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Eureka Recycling 14SmC

Eureka Recycling helps people recycle better

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Facility designed for food and beverage containers – not extra stuff like hoses, plastic toys and fencing

Community engagement director Katrina Lund said, “It’s important to remember to reduce, re-use AND recycle.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Eureka Recycling is one of only a handful of non-profit recycling facilities across the country, and they’re a zero waste organization, too.
They process an average of 400 tons of recyclable materials from the Twin Cities metro area daily. Katrina Lund, director of community engagement, emphasized, “That’s 400 tons that aren’t being burned in incinerators every day.”
Their mission is to demonstrate that waste is preventable. This impacts the way they run their recycling program – everything from how they market their recyclables to how they pay their employees.
Located in Northeast Minneapolis, Eureka’s programs are designed to help individuals, organizations, and communities understand the significance of zero waste, and to provide the resources and education needed to achieve zero waste goals.
On Saturday, June 1, Eureka will host its first ever open house for St. Paul and Minneapolis residents from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Facility tours will be offered on the half hour during these times. Taking a tour helps people reckon with how huge quantities of recyclable material are collected, separated, and bundled – all at very high speeds.
In this time of change in the recycling industry, it’s important to understand what can and can’t be recycled in a MRF (materials recovery facility) like Eureka.
Co-president Lynn Hoffman said, “It’s pretty simple. We‘re designed to handle food and beverage containers, though we end up with all kinds of things like garden hoses, plastic toys, chain link fencing, and propane tanks.”
When St. Paul switched to single stream recycling a few years ago, the quantity of recyclables collected went up, but the quality went down.

Photo by Margie O’Loughlin

Hoffman and Lund made the following suggestions for people who want to recycle better:
• Do not put recyclables into plastic bags. Dump them directly into the blue cart.
• Make sure that containers being recycled are empty. Get them reasonably clean, too.
• Just because something is recyclable, doesn’t mean it’s recyclable in the blue cart. For example, plastic bags are recyclable – but not through Eureka. Search www.plasticfilmrecycling.org by zip code to learn where to bring them. CUB, Target and Walmart on University Ave. in the Midway are all drop-off spots for plastics such as product wrap, newspaper and bread bags, and more. The bins are located near the entrance of each store.
• Lithium batteries are now frequently embedded in greeting cards. The batteries are hazardous and should not be put in with recycling.
• Batteries, propane tanks, and electronics should be taken to a hazardous waste site.
• If there’s a choice between products packaged in plastic or glass, choose glass. Glass can be recycled infinitely; a plastic bottle will likely be turned into decking, and from there it can’t be recycled into anything else; plastic bottles can only be recycled once.
Lund explained that most of the trash collected in the Twin Cities ends up being burned in an incinerator in downtown Minneapolis. She said, “One of the myths in this industry is that incineration is cheaper than recycling. The real costs of incineration go well beyond a dollar amount. You have to figure in the invisible (and unknown) costs of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, carcinogens released into the air, and the effect on climate change.”
Hoffman concluded, “We have a consumption problem in this country. Forty-two percent of the CO2 emissions in the US come from the production, consumption, and disposal of consumer products. What can we do about that? Use less, be content with what you have, choose durable options. People get overwhelmed and think that their individual actions don’t add up – but they do.”
Eureka Recycling is located at 2828 Kennedy Street NE, Minneapolis 55413.There’s no need to RSVP for the open house, but you can reserve a spot for a specific tour time at www.eurekarecycling.org. Enjoy snacks and coffee (in compostable cups), and photo opportunities with bales of aluminum cans and mixed plastics. Public tours are also available each Wednesday at 9 a.m. by reservation.

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Allianz Field Neigbors Respond 08SmC

Is stadium a benefit to Hamline-Midway?

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Residents have mixed views on effect of 20,000 soccer fans coming into neighborhood

Midway resident Jacob McGill said, “No one ever gave the neighbors the chance to vote on whether we wanted the stadium here. I hope they’ll at least consider helping us with the street maintenance we’ll need now, due to increased traffic.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Neighbors who live within a few blocks of Allianz Field are having to adjust to new levels of traffic on MNUFC game days. On the evening of Game II, April 24, people shared the following thoughts.
A neighbor at Sherburne and Simpson (who asked to remain anonymous) said, “My wife and I have lived here for 16 years. I love watching the people go by and seeing the action around the stadium on game days, but parking is a big problem for us. We don’t have a garage, and both my wife and I are handicapped. We have to park in front of our house. If we can’t get home in time to park in our parking spaces, we don’t have a place to park.”
Tina Sweesy, who lives three blocks away from Allianz Field, said, “The stadium hasn’t presented a big deal for us. I’m just glad the Super Block is starting to feel safer. I feel like, for 18 times/year, why not have people come and visit our neighborhood?”

Her 16-year-old daughter Emily added, “I just hope the development brings some nice restaurants into the neighborhood. When I want to hang out with my friends, we always go to Grand Ave. or Highland Park. It would be great to have better alternatives here in our neighborhood.”
Rebekah Rexius and her family are also near neighbors. She said, “We’re not happy with so many people parking in our neighborhood. It feels disrespectful, as we’re the ones who pay for street and sidewalk maintenance. We wonder if the team could offer an incentive for people taking public transportation, like a few bucks off concessions for showing an LRT or bus ticket?”
Jacob McGill and his family live just west of Snelling Avenue. He said, “I go to Central Baptist Church. We’re concerned about the 12:30 p.m. games on Sundays, and how people leaving church will get out of the neighborhood. We cancelled our choir practice tonight because there was a 7 p.m. kickoff, and we didn’t want choir members to get stuck in traffic. I’m not really complaining, but I am concerned. Our taxes are skyrocketing in this neighborhood, and I don’t see the benefit to the community yet of having the stadium here. All this extra traffic sure won’t help the condition of our streets either.”
A spokesperson for the MNUFC said fans were discouraged from parking in the neighborhood, but it was clear that many were anyhow. From a paragraph near the end of the MNUFC Transportation Plan, which can be found online: “Allianz Field is located just off Interstate 94 on a Minnesota commuter pipeline that connects Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Fans from across the state will be able to hop on the interstate and drive directly to Allianz Field. However, given the amount of pedestrian, bicycle and transit traffic around the stadium on game days, it is recommended that fans do their best to avoid driving directly to Allianz Field.”

