility. AET has raised concerns about having its operations fall under residential noise limits. Off-street parking and pedestrian safety near busy streets and two rail lines were other noted concerns. The Wabash property lacks sidewalks on all four sides.

Minnesota Commercial Railway, 508 N. Cleveland Ave., also weighed in against the conditional use permit and apartments proposal. The company operates a short line railway in the Twin Cities, including tracks adjacent to the Wabash site, which services the West­Rock paper recycling plant.

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Adobe Photoshop PDF

First look at JA of the Upper Midwest’s new St. Paul headquarters

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

The first floor of the Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s new headquarters will include a reception area, co-working space, a boardroom, the Shiller Training Room, and a grand staircase. (Photo provided)

Office opens in November; innovative experiential learning facility will open in January 2019
Business leaders, educators, and state and city officials received the first look at Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s (JAUM) future headquarters, slated for a November opening with the first students using the facility the week of Jan. 7, 2019.

The Junior Achievement James R. and Patricia Hemak Experiential Learning Center is centrally located in the Midway neighborhood right on the Green Line light rail. The new building will enable JAUM to double the number of students served each year by its on-site experiential programs from 17,000 to 34,000.

JAUM purchased the 100-year-old building at 1745 University Ave, W., which has been redesigned and is being refurbished to meet its specific needs with the help of RSP Architects and Mortenson Construction. The new building will house three experiential learning labs, including expanded JA BizTown and JA Finance Park programs and a first-of-its-kind JA Innovation Incubator.

• JA BizTown is a fully interactive free-market lab where students in grades 4-6 learn what it means to be responsible business leaders, consumers, workers, and citizens by participating in this simulated community. Students perform specific jobs within each of the 18 different shops, each of which offers a consumer product or service. Shops are sponsored by Minnesota’s leading companies representing their industry or profession.

• JA Finance Park teaches middle and high school students about personal finance and career exploration through classroom instruction complemented by a day-long hands-on experience where students apply learned concepts in a life-like community.

• JA Innovation Incubator will encourage high school students to cultivate their entrepreneurial interests and develop relationships, talents, and skills to build self-confidence. Students will have access to state-of-the-art technology, including a digital business start-up platform, and the opportunity to learn from local entrepreneurs.

Photo left: Business leaders, educators, and state and city officials received the first look at Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s  future headquarters, when they gathered in what will be the main floor. (Photo provided)

“Junior Achievement is a valuable partner in preparing today’s young people for a successful future,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “The more we can encourage kids to stay in school and learn, the more prepared they will be to succeed in the workforce and contribute to our community.”

Spurred by a lead gift of $4 million from retail industry entrepreneur and JA alumnus Jim Hemak and his wife, Pat, and $1.4 million donated by the JAUM Board of Directors, the organization is now less than $2 million away from its $20 million fundraising goal for the Let’s Build campaign. The campaign supports the purchase and renovation of the building and will also help grow JAUM by providing funding to meet new demands for program expansion, operating needs, technology upgrades, and the ability to continue providing Junior Achievement programs to local schools at little or no cost.

Students from throughout the metro area, as well as from greater Minnesota, will benefit from the programs housed in the new facility. The urban location and proximity to light-rail and bus transportation make the new facility more convenient for students during in-school and after-school programs.

“We’re excited to move to a central location that is more easily accessible to our students, volunteers, and business partners,” said Gina Blayney, JAUM President & CEO. “Our larger building and state-of-the-art technology will make it possible for us to impact thousands of more students each year with our experiential programs. We are building a 21st-century learning center for our region.”

Demolition of the building began in March 2018 and involved “gutting” each of the four floors, leaving only the exterior structure, floor slabs, and columns. There are currently 40 workers on-site that are busy putting up walls, painting, installing casework, ceiling and bathroom tiles. Work on a new glass canopy with painted steel support will wrap up at the end of August, and a grand staircase will be finished in early September. Crews are also readying the 18 shops for JA BizTown and 18 shops for JA Finance Park that will serve as a blank slate for sponsors to create an inspiring learning experience for students.

