Reading the Highland Villager #226

[An ice-crusted stoop Villager.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]

Headline: Grand Ave.'s retail landscape is changing; several longtime merchants are squeezed out by rising costs, new market pressures
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A bookstore closed, and over the last year so did a furniture store and a tchotchke store, a [crappy] bar/club, a Chinese restaurant, and another restaurant. [In many cases, other businesses opened up in their places.] Minimum wage, property taxes are cited as reasons for the closures. [Even though the minimum wage increase is very slowly phased in and has not even taken effect.] Quote from the furniture store guy: "it's not fun to do business in Saint Paul any more." The phrase "parking meter debacle" appears. [One way to reduce property tax increases is to build more housing and retail in your city, such as this project that was rejected by neighbors concerned about traffic and parking. The quotes from the business owner in that particular case really did lay out what was happening re: changes to the retail environment along Grand Avenue.] Some business owners have closed their stores for personal reasons or because its difficult to compete with online retail. Others have been able to "adapt." [There's not a very coherent message here. Change is going to happen whether people like it or not, due to the passage of time, capitalism, aging of humans, technology, etc. IMO parking meters would in fact help more customers frequent Grand Avenue, by first ensuring turnover, and by second making the street welcoming to new customers who are not necessarily used to the archaic, opaque, and confusing parking situation that exists today. Mike Sonn had a good list of other ideas on Twitter.] 

Headline: City seeks large increase in local government aid from state in '19; Criminal justice reform, housing assistance also sought from legislature
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is asking the state for money. [Hopefully they get it; LGA is way down compared to past decades.] They are also asking for almost $60M for a parking ramp and almost $50M for a new bridge out of downtown, as well as some other policy changes. [Cities are concerned about traffic and parking.]

Headline: County lobbies state for more assistance; more stable recycling market, more money for transit studies are also sought from Legislature
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The County is also asking the state for money and policy changes, for example, to study transit along West 7th Street and for snow making equipment in Battle Creek Park. [I would love that!]

Headline: Design unveiled for new Dale Street bridge over I-94
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The bridge over the freeway along Dale Street will be rebuilt with more lanes for cars and wider sidewalks. It will cost about $12M. For some reason the wide sidewalks are referred to as "pedestrian plazas." Medians on Dale will also be added. [Has Ramsey County Public Works ever seen a street it did not want to widen?] There will be public art.

Headline: Higher Ground shelters more homeless
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The homeless shelter downtown has about forty more beds now.

Headline: St. Paul is falling behind in effort to eradicate ash borer; for 10th year, infestation is spreading faster than city chainsaws can keep up
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A tiny bug is eating and killing all the ash trees. City staff are cutting them down as fast as they can. There is a seven-year plan. All this is expensive.

Headline: St. Paul grants its 17 district councils a raise of 23 percent
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The budget for neighborhood groups has been raised, after many years of being flat. [IMO these funds should be tied to metrics about engagement, where the city tracks the representativeness of different groups and memberships according to categories like %POC, and % renter.]

Headline: Ryan discusses plan for Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be a public meeting about possible changes to the Ford site plans. The developer is named "Ryan."

Headline: City ups fees for construction projects and business licenses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Costs for things like licenses, permits, sewers, street paving, etc., have gone up.

[Note: If it seems like the Villager has been getting a bit thinner with its sidewalk-related news, that's true. The "News Briefs" section has not been in the paper for the last 3-4 issues, which represents a decrease in total news of about 25% in my estimation. Is this concerning? I think it might be. Where else does this zoning, development, and local government news appear? Nowhere.]


Seven Mountains of the Midway

People say there are no mountains in Minnesota and, apart from Amy Klobuchar’s graphic design campaign buzz team, generally this is accepted as conventional wisdom. But bicycling Saint Paul’s West Side, I am not so sure.

Years ago, I attended a talk given by a local geologist about orogeny, the study of mountain formation. The talk was captivating, and one thing the scientist said stuck in my mind:

“Of course there are mountains in Minnesota, they just don't exist yet.”

Mountains exist in a variety of different ways, with or without fault, virtually, uncertainly, or very very palpably. There are ancient forgotten mountains, future mountains, mountains of the imagination, and other kinds besides.

Once in a moment of adventure, on a dare with an old friend, I climbed a mountain near the northern terminus of Ayd Mill Road. It was a large mountain, many-fold higher than my head, grown somehow between the train tracks and the roadway bridge. Scaling the eastern slopes and reaching the summit, we looked out at the city below. In the far distance, new buildings were visible, their scale and shape warped by the elevated perspective. I saw things I'd never noticed, radio towers, scaffolding, signage visible only to crows.

Years later, I went back to look for the Ayd Mill mountain, but it was gone.

What happened to it? Where did it go?

