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Updates for 2030 Snelling and Westgate areas being discussed

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

The Snelling Station Area 2030: This model illustrates one possible long term scenario for meeting these community, place-making and transit-supportive opportunities. It principally describes a vision for the Snelling Station Area as a vital hub of commercial activity along the corridor with an expanded street and block system; an enhanced public realm network and active main streets. Rather than attempting to predict the location and distribution of anticipated long-term investment, this conceptual model illustrates the application of transit-supportive principles throughout the entire Station Area. The total development yield illustrated is therefore not meant to be representative of the 2030 market forecast (Figure 2.2) for this Station Area, but demonstrates one possible example of transit-supportive developments for each individual parcel. (Illustration from the Update Draft of the Snelling Station Area Plan)

A decade ago, many area residents and business owners made regular trips to the former Lexington Outreach Library at 1080 University Ave. to work on plans for Green Line station areas. They gathered around maps and scale models, armed with sticky notes and ideas. Now those plans are changing at the Snelling and Westgate areas, to focus on how parks and open space have changed in response to recent development.

Illustration right: The Boulevard will transform Snelling Ave. with wider sidewalks, street trees and active ground floor uses such as shops, cafés, and office building lobbies at street level. (Illustration from the Update Draft of the Snelling Station Area Plan)

The station area plan for Snelling is one of two soccer stadium-related changes the Planning Commission has been working on. The commission approved sign ordinance changes June 29 and sent them on to the City Council for a final public hearing this summer, to allow more advertising signs at Allianz Field and at the new Treasure Island ice arena downtown.

The other change, to “public realm” for Snelling and Westgate station area plans, will be the focus of a public hearing at 8:30am, Fri., July 27 at City Hall.

City Planner Anton Jerve said the changes reflect redevelopment in both areas. Since the station area plans were adopted almost a decade ago, much has changed, he noted. That’s especially true at Snelling and University, where an ambitious new master plan to redevelop the Midway Center superblock won City Council approval two years ago.

Westgate Dominium Development’s plans for senior and workforce housing on the former Weyerhaeuser lumber yard site include trails and park space, which will be reflected in the new plan.

Illustration left: The large public open spaces Midway Square and Victory Plaza between University Ave. and Allianz Field stadium are planned for activities that range from passive recreation to festivals, farmers markets, and food trucks. (Illustration from the Update Draft of the Snelling Station Area Plan)

At Snelling, the stadium development plans call for two large green spaces between the stadium and University Ave., Victory Plaza and Midway Square, as well as smaller green spaces along St. Anthony. A United Champion Plaza is planned at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony avenues.

What was envisioned as the Snelling Transit Plaza at the southeast corner of Snelling and University avenues is now labeled “the boulevard.” One line of the plan revisions states “The boulevard will transform Snelling Ave. with wider sidewalks, street trees and active ground floor uses such as shops, cafés, and office building lobbies at street level.”

Other changes reflect alterations in the street grid in both station area plans, and elimination of references to groups that no longer exist, such as the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

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Kent Krueger Desolation Mountain slider

It’s back to the North Woods for series #17: ‘Desolation Mountain’

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

As he celebrates his 20th year of writing the Cork O’Connor series of books, William Kent Krueger (photo right by Jan Willms) has discovered where the magic lies in his story-telling.

“There’s magic involved in the creative process, and every writer’s going to tell you that,” he said in a recent interview. “And you don’t want to monkey with the magic you have found. In my earlier days what worked magically for me was writing longhand.”

Krueger has always written in coffee shops, and when he created his primary character, an Ojibwe-Irish private detective, there were no laptops. “If I was going to be mobile and writing in coffee shops, I had to write in notebooks with a pen, and that became part of the magical process for me,” he recalled. “So, when I decided to see if I could compose directly on a laptop, and once that became a possibility, it was a huge issue for me. But I tried it and discovered that there is a different kind of magic at work that doesn’t have anything to do with how I get the words out.”

Instead, he discovered it was about finding the good, compelling seed of an idea, letting that take route in his imagination and grow over time so that eventually, he saw the whole of it. “I know how a book begins, I know how it ends, I know who did what to whom and why. And that’s really where the magic is,” Krueger said.

That magic has worked for Krueger from the time he wrote his first Cork O’Connor novel, “Iron Lake,” through today as he publishes his 17th in the series, “Desolation Mountain,” scheduled to be published Aug. 21.

Along the way, he has written other books and stories, including his stand-alone novel, “Ordinary Grace,” which garnered him numerous awards. He has also won many awards for his O’Connor books, and his last three novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

Some things have changed for Krueger since he penned “Iron Lake” 20 years ago. “It’s probably every writer’s dream that at some point you can support yourself and your family by writing. That certainly has proved true for me; it’s a dream come true.”

Krueger also claimed his writing has taken him places. “I know Minnesota probably better than anybody, except maybe the Tourist Bureau. I have gone to so many towns in Minnesota. I believe visiting the libraries there is an important part of what those of us who are artists, writers, visual artists, dancers, and musicians have to be doing to give back. Because Minnesota is so incredibly supportive of the arts.”

Krueger spends much of his time traveling out of state as well, doing some research and more often, doing book tours and events. He has keynoted writer’s conferences and conventions in Wyoming, Aspen and Reno the last couple months and will be going to Pennsylvania and Florida later this summer. “I go to a lot of places I wouldn’t go otherwise, and that’s one of the blessings,” he related.

The settings for nearly all of the O’Connor books is in Minnesota, although Krueger’s last novel, “Sulfur Springs” took place in Arizona.

For his newest book, Cork O’Connor is back in the town called Aurora, MN, in the North Woods.