JAUM is making a significant commitment to sustainability. Through a partnership with the U.S. Green Build Council (USGBC) to integrate sustainability strategies into the building, including solar panels, energy efficient water heaters and HVAC system, and low flow toilets.

JAUM will utilize USGBC’s ADVANCE program to track operational performance to achieve LEED certification. Students will support this effort by tracking key LEED certification requirements, including water usage, recycling practices, and energy audits.

Teachers, volunteers, and corporate partners who visit the building will be encouraged to embrace sustainability practices, such as using public transportation, carpooling, and packing zero-waste lunches.

Students participating in the JA BizTown and JA Finance Park simulations will learn about sustainability technologies, careers, and education requirements, and teachers will be provided with a sustainability-focused curriculum that they can implement in their classroom.

Also, several shop sponsors in the experiential learning labs will implement at least one of the key LEED certification requirements. This sustainability strategy will be a true collaboration between JAUM and its volunteers, educators, and business partners.

To learn more about JAUM’s future home, the Let’s Build campaign, or to make a secure online donation, visit letsbuild.jaum.org.

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694 Snelling Ave N

After six years vacant, is 694 N. Snelling finally getting fixed?

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

The owners of a longtime Midway nuisance property have until early December to get the building rehabilitated. On July 25 the St. Paul City Council gave the building owner more time to get the work done at 694 N. Snelling Ave., allowing a standard 180-day compliance period. Such a period is allowed if a property owner can show the financial ability to repair a building and submit detailed timeline and construction documents.

Neighborhood residents have long complained about the dilapidated condition of the building, which has been vacant and in a state of disrepair for years. It housed a restaurant most recently but has been vacant since 2012, according to city officials.

Ramsey County taxation has placed an estimated market value of $254,800 on the land and $317,900 on the building.

Photo right: Hamline Midway Coalition Executive Director Michael Jon Olson said 694 N. Snelling Ave. is the “number one concern” along the Snelling Ave. commercial corridor. Building owners must improve by Dec. or face further action from the City of St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

City records show that there have been 17 summary abatement notices since 2012. There have been six work orders issued for problems including boarding and securing of the building, snow and ice removal, and removal of graffiti and garbage.

The City Council action originally was for the building to be rehabilitated or removed within 15 days after the July 25 council hearing. But after a legislative hearing in late June, it was recommended that owners Nam M. Ho and Le M. Ho and new contractor Jim Di Chen, Chen Consulting, get more time to complete work on the building.

The building is a one-story brick commercial building on a lot of 14,375 square feet. It has been vacant since August 2012 and was most recently inspected by city officials in April 2018. Its property taxes are current, and it is a registered vacant building.

City officials estimate it would cost more than $125,000 to repair and about $40,000 to knock down.

After a long list of building deficiencies was posted, an “order to abate nuisance building” was posted Apr. 12, with a compliance date of May 12, 2018. A $5,000 performance deposit was posted in May. But as of the June legislative hearing, the building was still in a nuisance condition.

During the legislative hearing, city officials outlined the plans for building rehabilitation. A building permit request had been submitted by then and was under review. The permit showed work of $131,000, with an active plumbing permit ($20,000) and an active electrical permit ($24,000).

Nam L. Ho explained at the legislative hearing that there were problems with the owners’ previous contractor, he was paid $40,000 yet didn’t do any work. The current contractor is working with the city to get permits and a work plan squared away. Ho said there is more than $250,000 earmarked for the work.

Chen said the work could be done this fall.

Hamline Midway Coalition Executive Director Michael Jon Olson testified at the legislative hearing. He noted that in the six years that the building has been vacant, it has deteriorated into worse and worse condition. He said its condition is not only a significant concern for the district council but for many neighborhood residents.

Olson said N. Snelling Ave. has had an increasing number of vacancies, which is alarming to the district council and neighborhood. “Any time you have a building falling into disrepair in a commercial corridor, it affects the entire commercial corridor.” Hamline Midway Coalition is asking that the city not let the project linger. He called 694 N. Snelling Ave. the “number one concern” along the corridor.

