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International Institute of Minnesota celebrates 100th birthday

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Jane Graupman, executive director of the International Institute of Minnesota, said, “We’re really excited to raise our profile in the neighborhood with our building renovation and expansion. We’re grateful to be part of a community that supports immigrants and refugees, and wants Minnesota to be a welcoming place.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When the International Institute of Minnesota started serving the local immigrant population in 1919, World War I had just ended – and immigration patterns looked very different than they do today.
The Institute’s executive director Jane Graupman said, “Where people come from has changed over the years, but their desire for opportunity, education, jobs, freedom, and safety have not changed. We remain committed to our original mission of helping immigrants and refugees achieve full membership in American life.”
The Institute has partnered with Ramsey County Historical Society to present an exhibition called Unity without Uniformity: Celebrating 100 Years of the International Institute of Minnesota. On view at Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul until Dec. 20, 2019, the exhibit celebrates the communities of new Americans who have shaped Minnesota into a strong multicultural state. The panels are a reflection of the immigration story in Minnesota, and show who has come here since 1919. The exhibit is free and open to the public during Landmark Center hours.
Graupman explained, “While we have much to celebrate, there are also reasons for concern. The federal refugee resettlement program is at an all-time low right now. Every year, the American president makes a declaration of how many refugees can enter the US during the federal fiscal year. We believe that the low ceiling for incoming refugees in the current administration is very short sighted, and will impact our future economy in America.”
Although the refugee count is down, the number of immigrants arriving in Minnesota is up – resulting in increased demand for the Institute’s services, especially in the area of workforce development. Graupman said, “Immigrants create a lot of jobs here: they can be everything from entrepreneurs to engineers to laborers. Our graduates make excellent employees. There are currently 100+ employers in the health care industry that hire our graduates. Immigrants today speak better English than those who came in previous decades. They have more education, and are able to integrate more easily into American culture.”
The Festival of Nations has been the Institute’s most visible event in the Twin Cities for 87 years. The annual event is held the first weekend of May, and just concluded for this year. It draws tens of thousands of visitors to the RiverCentre to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Minnesota.
Graupman said, “We welcome new immigrant groups to participate every year to reflect our changing community. We’ve kept it going for so long because we include everyone. This year there were nearly 100 ethnic groups represented.”
As the Institute’s programming and events keep expanding, it’s also time for their building to grow; they’ve had the same address for nearly 50 years. The Institute has raised $4,000,000 in private donations toward their capital campaign goal of $11,000,000. They plan to renovate their existing building and add a 17,000-square-foot addition. Half an acre was recently purchased from the Minnesota State Fair, making the westward expansion possible.
Graupman said, “Early on in the visioning process, we started asking our clients, ‘Should we move?’ They resoundingly said, ‘No!’ We love this neighborhood. Everyone feels safe here, and even though we’re not on the LRT, we’re on a great bus line and it feels very accessible.”
Graupman explained, “Our $5.5 million capital request is part of this session’s House omnibus bill, where a lot of funding requests are bundled together. If our request for state funding isn’t met this year, we’re hopeful that it will be in 2020. During a recent capital investment hearing, one of the representatives did some quick math and said, ‘You’ll pay back the state in three years with all of the new tax-paying employees you’ll create.’”
The Institute is located at 1694 Como Ave., just west of Snelling Ave.. Hours are Monday to Friday from 8:45 a.m.-5 p.m., some evenings when classes are in session, and Saturdays by appointment.

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Thank you, Mary Mackbee

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Central High School principal retires after 26 years of service

Mary Mackbee has retired as the principal of Central High School at age 75. She said, “I always thought I would be a teacher, but over the years — I realized I could be even more effective as an administrator.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The sixth period bell rang at Central High School on Friday, May 24, 2019, and the auditorium doors opened for an afternoon program. The guest of honor, retiring principal Mary Mackbee, was ushered in.
Past and present students took to the stage singing songs, sharing stories, and saying thank you to the woman who had worked tirelessly on their behalf since 1993.