“One of the expectations of the readers of the Cork O’Connor novels is that the story is going to unfold in the North Woods, up in the Arrowhead. I couldn’t stay away from there,” Krueger said. “Another expectation is that I’m going to offer them some significant information on the Ojibwe culture. So I knew I had to do that, bring the readers back to what was familiar and expected on their part.”

He said his main character, Cork, has certainly grown as the series has developed. “His shoulders have become broader, and the issues he has had to deal with have become many and varied. But his basic response to life remains the same, and I think that’s where we are very similar,” Krueger stated.

“A lot of things have happened,” he continued, “but my basic philosophy of life hasn’t changed at all. My own belief is that there is a moral compass, and most of us do our best to follow it. That’s certainly true of Cork, and most of the people with whom he operates.”

Krueger said that what the reader finds in the stories is that there’s a force that’s trying to throw that compass off. “I think that’s fairly typical of any book in the mystery genre,” he said. “It’s about a world that has harmony in it, and something interferes with that harmony. It’s the task of the protagonist and those who work with him to bring things back into harmony, and reset the moral compass back to where it needs to be.”

Henry Meloux, the Anishinabe elder who provides both serenity and wisdom, is the moral center of Krueger’s books. In “Desolation Mountain” Stephen, Cork’s son, is trying to envisage who he wants to become. “Stephen is trying to discover himself a lot in this particular novel,” Krueger noted. “As I see the series going forward, I see Stephen more and more stepping up and becoming a visionary, what he was born to be. In the same way, across the series, Cork has had to accept what he is. He’s a warrior, and he has battled and fought against that and the sacrifices he has had to make, the effect it has on those he loves. Finally, in the last three books, he has embraced it. …and there is Henry, who is at the heart of both of their lives, and who is trying to help guide them.”

Over the years, Krueger has deeply developed the sense of place and the personalities of his characters. “If you’re going to have readers really care about your characters, you’re going to have to care about them too, even the ones who do bad things. You have to be able to understand why they do the bad things that they do,” Krueger said.

“We all have the potential inside us for doing terrible things,” he continued. “But it’s that moral compass or our upbringing or the strictures of our society that keep us in check. But there are those who for whatever reason break away from that and behave in ways that are destructive. As a writer, you have to figure out why these people are behaving this way, and deal with an understanding of that so that all of the characters are as complex as real people are.”

Krueger said he can go to the coffee shop in the morning, work hard for a couple of hours and leave. He returns in the afternoon, again works hard creatively for a couple of hours. “Then I’m pretty much done,” he said. “For me, it’s a dissociative process in a way. I have to be with these characters and imagine them well enough to where I can empathize with whatever it is they are experiencing. I have to be able to understand that deeply.”

Krueger said he has never encountered writer’s block. “I have always found a way to forge ahead,” he said. “But what has happened is that I have gone in a wrong direction. This was really true of the first attempt I made in writing the companion novel to ‘Ordinary Grace.’ I wrote an entire manuscript that didn’t work. I wrote the wrong story.”

That does not happen with the O’Connor novels, though.

“I approach those in a very different way, consciously thinking the story out so that I know where it’s going,” Krueger said.
In his second attempt for the companion novel, “This Tender Land,” Krueger believes he has the right story, and he is very happy with it. That book is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2019.

Krueger said he is hoping to celebrate the launching of “Desolation Mountain” and the 20th anniversary of “Iron Lake” at the same time. A new edition of “Iron Lake” with a new cover is being published. Krueger said that for now, he is taking a little break. “I had two deadlines weighing on me heavily, for “Desolation Mountain” and “This Tender Land.” I was under a great deal of pressure this spring. I have a little breathing space now, so I’m working on something else entirely to kind of cleanse my pallet—but it is a book,” Krueger admitted.

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Bremer Bank bldg slider

Wellington explores new 175-unit apartment complex on Snelling

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

The building boom continues along Snelling Ave. A 175-unit market-rate apartment building with first-floor retail could rise just west of the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium. Wellington Management, located in the Midway at 1625 Energy Park Dr., would like to start its $35 million project in spring 2019, the Union Park District Council land use committee and several dozen neighbors were told June 18. Construction would take about one year.

The building, which could be four to five stories tall, would continue a trend of redevelopment along Snelling Ave. It would replace the current Bremer Bank at 427 N. Snelling Ave., and possibly a small piece of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) property south of the bank.

Photo right: Wellington Management is discussing the idea of a 175-unit apartment development on the site of Bremer Bank at Shields and Snelling—at the right of the photo. Central Baptist Church is to the left. (Google Map Satellite image)

The property eyed for redevelopment is zoned for traditional neighborhoods three use, which would allow five stories. Additional height could be granted through a conditional use permit process.

The St. Paul-based developer and property manager has discussed the project with bank officials and the adjacent Central Baptist Church for several months. Bremer would like to be part of the new development, as a retail tenant. One of the other prospective tenants is Walgreens, which vacated its longtime Midway Center space last year.

David Wellington, director of acquisitions and development for Wellington Management, cautioned that the project would have its challenges. He is seeking community input early on to mitigate potential issues. “The project could have significant neighborhood impact, and we’re cognizant of those impacts,” he said.

Wellington said the project could also bring needed housing to an area where residents could enjoy convenient access to Green Line light rail and A Line rapid bus. He emphasized that the project isn’t intended to be luxury housing. “We will be marketing to a demographic that wants to live close to transit, and that really likes to bike.”

Before joining the family firm, Wellington lived and worked in Seattle in real estate development. There he saw what gentrification can do to a community, citing the “significant and negative” impacts. The company would like to avoid that with its Snelling project.

Central Baptist Pastor Joel Lawrence said church leaders have discussed the development with Wellington for several months. The church, which just celebrated its 125th anniversary, has been at the southeast corner of Shields Ave. and Roy St. for 105 years.