A check along North Snelling between University and Hewitt avenues shows more than half a dozen vacancies, including a large storefront recently vacated by Hamline University at the northeast corner of Snelling and Minnehaha avenues, and a former fan and lighting shop at 678 N. Snelling Ave. The old fan and lighting shop has an alcove that has filled up with trash as people seek shelter there. Many area residents and business owners are hoping for redevelopment when the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium opens next year.

The building owners of 694 N. Snelling had to meet several conditions to get the 180-day extension, including providing a revised work plan or sworn constriction statement with timelines to complete building rehabilitation, financial documents such as a line of credit, construction loan or personal bank account and an affidavit indicating the dedication of at least $156,000 to be used for the project.

The City Council action means that work on the building can proceed. After Dec. 6, the City Council will receive a report from Marcia Moermond, the city’s legislative hearing office, with findings on the status of the nuisance abatement.

The issue returns to the legislative hearing’s agenda Dec. 11. The building owners, interested parties, and Department of Safety and Inspection staff will present information on the current building conditions and progress toward abatement of the dangerous/nuisance conditions.

Findings go back to the city council Dec. 19. If there isn’t progress by then, the city can order that the building be torn down.

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Como classroom addition

News from Como Park High School

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

Photo right: Como MCJROTC cadets Philip Chervenak, Charvaye’ Williams, Joseph Newman, Millet Mendoza, Liam Driscoll, Jenna Clayton, Natalie Swenson, and Kao Zong Yang attended a leadership retreat this summer. (Photo submitted)

• Cadets from the Como Marine Corps JROTC have been active during the summer. Several seniors gathered for a two-day retreat at the end of June at the Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area in Dresser, Wisconsin. Their objective was to plan the upcoming academic year from the perspective of their leadership positions in Como’s JROTC. The time away allowed for discussion and bonding over adventurous activities such as zip-lining, navigating a ropes course, swimming, and camping. The experience challenged the cadets and prepared them to inspire and lead younger cadets in the program.

Como cadets conducted a Color Guard and volunteered at Road Guard Positions during the Patriot Guard Ride on June 30. In a joint effort with students from Harding High School’s Naval JROTC program, the cadets supported more than 5,000 motorcyclists who were participating in the ride that was established to honor wounded warriors and veterans in Minnesota. An extra, unique opportunity was earned by cadet Liam Driscoll, who was able to enjoy a free flight over the entire event for more than one hour in a military helicopter. It was an unforgettable experience for Driscoll and an impactful event for all of Como’s participants.

Photo left: Como’s MCJROTC Color Guard members Philip Chervenak, Rosemary Moran-Osorio, Ever Bless, and Anderson Xiong at the St. Anthony Park 4th of July Parade. (Photo submitted)

The Como MCJROTC Color Guard was also in action on the 4th of July in the annual St. Anthony Park Parade. They volunteered their expertise and proudly marched the mile-long parade route for hundreds of smiling community members. The cadets were also able to visit the St. Anthony Park Senior Citizen Center and take several photos with residents just before the start of the parade.

• The Como’s Robotics Team is scheduled to make its annual presentation at the 3M campus on Fri., Aug. 17 for the “Robots on the Plaza” celebration. The Como “BEASTBot” will be on parade and showcase its stuff for 3M employees and families. 3M is a generous sponsor of Como Robotics.
The final summer activity for the robotics team will be demonstrating BEASTBot at the State Fair on Aug. 29. Como’s successful robotics program involves approximately 25-30 students each academic year and is led by Como teachers Donna Norberg and Michael Fisher.

• A St. Paul Pioneer Press story this summer brought to light the work of Toy Vixayvong, Como’s school resource officer. Vixayvong secured the use of a St. Paul Police Department van to provide transportation for fifteen Como students working paid internships through the Minnesota Trades Academy.

The nine-week long internships provided experience in trades such as carpentry, bricklaying, and roofing. The opportunity to develop skills in the labor market and create a pathway for a trade career is enticing for many students who enjoy hands-on work and are seeking livable wages. However, reliable transportation to remote job sites can present challenges. That’s where Vixayvong’s creativity and resources made the opportunity a reality and opened up doors for Como students.

