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{ Monitor in a Minute } June 2020

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


COVID-19 measures continue
St. Paul city officials were working to help restaurants open for outdoor dining June 1. It’s the last effort in a flurry of activities since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
St. Paul City Council members and Mayor Melvin Carter’s administration discussed next steps May 27. City officials are working to provide flexibility with sidewalk cafes, patios, parking lots, green spaces and even street parking lanes to provide outdoor dining space. In some places restaurant owners are seeking city approval to close short sections of streets and install small park areas or parklets.
The loosening of restaurant restrictions are just part of the city’s response to the pandemic. It has closed and then slowly reopened some parks facilities. Business license fees have been lowered. City employees have been redeployed into different jobs.
One measure that took effect June 1 is that everyone must wear a mask before entering city-licensed businesses.
Changes in regulations are happening constantly. Keep up at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/emergency-management/coronavirus-covid-19

Snelling property’s fate
A Snelling Ave. property that has been called out for its historic significance will be the topic of city hearing June 23. The St. Paul City Council May 27 postponed action on the fate of 678 N. Snelling Ave.
Past historic surveys of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood have noted that the longtime commercial building is considered to be significant. But it has no local or national historic designation, and has been vacant for more than three years. Recently its certificate of occupancy was revoked.
The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) has determined that the two-story brick structure is a nuisance building and is in need of rehabilitation or demolition due to its condition. The property’s owner is SG National LLC out of New York City. The owners have indicated to city officials that they are trying to sell the property.
The original remove or repair order from the city was to be met by mid-March. The building, which housed a lighting and fan company and other businesses recently, has been on the city’s vacant building list since fall 2016.
The property has an estimated market value of $158,400 on the land and $282,200 on the building. Real estate taxes are current, as are vacant building fees. City property code staff estimate that costs to repair the structure exceed $250,000. Demolition costs exceed $75,000.
The building has been on the city’s radar for some time with 14 summary abatement orders for trash, building boarding/securing, tall grass and weeds, ands now and ice removal. The city has asked that a $5,000 performance bond be posted and that a detailed work plan be prepared. Another request is that the prospective buyer attend the upcoming legislative hearing.

Events center obtains licenses
Despite concerns from a neighboring property owner, the St. Paul City Council May 13 approved licensed for Essence Event Center, 1217 Bandana Blvd. N. Licenses approved are liquor on-sale for 291 or more seats, Sunday liquor on-sale and entertainment Class B.
Wellington Management, which owns and operates office and commercial buildings in the area around Bandana Square, raised objections about potential problems with spillover parking, noise and litter. The licenses were sent to a legislative hearing this spring, and operating conditions agreed upon.
No liquor sales, service, display and/or consumption is allowed outdoors without prior written approval and additional licensing from the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI). Sunday liquor sales may only occur in conjunction with food service, the establishment shall close at midnight and all patrons must be off of the premises by 12;30 a.m.

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{ Development Roundup } June 2020

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


How will fires affect Midway Center ‘superblock’?
Development at the Midway Center “superblock” is moving toward a fall groundbreaking for new construction on the western part of the site. But how a devastating fire in the remaining part of Midway Center will affect redevelopment remains unclear.
Much of the remaining shopping center building along Pascal Street was extensively damaged by fire overnight May 28-29, as was Big Top Liquor. Big Top had relocated to the former Midway Perkins building along University Avenue. As of Monitor deadline plans for the shopping center hadn’t been announced. The western section was slated to eventually come down, but it was almost largely occupied.
Union Park District Council (UPDC) heard a development update at its May meeting from Bill McGuire, lead owner of the Minnesota United FC soccer team and lead partner in site redevelopment with RK Midway.
The developers are working with the St. Paul Port Authority to obtain $2 million in site cleanup grants from the state, Ramsey County and Metropolitan Council. The applications were submitted May 1. It’s anticipated that much pollution is from an old streetcar garage and Metro Transit bus barn and repair facility at the site.
The United Villages at Midway development’s towers would include 234 dwelling units over a 148,470-square-foot parking podium, with 15,780-square-feet of retail and coworking office spaces above the parking and below the towers. The parking is to be in one level underground. McGuire said that while changes are considered for tower placement, the design is largely as shown in April. Construction drawings are still in the works. Stadium designer Populous is project architect. The goal is to open the building in spring 2022.
The towers would be nine to 18 stories tall and would be adjacent to an “activated alley” of retail and live-work spaces, with a smaller 3 to 3.5-story structure with retail and small business/nonprofit incubator space. That building footprint is about 20,000 square feet. McGuire said one focus would be local food businesses.
One point McGuire made is that without parking spaces, investors will not consider the project. Parking and ways to promote more mass transit use were brought up district council members.
Other parts of the development are moving ahead, although a proposed movie theater may have to shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced crisis movie theaters everywhere face, said McGuire. It’s more likely a proposed hotel will eventually built as part of the development. That also may face delays.