‘TYPICAL STORY OF BLACK KIDS IN THE SOUTH’
As a child growing up in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, Mackbee attended segregated public schools. She said, “Neither of my parents had more than a sixth grade education. I was the first of my siblings to go to college; that just wasn’t something you took for granted back then. My brothers joined the military, and eventually went to college on the GI Bill.
“It was a typical story of black kids in the South. Our teachers really pushed us to succeed against the odds.”
The desire to push herself (and her students ) toward excellence defined Mackbee’s long career as an educator. It could be said that the secret to her success was convincing students they could be successful, too.
Principal Mackbee’s connection with St. Paul Public Schools started when she graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1966, a historically black college in New Orleans. With her teaching degree in hand, she was quickly recruited by SPPS in an effort to bring more African American teachers to the district. Her first job was at the now closed Mounds Park Junior High School on St. Paul’s East Side, where she taught for 11 years.
The next 20 years brought teaching jobs at the junior high and high school levels in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brief stint as a stay-at-home mom with her first two children, and an appointment as director of secondary education with SPPS.

Christina Anderson (Class of 2009), at left, stopped in to say goodbye. Mackbee said, “If I had to guess, I’d say that I’ve probably interacted with more than 10,000 students during my time here.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

BUILDING A SCHOOL UP
When Mackbee took the job of principal of Central High School, she said, “The school didn’t have the best reputation. The International Baccalaureate and Quest Programs were just getting started and, while those enriched programs were excellent, they were offered on a separate floor of the school. We reorganized the building so that teachers were grouped by departments – not programs. Contracts were also restructured so that every teacher taught a range of classes, and interacted with students across all ability levels.”
Central has a dedicated fan base, and its own foundation established almost two decades ago by a group of alumni. The goal of the St. Paul Central High School Foundation is to give back and to give forward. The Foundation established an annual scholarship of $3,000 in Mackbee’s name: the Mary Mackbee Legacy Scholarship is awarded each year to a student exhibiting strong qualities of leadership, academic excellence, and service.
Altogether, the St. Paul Central High School Foundation awarded $96,500 in various scholarships to 21 students this year.

WORKING TOGETHER
When asked about her proudest accomplishments, Mackbee said, “I’m proud that our community is so invested in our school. I’m proud that nearly all of the teachers currently working here were hired by me, and that together we’ve created a strong academic culture for our students. Over the years, there have been groups of parents who have been tremendously helpful maintaining landscaping, helping with school events, and spearheading major projects like the stormwater capture system we finished two years ago.
“We’ve found a lot of ways to work together.”
As Mackbee reflected on Central High School, she said, “Our graduation rate this year is 87%, and we’ve been able to hire some outstanding teachers. But when the district-wide attendance boundaries were redrawn four years ago, we effectively re-segregated our schools. Central used to have an open enrollment policy. Students could come here from anywhere in the city, and busing was provided. This is no longer the case, and we need to remember that one of the core values of everyone involved at Central High School is diversity.”

SWEETNESS OF DOING NOTHING
Regarding her plans for retirement, Mackbee said, “It’s hard to know how I’ll feel when I don’t have this place to come to every day. It’s been my life for more than a quarter of a century, and I’ve loved it. I bought a book the other day called, ‘The Art of Doing Nothing.’ It’s going to take some practice for me, but I think there could be a sweetness to doing nothing – at least for a little while.”
The hiring process to find a new principal for Central High School is still underway.

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Rebuild Repair Recycle: Capitol Region Watershed District moves

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Capitol Region Watershed District is now located at 595 Aldine Street. Its neighborhood assets will soon include a pocket park for public use, and a watershed learning center. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) has moved into the Midway neighborhood at 595 Aldine St.
Administrator Mark Doneux said, “CRWD followed the City of St. Paul’s Sustainable Building Policy, and the result is a stunningly renovated building that meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).”
Their office building was formerly occupied by MacQueen Equipment, which serviced and repaired municipal machinery.