• The Gibson Foundation directed by Como educator and junior varsity basketball coach Donnell Gibson has been up and running again this summer, serving youth in the city. The foundation leads youth basketball camps in the community as well as offering an opportunity for high school age students to play in the evenings and participate in leadership activities and workshops. Guest speakers include community experts, as well as alumni of Como and St. Paul schools who have gone on to play at the collegiate level.

• The Minnesota State High School League’s “fall” sports season begins on Mon., Aug. 13. For Como Park athletics, that means students will be practicing with their coaches and competing in games for three weeks before classes begin on Sept. 4.

Fall sports at Como include football, soccer and cross country running for the boys. Girls’ programs include volleyball, soccer, swimming, tennis and cross country running. Over 250 Como students participate on fall sports teams. For a full schedule of Como games and contests, visit saintpaul.sports.org, or spps.org, “About” and click on the Athletics tab.

• An early-season special event is planned for Tues., Aug. 28 at Como’s new turf field. The boys’ varsity soccer team will be hosting a game versus Hill-Murray at 7pm. At halftime, there will be a ceremony introducing the members of the undefeated state championship team from 2013. The community is invited to attend what should be a great game and a fun tribute to the players who earned Como a state title five years ago.

• Construction of the new academic wing adjacent to the southwest corner of the original school building continues to progress. The new state-of-the-art learning space is scheduled to be completed by the end of August and ready for the new school year. Upgrades and remodeling of west wing classrooms, bathrooms, library and common areas began in June. That work will continue during the start of the school year and remain closed to students and teachers.

Photo right: The new classroom wing at Como Park High School is nearing completion as the new school year approaches. (Photo submitted)

There is also a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system being installed with the new spaces. This intense summer of work has required the entire building to be officially closed until the last week of August. The Wenck Engineering and Construction Company is in charge of the building until then.

The changes are exciting to see from the outside. While the upgrade to the entire facility is a multi-year project that will undoubtedly present some logistical short-term challenges, the promise of a 21st-century learning environment inside Como’s walls will begin to be seen in September.

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Monitor In A Minute Aug. 2018

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin


Historic Resources Survey
The Hamline-Midway Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey has won a nod from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). The commission reviewed and made comments on the report, and then sent it on to state historic preservation officials for further review.

The study, which was reviewed at a neighborhood meeting in June, won HPC praise for its focus on neighborhood people as well as places. But there were questions about why the study didn’t draw more on historical archives including Ramsey County Historical Society, Hamline University, Hamline Midway History Corps and Hamline Church United Methodist. But HPC members also noted the survey is a ‘reconnaissance’ document, meaning more studies can be done in the future. Such a survey is intended to be a basis for future surveys.

Conducted by Summit Envirosolutions, Inc., the survey area included the geographic boundaries of District 11: Pierce Butler Rte., Lexington Pkwy., University Ave., and Transfer Rd. This area includes about 3,000 properties, and the survey focused on 515. Of those, 182 had been previously inventoried and 12 torn down. It included five schools, one university campus, one public library, nine parks and playgrounds, ten religious properties, and one barn, along with single-family homes, multi-family homes, and commercial buildings.

The last assessment, the St. Paul and Ramsey County Historic Sites Survey, was conducted 35 years ago.

The individual properties and areas of the neighborhood identified in the survey may be designated as St. Paul Heritage Preservation sites and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Trend Bar
The Trend Bar, 1537 University Ave., must pay a $500 fine for a license violation, the St. Paul City Council decided July 11. But the fine will be stayed for one year and waived if there are no further violations.

In May an assault occurred outside of the Trend Bar. The bar is required to have working video cameras inside and outside of the premises, but the cameras malfunctioned. The St. Paul Police Department wasn’t able to get a videotape of the assault, said Assistant City Attorney Therese Skarda.

Bar co-owner David Imsdahl admitted the violation and said he would pay the fine but asked for a hearing before the City Council. He has since purchased new surveillance equipment.

“It’s a really tough neighborhood right now,” said Imsdahl. He and his staff deal with behaviors that take place outside of the bar, including loitering, illegal drug transactions, public intoxication, and fights. “We struggle with it every day. We’re doing our best.”

