Twin City Doorways #34

[West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]


 [Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Whittier, Minneapolis.]

[Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[Seward, Minneapolis.]

[Red Wing.]


Reading the Highland Villager #194

[Villagers at my local barber shop.]
[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: So close you can smell it: 15 haulers agree to provisions for organized trash collection in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: After a long long time at the negotiating table, the 15 companies who collect trash in Saint Paul have agreed to a deal with the city to work together to make the process more efficient. Details are not released yet. If they had not agreed, the city might have opted to just hire one or two companies city-wide. [That’s a big stick! It passed at the Council, with CMs Bostrom and Prince voting against, for presumably libertarian / free market reasons.] Article includes pros and cons of the agreement. [There aren’t many cons.] Quote from company: “All of us support free enterprise and the open market. And the majority of our customers don’t want this.” [This is likely not true, as the majority of Saint Paul voters seem to want it.]

Headline: Cities will leave light on for Super Bowl visitors; St. Paul, Mpls. OK licensing for short-term rental units
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Saint Paul and Minneapolis both have official permitting for airBnB-type stuff now. Some “hosts” are upset because of too many rules. Neighbors are concerned about parking, noise, and “a steady flow of strangers.” [Stranger things!] CM Stark is not worried about its effect on the housing stock, because “Saint Paul is not that tremendous a tourist destination at this point.” [But someday! After all the coastal cities sink into the sea, and Saint Paul becomes a semi-tropical destination.] Article includes details of the new ordinances. CM Bostrom voted against the proposal in St. Paul, while CM A. Johnson voted against in Minneapolis, though for opposite reasons.

Headline: Ford plan opponents petition for repeal; But they may need at least 4,800 signatures
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People who dislike the the Ford Site plans are still trying to stop them, and are trying to get a referendum on the ballot for the 2018 election. [This “Stop Ford” movement is like the Zombie Pub Crawl: an idea that just won’t go away, and keeps people trudging around the city without hope of a welcoming destination or possible resolution.] Quote from a leader of the group: “This has become a citywide issue in which every neighborhood of St. Paul stands to lose because of the actions of the City council and Mayor … We intend to take this issue to voters and force City Hall to finally listen to the voices of opposition to this project.” [Hm. I am trying to think whether or not any “citywide” event occurred recently where “voters” were able to weigh in on this particular issue. Oh yeah, I just remembered about the mayoral election from last week (!) where Melvin Carter, by far the most supportive candidate of the Ford site plan, got more votes than everyone else combined, including the most votes in actual Highland where these folks live. This is the lostest of causes. I’d love to see some of the people concerned here find a different issue around which to organize, say like reducing car dependence and thus traffic, or promoting street safety and thus reducing traffic, or other things that might actually have some positive effect on the world someday.] They need 8% of the voters who voted in the last citywide election. [The irony here is that, if they had submitted the petition BEFORE the election where anti-Ford people got trounced, they’d only need 2,500 signatures. But because so many people turned out to vote for Melvin Carter, they now need almost twice as many signatures.] Article includes the sentence: “city officials would not comment on the petition drive.” One more quote from organizer: “If we’re not successful in securing the necessary signatures in time for the repeal effort, we intend to launch another petition drive to prevent the city and the St. Paul Port Authority from using public funds to build this project.” [Well, guess what? I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more petitions!]

Headline: New apartments planned for Marshall Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build a five-story apartment building on Marshall Avenue. Two houses would be torn down. Neighbors are concerned about the kinds of stone used, parking, noise, and sunlight. No zoning variances are required. Quote from a neighbor: “it’s such a drastic change.”  Another quote: “some neighbors thought the design was boring.” The developer suggests that the existing homes that are there now are “not in good condition”

Headline: Mac-Grove seeks to extend student housing district
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group wants to extend the “student housing district” from its current boundaries. More houses have become student housing east of Snelling Avenue, according to one observer. There might be an effect where the original housing ordinance “pushes” students to live outside its boundaries. [That’s exactly what is happening, probably. Fact: students have to live somewhere.] CMs Stark and Tolbert suggested a city-wide expansion instead of a piecemeal. One neighbor called it an “elitist concept,” but another said “its one of the best things the city has done.” [I think before we expand or adjust this morally problematic ordinance, the city should study how it’s working, especially around enforcement, overhead, and location of student housing.]

Headline: City bans flavored tobacco from all but adult-only shops
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You have to buy Newports at liquor stores now. CM Bostrom voted against the change.

Headline: Council reconsiders notification requirements for backyard chickens
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: New proposal: instead of asking your neighbors’ permission to keep chickens, you simply have to let them know you will do it. [The first time I had a neighbor with a chicken it was the Hmong family renting the house next door in the North End. It was running around. That chicken was "unpermitted", but also did not live there very long. I’m guessing it became dinner shortly thereafter.] Chicken poop might be composed in the future too. The city does not get many chicken complaints. Some people try to get chickens in their yards but neighbors don’t let them. [No chicken puns were harmed in the making of this article recap.]