Geology in the Upper Midwest is not for the patient. Our mountains rise and fall like leaves in October. Compared to most ranges, our mountains are but motes of dust drifting in a sunbeam, waves upon the ocean crashing to shore.

And yet there they are, mountains all around us. Take for example, Saint Paul’s Midway. It has a range of such peaks, a connected series of crests that scale the heights of our horizon.

These are seven of them:

Name: Mt. Curb
Height: approx. 3,000 feet, depending
Location: A few short leagues due east from Bang Brewing, near the end of Capp Road
Geology: an aggregate of lime, pumice, pebbles, powder

Character: Mt. Curb has a long ridge jutting sharply to the sky like an ancient adze. Its southern cliff faces are unstable and prone to landslides. The ridgeline and subsequent peaks form a majestic image for many who routinely visit, sometimes daily, to the foothills. Like pilgrims, perhaps believing  some slumbering deity lays dormant in the rocks, many leave a small offering before departing.

Name: Rock Box Cliffs
Height: Hundreds of feet, surely
Location: Somewhere north of the great ninety-four trench
Geology: Mix of stratified paper pulps

Character: These volatile, sometimes shimmering cliffs are mysterious, occasionally glimpsed by passers-by who seem to almost refuse to acknowledge their presence, a lacunae within the otherwise legible landscape of the western Midway. To the trained eye, they present a sheer face of thickly accumulated leaves, corrugated sedimentary sheets, and paper-thin geology that rises sharply from the ground to reach heights hitherto thought impossible. A strange presence lurks around these cliffs, and many who have approached them have never been heard from again.

Name: Telephone Mountain
Height: 50-200 rods
Location: Somewhere near Prior Avenue, allegedly
Geology: Round brown dirt, multiple peaks

Character: This mountain was seen once, documented, but then forgotten and never reclaimed. According to sketchy reports, it seems to move around the Midway on its own accord, sometimes spotted in one place, but when orogological investigators attempt to ascertain its whereabouts, it cannot be found. Some say it moves through the woods along the edges of high-speed roads, near sketchy fences, or perhaps underneath the ground itself, to appear again like a ground squirrel of massive proportion when suitable openings are created in the earth. If you see Telephone Mountain, document its precise location and report immediately.

Name: Merriam Terrace
Height: 1,500 ft above sea level
Location: The center of Merriam Park
Geology: Mix of Decorah shale, Plattville dolomite, and Victorian moratorium.

Character:  This an ancient mountain, now subdued. Overlooked by many and eroded by time, Merriam Terrace rises gently from the streets of the old Merriam subdivision, for which it has given its name. Named by an early European settler, these slopes have a thousand stories and the roots of its many trees grow deep into the ground below. Mt. Merriam has slippery slopes. Descend from apex you are sure to find the nearby bottom.

Name: Mountain Glyphs
Height: approx. 25’
Location: Long ago
Geology: Depiction, ancient cave painting

Character: These ancient and erased depictions of the Mountains of the Midway were the last traces of a lost civilization of mountain people. Nobody knows who made these paintings, or why they marked their landscape with the distinctive lines of nearby ridges. A cursory interpretation suggests there were once many more mountains in the Midway than exist today. Sadly for paleorographers, the mysterious glyphs were destroyed and have been lost to history.

Name: Mount United
Height: Fifty-five-one
Location: Near the future stadium
Geology: Deeply ridged Hopestone

Character: A mountain of dreams, since disappeared. The geologic abduction took place around the same time as great torrents of bright lights appeared in the fog-shrouded night. According to reports, Midway residents were amazed when the sky suddenly lit up with all colors of the rainbow, flashing randomly, perhaps in some coded message from distant civilizations. The occurrence continued for hours into the misty night. In the morning, Mount United was gone.

Name: Pile of Tires
Height: 8’
Location: Somewhere near the previous location of Mount Ayd
Geology: Firestone

Character: Some say that Pile of Tires is all that is left of the great Saint Paul Tire Fire, which once occupied a vacant lot near the origin of Ayd Mill Road, clouding and befouling all who pondered the provenance of that cursed transportation link.


Twin City Doorways #45

 [Rice Street, Saint Paul.]

 [University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

  [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Randolph Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Rice Street, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Minneapolis.]


Twin City Neon #27

[West 7th, Saint Paul.] 

 [West 7th, Saint Paul.]

 [Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [New York, New York.]

  [New York, New York.]

  [New York, New York.]

 [New York, New York.]


Signs of the Times #150


[Yard. Payne/Phalen, Saint Paul.]

 He's Fat
My Fault
No Walks

[Sidewalk. East Side, Saint Paul.]

 "NO" E

[Window. East 7th, Saint Paul.]


[Pole. East 7th, Saint Paul.]


[Bathtub. Railroad Island, Saint Paul.]

Oxtail Pho

[Awning. East Side, Saint Paul.]


[Door. West Side, Saint Paul.]


[Window. Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]