Imsdahl said he had gotten feedback that the Trend Bar isn’t being cooperative with police, which he said is not the case.

Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson said she is aware of the business’s cooperation with police and the area’s problems.

“I know it has been tough,” she said. Henningson said while she is sympathetic to the issues the bar owners and staff face, she is recommending that the fine is paid. But she agreed with a suggestion by Council President Amy Brendmoen that the fine could be stayed and waived if there are no more violations in one year.

Skarda said the last violation was in 2016 when a patron left the bar with alcohol.

Zoned single-family;
City staff say duplex;
Planning says triplex;
approved as fourplex
A Hamline-Midway building owner can use its property as a fourplex, the St. Paul City Council decided July 18. The council upheld an appeal by Brett Ripley to use 1685 W. Taylor Ave. for four dwelling units, with conditions to ensure tenant safety during building renovations.

Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson said the appeal should be granted. She noted it was used as a fourplex until 2006, and that the complex history of the property shows that the St. Paul Planning Commission erred in ruling that the building should be a triplex but not a fourplex.

The commission made its decision in June. She said the building size and configuration calls for a fourplex. Approval is with conditions, including requirements for a building inspection in one year.

The St. Paul Planning Commission in June recommended that the property could be used as a triplex but rejected Ripley’s request to allow four units there. City staff had recommended use as a duplex. The property is zoned for single-family use.

Planning staff told the Planning Commission Zoning Committee that the building has never been zoned for use with more than two dwelling units. But records show its use as a fourplex dating back to the 1980s until about 12 years ago. There are also city records showing the property was approved for triplex use at different points.

Ripley purchased the property in 2012 and unsuccessfully tried for a nonconforming use permit for the property in 2014 for a fourplex. It has been vacant for some time. He said the building’s layout would make the conversion to fewer than four units difficult.

The Zoning Committee debated the issue with some sentiment toward converting the property for triplex use. Instead, the commission approved a duplex.

The conversion to four units has the support of several neighbors and the Hamline Midway Coalition.

Permit parking program
St. Paul’s first residential permit parking program makeover is complete, as the City Council July 25 approved several regulatory, time limit, and district boundary changes. But as almost two years of citywide studies wrap up, a new neighborhood parking study is being launched. Also getting underway is a study of how to make changes in the enforcement of permit parking regulations.
Residents will pay more for permits starting in 2019. Some areas will not be able to buy as many resident permits as they could in the past.

“It’s been a long road,” said Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson. While she and other council members had hoped for more changes, they are satisfied that key steps have been taken to streamline a complicated and cumbersome system.

The council is asking that the city’s Innovation Team immediately convene a working group of staff from the departments of Public Works, Police, the Office of Technology and Communications and the City Attorney’s Office to vet and plan for permit parking enforcement using license plate reader technology. This is to start in September 2019 in conjunction with a new online permit renewal system. The council is also asking the Police Department to increase the capacity of its parking enforcement ranks, as well as the efficiency of deploying officers.

Henningson said license plate reader technology would be a big step in residential permit parking enforcement. One complaint she and other council members have heard is that in areas where two-hour business parking is allowed in a permit district, the time limits aren’t enforced. Officers currently chalk tires and recheck after two hours.

Many changes approved July 25 are technical, including rolling all of the plus-two dozen districts into one ordinance and replacing more than three decades of separate council resolutions creating and amending districts.

Changes were approved to create standardization in residential permit parking rules among the districts. Time limits will still vary by districts and by street.

While hours won’t be consistent citywide, many other changes will be. From now on, three vehicle permits and two visitor permits will be made available to each household. Some districts including Irvine Park and Summit Hill had as many as six resident permits per household.

Permit fees will change starting in 2019, with churches and nonprofits within residential permit parking areas paying $5 and not $1 apiece for visitor placards. Vehicle and visitor permits will be $25 each, up from $15. A fee of $25 will be charged to replace lost permits, a jump from $15. Anyone buying a new vehicle will pay $10 for a new permit and not $1. Hang tags for visitors will be $3 each, up from $1. Vehicle and visitor permits will be no longer be offered at prorated prices after May 1.