POCKET PARK AND LEARNING CENTER
CRWD is one of 45 watershed districts in the state of Minnesota. It is a special purpose unit of government whose staff members have agreed not to seal themselves off from the community they serve.
The new location is in the heart of a residential neighborhood, and CRWD is making their space accessible to the community in a number of ways.
One of the community highlights is a pocket park still under construction in the NE corner of the property, which will combine natural and built environments with interactive elements for neighbors, visitors, and staff to enjoy.
CRWD is also creating a community watershed learning center and will offer on-site educational opportunities to showcase its work protecting, managing, and improving water resources in the watershed (which includes Como Lake, Crosby Lake, Loeb Lake, Lake McCarrons, and the Mississippi River.)
A gathering room at CRWD is available for public meetings between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The room has a maximum capacity of 94, and can be reserved by community members and partner organizations. Use of the space includes access to a kitchenette, tables and chairs, a projector, and lectern with microphone. Call the main desk at 651-644-8888 to inquire.

Stewardship Grants help homeowners, businesses, schools, and community organizations build projects that prevent stormwater pollution. Awards range from $300-$40,000 and applications are accepted year-round. Visit www.capitolregionwd.org to learn more. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

HELP DRAW ROAD MAP
CRWD held four Community Watershed Conversations across St. Paul in May and early June. Anna Eleria is division manager with CRWD’s department of planning, projects and grants.
At a meeting held at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, she said, “Our watershed district is the most urban in the state, and that provides some unique challenges. We cover 41 square miles, five lakes, and over 500 miles of storm sewers – every one of which drains into the Mississippi River. One twentieth of the population of the state lives within our boundaries.”
The Watershed Community Conversations were a chance for community members to help CRWD draw their road map for the next 10 years. For readers who weren’t able to attend but would still like to share their thoughts, visit bit.lyCRWDsurvey. Public comments will be taken until June 30, 2019.
147 RAINGARDENS
Eleria said, “Our organization is 20 years old, and we’ve had many successes over the last two decades. CRWD often works on infrastructure projects that can’t be seen (like the rainwater capture and re-use system at Allianz Field), but we’re also helping to beautify the neighborhood in ways that are very visible.”
Their Stewardship Grant Program, which started in 2005, is one such example. Watershed residents, schools, and businesses are eligible to apply. Grantees receive a free site visit, as well as technical and financial support for installing a rain garden on their property.
In the Hamline-Midway neighborhood alone, 147 raingardens have been designed and installed since the program began.
A grand opening for CRWD is planned for later this summer.

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Faster transit coming to Marshall