Lawrence said the church wants to continue to be a community asset. But its oldest part of the building dates from 1913 and is nearing the end of its useful life. The church also lacks parking, with just four off-street spaces. The congregation currently uses the Bremer Bank lot for services. Continued shared parking and possible rehabilitation and reuse of the 1913 church building are among ideas being discussed.

Land use committee members and neighbors had mixed reactions to the project. Building drawings haven’t been completed, so some said it was difficult to react to the proposal.

Several people praised the project for its proximity to transit. But some raised concerns about traffic, spillover parking and first-floor retail design. Representatives of a neighboring church, Bethlehem Lutheran in the Midway, also said they want to be involved.

Land use committee members questioned how a new drive-through would work. The bank currently has four drive-through lanes. But Wellington said drive-through service is important to both bank and pharmacy businesses and that the project may not happen if Walgreens isn’t a part of it. It’s not clear how many lanes would be in the building’s first floor and how that would be designed.

The project would have about 18,000 square feet of first-floor retail, which could house up to four tenants. If Walgreens comes in, it would need about 10,000 square feet for its store, Wellington said.

But both Bremer and Walgreens would need drive-through service, which would add a wrinkle to the project.
MnDOT would be required to weigh in on the project as Snelling is a state highway.

Land use committee member Paul Bakke recalled the fight over CVS at Snelling and University. Neighbors pushed for windows looking out onto the street. But CVS balked, noting it needed wall space for merchandise shelves and cases. “What I am hearing here could be analogous to that,” he said. “Windows are really important to adding life to the street and having a better pedestrian experience.”

Wellington said that will be considered but that the developer will also have to work with specific national standards dictated by the retailer.

Parking is another issue. The development would have about 180 parking stalls. Underground parking is likely for residents. Ideas to provide surface parking are being considered.

One idea being discussed with Central Baptist is to remove two church-owned houses south of the church on Roy St. That could allow for the creation of parking to be shared by the church and the new development, possibly in a ramp. But neighbors at the meeting said that removing the homes would displace residents.

Wellington Management, Inc. owns and manages a $400 million portfolio of more than 100 properties in 23 Twin Cities communities, totaling more than four million square feet. The company has recently developed new housing, totaling about 800 new units. One project is near Hiawatha Ave. and Lake St. in Minneapolis. The company is also doing work in the Harrison neighborhood in North Minneapolis.

“When we build a building we operate it,” said Wellington. “We care about what we build.”

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Bell Museum 01 slider

Bell Museum plans mammoth grand opening weekend July 13-15

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

The new Bell Museum features 60% more public space than its previous location. Located at the intersection of Larpenteur and Cleveland avenues, the museum proudly features local, sustainably sourced materials such as white pine from Cass Lake, granite from south central Minnesota, steel from the Iron Range, native plants from across the state, and bird-safe glass manufactured in Owatonna. Total cost for the new museum is $79 million, and came from a combination of state funding, the University of Minnesota, and private donations. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The long-awaited grand opening of the Bell Museum in its St. Paul Campus location will take place July 13-15. The museum has spent nearly three years building its new facility at 2088 Larpenteur Ave. W., and it appears to have been well worth the wait.

Minnesota’s official natural history museum had occupied its University of Minnesota East Bank site in Minneapolis since 1940. Executive Director Denise Young said, “We’ve been a portal to the natural world in this state for more than 100 years. With our move and expansion, we’ll be re-interpreting the best of our old collection while bringing science, art, and nature together in truly extraordinary ways.”

That’s a mammoth claim, but no one is better equipped to make good on it than the Bell Museum. One of the many impressive acquisitions they’ve added to their collection recently is a replicated woolly mammoth, identical to one that might have roamed across Minnesota long ago. Manufactured by Blue Rhino in Eagan, the woolly mammoth arrived in three massive sections and was reassembled in the Pleistocene Minnesota Gallery last month.

Photo right: One of the hallmarks of the Bell Museum is being at the intersection of art and science. Each diorama features three small sculpted elements that can be touched. In this tundra swan diorama, visitors can have a tactile experience of feeling a Blood Root leaf, a snail, and a moth, all of which appear in the diorama. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Another notable addition to the museum is a film created and produced by Minnesota photographer Jim Brandenburg. The film is called Images from Home: Jim Brandenburg’s Minnesota. Brandenburg’s still photographs are also featured prominently throughout the museum and greatly enhance the sense that this place is both of, and about, Minnesota’s natural history.

The permanent exhibition galleries guide visitors from the origins of the universe, through the evolution of life on earth, to the formation of Minnesota’s diverse habitats. Museum staff estimates that 110,000 people will visit the facility in its first year, and that half of those will be students in grades K-12.

The museum’s beloved dioramas, designed and painted by Minnesota artist Francis Lee Jacques, have never looked better. Painstakingly removed from their original cases in the University of Minnesota’s East Bank location, the paintings have been cleaned and reassembled with all the other diorama elements. They’re now enclosed behind non-glare glass, and lit by controllable LED bulbs that effectively simulate the light levels of different times of the day. Ten large and 35 small to mid-size dioramas are on view. A natural soundscape fills the diorama galleries as well.

Another mainstay of the Bell Museum is the Touch and See Room. When it was built in 1968, it was the only discovery room of its kind in the U.S.—a place where visitors could get up close and personal with specimens. “After a hiatus of 18 months,”Manager Jennifer Menken said, “we’ll be bringing back our popular monthly Sketch Night when visitors can come to the Touch and See Room, choose an artifact from the collection, and (using their own art materials) practice sketching or painting. Sketch Night is included in the cost of admission. The museum will be open late one Monday each month, and Sketch Night will take place then. The first meeting will be on Mon., Aug. 20, 6-8pm. No pre-registration is necessary.”