People who drive a leased vehicle will be able to buy permits in their home districts, something that wasn’t available before.

Permits will be uniform in design for all districts.

No permits will be available to owners or employees of commercial or office buildings. That won’t change, despite some suggestions during the recent study.

Some changes are proposed district by district, to time limits and streets where permit parking is allowed. One key change allows residents of multi-family buildings to sign petitions. Property owners were the only ones who could sign before. Seventy-five percent of residents or property owners in a district must sign a petition for a permit.

The change also allows more flexibility for city staff when permit extension requests are made.
Changes go into effect 30 days after the council actions or published, or after sign changes are posted.

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Como by the Lake file photo

Development Roundup Aug. 2018

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin


Aeon gets funds to rehab Como by the Lake
Work to retain affordable housing at Como by the Lake continues. The affordable housing complex for senior citizens and people with disabilities at 901 E. Como Blvd. is being purchased and rehabilitated by nonprofit housing provider Aeon. The St. Paul City Council July 25, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, approved the sale of up to $7.3 million in conduit tax-exempt housing revenue bonds and approving a waiver of the city’s developer fee for the project.

The purchase of the 99-unit building, which includes 57 Section 8 units, will keep the property affordable for its tenants. Residents organized in 2015 after the previous owner announced the property sale that could have forced out many low-income residents.

Aeon acquired the building in late 2016 and extended the Section 8 contract for another 20 years.

Aeon has extensive experience as a developer, owner, and manager of affordable rental housing, for both families and individuals. Earlier in 2018, Aeon secured HRA funding approval for the acquisition of Larpenteur Villas in St. Paul, which was part of a larger portfolio acquired by Aeon.

Aeon is drawing on a wide range of financing sources for the $15.3 million Como by the Lake project.

Projects receive STAR funds
About $2.7 million in 2018 Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grants and loans won St. Paul City Council approval July 18. Area projects fared well in the final action. This year the program had a focus on small businesses and business proposals that are meant to fill vacant storefronts.

Projects funded include improvements for Sabrina’s Café and Deli, 518 N. Snelling Ave. Neighbor SC Upholstery, 641 N. Snelling Ave., also had building improvements approved, as did Snelling Coffee, 638 N. Snelling Ave.

Black Hart Properties, which purchased the venerable Town House bar at 1415 University Ave., also saw its request for exterior and interior improvements approved. Modernization of a building at 860 Vandalia St. for the Jobs Foundation Tech Dump electronic recycling program made the cut, as did tenth-ranked Can Can Wonderland’s (755 Prior Ave. N.) request for lighting and sound improvements.

Several other area projects were turned down.

Livable Communities funds
Metropolitan Council, at its July 25 meeting, approved four Livable Communities grants for St. Paul projects. The funds are to be used for projects that provide affordable housing, clean up of polluted sites, promote mixed-use development along transit lines, and meet other development goals.

Cities have to participate in the Livable Communities program to submit projects for funding.

One grant funded is $28,924 for the redevelopment of the northwest corner of University Ave. and Dale St. The grant is for environmental assessment and cleanup planning for a mixed-use development that would include a business incubator, professional offices, small business entrepreneur training center, and up to 60 units of affordable housing.

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Como Community Council Corner Aug. 2018

Posted on 06 August 2018 by Calvin

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

Can you get around the Park?
District 10 is asking what it is like to get around Como Regional Park when you’re walking, bicycling, rolling, or traveling in some way other than in a motor vehicle. Our survey asks about signs, paths, and generally getting from one part of the park to another. You can take the survey online until Aug. 20—in English, Spanish, Hmong, or Somali—at comopark.info.

We can help with your party
District 10 has street barricades and portable recycling containers that community members can use for block parties, neighborhood, or family events.

The street barricades are required by the city when you block off your street or alley—but ours are a more-affordable option than getting them from Public Works. Barricades require a $50 deposit. We return $40 when you return the barricades. Reservations are first-come, first-served. (To borrow our barricades, you must have an event permit from the city.)

You can borrow the recycling containers for free; there are two kinds:
• For cans, bottles, and other items, you can include in your weekly recycling.
• For food scraps and other compostable organics.