Headline: Efforts continue to transform old fire station into wine bar
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: And old abandoned fire station that was going to be torn down, wasn’t. Now it is going to be a wine bar surrounded by a hotel. It will not have a kitchen though. It needs a parking variance.

Headline: Commission approves permit for new B&B on Ashland Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission voted that a large home could become a B&B. Neighbors are concerned about parking and “guest behavior.”

Headline: Two longtime Highland Park restaurants prepare to expand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Tiffany’s and Carbone’s are expanding. [Tiff's is a Packer bar.]

Headline: City approves Marshall Ave. moratorium to study homes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Nobody can build buildings on Marshall for a year while the city looks at whether the houses are historic or not, and whether zoning changes are needed. CM Stark is hopeful it won’t take too long.

Headline: St. Paul rolling in green with multiple grants for area parks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city got money from the state to stabilize Lilydale bluffs, the Met Council for trails, and is fundraising for the river balcony. Some other stuff too.

Headline: Highway 110 will be renamed Highway 62 next summer
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The lower number matches the highway in the west metro.

Headline: Police open new training center on Lafayette Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new place for cops to shoot guns and do other training is open now on Railroad Island.

Headline: Handful of local projects remain in running for CIB funding in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s still some city money for capital projects. It’ll probably all go to a new park or relocating a fire station or new streets. But maybe also an old theater remodeling project, but maybe not. [See my story on CIB from a while back. The process really pits apples and oranges against each other.]

Headline: Sun helps power four buildings along Green Line on University; IPS Solar completes two-year project to help lower strain on local power grid
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: A couple buildings have solar panels on their roof now, about 600 kW total. Article includes lots of details about financing.

Headline: Future of UST lot at Grand and Cleveland still in doubt
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A surface parking lot by the University of St. Thomas may or may not be removed in favor of mixed-use housing. There’s no money for a new building. People who use the lot would like to keep using the lot. Some people want to keep the lot for parking while others do not. Quote from neighborhood guy: “would like to see development sooner than later but understands the need for parking.” [Sounds like a confused young man to me!] Quote from other neighbor: “the issue most of us are having in the neighborhood is student housing.” [As in, there’s too much of it? Not enough of it? The wrong kind of it? Are any students engaged? Do their voices matter?]

Headline: Grants fund I-94 redesign discussions
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Groups are getting funding to do engagement around redesigning I-94. One idea is to put a cap over the freeway for a mile stretch.

Headline: HRA grants loan for Clutch Brewing in old Schmidt keg house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new brewery is going to open up in the old brewery. The city is giving them a $75K loan to help remodel the space. It’s part of a larger food market concept.

Headline: St. Paul contemplates raising tax on charitable gambling proceeds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city might increase its tax on pull tabs to hire a part-time inspector. Quote from pull tab guy: “We already pay high taxes.” The Vikings Stadium is partly to blame. [See also my pull tab apocalypse coverage here at this blog.] There was a “mock obituary” for pull tabs [that I somehow missed].


Even Four Years Later, Minneapolis City Council Still Getting Younger

[CM Gordon is now the oldest elected person at City Hall.]
Four years ago, after the Minneapolis City Election dust had settled, I did a quick analysis of the results and pointed out how there had been a big generational shift at City Hall. With a big influx of under-40 Council Members taking over for older folks, the "average age" of the fourteen elected officials went down that year from 54 to 42, a drop of twelve years. That's about as big a "generational shift" as you can get, especially if you are keeping half the incumbents around.

Here's what I wrote at the time:
Age isn't everything, of course, any many of the incumbents are "young at heart." But sometimes age is important. As everyone who has ever had parents knows, there are big generational differences about the importance of computers, cars, "quality of life", etc. It'll be interesting to see how and if Minneapolis starts to "act younger" with its decision-making as the new council takes the reins.

Well, despite everyone being four years older than they were four years ago, this year's results only continued that trend. Two new council members are under 30, the new mayor is under 40, and here's the updated chart:

(Note: I do not have Jeremy Schoeder's age in here yet. I have reached out to him and will add it when I can.)

For the record, the median age in Minneapolis is 33.7.

That's only part of the picture. The other, much bigger deal, is that the City Council has become more diverse. On one hand, the city's gender parity is gone, and that's disappointing.

On the other hand, there is a big increase in people of color and non-cisgender representation. That is huge.

Here's David Brauer's summary:


Especially when compared to eight years ago, there's been a visible change in the political and power dynamics in Minneapolis City Hall. In an era when cities are under attack on all sides from other levels of government, engaging younger people and historically disenfranchised groups in local politics is a great sign.


Signs of the Times #132


[Sculpture. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.]


you can't use it without
the keys!


[Pole. Northeast, Minneapolis.]


Keep the dogs off
Chain your bike to the bike rack
Put your ciggie butts in the ashcans
Keep your shoes on the sidewalk

 [Tree roots. Location forgotten.]