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The Black Hart combines soccer, LGBTQ+ and neighborhood hangout

The Black Hart combines soccer, LGBTQ+ and neighborhood hangout

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Town House Bar revamped by Midway resident and soccer fan as Minnesota United move into Allianz Stadium nearby

Wes Burdine purchased St. Paul’s oldest LGBTQ+ bar, the Town House Bar (1415 University Avenue West), four blocks from his house last year. He’s rebranded it by adding a soccer component as the Minnesota United FC move into the recently completed Allianz Field nearby. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Wes Burdine felt like something was missing when he moved into the Midway area three years ago. It needed a neighborhood gathering place.
With Allianz Stadium going up, Burdine also believed that the Midway needed a soccer bar.
So one day he called up Holly Monnett, owner of St. Paul’s oldest LGBTQ+ bar, the Town House Bar (1415 University Ave. W.) four blocks from his house, and shared his idea with her.
“I want to take what exists in this bar and add soccer to it,” Burdine said.
She told him, “This is the phone call I’ve been waiting for,” Burdine recalled.
The Town House began as a fine dining restaurant in the 1940s and stayed that way through the 1960s. In 1969, it was rebranded as a gay bar, albeit subtly. Monnett began working there in 1974, became manager in 1980, and bought the place in 1987.
The bar has been well-known for its burlesque and drag shows, as well as weekly karaoke and piano lounge.
“It has a culture that you can’t recreate from scratch,” observed Burdine.
And he didn’t want to. Rather, he wanted to build upon it and bring more people, both gay and straight, soccer fans and neighbors, through the door. “It is important to me to keep something that is really vibrant and interesting here,” said Burdine. “This is a great space where a lot of things have happened.”
His goal is to continue to serve the queer community and to offer a soccer bar that serves a distinct fan culture, one he knows through his work as a soccer writer, blogger, and podcaster.
Burdine is part of team that launched FiftyFive.One, an online magazine focused on soccer and its culture, that grew out of Northern Pitch in 2016. Its name comes from the average high temperature of Minnesota, and the site seeks to be the singular source for regular coverage of professional soccer in Minnesota.
“The soccer world is mostly ignored by the media. People like me took it upon ourselves to write about it the way we wanted to,” explained Burdine.
Through that work, Burdine is familiar with the Minnesota United, its owner and players, and its fans.
Located a thousand feet from the new Allianz Field, the Black Hart aims to be the new spiritual home for soccer in the Twin Cities, and a place to catch matches from around the world of soccer.
“Soccer culture is very niche and DIY,” remarked Burdine. “It’s a little bit tribal.”
Part of that means that soccer fans enjoy watching games together, and if a game isn’t on at Black Hart patrons are encouraged to just ask.
A year and a half ago, Burdine started asking people what they loved most about the bar and what else they might want to see there. Burdine didn’t make any quick changes as he got to know the regulars, and he hung onto the existing staff members. He knew as a cis-gender straight male buying a queer bar that he needed to listen first and use those ideas to shape what came next.
The Town House hadn’t been the only place he had considered purchasing in the Midway. At one point, a property owner had encouraged him to raise the prices and push people out in order to get the right kind of clientele.
That advice didn’t sit well with Burdine, who has no intention of gentrifying his neighborhood.
He appreciated The Town House and didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable there, although he had also identified some things that needed to be fixed and updated.
“This is a working class bar,” said Burdine.
Burdine officially took over on Aug. 31, 2018 and held a grand re-opening of The Black Hart, named for an iconic black-tailed deer at the heart of the Minnesota wilderness, on March 2, 2019.
With the help of a $100,000 Neighborhood Star matching grant, Burdine spruced up the place. He painted the outdoor of the building and the ceiling, installed new vinyl flooring, added some wallpaper, and put up new signage. There was also a great deal done that isn’t noticeable, such as electrical work.
He tried to buy the empty lot next door to build a patio, but the current owners seem to be hanging onto it until they can get $500,000 for it, Burdine remarked. All of the empty storefronts along University Ave. that have been purchased by out-of-state investors set on hanging onto them until the prices reach exorbitant amounts frustrates the neighborhood resident, and he’s working with local officials to do something about it.
Burdine also converted the former dart area into a seating space, and added a large window to bring in light. He added more craft beer and liquor options in response to patron suggestions.
A giant 143-inch screen and projector went in on the stage. It allows patrons to view soccer games and rolls away during drag shows.
Catch the longtime Pumps and Pearls show on Wednesdays, and other burlesque and drag shows on the weekends after 9:30 p.m.
There’s karaoke every Tuesday night beginning at 8:30 p.m. and again on Fridays in the lounge at 9 p.m. Sunday is Cheapie Night with free pool and darts after 8 p.m. Monday night is Trivia Night with Trivia Mafia.
Check the online calendar for which soccer games will be shown (www.blackhartstp.com).
Hours are Monday to Thursday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday noon to 2 a.m. and Sunday noon to 1 a.m. Black Hart opens at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays August through May for European soccer games.
“The idea is to get to be the place of choice for Midway residents,“ said Burdine. “It’s not just the drag shows or the soccer. It’s their space, as well.”

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MN United Game I 001SmC

Neighborhood responds to game-day traffic

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Some rent out driveways, others ask for residential permit parking districts