To reserve any of this equipment, call the District 10 office at 651-644-3889.

Vote early at Streetcar Station
Ramsey County will open 11 locations for early voting in the days before the Aug. 14 statewide primary elections and City of Saint Paul special election for City Council in Ward 4.

Any Ramsey County resident can vote early at the Como Park Streetcar Station or at one of 10 other locations. Early voting hours at the Streetcar Station are Aug. 9 and 10 from noon-6pm; and Aug. 11 and 13 from 9am-3pm. Polls are open on Election Day, Tues., Aug. 14, from 7am-8pm (but voters must vote in their own precinct on that day).

State Fair do’s and don’ts
Especially for those of you who live near the State Fairgrounds, District 10 will post a “cheat sheet” of what is allowed—and isn’t allowed—during the 12 days of the Fair. The guide covers street parking, lawn parking, peddlers, and vendors; includes phone numbers to call about different issues; and offers general advice from neighbors on common courtesy and making the most of the congestion and crowds. Look for the guide on District 10’s website, www.district10comopark.org.

Join us for yoga
District 10’s next Community Yoga get-together is Sun., Sept. 9 from 9:30-10:30am at the Como Park Streetcar Station. Instructor Meegan Hall of Como Park Yoga and Wellness will lead the session, which will be suitable for all levels of skill and experience. Bring a yoga mat or blanket and wear comfortable clothes. The class is limited to 25 participants. To reserve your space, sign up online at www.district10comopark.org/CommunityYoga.html. Registration is $5, which benefits the Como Community Council.

Upcoming District 10 meetings
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., Aug. 14
• Como Community Council Monthly Meeting: Tues., Aug. 21
• Environment Committee: Wed., Aug. 29
• Land Use Committee: Wed., Sept. 5
All meetings begin at 7pm, typically at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton. 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.

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Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival takes center stage July 20

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

Lyngblomsten, a senior care organization serving older adults since 1906, invites the community to attend its annual Mid-Summer Festival on Fri., July 20, 2-8pm, on its St. Paul campus, 1415 Almond Ave.

The festival is a day to celebrate how Lyngblomsten is promoting artistic exploration, wellness, and lifelong learning for older adults every day of the year. The event includes an art showcase featuring works created by older adults, make-and-take art activities, live music and entertainment, wellness opportunities and demonstrations, food, games, and more. Admission is free, and food and activities are priced for affordable fun.

“Lyngblomsten strives to be innovative and provide quality, life-enhancing programming and opportunities for all those that we serve,” said Andrea Lewandoski, Lyngblomsten’s Director of Lifelong Learning and the Arts. “I truly believe that the festival is celebrating all of that and is nurturing people through their mind, body, and spirit.”

This year, the celebration will feature a number of activities, including the following:
• An art showcase exhibiting sketches, pottery, paintings, and other pieces created by Lyngblomsten residents, tenants, and community program participants over the past year.
• Make-and-take art activities led by Northern Clay Center, the Polymer Clay Guild of Minnesota, ART4JOY, Wet Paint Artists’ Materials and Framing, Blick Art Materials, and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project of Minnesota.
• Live music and entertainment featuring the Minnesota Opera, Zorongo Flamenco, Lakeshore Radio Players, Park Square Theatre, MacPhail Center for Music and HealthRHYTHMSTM Drumming.
• A Wellness Lounge encouraging festivalgoers to learn about the many ways Lyngblomsten promotes wellness throughout the year. Activities will include wellness demonstrations (including Tai Chi and seated exercise), chair massages, aroma touch hand massage, and art selfies.
• Delicious food, beverages, and ice cream provided by Grand Ole Creamery and I w Smoothies.
• Games and activities for children, including a bouncy house, fishpond, ring toss, beanbag toss and face painting.
Lyngblomsten held its first summer festival more than 100 years ago in 1913 as a tribute to Anna Quale Fergstad, the nonprofit’s founder and first president.

For more information on this family-friendly event, visit www.CelebrateMSF.com.

The Lyngblomsten Mid- Summer Festival is proudly part of ComoFest: Fun Every Weekend in July. Learn more at www.comofest.org.

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