17-story apartments,
YWCA replacement
Area projects, including housing at Fairview and University avenues and a replacement for the YWCA of St. Paul, are among four city submissions vying for development funds. The St. Paul City Council voted May 6 to seek Metropolitan Council and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) grants for the projects. Cities must apply for the funds with developers.
Two projects, including apartments planned for 1845 University Ave., are in line for Metropolitan Council Tax Base Revitalization Account (TBRA) dollars. Two 17-story apartment buildings are proposed by Minneapolis-based Reuter Walton Development. The buildings would go up on property owned by Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota. The project began community review in late 2019. Apartments planned are affordable housing, in a mix of unit sizes.
Reuther Walton is seeking $111,814 in TBRA funds and $654,080 from DEED. Both funding sources would assist with site cleanup. Part of the property was once a gas station.
Another request is from Keystone Community Services, which has locations in Merriam Park, the North End and West End. Keystone is also seeking pre-development funding of $100,000 from Metropolitan Council, for a site to be determined.
The YWCA request would replace the YWCA that has stood at Selby and Western avenues for many years, possibly with a mixed-use development. Awards are to be announced in the weeks ahead.

development wins approval
Development of the former US Bank property at University and Raymond avenues is moving ahead. The St. Paul Planning Commission May 29 approved a needed variance and conditional use permit for 2383 University Ave.
The development company Kraus Anderson obtained approvals for the project. The project is already zoned for traditional neighborhoods 3 use so no zoning change is needed. The approvals are final unless an appeal is filed with the St. Paul City Council within 10 days.
The developers will tear down the longtime Midway Bank and its drive-through lanes. Parking lots are also part of the development sire. The lots and bank will be replaced by a six-story building. The building will have 222 dwelling units, 2,200 square feet of first-floor commercial space and amenity spaces for tenants. Three of the first-floor dwelling spaces will be live/work units.
The building will have frontage along University, Raymond and Charles avenues. It will be V-shaped with a courtyard. Its design plans got a nod of approval May 18 from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. The site is in the Raymond-University Commercial Historic District.
The conditional use permit is needed for a 66’ 7” building height, with 73’ 4” for the elevator penthouse. Floor area ratio or FAR variance is needed as well. The 3.0 FAR maximum is slightly exceeded as a 3.6 FAR is proposed.
St. Anthony Park Community Council recommended approval, with conditions. Conditions sought include asking that the commercial space become community incubator space if it is not leased, that there be a publicly accessible pedestrian path on the east side of the building where there is currently an alley, and that the building meet sustainability conditions outlined in city plans.
No one has come out in opposition to the project.

Bandana Square project moves ahead
One hundred and fifty-three housing units will be built atop a parking ramp near Bandana Square, as a result of St. Paul Planning commission approvals May 1.
TJL Development’s affiliate Pacific Ramp LLC is leading the project, which requires a zoning change and a front yard setback variance. The commission approved the requests, and sent the rezoning request for final approval from the St. Paul City Council. The rezoning will be the focus of a public hearing later in June. for rezoning and the front yard setback variance.
The property is currently occupied by a parking ramp that serves adjacent commercial uses including a hotel. The applicant wants to rezone the property from B3 general business to traditional neighborhoods 3 use, to allow proposed construction of 153 residential units on top of the existing ramp. A portion of the ramp will be leased to the adjacent hotel for guest and employee parking.
The Bandana Square area was historically a rail yard, with its building converted to office, retail and commercial uses. The current uses include a hotel, event center, and office space. Multi-family housing was developed to the west.
City staff recommended approval of the zoning change and variance as did Como Community Council. No one has expressed opposition to the project.

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Eight Como staff members retire

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como’s virtual commencement ceremony on June 1 successfully celebrated each of the 248 graduates from the Class of 2020.