According to Allianz Field field general manager Justin Borrell, traffic flowed relatively smoothly on opening day. Similar to when an event is held at the Excel Energy Center, there were 40+ St. Paul police helping to manage traffic. Borrell said, “The number of police, fire, and emergency medical services employees did not affect the ability of these departments to respond to emergencies in other parts of the city.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By Jane McClure
Allianz Field’s first few Major League Soccer games have had a mixed impact on surrounding neighborhoods, in terms of parking and traffic. Some neighbors are already seeking expanded or new residential permit parking districts, in response to people filling streets with parked vehicles. Others have decided to make a profit, signing up to rent out their off-street driveways or parking pads to soccer fans.
Pre and post-game periods have brought heavy motor vehicle traffic on arterial and neighborhood streets, with traffic tie-ups north and south of University Ave. But Minnesota United FC’s admonition to fans to walk, bike or use transit, shuttles, off-site paid parking lots for games apparently is being heeded. Buses and trains have carried full loads of passengers to and from games, with fans clearing out after games in about an hour.
Steve Linders, spokesperson for the St. Paul Police Department, said the first game went smoothly. Police, other city and team officials met to see what changes could be made before the second game April 24, 2019, and subsequent games
“The overall consensus was that the first game went well, considering it was the first time anyone had ever tried to move so many people into and out of the area at one time,” said Linders.
Parts of the traffic plan were changed after the experience April 13. A U-turn at Snelling and Shields avenues will be closed before and after games. Barricades for a HealthEast lot that is rented to game-goers were changed to deter traffic from entertaining the adjacent neighborhood onto Shields. St. Anthony was opened without restrictions east of Pascals Street to aid local business traffic.
For pedestrians, the police department will park a squad car with lights on before the Simpson-University crossing to help pedestrians cross the street. Pedestrian barricades were added along Spruce Tree Dr. and Fry St. to improve pedestrian safety.
Linders said the city and soccer team would continue to make adjustments as the season goes on.
The spillover parking has vexed some neighbors. Snelling-Hamline and Merriam Park residents south of the stadium have started the process to create or expand residential permit parking districts. Those requests will eventually wind up before the St. Paul City Council for a vote.
Snelling-Hamline residents wish to expand Area 8, which currently includes Iglehart and Carroll avenues between the Asbury Street-Snelling Ave. alley, and Asbury from Iglehart to Carroll. The change calls for permit parking on Concordia, Carroll and Iglehart from Asbury to Pascal St. This is one of the city’s oldest residential permit parking districts and was created in response to bus commuter park and rider spillover parking.
A second area would be a new residential permit parking district, calling for permit parking on Concordia Ave. from Pierce St. to Snelling, the north side of Carroll from Pierce St. to Fry St., Carroll from Fry to Snelling, east side of Pierce from Concordia to Carroll, and Fry from Concordia to Carroll.
More than 50 residents seeking permit parking attended a community meeting in April to seek the changes. One idea they liked is that of limiting permit parking to April through October, when soccer games are played.
“Everyone here is terrified that we’re going to get swamped with parking,” said Don Brabeck. He and his family live near Aldine Park. Neighbors are also hoping the park doesn’t become a pregame party spot.
Doni Hamann lives in the area where residents want a new residential permit parking district. She and other neighbors said their streets filled quickly with spillover parking during the ticketholders’ open house.
A check on parking and traffic before and after the first three games indicated that streets as far south as Ashland Ave. and up toward Thomas Ave. experienced game-day parking. Most area commercial parking lots were signed for no event parking or paid parking, with several businesses selling lot spaces.
New Midway Marketplace owners Kraus-Anderson sold spaces in the eastern part of their lot. Midway Super Target posted parking restrictions. The HealthEast lots didn’t appear to fill up, but there was strong demand for park and ride at the Minnesota State fairgrounds.
One problem seen was that of motorists stopping in the middle of Snelling Ave. to quickly let people out, causing traffic to back up. Those drivers got warnings from police to use designated drop-offs in Concordia Ave. instead.

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Bridging divide between renters and homeowners

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Renter’s Voice Summit first step in giving voice to the half of city residents who rent

Theresa St.Aoro is a renter in the Como neighborhood. She loves the duplex she rents and the neighborhood, and would only move if her rent increases too much. She wishes there was less volatility in rent prices. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Bringing the voice of renters into city hall is a subject Ward 4 Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson is passionate about.
She is a renter who campaigned on a platform of renter’s rights last summer before being elected to the seat vacated by Russ Stark. On Thursday, April 18, she held a Renter’s Voice Summit in partnership with five district councils.
“Half of our community is renting and we have yet to see full representation [on the city council],” Nelson pointed out.
She added, “Tenants are the most diverse group of residents. What are our rights? What are ways to make our voices heard?”
Nelson pointed out that this is the first time an event of this kind for renters has been organized. “We are doing something new and different,” she said. “I believe our government needs to work directly with folks to solve problems.”
Renters, landlords and district council members attended the April 18 summit at Hamline University, and talked about the divide that exists between homeowners and tenants.
“There is the perception that homeowners are somewhat permanent and part of the city, and that renters are transient,” observed District 10 Community Council Executive Director Michael Kuchta after his group had chatted together. “Yet there were renters at our table who have lived in the neighborhood longer than I’ve owned my home.”
At the Hamline Midway Coalition table, landlords expressed concerns about how to manage challenging tenants, and asked to be part of the process in developing a single application. Tenants and landlords are concerned about requirements by the city department of safety and inspection and don’t feel that they are clear.
Union Park residents are anxious about how the new stadium will affect rental prices.
They also want to see renters voices reflected in news articles.
Those at the Mac-Groveland table pointed out that there are good landlords who genuinely want to hear about issues so they can fix them and seek to have good relationships with those who are leasing from them. These small business owners may also live in the building they own or nearby.
District council members encouraged people to get involved in their organizations in order to make change happen and bring their voices to the table. “I encourage folks who are renting to be part of this work,” said Hamline Midway Coalition Community Organizer Melissa Cortes Michener.
Nelson told those gathered that the night’s meeting was only one of many steps.
“The conversation needs to continue,” stated Nelson. “We need the relationships in this room to help us reach more people.”

Photo by Tesha M. Christensen

At the council level, Nelson is working on a fair housing and tenant protection ordinance.
In December 2018, the Saint Paul City Council approved a one-time $10 million and annual $2 million investment into a Housing Trust Fund, for total housing investments of over $71 million. The aim of the Housing Trust Fund is to produce, preserve, and protect housing affordability for St. Paul residents and to address the current crisis of housing affordability.
In February, the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) approved using money from the Housing Trust Fund for the new 4(d) Affordable Housing Incentive Program. This will preserve existing affordable housing by providing landlords with a small property tax credit. Within the first two weeks, 104 applications for 721 units were received, including nearly 200 units serving households at or below 50 percent of area median income.
In the next year, the Housing Trust Fund will explore various programs, including a rent supplement pilot in partnership with St. Paul Public Schools, targeted down-payment assistance programs, and investments in proven models of sustained affordability and wealth building such as the Rondo Community Land Trust.
The Rental Rehabilitation Loan Program seeks to preserve existing affordable rental housing options. Landlords of 1-4 unit properties who want to upgrade their current property classification by making property improvements that increase the safety and quality of rental units can apply for a loan of up to $30,000 for 10 years at 0% interest to address eligible issues.
Other ideas discussed at the Renter’s Voice Summit include: Ban the box to help those with criminal records get rental housing, and just cause eviction. With a central application system, potential renters would just have to fill out one application form. Another idea would be to have a central list of available rental units.
If a right of first refusal was implemented, renters would get the option of buying the property first if it went up for sale.