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Christina Morrison with four-year-old twins Jack and Keira, learn about the proposed B Line along Lake/Marshall. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
tesha@monitorsaintpaul.com
Travel down Marshall Ave./Lake St. by bus is slow with stops on the Route 21 every two blocks.
During rush hour, buses slow to average speeds of only eight miles per hour, and it’s considered one of the slowest transit corridors in the metro.
Red lights mean that buses are moving less than half the time.
And over 10,000 rides are taken on this route per day.
For those people, things are about to get faster.
Metro Transit plans to construct the region’s third bus rapid transit line on Lake St./Marshall Ave. in 2022.
With things in the planning stage now for the B Line, a series of open houses was held in May, including one at South High School on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 and another at the Oxford Community Center on Saturday, May 4.
“There’s a lot of congestion and a lot of delay,” observed Metro Transit Senior Planner Adam Smith.
“Anything that could improve our transit service is something I’m interested in,” stated Brian Kimnes who lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul and works off Lake St. in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. If the bus line was faster, it would make it much more likely that he’d take the bus to work instead of his car, he said.
If he goes to the Lyn-Lake area now, he drives because the bus is “excruciatingly slow,” he stated. “It stops every block and it’s a painful experience. I can drive there in 20 minutes or take the bus for 50.”
HOW IS IT FASTER?
The B Line would make the trip about 20% faster. The savings would come by stopping less often, allowing customers to board faster, and stopping at fewer red lights.
With bus rapid transit, buses make limited stops at stations spaced farther apart, such as every 1/3 to 1/2 mile between stations instead of very other block.
Fares are collected at stations, just like light rail, instead of on the bus. B line buses run in general traffic and stations are built on curb bump-outs to avoid delays caused by merging back into traffic.
BRT lines also use transit signal priority, where buses “ask” traffic signals for early or extended green lights.
There are several options Metro Transit is looking at and gathering input on, such as queue jumps and a dedicated lane for buses, according to project manager Cody Olson. The dedicated lane would be more challenging along Lake St. but easier to do on Marshall, he observed. It could be ‘Buses Only’ during certain times of the day and multi-use at other times.
Bus approach lanes at intersections could speed things up for buses, as well.
SOME FOR, SOME AGAINST
Elizabeth Ellis lives at Fairview and Taylor. She said that she is “vehemently opposed” to the B Line. When she’s on a bus route along the A Line, she is dismayed to see BRT buses pass her by rather than pick her up as regular buses do. “This designated only thing in the winter is awful,” Ellis said.
“I love the bus. Need the bus. Depend on the bus,” Ellis remarked.
Highland Park resident Christina Morrison and her two four-year-old children, Jack and Keira, are looking forward to the B Line and regularly ride the A Line. Morrison is a Metro Transit employee. “We ride the bus everywhere,” she said. “I like the freedom. You can go wherever you need to go.”
She appreciates that she doesn’t need to lug around car seats for the kids when they ride the bus. “Kids ride for free so that’s a big incentive for us to ride as a family,” Morrison added. “They can wiggle and look out the window.”
She believes that this area of St. Paul will benefit from the more frequent service offered by the B Line.
WILL IT REPLACE ROUTE 21?
The B line could potentially fully replace the Route 21 bus and offer high frequency service all day and on nights and weekends.
Some of the biggest questions, in addition to where to locate stations, are what route the line should take in St. Paul. There are several options planners are looking at, including using University or Selby and going all the way to downtown St. Paul.
At the open houses, attendees were asked to rate which the following in terms of priority: overall travel time, bus arriving at planned time, bus arrives as steady frequency, smooth ride – less starting and stopping, less delay in traffic or stoplights, walking distance to bus stop, and amenities at stop.
Send comments to bline@metrotransit.org.

Residents and Metro Transit staff chat during an open house on May 4, 2019 at the Oxford Community Center, giving input on things such as overall travel time, bus frequency, bus stop amenities, and more. Send comments to bline@metrotransit.com. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

DID YOU KNOW?

>> The B Line is planned to be the fourth of several planned BRT lines that will bring faster, frequent service to the region’s busiest transit corridors.
>> The region’s first arterial BRT line, the A Line, opened in 2016 and has boosted corridor ridership by about one third.
>> Construction on the C Line, serving Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, is underway. Service is scheduled to begin in 2019.
>> The D Line, serving the Route 5 corridor from Bloomington to Brooklyn Center, is currently in design, targeted for construction to begin in 2020.
>>The E Line, serving the Route 6 corridor on Hennepin Avenue is in the corridor study phase through 2019, with construction targeted for 2023.
>> The West Lake Street Station will be the western terminus of the B Line and will be built in coordination with the Southwest LRT project. The B Line station will be built on the West Lake Street bridge and will have access to the LRT station via stairs and elevator.
>> The I35W and Lake Street Station will provide a connection to the METRO Orange Line and the broader 35W@94:Downtown to Crosstown project includes a redesign of the freeway between I-94 and 42nd Street.
>> An eastbound enhanced bus stop at Lake and Hiawatha was built in conjunction with the construction of the South Minneapolis Regional Service Center in 2017, and will be used by the future B Line. The westbound station location will be implemented in coordination with this project.
>> A completed BRT network would cover 100 miles and include 400 enhanced stations, directly serving about 20 percent of the region’s residents and more than 230,000 jobs.
>>BRT lines have the potential to see an estimated 160,000 average weekday boardings by 2030, representing about a third of total bus ridership.
Learn more at metrotransit.org/abrt.
~ Information from Metro Transit

Will Route 21 Remain?