To help deliver its expanded programming, the Bell Museum is actively seeking new volunteers. Docents, educational assistants, and collections cataloguers are needed, as well as citizen scientists interested in recording phenology, climate change, and more. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Kate Sigurdson at ksigurds@umn.edu with questions, or to learn about upcoming volunteer training sessions.

Details on the opening night party and special weekend hours can be found at www.bellmuseum.umn.edu. For general information, visit the website or call 612-626-9660. General admission $12; senior (65+) $10; youth (3-21) $9; children (0-2) free; UMN student (with student ID) free; Bell Museum members are always free. Parking is available on-site for $4. Open daily from 10am-5pm, with occasional late night hours until 9pm (check website).

The Bell Museum strives to be a fully-accessible facility. To request an accommodation, please call the accessibility office at 612-624-4268 or email crfrey@umn.edu.

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PowerPoint Presentation

Survey takes a holistic look at Hamline Midway history

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Calvin

Information provides HUNAC with a strong foundation to better understand the neighborhood

While a lot has changed in the Hamline-Midway area, some things remain the same.

The places that have stayed the same are the subject of the St. Paul Hamline-Midway Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey that is just wrapping up.
Residents learned about the historic survey during a Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee (HUNAC) on June 18.

“It’s been 35 years since anyone took a holistic look at the neighborhood,” pointed out Christine Boulware of the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development. (Photo right by  Tesha M. Christensen)

“I think it’s important to have a strong foundation for who we are,” observed HUNAC Co-Chair Mike Reynolds, who is an English professor at Hamline University. Knowing the history of the neighborhood helps provide that, as well as the character of the place, he added.

Survey gives overview
Conducted by Summit Envirosolutions, Inc., the Hamline Midway reconnaissance survey area includes the geographic boundaries of District 11: Pierce Butler Route, Lexington Pkwy., University Ave., and Transfer Rd. This area includes about 3,000 properties, and the survey focused on 515. Of those, 182 had been previously inventoried and 12 torn down.

The study included five schools, one university campus, one public library, nine parks and playgrounds, ten religious properties, and one barn, along with single-family homes, multi-family homes, and commercial buildings.

The majority of the project was funded through a federal grant, while the remaining 37.5% came from a cash-match from the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development.

The survey is intended to provide a baseline comprehensive overview of historic resources, explained Summit Envirosolutions, Inc. Architectural Historian Sara Nelson.

The last assessment like this, the St. Paul and Ramsey County Historic Sites Survey, was conducted 35 years ago as a part of a city- and county-wide inventory.

According to the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office, the intention of a reconnaissance-level survey “is to collect enough data to provide a general understanding of the built environment of an area. The survey is intended to characterize the properties in relation to historic contexts and makes recommendations for additional intensive survey work.”

The contexts evaluated by Summit Envirosolutions included residents, homes, transportation, automobile services, worship, education and culture, parks and recreation, entertainment, and industry.

Some of the transportation routes in the area predate the incorporation of St. Paul, as the city limits originally only extended to Lexington. The area once was part of Rose Township and divided into farm tracts. In fact, the 1973 Territorial Road survives as the alley between Van Buren and Blair.

The earliest white settlers in the Hamline-Midway area were Yankee-Old Stock American, Canadian and German immigrants from the 1870s to 1880s. This was followed by an increase in German and Irish populations from the 1880s to 1890s. The Scandinavian immigrants arrived between 1890 and 1920 and were followed by the Russian and Polish immigrants between 1910 and 1920.

Photo left: In 1935, the university’s football field was sold and developed as Paust’s Rearrangement. This development that consists of 25 houses were designed by Benjamin A. Paust in a variety of picturesque Cottage styles and built between 1935 and 1939. “It’s really unusual to have a block like this all developed by the same person in the same style,” said Summit Envirosolutions, Inc. Senior Architectural Historian Marjorie Pearson. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“All these residents were attracted by transportation routes, business, and industry opportunities,” observed Summit Envirosolutions, Inc. Senior Architectural Historian Marjorie Pearson. “It was one of the fastest growing areas of St. Paul.”

Swedish, German carpenters built most neighborhood homes
One of the things historians were struck by recently was how many of the Swedish and German residents were contractors. They left their mark on the city’s buildings. While some of the homes in the area were designed by architects, most were the project of local carpenters, observed Pearson.

One of the earliest houses in the area sits at 877 Fry St. It may have been shifted around on the site over the years. The Budd house at Minnehaha and Wheeler dates from 1890 and was owned by George and Harriet Budd, who were prominent in civic affairs.

The Schaettgen house at 754 Hamline Ave. was built 1907, and son-in-law Merten lived next door at 762 Hamline Ave. in a home built in 1923.

John Hasslen built his house at 1383 W. Edmund Ave. in 1912. He had come to the area as a small boy with his family, and followed in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter, according to Pearson. By 1910, he was working on the well-known Hill House and Sibley House.

The primary home styles are Victorian, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Foursquare, and Colonial Revival. Home characteristics include hipped and gabled roofs, corner towers, projecting bays, open porches, decorative wood detailing, and certain types of window patterns.

In comparison to other parts of the city that have been designated as historic districts, the homes in the Midway area tend to be more modest and practical, according to Boulware. They were designed for single families for the most part. The larger would have taken in boarders and lodgers, many of them students from Hamline.

Two areas of study
Hamline University was one of the linchpins of establishing the neighborhood, observed Pearson. The earliest buildings on campus date from the 1880s and 1890s, while later buildings have been designed by distinguished modern architects.

In 1935, the university’s football field was sold and developed as Paust’s Rearrangement. This development that consists of 25 houses were designed by Benjamin A. Paust in a variety of picturesque Cottage styles and built between 1935 and 1939.
“It’s really unusual to have a block like this all developed by the same person in the same style,” said Pearson.