Know Your Rights: Tenant Rights in Minnesota

At the start of the summit, speakers shared resources for renters. Free legal advice for rental problems is available at the Home Line, 612-728-5767 or email an attorney at www.homelinemn.org/email.
Rights for tenants fall under three main categories and make up the majority of calls the Home Line receives: security deposits, repairs and evictions.
• Landlords can charge a screening fee for applicants, but not if no rental units are available at the time of application or in the near future.
• At the end of tenancy, the landlord must return the deposit within 21 days with 1% interest, although they can keep any amount necessary with written explanation to make repairs to the damage done by the tenant.
• Rental agreements are either periodic (month-to-month) or for a definite amount of time. For periodic rental agreements, the landlord or the tenant can end the agreement at any time, but must give proper notice (either stated in the lease or one full rental period plus one day under state law).
• A landlord cannot raise the rent without written notice of one rental period plus one day for month-to-month leases, and unless the lease allows for increases for definite leases.
• Landlords cannot enter a unit without a reasonable business purpose (ex. showing the unit to other prospective tenants) and only after making a good faith effort to give you reasonable notice.
• Landlords are required to keep a unit in reasonable repair. You can file a complaint with St. Paul DSI by calling 651-266-8989 if they refuse to make repairs, or write the landlord and request repairs within 14 days. If management fails to make such repairs, you may file a rent escrow action.
• In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord must first bring a formal court “Eviction Action,” (“unlawful detainer”) against the tenant, with a recognized legitimate reason under state law to do so. (These include nonpayment of rent, breach of the lease, holding over after a notice to vacate, or some specific illegal/criminal behaviors.) This is followed by a court proceeding that must then be carried out to completion.
• A landlord may not evict a tenant or end a tenancy in retaliation for the tenant’s “good faith” attempt to enforce the tenant’s rights (such as calling an inspector), nor can a landlord respond to such an attempt by raising the tenant’s rent, cutting services, or otherwise adversely changing the rental terms. If, within 90 days of a tenant’s action, the landlord starts an Eviction Action or gives the tenant a notice to vacate, the law presumes that the landlord is retaliating.
Information taken from a handout from the April 18 Renter’s Voice Summit. A full handbook with more detail and legal resources is available at bit.ly/MNTenantLandlordRights

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Midway Como Monitor, Messenger transition to new ownership May 1

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

After 44 years, current owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson sell newspapers to writer Tesha M. Christensen

The Midway Como Monitor and its sister publication, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, will be under new ownership beginning May 1, 2019.
Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson of deRuyter-Nelson Publications have sold their two well-established neighborhood newspapers to south Minneapolis resident Tesha M. Christensen, who has written for the two newspapers for almost eight years.

Christensen always knew she wanted to be a writer and was drawn to journalism at a young age when she wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Cambridge Star newspaper.

“From that point on I was hooked. I had gotten my first glimpse into the power of the printed word,” recalled Christensen. “I wanted more. I saw how newspapers could be used to generate change in their communities, and how they could inform and engage people.”

Photo right: New owner Tesha M. Christensen of TMC Publications CO and her two children, Axel (age 6) and Joselyn (age 10) are excited to become more involved in these two neighborhood newspapers. The kids, of course, are pushing for a new section for kids. Got ideas on what that should include? Email Tesha.christensen@gmail.com. (Photo courtesy of Tesha M. Christensen)

Lifelong learner
She earned a degree in English and writing in 1998 from Bethel College, where she wrote for the Clarion, and then entered the community newspaper industry.

Her first job was with the same newspaper that printed her letter to the editor, then renamed The Star newspaper. Christensen worked as the assistant editor and special sections editor of her hometown newspaper for ten years, serving two counties and a circulation of 21,000 with a twice-weekly newspaper.

Over the years, Christensen covered a range of topics in Isanti and Chisago counties, from school board levies to new county parks to crime news. “I wrote about what new businesses were coming to town, local musicians, and rodeo shows, and a story about one resident who saved the life of another,” Christensen recalled.

“I love the ever-changing nature of this business, and how I learn something new with each story I write.”

She left the full-time workforce in March 2009 when her first baby was born, but continued writing on a part-time basis for Northstar Media, the Isanti County News, ECM Publishers/Adams Publishing Group, Twin Cities Daily Planet, RedCurrent, and The Alley newspaper in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

From 2006 to 2012, she worked as an adjunct journalism instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College where she taught a variety of journalism classes and was an adviser for the Cambridge Campus newspaper, the Ink Spot. She also taught for one year at Planet Homeschool, a homeschool co-op in St. Anthony, and helped launch a school newspaper written by the middle and high school students.

“I love journalism, and I am passionate about sharing journalism with kids and young adults,” stated Christensen. “They are the future, and it’s so exciting to hear their ideas.”

Christensen has served on a variety of committees and boards over the years and is a co-founder of Team Yarn – Head Huggers (teamyarn.blogspot.com), a small non-profit dedicated to making and donating hats, shawls, and lapghans to those battling cancer and other serious illnesses.

Forum for community discussion
Christensen and longtime staff member Denis Woulfe, along with the writers and photographers who contribute to the paper, are looking forward to what the future holds for the Monitor and Messenger newspapers.

“I think what excites me about this next chapter is working to re-engage the newspapers with the communities that we serve,” observed Woulfe, who started as an intern at the Monitor while he attended Hamline University 40 years ago.

“The world has changed since each of the newspapers was founded, but the basic needs of our readers are largely the same. I think they value the work and the role of the Messenger and the Monitor, and our challenge now is to find out how to heighten that engagement and fulfill that special contract between our readers and the newspapers that enhances and enriches the communities that we serve.”

Photo left: The team of writers and sales staff will continue working under new owner Tesha M. Christensen. Left to right: (writers and photographers) Jan Wilms, Jill Boogren, Stephanie Fox, Margie Oloughlin, (sales) Lynn Santacaterina and Denis Woulfe. Not pictured writer Jane McClure and sports columnist Matthew Davis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Over the years, Woulfe has served in many different roles at the neighborhood newspapers, including the editor, typesetter, managing editor, advertising manager, and more. For the past few years, he’s been busy selling ads, and is currently a board member at ALLY People Solutions in the Midway which just merged with Community Involvement Programs (CIP) of Minneapolis. He is also a member of the Alumni Annual Fund Board for Hamline University.

“We dealt with many challenges over the years, but one, in particular, was the discussion over the role of a neighborhood newspaper and the balance between reporting what some readers saw as ‘good’ news and what others saw as ‘bad’ news,” said Woulfe. There also was a constant dialogue about what role the neighborhood newspaper had, and how it differed from the daily newspapers.