Metro Transit is weighing the pros and cons of keeping the underlying Route 21 when the B Line opens.
When the A Line opened in 2016, Metro Transit continued to operate Route 64 in the same corridor as a less frequent local travel option. A similar approach was taken Route 16, which provides local service alongside the Green Line Lightrail along University Ave. With the B Line and E Line (Hennepin Avenue corridor), Metro Transit is considering fully replacing the underlying local bus service.
Why? Well, as the A Line and the Green Line have been successful in attracting riders, the local service on Routes 84 and 16 have declined, leading to service reductions.

About Route 21
>> More than 10,000 average weekday rides, second-highest Metro transit route
>> Third most productive local bus route in terms of number of passengers per hour of service
>> One of the routes on which customers most frequently experience crowded buses
>> Carries up to 20% of people in vehicles in some palces while making up less than 2% of vehicles
>> Highest ridership between Hennepin Ave. and Hiawatha Ave.
>> Weekend and midday ridership also make up an important part of Route 21 ridership
>> Ridership has been declining.
~ Information from Metro Transit

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St. Andrew’s teardown okayed by Council

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
tesha@monitorsaintpaul.com
In six weeks, the wrecking ball may hit Historic Saint Andrew’s Church, destroying the 92-year-old facility designed by St. Paul’s first city architect, Charles A. Hausler.
Last year, property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School announced its intention to tear down the decommissioned church building to construct a three-story, 25,000-square-foot addition with two gyms.
On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, the St. Paul City Council voted against designating Saint Andrew’s Church as an Historic Preservation site, as recommended by its own Historic Preservation Commission, on a 5-0 vote with one recusal (Jane Prince, East Side) and one absence (Kassim Busuri, East Side).
The council then approved both the site plan and the three variances requested by the school with conditions that seek to address impacts the school’s enrollment growth has on parking, traffic, pedestrian safety, and playground noise.
According to the District 10 Como Community Council, in normal circumstances, it takes about six weeks to receive all the permits and approvals needed to start demolition and construction.
The city council had originally been slated to vote on the issue on May 22, but then delayed it so that representatives from the school and neighborhood group, Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA), could meet with a mediator as encouraged by City Council President Amy Brendmoen, who lives a few blocks from the school.
City-hired mediator Aimee Gourlay did not think there was enough time for the process and concluded in her report: “There is little likelihood of a useful mediation at this point. A failed conflict intervention could make things worse and could reduce the potential for successful conflict resolution in the future. At some point there will be another opportunity to resolve differences.”
A City Pages article on May 15 detailed behind-the-scenes, sabotage and a plan for partial demolition being done by TCGIS “to destroy any hope that the building lives on,” according to internal school emails.

MERA RESTRAINING ORDER
SHSA filed a suit in Ramsey County on June 3 under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to ensure that the 92-year-old structure will not be torn down.
MERA protects cultural and historic resources from destruction, and requires owners and developers to demonstrate that there are no feasible alternatives to demolition. The State Historic Preservation Office has said the church qualifies for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We absolutely believe there are alternatives other than demolition here, and we need more time to explore them,” said SHSA President Teri Alberico, who lives next door to the school.
“We owe this to our future. Once this structure is gone, it’s gone forever.”

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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)

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)

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)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
tesha@monitorsaintpaul.com
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.
CULTURE YOU CAN’T RECREATE
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.”
TRIBAL SOCCER WORLD
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.
NOT GENTRIFYING BUT
FIXING IT UP
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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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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Renters_IMG_5893TheresaStAoroSmC

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)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
tesha@monitorsaintpaul.com
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.”
CONVERSATION BETWEEN LANDLORDS AND RENTERS
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

OTHER CITY INITIATIVES
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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