Como Park Senior High School

By Eric Erickson
Social studies teacher

The 2019-2020 school year has concluded. Distance learning during the coronavirus became even more challenging following the fear and destruction in the community surrounding the death of George Floyd.
The Class of 2020 endured a teacher strike, global pandemic, economic collapse, a societal tragedy and civil unrest during the spring of their senior year without the ability to process with peers and teachers in person.
As many have suggested, 2020 could be a chapter in future history textbooks all by itself, the scope of which has completely overshadowed the accomplishments of a special and resilient class of high school students.
In that context, it was joyful for graduating students to spend the evening of June 1 viewing the Como virtual commencement ceremony with their loved ones. The pre-recorded video featured pictures of every graduate during the pomp and circumstance processional music, followed by messages from Principal Stacy Theien-Collins, district administration, Como teacher David Stahlman, and student speaker Ridwan Yussuf.
After the inspirational messages from the speakers, each of the 248 Como graduates was featured in their own unique cap and gown photo, alongside their name on the screen for several seconds. Enough time for joyful cheers in each home, and enough time for every student to celebrate their friends and classmates when they appeared in the alphabetical rollout.
The graduation ceremony was shared out in a link to all Como families, can be viewed on spps.eduvison.tv, and will be replayed on St. Paul Cable Channel 16 several times this summer.
With the close of distance learning for underclassmen on June 9, eight longtime Como staff members concluded their careers in education. Each retiree has positively influenced countless students, with their own unique gifts, skills, dedication and service.
Kathy Kahn – teaching for 37 years, including the last 30 at Como as a biology instructor.
Maryclare Bade – health teacher at Como for the past 34.5 years. She has spent 36 total years in education.
Carole Whitney – Como Park choir director and theater director for 26 years.
Lori Belair – 26 years with the St. Paul Public Schools. She has been teaching Family and Consumer Sciences at Como since 2009.
Dave Stahlman – social studies teacher at Como for 25 years.
Walt Lofquist – a math teacher at Como for 20 years, and has 21 total years in St. Paul.
Joy Fausone – worked in the Como cafeteria with nutrition services for 30 years.
Ruth McPhillips – educational assistant for 28 years, with fout years of service at Como.
That’s 229 combined years of service to kids, all concluding with a retirement year of 2020, a time that no one – in education or any walk of life – will ever forget.

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Donate to Midway businesses

Posted on 04 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Over 100 businesses in the Midway were damaged on Thursday, May 28, 2020 during civil unrest.

Photo by Tesha M. Christensen

The following fundraisers will benefit local businesses:

Midway Chamber of Commerce – We Love the Midway: http://www.midwaychamber.com/we-love-midway

Neighbors United Funding Collaborative: https://midwayunited.org/

Bole Ethiopian: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rebuilding-bole-ethiopian-cuisine

Lloyd’s Pharmacy: https://www.gofundme.com/f/lloyd039s-pharmacy-rebuilding-fund-st-paul-riots



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There’s only one race, and that’s the human race

Posted on 30 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Valerie Castile (photo courtesy Philando Castile Relief Foundation)

By Margie O’Loughlin

Valerie Castile became known to the wider world when her son Philando was murdered by a St. Anthony police officer almost four years ago.
In a recent phone interview, she said, “This has been been a really emotional time for my whole family, since George Floyd was killed. If someone does something wrong, it’s their civil liberty to have their day in court. There’s no reason to take a human life unless you are sure that person is trying to kill you. I mean, really trying to kill you – and George Floyd was lying handcuffed with his face in the street.”

Learn more about the Philando Castile Relief Foundation here: http://www.philandocastilefoundation.org/

In the years since her son’s death, Castile has built a foundation to help victims affected by gun violence and police violence. The Philando Castile Relief Fund helps families of victims with funeral attire and resources for grief counseling, among other things.
Castile, who talks regularly with elected officials about issues related to policing, community relations, and use of force spoke with Governor Walz the day after Floyd’s murder. She told him, “People are going to rebel. I was so angry. Somewhere there’s a piece of paper 30’ long with all the names of people killed by police in this city. It’s too much to take.”

She continued, “Everybody is trying to understand how things got so out of control with the riots. It seems like when the anger comes in, common sense goes right out the window. We’ve got to remember that there’s only one race, and that’s the human race. If enough of us continue to work on this together, something IS going to change.”

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‘I can’t breathe’

Posted on 30 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Photo by Abha Karnick

Hamline graduate Abha Karnick wrote this poem after speaking with a mother at Cup Foods earlier this week. View the images she has taken in the Monitor Facebook page.