“Despite the different neighborhoods we serve with the two newspapers, the value of bringing community stakeholders together and providing a forum for community discussion has remained the constant over the years,” stated Woulfe. “It remains as important now more than ever!”

Think print is dead?
Christensen agrees that it is more important now than ever, and will be recruiting various people from each neighborhood to serve on an advisory board that will share story ideas and tie each story closer into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“At the Monitor and Messenger, we are here to tell the stories of our neighborhoods,” she stated. “We want to be reader-centric and make our content—both ads and articles—engaging and applicable. Print is evolving, and we’re looking ahead in innovative and creative ways. More people are reading than ever before in the history of humankind, and we want to ensure that local residents are reading their community newspaper because it is ‘News for You.’

“Think print is dead? Think again.”


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Hamline University decides it will tear down 1549 Minnehaha

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

A Hamline University plan to demolish 1549 Minnehaha Ave. after five years’ discussions, and a proposal to make changes to the Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee (HUNAC) are prompting objections and questions in the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

Some neighbors are asking if the demolition, approved by the HU Trustees and revealed at the March HUNAC meeting, signals a move toward the more aggressive university teardown policies that roiled Hamline-Midway neighborhood several years ago. Other questions raised are if the university is walking away from its role with HUNAC.

The next HUNAC meeting at 6pm, Mon., Apr. 15, is to be a working meeting of representatives from stakeholder groups to discuss the future of HUNAC and whether the group becomes part of Hamline Midway Coalition.

HU spokesperson Christine Weeks said outstanding questions would also be addressed at that meeting.

Weeks said a possible change in HUNAC structure is eyed because from the university’s perspective the district council is seen as having more direct access to neighborhood residents. She described a potential role for HMC as a “conduit.”

Photo right: The house at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. has been approved for demolition by the Hamline University Board of Trustees. The University said that they do not believe that the house is of significant historic value, and that it is in a state of disrepair that leaves no option but to be torn down. (Photo from the Monitor’s 2015 archives)

HUNAC was launched by the University, neighborhood and city leaders in response to the university’s teardown of houses it owns outside of its campus boundaries and the demolition of the White House on-campus (2014). It was modeled after the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC), which was set up more than a decade ago as a response to longtime tensions between the University of St. Thomas and its neighbors. WSNAC is funded by St. Thomas, which also provides web hosting and staffing.

Some neighbors want to see if there is still a chance to save the house. But university officials’ minds are made up. A press release sent out by the university stated that the school’s board of trustees approved an administration recommendation that the house be demolished. “The Hamline University Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to demolish a university-owned property at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. in St. Paul,” the press release stated. “The property was purchased by the school in 2014. The structure is in significant disrepair and not of a historic nature.”

“It’s common for universities to seek to own properties next to campus to allow for evolution and change,” said Jeff Papas, Hamline director of communications, in the press release. “Hamline hosted and participated in community discussions on the property for a number of years and helped to facilitate a historic survey of the neighborhood.”

The press release went on to state “Since 2015, Hamline has invited and received suggestions for the use of the property, but no proposal included a viable and sustainable source of funding.” It also went on to state that the university is in a strategic planning process and that potential uses for the site are being explored.

“Hamline is a vibrant campus that’s been part of the wonderful Hamline Midway community for well over 150 years,” said Papas. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with our neighbors.”

Leaders from the group Historic Hamline Village (HHV) couldn’t attend the March meeting, so members of that group felt blindsided by the demolition decision. Some question whether HU’s actions are a “demolition by neglect” by letting the house sit for so long without attention.

The dispute over the house is likely to draw in other groups, including Save Our St. Paul Neighborhoods and the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. The HPC staff is already looking into the matter. Recently a study was done to take first steps toward at a potential historic district in the neighborhood.

HHV leader Roy Neal said the decision to demolish feels sudden in light of more than five years’ work. One option that had previously won HU support was that of a “rehab lab” where classes on home improvements could be offered. HU approved the rehabilitation lab option in fall 2018. It was designed in partnership with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Neal said the lab was purposely created to address university concerns and is still on the table pending further discussions with the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections. The lab idea also had support from former Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark.

But Weeks said the university has been transparent during its years of discussions about the house. Ideas were solicited, but none came to fruition.



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Front Ave Pottery 6448

Front Avenue Pottery fires it up during St. Paul Art Crawl

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

Ian and his daughter complete the finishing touches on their garden lantern at last year’s hand building workshop. Front Avenue Pottery owner Mary Jo Schmith details another patrons lantern! (Photo provided)

Front Avenue Pottery, 895 Front Ave., is Firing It Up once again during the St. Paul Art Crawl, Apr. 26-28. The Como clay studio and its artist neighbors invite you to this exhibit, sale, and community art event.

Hours of the sale are Fri., Apr. 26, 5-10pm; Sat., Apr. 27, 10am-8pm; and Sun., Apr. 28, 11am-5pm.

Photo left: Art crawl patrons receive clay hand building tips from Laura Thyne (center), Front Avenue Pottery’s studio assistant. Hands-on activities have always been a part of Front Avenue Pottery’s tour activity. (Photo provided)

Once again this year there are lots of times to try your hands at the potter’s wheel, Fri. from 6-9pm, Sun. from 12-5pm, and Sun. from 12-4pm. There will be a clay hand building workshop between 12-5pm on Sat., and 12-4pm on Sun. Aprons provided! All events are free, and donations accepted to cover material and firing cost.