Another area identified for study was the College Place West and Taylor’s Addition with 232 residential properties between Fairview and Fry. It includes Hewitt, Hubbard, and Englewood avenues. Both plats extended across the varied slopes of the landscape and lots retain many oak trees from the original oak savannah that distinguishes the neighborhood.

‘Automobile Row’
Once known as “Automobile Row,” in 1946 there were 14 new car dealerships along University Ave. between the Capitol and the Midway’s Transfer Rd. Several used-car dealerships and auto service garages also sprung up along University and Snelling. Some of these buildings remain, and a few, including 675 N. Snelling, are still being used in the auto service industry.

Photo left: The automotive shop at 675 N. Snelling was built in 1920. The image on the left dates from 1930. (Photos courtesy of Summit Envirosolutions, Inc.)

Nine railroad lines consolidated in the Midway neighborhood and made it a prime place for industry. The American Canning Company remains and is now part of the International Harvester Company. This company and the Brown, Blodgett and Sperry Company were recommended for additional study.

Eligible for historic status
The individual properties and areas of the neighborhood identified in the survey may be designated as St. Paul Heritage Preservation sites and listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)—both of which would happen as a separate project, after intensive survey and detailed research.
Pearson pointed out that properties are eligible for the national register if they meet one of four criteria:
• A: association with significant events or patterns in history
• B: association with significant persons in history
• C: significant architectural design or architect
• D: likely to provide important new information in history

This includes individual property (building, site, structure, object) or a historic district. It’s important that the area retains historic integrity in location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.

Benefits of listing include federal and state preservation tax credits (income-producing properties), eligibility for grants, and consideration in planning for federal projects. There is no loss of individual property rights.

Town House Bar and Midway Books
The map of surveyed properties isn’t quite final yet, according to Nelson. There are a few more properties to add in, and there may be a few more recommended for further study.

Photo right: The image on the left shows the Town House restaurant in 1952. It was built in 1924. In 1969 the Town House bar was established as a gay bar, and it has been recognized as the oldest LGBT bar in the city. (Photos courtesy of Summit Envirosolutions, Inc.)

“The Town House Bar will be recommended for further study for local designation—something we hope the new owner will be perceptive to (and not change much inside or out)!” stated Nelson.

In 1969 the Town House bar was established as a gay bar, and it has been recognized as the oldest LGBT bar in the city.
“The Quality Park (Midway Books) Building at the northeast corner of Snelling and University is eligible for listing in the NRHP, which means it is eligible for state and historic tax credits for rehabilitation,” Nelson added. “Its NRHP nomination has been completed for several years (but the current owners weren’t interested in listing it). I doubt many potential buyers/developers/commercial realtors know about the building’s eligibility.

“It’s so close to the new stadium; I hope any redevelopment efforts on that corner don’t include tearing it down!”
Learn more about the project and HUNAC at www.hamline.edu/neighbors/neighborhood-advisory-committee.

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TCGIS denies request by 600 petitioners to delay building project

TCGIS denies request by 600 petitioners to delay building project

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Calvin

But, board postponed final vote for demolition to pursue ‘real estate opportunity’

The Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) has denied the request of 600 petitioners to wait for an expansion until June 2020. Instead, the board is moving forward with its plans to demolish the former St. Andrew’s Church building and construct a new building on the site.

Board members considered the petition from neighbors and the group Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) during its May 23 meeting, but the majority voted to deny the delay.

However, during a call for a vote to approve the proposed building and demolition plan, TCGIS Facilities Committee Chair Nic Ludwig requested that additional time be granted him to pursue a “real estate opportunity” related to the proposed expansion of the school.

“The board voted to postpone taking official action, which SHSA sees as a positive step toward saving an iconic, historic structure of significant importance to many in St. Paul,” stated SHSA founder Teri Alberico.

Plan to raze Aula, replace with a larger structure
The school facilities committee is made up of volunteers with experience in architecture, structural engineering, and city planning. Members also include school staff and teachers.

Photo right: The Twin Cities German Immersion School Board is deciding the fate of the St. Andrews Church building. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

After a year of study, the facilities committee presented the option of tearing down the existing church building, called the Aula, and building a new facility for use starting with the 2019-2020 school year.

A listening session for neighbors was held on Apr. 9 and neighbors were told that the school did not have anything set in stone and that this was the first of many listening sessions.

Residents had expressed concern that this timeline didn’t give them much time to investigate options, such as raising money to save the former church building.

Among the options studied by the facilities committee were leasing space, splitting campuses, reducing class sizes, and purchasing property.

However, a study of various alternatives concluded that replacing the 1927 Aula with a new, three-level structure is more cost effective than retrofitting the existing Byzantine-Romanesque structure. The project is estimated to cost $5.7 million. The existing structure needs an estimated $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades, including a new roof, boiler, windows, doors, insulation, and tuck-pointing.

According to a memo distributed at the board meeting, the facilities and finance committees do not support preserving the Aula because “it is inadequate for the school’s educational needs.”

Specifically, the Aula cannot house a gym large enough for two sections to operate at one time. Nor is there room for six additional classrooms, additional office space, special education spaces, and a cafeteria.

“Delaying the building project by a year will not change the fact that the Aula cannot provide the educational or professional space that the school’s students and teachers need, in order to provide the best learning environment possible,” stated the memo.

The facilities and finance committees believe that the cons to delaying the project include: higher interest rates, higher construction costs, and paying for the cost of the Aula’s operations and repairs for another year.

Plus, there’s the programming impact for teachers and kids who use the gym, cafeteria and specialty classes, and as well continued uncertainty for families and staff about the future plans of the school.

The committee is also concerned that the historic designation process may play out in a way that is harmful to the school, according to a facilities committee report from its May 8 meeting.