I can’t breathe

I watched his last breath. Millions of people soon would as well.
I can’t breathe.
He was murdered on my block next to the bus I ride, in front of my children, in front of the world.
I can’t breathe.
Crowds gathered and my eyes glistened. Glistened with tears, glistened with light from the fires, glistened with hurt and fear and anger.
I can’t breathe.
My city was burning, my people were scattering, my world was shattering. Yelling, cursing, crying. In one ear and out the other, or so it seemed. My senses overwhelmed, my grief inexplicable.
I can’t breathe.
The haze drifted like fog, blocking the view of the city, clouding the hearts of the oppressed. The unheard were here, they were pleading. I was pleading. Let them be heard.
I can’t breathe.
Flowers, thousands, lay on the streets. Graffiti lined the walls of the train and the businesses. “Fuck the 12” “Black Lives Matter” “Society awakens”
I can’t breathe.
This is my city. My city. I ache as history again repeats, never letting up as injustice hits the streets. Ashes from the fires settled on lawns and houses, asking to be seen, needing to be seen.
I can’t breathe.
When will future history books remove the white-authoritative narrative and choose truth? Oh, Minneapolis.

Oh, Minneapolis. I can’t breathe.



South Minneapolis writer and photographer, Abha Karnick

Abha Karnick is a south Minneapolis resident with East Indian roots who graduated from Hamline University in 2019. Abha grew up in the Twin Cities and found her passions in music, photography, and writing. She has pieces published with CAAL, MNAsianStories, and HER Online Journal, and her passion lies in storytelling and finding the moments to capture. Her writing is best known for pulling at the heartstrings of her community as she dives deep into both the emotion and lives of both herself and those around her.

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Check Facebook, Instagram for updates

Posted on 30 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Readers, the Midway Como Frogtown Monitor is regularly posting to its Instagram and Facebook accounts as we follow this rapidly evolving situation in our community. We welcome letters, photos, comments, and more to help us as we continue our hyper local coverage. ~ Editor and owner Tesha M. Christensen, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com



Instagram: midway_como_monitor

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Rethinking business: Chamber members share how they’re doing during pandemic

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Tetra Constantino of Elsa’s

How are local businesses working through the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Midway Chamber of Commerce, together with Finance and Commerce, organized a panel of business owners to answer that question during a virtual meet-up on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. It is the first of several being organized to help businesses navigate through the coronavirus situation.

Rapp: Working remotely
Rapp Strategies (333 S. 7th St., Minneapolis) offers strategic communications and works primarily with hospitals, nursing homes, school districts and electrical industries. Nearly all of their clients have stayed with the company. Their work for projects out six weeks to two months has disappeared, but other work is sustaining them, according to Todd Rapp, who moderated the Zoom panel.
Their staff started working from home in shifts prior to the official Stay At Home order to work out any issues, and has been totally remote since the order. One staff member was let go, a position the company had considered eliminating prior to the pandemic.

Elsa’s: contactless delivery
Elsa’s House of Sleep (1441 University Ave. W.) is a second generation, family-owned furniture store. Tetra Constantino‘s mother, Elsa, started the company in 1997 to make sure families could afford nice items for their homes, and that’s still the driving force of the company, observed Constantino.
As the African American community has been especially hard-hit by the coronavirus, Elsa’s took steps before the shutdown to limit contact to keep both their staff and customers safe, according to Constantino. Elsa’s began selling items on its online store and via telephone orders, and are still working to organize 6,000 items in their online shop. The store does Zoom consultations and offers free contactless deliveries. Staff use masks and gloves. “We make sure safety is our number one priority,” said Constantino. They still believe their customer service sets them apart from large online stores, and sales keep money within the community.
They initially furloughed employees, but have been able to bring nearly all of them back as there is work cleaning the warehouse and reorganizing the showroom. They’re working to set up business for a new normal, said Constantino.
They’ve partnered with a local musician, Jamilah Pettiford, on a song that will be released on local radio stations.

Urban Growler: lean is the new normal
Urban Growler Brewing Co. celebrated its fifth year last July, and is trying to figure out how to still offer a fun experience with food and beer while maintaining social distancing. Pavlak pointed out more training is needed on social distancing so their customers practice it.
“Summer is when we make hay and we survive winter,” observed co-owner Jill Pavlak. They were just starting to pick up and had added several new staff positions when they had to shut down their tap room and laid off 37 servers, bartenders and kitchen staff. They were left with nine managers. Since getting a Payroll Protection Program loan, they’ve added back some kitchen staff. “We’re still a very lean team and we believe that will be our new normal for awhile,” said Pavlak.
They didn’t miss a beat, but started offering takeout immediately as there was no other option for them, said Pavlak. “We had to stay open or we would not survive.”
Pavlak admitted it is hard to wrap one’s brain around this situation, and there is a lot of grief and loss. Overall, their staff is a tight group, and are sharing tips with those who aren’t working, letting them know they’re missed.
“Love can keep us afloat,” said Pavlak. “We will survive because we’re received a lot of love form our team and customers.”