The studio will also display the works of multiple area artists:
Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery, hosting. Schmith has been creating dinner and serving ware and clay tile commissions in her South Como Studio for 25 years. Her playfully decorative pots are functional, with drawings celebrating the cycles of nature that surround us in our daily lives.
Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery is a functional potter working in NE Minneapolis making lively porcelain and stoneware pottery with luscious, smooth buttery glaze surfaces. His coffee pour over cones is amazing. It’s rumored he may make some planters for this spring show! Photo right: Trying her hands at the potter’s wheel, Iris Mirski is assisted by Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery. (Photo provided)
Jenny Levernier of JMML Designs creates sterling silver and stone jewelry. Lever­nier loves the history found in the pattern of every stone and the story it tells. Her work focuses on color and pattern, with the quality of workmanship as the real star. She is a highly skilled metalsmith.
Marit Lee Kucera for M’Art Designs is a fiber artist not only creating wearable art but also designing and dyeing her own yardage for herself and other fiber artists. Her garments and fabrics are found on six continents! What fabric creations will she bring to this year’s art crawl? Her screen-printed designs, totes or her beautiful scarves?
Ryan Ball of Ryan Ball Pottery is a functional potter living and working in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. You may remember Ball’s work for it’s beautiful, vibrant, shiny, fluid glazes adorning his functional cups, bowls, vases. Anyone would love one of his Olive Oil Jars or stunning cups.
Steve and Linden Wicklund of Wicklund Ceramics are two successful and skilled clay artists now working as a team. Both typically functional potter’s, they excel in their skill with porcelain, altered functional serving ware, fluid slip or fun and funky glaze decoration.
Marc Johnson-Pencook of Illustrator Marc is a pen and ink illustration artist. Marc’s intricate drawings will keep you occupied for hours, each inch of the drawing full of information. He shares his drawings in limited edition prints, originals, and as wearable t-shirt art.
Kristi Casey of Kristi Casey Design creates small architectural home vignettes, bursting out with history, age, and wisdom. Using your images and found objects, she creates for you a downsized architectural version of your home and memories.
Anna Clare Tiller of Anna Clare Pottery is a clay artist. Her functional soda-fired stoneware pottery is alive with surface decorations and altered shapes and rims. She specializes in mugs, bowls, and serving ware.
Alana Hawley of Alana Hawley Art is an amazing portrait artist who will draw your portrait on site during the show. Her illustrations are full of life. Earning her undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Minnesota in studio art and art education, she is currently feeding her wanderlust by learning to speak Finnish as quickly as possible. Bring a Finnish word or two to the crawl to test her new language skills.

Photo left: Nine artists will exhibit and sell artwork at Front Avenue Pottery during the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl, including pottery, jewelry, wearable fiber art, drawings, and portrait sketches. (Photo provided)

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Midway Como Monitor changing ownership after 44 years

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

When 22-year-old Calvin deRuyter bought the Monitor in 1975 for $1 from a man who thought it had no future, he had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Forty-four years later he’s perfected the art of dealing with challenges in the job he’s loved.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter in 2018. (Photo submitted)

“You face it, yell and scream at yourself and the world, then buck up and try to come up with a solution or solutions that will address the challenge,” stated deRuyter. “Isn’t that how we all face the challenges in life?”

Paper shares community identity
deRuyter had been the editor of his student newspaper, The Oracle, at Hamline University, and started working for the Highland Villager while he took a year off between his undergraduate and graduate work in art. He volunteered to edit the first issue of the “Midway ?”—which was given the name Midway Monitor following a neighborhood naming contest.

Some local business owners and leaders co-signed deRuyter’s first loan to get the paper started, and the Monitor joined the other community newspapers being birthed along with the neighborhood councils. Residents were seeking new ways to develop their community identity in the Cities. The first boundaries were established by the district council boundary, so the Midway Monitor followed the borders of the District 11 Hamline Midway Coalition.

“People were excited about being involved in their neighborhood and finally having, they believed, a way to have a voice in the shaping of city policy that was so prevalent in their lives,” recalled deRuyter. “The whole citizen participation movement was what shaped the paper for years. It was the same in Como when we expanded the paper to be the Midway Como Monitor.”

Nelson joins paper
Calvin deRuyter was one of the first people that Tim Nelson met when he enrolled at Hamline University. deRuyter was a junior and working as arts editor at the Oracle. They lived in the same dorm, and then worked together at the student newspaper. Nelson had been editor of his high school newspaper, and set his sights on a career in politics and government. He had been accepted as a graduate student in Public Affairs at Willamette University in Oregon when deRuyter asked if Nelson was interested in working for him.

Photo left: Tim Nelson, 2019 (Photo submitted)

“I was intrigued, but torn as to what to do,” stated Nelson. “I called my advisor at Willamette and asked for his thoughts. His response surprised me. He said, ‘Tim, Willamette has been around since 1842, and I don’t think it is going anywhere. The chance to go into business for yourself may only come around once in a lifetime. Try the business, and if it doesn’t work out, you are welcome here. I look forward to hearing what you learn.’”

“I have never decided whether that was the best advice I ever got or the worst,” Nelson commented. “It varied day to day for the last 44 years.”
Nelson began as 50 percent partner in July 1977, and deRuyter-Nelson Publications Inc. was born. The expansion into the Como neighborhood occurred in 1979. The newspaper also expanded into the Frogtown area for a brief period but didn’t have the local ad revenue to support the growth.

The business was growing rapidly, and it was an exciting time.

“We started the typesetting business at that point, and it was an extremely fast-paced and technology-driven industry in those years,” stated Nelson.

The newspaper did the typesetting for several college newspapers, including the Hamline Oracle and Bethel Clarion, as well as the Park Bugle, Equal Time, West 7th Community Reporter, Longfellow Messenger, and Grand Gazette.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter (left) and Timothy Nelson enter their new office space at 600 N. Fairview Ave., circa 1978. (Photo from the Monitor archives)

People excited about paper
“The community was very excited about the paper in those days, and we had a constant flow of involved citizens coming to the office to share things of interest or to suggest story ideas,” said Nelson. “Along with those people who believed in the paper, we also had groups we were less than popular with.”

A few bricks were thrown through the office windows at 600 N. Fairview in response to endorsements of political candidates.

During that same time, Nelson remembers when a columnist wrote an opinion piece that was critical of the organized church. “We had a religious group that went to our advertisers and told them that if they ran an ad, they would not support their business. We had many heated meetings with this group, and it was not a pleasant time,” he said. “It was a rather contentious year! When the Job Corps moved into the Bethel campus, we were also threatened by the community group who opposed that happening. They didn’t like how we were covering the events and again, threatened to go to advertisers with a boycott.”

Ironically, it is those same events that were not pleasant, such as vandalism and threats to their income base, that have also been the highlights.

“Any time a community is passionate about a topic, it’s an exciting time,” said Nelson. “Our goal is not to be loved by everyone. I have always considered the greatest compliment to be when we get complaints from both sides of a controversial issue saying that we are biased against them. That means we are providing a balanced story.”

Various issues have sparked discussion within the neighborhoods and the pages of the newspaper.

“The expansion of the Twin Cities German Immersion School is a recent issue that has stirred a lot of interest. The arrival of the Job Corps and light rail were big changes in Midway/Como, along with the new soccer stadium,” remarked Nelson. “When Hamline was going to remove some of the houses near campus, that certainly got some folks upset. Again, it tends to be pockets within the neighborhood that are most impacted by the changes that feel the most strongly.”