600 petitioners
Save Historic St. Andrew’s collected 600 signatures from neighbors and others concerned about the proposed expansion at the TCGIS.

The petition points out that an increase in the number of students at TCGIS would magnify the existing issues at the school site including inadequate off-street parking for staff and visitors.

Calling the former church a meaningful anchor and visible symbol of stability to its surrounding neighbors for over a century, the petition notes that this structure has historic significance worthy of historical preservation status.

As “TCGIS seeks to be a responsible neighborhood partner, committed to the welfare of its neighborhood community,” and “a delay in the current planning schedule will provide for important input from the surrounding community,” petitioners requested that the proposed plan for the St. Andrew’s Church Structure be delayed until June 2020.

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St Andrews facade

Neighbors band together to save historic St. Andrew’s Church

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Calvin

Group seeks historic status for church turned school, gathers petition signatures, places lawn signs, and more

A neighborhood group has formed to save the historic St. Andrew’s Church building.

The future of the former church building built in 1927 is in jeopardy as the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) has proposed razing it to construct a larger, 3-story facility in its place.

Photo right: Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) group members include (left to right) Anna Mosser, Bonnie Youngquist, Ron Greene, Steve Greenwood, and Teri Alberico. They are concerned about tearing down a beautiful historic building and replacing it with another structure the school might grow out of, as well as traffic, parking and noise issues. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

For years, Warrendale/Como neighbors have sought to resolve concerns about parking, traffic and pedestrian safety near the school through dialogue facilitated by the Land Use Committee of the District 10 Community Council.

“Unfortunately, the proposed expansion plan offers little or no solution to these issues, only particulars that would exacerbate these problems—and elimination of a significant historic structure that has served as a meaningful anchor and visible symbol of stability for nearly a century,” said Save Historic St. Andrew’s (SHSA) founder Teri Alberico, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1986.

600 sign petition
SHSA is a neighborhood coalition focused on the preservation of the historic and residential character of the Warrendale/Como neighborhood.

“SHSA is working to find solutions that will meet the needs of the school without negatively impacting the surrounding community,” explained Alberico.

The group has about 25 members and recently circulated a petition asking that the TCGIS school board hold off on making changes until 2020. (See related story on page 1.)

In all, 600 people signed the petition. SHSA has also distributed hundreds of flyers and placed more than 65 signs on lawns throughout the adjoining neighborhood.

“SHSA believes that language immersion programs are important to child development and genuinely support the programs and the families that make up TCGIS,” she added. “However, the proposed expansion has not included sufficient community engagement, adequately addressed impacts on the residential character of the Warrendale/Como neighborhood, or considered the cultural importance of the historic St. Andrew’s building and its significance to our surrounding community.”

A historic site?
Save Historic St. Andrew’s is pursuing a historic designation for the church building, which can be done with or without the cooperation of a landowner.

In a 1983 formal assessment, the Historic Resources Survey, this Romanesque church building was declared “worthy of consideration for the National Register of Historic Places,” and listed as a “Site of Major Significance.”

The building is described in Larry Millett’s American Institute of Architecture Guide to the Twin Cities as, “one of St. Paul’s best Period revival churches.”

The design of the St. Andrew’s building is believed to have been done by a small pool of excellent 1920s architects, according to committee members Anna Mosser and Steve Greenwood who have been delving into historic documents.

A history of the St. Andrew’s parish lists Charles Hausler as the church’s architect, and an entry in a ledger dated 1927 shows payment of $1,000 to C.A. Hausler. However, city documents do not include a specific architectural attribution. Millett’s AIA Guide to the Twin Cities attributes the design to either Frederick Slifer and Frank Abrahamson or John W. Wheeler.

Charles Hausler was St. Paul’s first city architect (1914-22) and apprenticed under Clarence Johnston, Harry Wild Jones, and Louis Sullivan.

He designed many libraries, churches, commercial buildings, and homes. Six of Hausler’s buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places. A significant part of Hausler’s practice involved churches where he used to experiment with Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine Revival styles. One of these, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hague, ND, built in 1930, is listed on the National Register as part of a historic district.

To get St. Andrew’s listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, several studies are needed. The initial one will cost about $1,500, and the more in-depth study an estimated $8-10,000. SHSA is fundraising through Go Fund Me to pay for these studies.

If listed on the National Register, the structure could not be torn down, and improvements and changes would need to be approved ahead of time. Grants would be available for preservation work.

“St. Andrew’s is a unique structure that is not like anything else,” stated Greenwood, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1983. “I support keeping the building because it’s so beautiful and elegant.”

He added, “Never, in the 42 years that I have lived in St. Paul, [have I] ever witnessed such a divisive project.”

School shares block with 11 homes
Committee members range from lifelong St. Andrew’s church members to atheists who never attended church there.

Kevin Dahm is a former District 10 board member who still serves on the land use committee. He got involved in the issue after hearing from neighbors concerned about how noise from the playground affected a house 10 feet away. Neighbors have also talked about how difficult it is to park on the street as the school does not have adequate parking for staff and parents, and how dangerous pick-up and drop-off time is on the streets around the school when about 350 cars are coming and going.

“Eighty percent of the kids are driven here and 20% bus,” observed local resident Ron Greene, who is concerned about traffic safety.

While schools today typically take up an entire city block, the TCGIS shares the block with 11 houses, according to 25-year neighborhood resident Bonnie Youngquist.

When it was a church school, the student population ranged from 100-300. When the tuition-free, K-8 German Immersion School moved into the neighborhood in 2013, it had 370 students. This year, that number has reached 548, and it is projected to top out at 648.

Alberico pointed out that while school officials have said no attrition has taken place, that isn’t entirely accurate. Students have left. But rather than keep the space empty, staff have pulled in a new student to fill the space even in the older grades.