Mendoza: diverse base
Tony Mendoza operates a small law firm in the heart of the Midway. His primary clients are from the telcom and technology industries, entertainment and the non-profit sector. He’s grateful for their diverse make-up, which means he has continued to work through the pandemic. He let one staff member go in a position he had considered eliminating previously, but hired a paralegal for a different type of work.
His two staff members work remotely, and he works out of his office as his house is busy with students engaged in distant learning.

PPP loans and staying engaged
Given his small size, Mendoza didn’t seek a PPP loan.
Rapp staff continue connecting through weekly staff meetings. They received a PPP loan, and are focused on getting the money in the hands of staff. They’re not entirely sure if it all needs to be paid out by June 12, or not.
At Elsa’s, they have worked to stay engaged with each other through conference calls. “I’ve had to rely on our team to be creative,” remarked Constantino. “It’s a challenge to completely shift your business model. We are here to meet the needs of our clients on a budget who want a great living situation. They can have a shutdown, but not be shut-in.”
It doesn’t make sense for Urban Growler to bring back a bunch of staff, said co-owner Deb Loch, so they know they’ll end up paying back some of the PPP loan they received. “We’re maximizing what we can for the forgiveable piece but a lot will be unforgiveable. For us, that loan didn’t help as much as it could,” she said.

Managing anxiety
“Anxiety is at a high level for everybody,” observed Mendoza. “I deal with it by trying to stay informed.” He is helped by the shared sense that “we are all in this together.”
He’s working to maintain his routines as much as possible. His gym is shut down, but every morning he’s running, biking, and using resistance bands.
Pavlak and Loch take a daily walk. They also insist their staff take off two days in a row, and have opted to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It helps to know “this isn’t just happening to Urban Growler. This is happening everywhere,” said Pavlak.
Instead of dumping beer they couldn’t sell, Urban Growler partnered with two distillaries to make hand sanitizer that they donated to a hospice center here in their Midway neighborhood. “It helped us feel a little bit better about beer we can’t sell,” said Pavlak.
“Anxiety is high in the black community,” stated Constantino. He deals with it by educating himself and staying informed. “The more you know, you have a plan and that relieves anxiousness,” he said.
Rapp only listens to jazz music until 11 a.m. each day and stays away from the news until then. He makes sure he gets 10,000 steps a day. He and his wife have reinvented “date night” on Saturdays. He cooks and his wife picks an AcademyAward-winning movie to watch.
Mendoza pointed out that he is wondering what businesses will drive the recovery. He observed,“We will need to rethink how we do business as a society.”

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April 2020 Monitor_01

April 2020 PDF Edition

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Read the full 2020 April Monitor edition by clicking here.
April 2020

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Hamline: education continues

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘We’re all in this together’

As of April 1, Hamline University faculty are teaching remotely, and both graduate and undergraduate students are completing the semester online after an extended spring break that lasted March 18-31. All sports and other events have been canceled.
“Staff and faculty pulled together to quickly launch online learning capability for all classes,” observed Communications and Community Relations Specialist Christine Weeks. “It was an amazing effort. Other departments adapted quickly, as well. Dining services went to a to-go format. Campus recreation developed online classes.”
Residence halls are emptier. The students who remain on campus have all moved to single rooms. Essential employees remain working on campus; however, most employees work from home. Most buildings are locked.
Summer classes will be online. Admissions is hosting campus visits events virtually, and the admission decision day has been moved to June 1. Standardized tests are no longer required for admission, as they have been postponed nationally.
It is difficult to predict what lies ahead as things change daily, pointed out Weeks. “One thing is certain: Hamline will continue to educate future leaders who go on to educate and serve this region in many ways.”
The Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress launched a scholarship in support of fellow students. The Office of Institutional Advancement implemented a successful online fundraiser for students in need of emergency help that has raised over $25,000.
Weeks added, “Hamline University has been around since 1854 and in this neighborhood since 1880. Our Wesleyan values have guided us through previous difficult times and will continue to ground us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pipers will continue to search for ways to do all the good we can and to serve our community.”

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2019 Midway Chamber Directory