Obama isn't
the only one
who wants
CHANGE God Bless

[Guy. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 7:30 Mars
5 mph

[Porch. Location forgotten.]

Share your feelings

[Window. Downtown, Saint Paul.]


[Plants. Lake Harriet, Minneapolis.]


Open By Appoint

[Door. Seward, Minneapolis.]


Loss of a Scene as the Triple Rock Social Club Closes Down

There’s a reciprocal relationship between people and a place that, every once in a while, come together to create a great cultural scene. Every once in a while, the people and the place fit each other so well, it's seamless.

Both sides of the relationship are vital. You need the people: the fashion, the vibe, the crowd, the affect, the regulars, the giant bouncer that remains on his stool for a decade.

But you also need the spaces where the people can feel at home and flourish. Without the lived-in walls, the room, the booths, the bar, and the sidewalk on the corner where people smoke and stare at the dull freeway, what do you have? What is a player without a stage?

Sometimes the place and the people come together in harmony, each seems like it was made for the other, and the people and the place become almost interchangeable. That’s what the Triple Rock Social Club was like, and the loss of the Cedar Avenue bar and venue on the fringe of West Bank seems right now like it’ll displace an entire scene.

I made it over there for one last show a little while ago, to see a young rock band from L.A. called Girl Pool. The whole place was full of Radio K twenty-somethings, which is perfect, because that’s how old I was when I formed some of my favorite memories of the Triple Rock.

For example, the Triple Rock bar used to have a great juke box by the back door, the old-school kind with buttons and labels full of punk songs. I didn’t know anything about punk, but I remember really liking the scene inside the bar. So much so that I once took fifty of my precious cents over to the juke box and searched around for a song. Not knowing anything, choosing purely by the names, when I saw “The Descendents — I Like Food” I thought, that’s the one!

I hit the buttons and as the song started to play, sat down on the bar with a smile on my face and turned to my friends to listen.

The song turned out to be 15 seconds long, and was over before I could say anything. I got punked!

Speaking of food, the Triple Rock was unique in the Twin Cities for having the weirdest mix of crusty-punk-vibe yet-often-meat-laden huge-portion’d staple food. The kitchen at the place was a tiny hole in the wall by the bathroom, and I have no idea how they got so much food out of there.

The Triple Rock was famous for their po’boys, which were these mammoth vehicles for potatoes and were nothing like a New Orleans po’boy. A half order was enough for two people, and eating a full "sandwich" would literally put you on your back for 24 hours. It was the kind of food that you’d want after a week of camping. Their poutine was the same way, and their $7 happy hour burger special was an amazing deal.

The place was vegetarian friendly, and yet I remember when they had a brief foray into an “all-you-can-eat bacon night,” where if you sat down the would keep bringing you baskets of the world’s worst bacon until you cried “uncle” and screamed for it all to end. They had huge starchy breakfasts on weekends, which along with a bloody mary, would cure any possible hangover.

There was nothing like it.

[Girl Pool.]
Once you walked out of the old bar and into the back, the music space seemed like a paradise for punk, metal, and rock music. It’s as if someone gave a punk nerd permission to design their ideal world, and then the fanciful fever dream came true.

The entire room was black, and large noise-deadening cloth things hung on the wall that served to make the room great for music while also allowing unruly musicians to bounce off them without fear of injury. The bowl in front of the stage was depressed, and ringed with little ledges, and in the back the aloof could loiter by the bar and merch table. The place was perfectly designed, and there’s not another stage in town with better sight lines or acoustics.

[Not only does the Triple Rock have a vending machine for guitar strings, cords, and drumsticks, but it only takes $1 bills.]

[Cedar Avenue, 1890s and today.]
Finally, the geography of the venue was a perfect fit for the music. The Triple Rock was literally next to the freeway onramp. Before the freeway, Cedar Avenue had a contiguous row of bars and shops running from seven corners all the way to Franklin (where the railyard used to be).

But the freeways obliterated this old street, and left the remnants of  the old bars and buildings in tatters. In fact, little amputated bits of Cedar like the Cabooze and the Joint are still floating around, offering refuge to bikers and other small scenes, and the Triple Rock was one of these, like a lighthouse of punk on the edge of an ocean of cars.

I’m thankful for the owners, who created such a harmonious place in which to tell the world to fuck off. Running the joint for twenty years is quite a gift to the city, and according to the articles, they just ran out of energy and (presumably) got a retirement offer they couldn’t refuse.

The building is slated to become a restaurant and banquet hall / event center. I am sure it won’t be anything like what it was, and I hate to see a perfect scene disappear. Check it out one last time before it closes for good.

[The bar scene.]
[Bathroom graffiti.]
[Soup of the day is whiskey.]
[A pre-war photo, BOTC awards, Lando Calrissian, a Colt .45 ad, and the Triple Rock's first dollar.]