Dahm is concerned about the school’s lot size and the number of students on it. “That amount of space seems small to me for that many students,” said Dahm.

SHSA has suggested that TCGIS consider partnering with the nearby Central Lutheran School (775 Lexington Pkwy. N.), which faces closure due to a low student enrollment. The school has a gymnasium, which is one of the main reasons TCGIS is considering a new building.

“We’re trying to work with the school on solutions,” stated Youngquist.

Enough space?
Given the popularity of the German Immersion School and how it’s currently turning away students, Dahm isn’t sure that the school’s current plan will work for the long-term and he thinks the school will once again find itself outgrowing its buildings.

“They could easily grow out of that space and we’ll lose a historic building in the process,” he pointed out.

Alberico is concerned that the school seems willing to spend $5.7 million on a new facility instead of $1.2 million on maintaining the old building—but it has not addressed the maintenance costs needed later on at that new building.

The cost to demolish the church building, issue debt, and create a contingency fund is estimated by the school to be $2.2 million.

In order to move forward with the tear-down and construction project, TCGIS will need to seek a variance request from the St. Paul City Council. The District 10 Community Council will state its opinion on the request before it goes before the city’s zoning board.

“One way to stop this from happening is to deny the various requirements,” observed Dahm.

Should residents get a say?
Some people have asked SHSA members why they think they have a say in this school project.

“It’s a public school funded by our taxpayer dollars, and I feel that as a resident I have a say,” responded Mosser.

The group has set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/savehistoricstandrews. By Monitor press time they had raised $3,775 of their $10,000 goal.

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Developer named for 25 acres around Allianz Field stadium

Developer named for 25 acres around Allianz Field stadium

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

Changes great and small are coming to the Midway Center superblock, where the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium is going up. Those changes include the announcement of Mortenson as lead developer of the Midway Center property.

Also, city officials are taking steps to make traffic signal and signages changes in and near the property. It’s part of a flurry of activity before the stadium opens for Minnesota United FC games next year.

RD Management LLC, as representative of RK Midway LLC, announced the selection of Mortenson to lead the redevelopment of its property for office, retail, entertainment, hospitality, and residential use. That includes the remaining sections of Midway Center and its parking lots.

A master plan for site redevelopment won St. Paul City Council approval two years ago. The site is about 25 acres in size.

Illustration right: The vision for the superblock from just two years ago that won approval from the St. Paul City Council. It was called a master plan, but it was only a suggested concept of what the superblock could be around the new Allianz Stadium. (Illustration provided)

The $250 million stadium itself is more than 50 percent complete and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. Allianz Field has been hailed by team officials and city leaders as a catalyst for redevelopment.

Over the years numerous redevelopment plans were floated for the shopping center, the former Metro Transit bus garage site, and parking lot at Pascal St. and St. Anthony Ave. The possible plans included hotels, movie theaters, a National Guard Armory, and headquarters for the healthcare company Allina. But none moved forward. The center has sat unchanged since it was built in the 1950s and given a facelift in the 1980s.

In a press release, Richard Birdoff, the principal at RD Management and owner of the property for over 25 years, said he has long wanted to redevelop the site and the construction of the iconic, architecturally-significant Allianz Field provided a reason to move forward.

“Great future developments will be linked to transportation-supported locations that foster accessibility, higher densities, and interesting amenities for businesses, residents, and visitors,” Birdoff said. “The Midway is centrally located in a dynamic and growing community that offers a great foundation for future enhancements. We are pleased to be part of this exciting redevelopment effort in such a great community and are particularly excited that Mortenson is leading the effort.”

“Urban redevelopment opportunities of this scale are rare. Rarer is the case that a redevelopment is kick-started by a $250 million professional sports stadium. In these exceptional situations, our development experience at the intersection of sports and entertainment tells us that powerful new opportunities are in store for the Snelling Midway area,” said Jeremy Jacobs, director of real estate development at Mortenson.

Mortenson continued, “We look forward to partnering with an incredible team, the City of St. Paul, RD Management, and the local community, to continue to transform this important piece of the St. Paul fabric.”

S9 Architecture, a national architecture firm based in New York City that has designed large-scale mixed-use projects across North America, is the lead architect for the partnership.

It could take several years beyond the stadium’s construction for the changes to be made and could include the addition of park space, streets, and interim parking. The proposed move of the Big Top Liquors to the former Midway Perkins site as an interim step is before the St. Paul City Council this month, with a decision as soon as June 13.

Development has always been discussed in the context of moving west to east on the site. Businesses in what is left of Midway Center have leases in place.

Changes to infrastructure around the Allianz Field soccer stadium got a green light May 23 from the St. Paul City Council. The council allocated an additional $355,000 in Municipal-State Aid funds toward the project, which is also drawing on $750,000 in tax increment financing and $612,000 in Minnesota Department of Transportation trunk highway funding.

A big change, which was debated in area neighborhoods for several months, is to remove the traffic signal at Snelling Ave. and Spruce Tree Dr. A signal would be put at Snelling and Shields, which will be extended east through the superblock bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues, and Pascal St. Median changes would be made on Snelling, as well as traffic signal changes at St. Anthony and Pascal.

The city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget committee recommended approval of the changes in May.

A third change coming is city ordinance changes to allow sports sponsorship signs at Allianz and at the Treasure Island Minnesota Wild practice facility downtown. For Allianz, zoning code changes are sought to allow sponsorship signs at the main spectator gate entrances and on wayfinding kiosks. The zoning code changes would allow the sponsorship signs.

The St. Paul Planning Commission June 1 recommended approval of the changes, which now go to the St. Paul City council for a final public hearing and approval. No date has been set.