According to deRuyter, “The main challenge has been the changing nature of the commercial zones that run through it and around it… Snelling, Lexington, and University avenues, and Pierce Butler Route. These have changed the nature of the neighborhood dramatically.”

Reach across the river
In 1986, deRuyter Nelson purchased the Longfellow Messenger, and expanded its reach across the river into Minneapolis. Soon after the purchase, they expanded into the Nokomis neighborhood.

The Messenger was formed in March 1983 by community activists Maureen and Bill Milbrath as a project for their retirement years. deRuyter-Nelson Publications had performed their typesetting for years, and they were the logical ones to purchase the paper. Plus, there was a family connection that they were not initially aware of. Bill had been a college fraternity mate of Nelson’s dad and was the soloist at his parents’ wedding.

Today, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has a circulation of 21,000 in the Longfellow and Nokomis areas of Minneapolis. It offers comprehensive home delivery to 17,000 homes and an additional circulation of 4,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

The Messenger has an estimated reach of over 50,000 readers.

The Monitor also has an estimated reach of over 50,000 residents in St. Paul’s Midway, Como, and Merriam Park neighborhoods. With a circulation of 21,000, the Monitor offers comprehensive delivery to 16,000 homes and businesses and an additional circulation of 5,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

Over the years, deRuyter-Nelson also operated a successful graphic design business, providing design and production services to large and small corporations and government agencies.

Out of personal tragedy, they created A Place to Remember, a business that published and distributed resources worldwide for families experiencing a difficult pregnancy, premature birth, or death of an infant. A Place to Remember is now in the process of closing after 25 years as deRuyter and Nelson retire.

The Monitor and Messenger gave up the longtime Iris Park Place office (1885 University Avenue W., Suite 110) four years ago, and have operated with a virtual office since then. Other shifts at the time involved Nelson handling the newspaper production and deRuyter the editor responsibilities once again, while long-time editor and sales representative Denis Woulfe began focusing only on sales.

Evolving industry
The industry is changing, but deRuyter and Nelson still believe newspapers are part of the fabric of neighborhoods.

“I think community newspapers are vital to the neighborhoods,” observed deRuyter. “We have watched so many community newspapers die so that the community journalism movement in the Cities is just a tiny fraction of what it used to be. I don’t think there is a single community that is better off because their community newspaper could not survive.”

“But I also think that the residents and the businesses don’t truly grasp the importance of the cohesiveness that the neighborhood press provides,” deRuyter added. “If it is used properly, the community newspaper can be the place where things ‘come together’ in one place; where you can get an overview of the things going on; where you can learn about the unique businesses that are housed there; where you can learn about the neighbor who has faced a challenge, or who has overcome one.”

deRuyter asked, “Where is that place if your community newspaper dies? You certainly won’t get it from the city-wide or regional press.”
Nelson has also mulled over the changing face of journalism over the past four decades that he’s been involved in it.

“I think that over the years, the papers lost some of the fire that made them more interesting in the early days. The stories became more routine, and obviously there is no way the timeliness of a monthly publication can compete with the immediacy of news spreading on social media chat groups or blogs. The need for a community newspaper in a neighborhood was diluted.”

But, Nelson quickly added, “That is not to say that I don’t think that there is a need for a community newspaper or that the concept is dead. As a matter of fact, it may be more important now than ever given the fact that the daily papers are struggling to find their niche and are cutting budgets in order to compete in the electronic age. Social media does not even attempt to be objective, and although the media is constantly being accused of bias, I assure you we always attempt to bring the community both sides of an issue. It’s a matter of finding out what readers want to learn more about from their neighbors, and working to help reshape that delivery.”

What’s next?
Nelson and deRuyter will officially retire on May 1, 2019 when they pass ownership of the Messenger and Monitor to Tesha M. Christensen, who has been a deRuyter-Nelson freelance writer for the past eight years and has worked in journalism for over 20 years. (See article on page 1)
What’s next for these longtime news hounds?

After balancing his newspaper business with the artwork that he picked back up 11 years ago, deRuyter plans to focus on his art business (www.calsportfolio.net). In addition to painting, he offers various classes and workshops. He and his husband, Jim, are also renovating an old schoolhouse outside of Evansville, MN. He’s not leaving the Monitor or Messenger completely, either, as he’ll be providing bookkeeping services to the new owner.

Nelson will continue selling a support book he wrote for fathers who have experienced the death of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. The book, “A Guide For Fathers–When A Baby Dies,” is in its seventh printing.

Also, Nelson and his wife, Monica, have four children living around the world. “It’s not always ideal having your children spread out, but at least they have chosen interesting places to visit—London, El Nido (Philippines), Phoenix and Los Angeles,” remarked Nelson. They are also fortunate to have six grandchildren living in Arizona and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of triplet girls in California.

“Let’s just say, I’m not worried about being bored,” said Nelson. “At least while I am still able to get on a plane.”

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Past Chamber Exec Photo 2019

Midway Chamber celebrates 100 years of service to the community

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today. Here is a group gathered in 1939. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Members reflect on what the chamber has accomplished over the last century

One community group has been the face of the Midway area for a century. Formed in October of 1919, the Midway Chamber is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

First called the Midway Club and then the Midway Civic Club, the Midway Chamber of Commerce reflects the history of the Midway as a whole, observed local historian Jane McClure, who is working on a book to celebrate the chamber’s 100th anniversary. It will be available later this year.

“The Midway Chamber really shaped the growth and development of the entire area, in ways we don’t think about today,” added McClure. “Needs and issues including paved streets, the extension of streetcar lines, improved police and fire service, taxation, street lights, and jobs were among the issues the Midway Club championed. The organization brought back the Winter Carnival years before it became a citywide event again. Members worked to retain Saints baseball here and were part of the effort to attract the Minnesota Twins years ago.”

“When what was then the Midway Club began a century ago, getting things accomplished meant being organized,” McClure said. “We didn’t elect our City Council members by ward. Neighborhoods organized betterment or improvement associations to promote their interests to elected officials in those days. Every neighborhood had a small group to promote and advocate for an area’s interests. Midway Chamber was an umbrella group for many smaller neighborhood associations, which organized around small business nodes or city parks or schools.”

“It’s charming to think of ‘boosterism,’ but it’s how things got done in those days. There was a strong and intense loyalty to where you lived and where you did business,” McClure noted.

“Also, think of organizing around an issue or a community need when phones weren’t all that common, let alone when there was no Internet,” Jane said. “You had newspapers and radio to some extent, but to get things done, you had to get people physically together. That’s where having a club, later chamber, and a group to gather with, was so important.”

“We can look back at the early days of Midway Chamber, and it’s pretty remarkable to see how much got done,” Jane concluded.

Critical leadership
The Midway was already an important regional hub for transportation, industry, commerce, and education by 1919, and the 1910 census shows it was the fastest growing part of St. Paul.

“The Midway was long a center for commerce (the predecessor to Delta Airlines was headquartered in the Midway many years ago),” observed Ellen Watters, who headed up the Midway Chamber as its paid president from 1996-2002. “As the primary district connecting the two downtowns, the Midway has been a critical transportation and commerce link for the region.”

Photo right: Those who have led as executive directors of the Midway Chamber gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Kari Canfield, Ellen Watters, Chad Kulas, and Lori Fritts. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

The Minnesota Transfer Railway Company had organized in 1883 and filled about 200 acres with tracks, switches, and buildings along the University-Prior Ave. area. Every train going into the Cities rolled through that yard. Early Midway industries provided a vast array of goods for the northwestern United States, including mattresses, beds, chairs, tables, pianos, furnaces, stoves, radiators, brooms, linseed oil products, and farm equipment.

In December 1890, the Interurban Street Car Line had connected the two downtown areas, following a similar route as today’s Green Line along University Ave. in St. Paul and Washington Ave. in Minneapolis. The streetcar’s Midway shop—later known as the barns—sat at the northwest corner of the University and Snelling intersection for decades. The line ran until 1953 when it was replaced by buses.

The new Midway Club helped boost businesses and provided critical leadership on countless neighborhood and regional issues. Early club committees focused on attracting new industry and also beautifying industrial sites. Others dealt with streets, health and safety, education and recreation. One daunting task was getting dirt streets scraped and improved by city crews. In the early years, the club helped establish the Hamline Community Playground, supported the Midway Transfer YMCA, and pledged money to build a new Midway Hospital.

The club had 454 members in December 1919 and grew to 702 members by the next year. Women were allowed as members in 1924. After a brief decline during the Great Depression, membership topped 1,000 in the mid-1930s.

Club members turned their attention to vehicle traffic and street improvements, working to make things safer as the area became known as Auto Row and its trucking industry began to thrive. By the mid-1940s, the Midway was home to over 40 trucking firms, and it dealt with parking shortages as early as the 1950s. Members raised funds to save the Como Zoo in 1955.

“The chamber continues to be a unique voice for the Midway area. Organizations that make up the Chamber care about the vitality and improvement of the area. While I was there we worked hard to get Metro Transit to vacate the bus barn site which now, 17 years later, is home to the new Allianz Field,” stated Watters.

She added, “When I was president we advocated for the new Light Rail Transit which eventually was built. Today the Green Line is a major success that has helped transform University Ave., bringing new housing, and new investment, to the area.”

Face of the Midway
Jeffrey Fenske of Fenske Law Office (239 Cleveland Ave. N.) has been a member of the chamber since the 1980s. He sees the Chamber as “the face of the Midway business community with City and civic leaders.”

Highlights of his time on the Chamber Board include the Green Line, helping businesses stay and grow in the area, and expanding the opportunities for interaction among members with more programming, events and networking opportunities.

“The personal and business connections developed with fellow chamber members is invaluable,” said Fenske.

Photo left: Past Midway Chamber Board Chairs who have served between 1994 and 2019 gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Mike Zipko of Goff Public, Rick Beeson, Colleen Hartmon Bollom of Piper Jaffray, Julie Esch of Mortenson Construction, Jeff Fenske of Fenske Law Office, Alden Drew, Chris Ferguson of Bywater Business Solutions, Steve Johnson of BankCherokee, Ted Davis of Davis Communications, Tom Whaley of Saint Paul Saints, Terri Dooher Fleming of Park Midway Bank, Ferdinand Peters of Peters Law Firm, and Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions.. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Membership has grown significantly since Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions joined the chamber in 2005, and he has watched programming explode. Leggett served as board chair from July 2014 to 2015. The Midway Chamber has added three annual Summits (Economic Development in 2014, Legislative in 2015, and Leadership in 2015), small business workshops, Will Power (Women in Local Leadership), Chamber Connect, and Lunch on the Line (which began as Lunch on the Avenue during the building of the Green Line). The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today.

Plus, the chamber has established a foundation with an emphasis on education and literacy.

Building a network and having fun
Belonging to the Chamber helps members develop their networks and get to know other business owners, employers, colleges and more. “It helps expand your reach,” pointed out Midway Chamber Executive Director Chad Kulas, who was hired in June 2015.

The chamber has strong relationships with the city, and that benefits its members when they’re working individually with the city on building and street projects. “We can help them in that process and advocate for them,” stated Kulas. The chamber is also involved in larger policy and development issues that affect the whole Midway area.

“The chamber is an advocacy voice for members and the community on important issues that affect the business community with the city and other governmental agencies that decide policy affecting our members,” observed Fenske. “It also provides a base for support and education for bigger picture issues that affect the collective group and area.”

Joining the Midway Chamber has provided increased exposure for his merchant processing business and has enhanced market penetration, pointed out Leggett. “I have also had the privilege of meeting and working with some phenomenal individuals who are tirelessly committed to promoting and growing business relationships in the Midway. Oh, it’s been great fun as well!”

Identity of its own
While many chambers are identified by the cities they are in, the Midway Chamber is different. “We are right in between two very large chambers,” remarked Kulas. “That can be both a strength and a challenge.”

The membership of the Midway Chamber is diverse, and so then is its funding supply, so no single business leaving or closing will mean that the Chamber is out of funds.

Over the years, people have discussed whether the Midway Chamber is needed considering the larger chambers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“But it has always been the will of the board and membership that we have a place, too,” said Kulas.

“For different reasons, we’ve kept that identity, and people still feel very strongly about keeping that identity,” said Kulas.

“In addition to providing networking, education, and community volunteering opportunities, our chamber is a solid advocate for this community,” stated Leggett. “I believe this advocacy became more apparent with the construction of the Green Line, and even more notable with the soccer stadium and related development in the area. No doubt this will continue well into the future with the anticipated robust growth in the Midway over the next 5-10 years and beyond!”

“The Midway area is booming,” agreed Kulas.

Editor’s Note: Some of the historical information in this article is based off a piece written by Jane McClure for the Ramsey County Historical Society magazine in the fall of 1994.




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