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CR Watershed District starts construction for new headquarters

CR Watershed District starts construction for new headquarters

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

Above: Capital Region Watershed District new headquarters building at 595 Aldine St. as envisioned by the architects. (Photo provided)

The building will showcase best practices in sustainability and water resource management

On May 22 the Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) hosted a groundbreaking event to mark the official start of the construction phase of the organization’s new headquarters at 595 Aldine St. in the Midway neighborhood. The event took place in the building that once housed the MacQueen Equipment company.

The new building will include community gathering spaces, a watershed learning center, and on-site educational opportunities to showcase CRWD’s work to protect, manage and improve water resources in the district. Plus, the site will feature a pocket park, combining the natural and built environments with interactive elements for neighbors and visitors to enjoy.

Photo right: Capital Region Watershed District staff at the groundbreaking May 22. (Photo provided)

Another unique feature will include water being reused from the cistern to flush toilets, wash bottles for monitoring and to support the water feature in the pocket park. B

Representatives from MSR Design, architectural firm of the project, and JE Dunn, the construction manager, joined CRWD representatives and board members, members of the Citizen Advisory Committee, local dignitaries, and community partners in a ceremony that marked the beginning of the demolition process. Guest speakers included: Mary

Texer, Board of Managers, Capitol Region Watershed District; Russ Stark, Chief Resilience Office, Mayor Melvin Carter’s Office; Janice Rettman, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3; Toni Carter, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 4; Samantha Henningson, Ward 4 City Council; and Michael Jon Olson, Executive Director, Hamline Midway Coalition.

Photo left: Speakers at the Groundbreaking included (l to r) Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter; CRWD Board Managers Mary Texer and Rick Sanders; CRWD Administrator Mark Doneux; Councilmember Samantha Henningson, Michael Jon Olson of Hamline-Midway Coalition; and Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman. (Photo provided)

“Capitol Region Watershed District is a critical partner of the City of Saint Paul in our work to protect the Mississippi River from pollution, prevent flooding, and be good stewards of water, our most precious natural resource,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “I am excited about CRWD’s new location in the Midway and look forward to many more years of partnership.”

“Our new space will create a sustainable, healthy workplace for our staff while conserving natural resources and protecting water resources,” said Mark Doneux, administrator at CRWD. “By adopting the City of Saint Paul’s Sustainable Building Policy, the building will be able to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.”

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CRWD Rendering_Exterior1

Public reacting to organized trash collection now that it is certain

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Calvin

The costs of organized trash collection, which starts Oct. 1 in St. Paul, continue to meet pushback from some homeowners, as well as owners of small multi-family properties. Those who espouse recycling and composting more, and throwing away less, are making their feelings known in a variety of ways—including a civil lawsuit.

Highland resident and former city financial analyst Peter Butler filed the lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court May 21. He contends that the proposed organized collection system and its fee schedule violate Minnesota’s Waste Management Act.

City officials aren’t commenting on the lawsuit. They have 20 days in which to reply in court. That must happen by June 11 (as the Monitor went to press). But with a signed contract with a garbage hauling consortium in place, it’s not clear how much, if anything, can be changed by the lawsuit or by other citizen action.

Proponents of organized collection say it will create consistency in trash disposal prices, reduce neighborhood traffic and wear and tear on streets and alleys, and force those who haven’t had trash service in the past to pay for disposal. They cite illegal dumping of trash as a constant problem.

But opponents argue that having the city choose a neighborhood hauler, or haulers, takes away their freedom of choice and ability to negotiate for service.

“Zero waste” advocates point out that the city contract with residential haulers doesn’t provide incentives to reduce waste through recycling, composting, and changes in consumption. The five-year contract eliminates the possibility of single-family homeowners and residents of small rental buildings from sharing a trash cart.

It’s not clear how many residential properties don’t have garbage service now. While there are those who refuse to pay for service, others share carts or take their trash to garbage transfer stations.

Butler shares trash service with neighbors and doesn’t contract for his pickup service because he doesn’t need it. “I just don’t generate that much waste,” he said. “Now even with every-other-week service I’ll pay for service I’ll barely use.”

The waste management act, which was originally adopted by state lawmakers in 1980, outlines waste management practices to protect the state’s land, air, water and public health. The act requires municipal solid waste collection systems to charge for disposal based on volume or weight of waste collected. Butler said the city’s planned charges provide no incentive for people like himself who generate very little solid waste. Those who generate the most waste get the best discounts under the fees planned.

Waste reduction, recycling, and reuse are among the state act’s top goals. Landfilling or “land disposal” of waste is considered to be the least-preferred option, which Butler points out in court documents.

The city is offering four monthly levels of service. Homeowners and landlords of small rental properties had until June 1 to choose their level of service. There is no option of sharing a cart as most rental properties, and some single-family homeowners have been doing.

The smallest and least frequent service, a 35-gallon cart collected every other week cost $20.28 per month. That breaks down to $9.36 per collection or 27 cents per gallon.

The largest cart with weekly service is a 95-gallon cart, collected weekly, at $34.15. That cart user will pay $7.88 per collection or eight centers per gallon.

Butler said that the state law requires a base rate, which would result in a higher rate for those who generate more trash. Instead, he points out in the lawsuit that St. Paul’s pricing system decreases the cost per gallon of waste collection as the volume increases.

Others continue to object to the contract. A small group of residents met with Mayor Melvin Carter May 31. Frogtown resident Kristin Becker collected copies of residents’ cart selection postcards, where they had indicated the size cart they were ordering and the size of cart or service they actually need.

Like Butler, Becker said her household strives to generate as little waste as possible. She’ll be paying much more for trash service as will many of her neighbors.

Becker said she practices zero waste and needs minimal trash service. “We needed to bring a loud voice to the mayor’s office about this change,” she said.

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