Reading the Highland Villager #219

[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: Era of organized trash collection begins in St. Paul; Only hitch in first week are petitions for repeal
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Only one trash company is going to come to each neighborhood now. "Few problems were reported." There is a petition to try and stop this change. Neighbors are concerned about carts and costs. Quote from petition person: "I've talked to some older people on fixed incomes who are in tears about what their garbage disposal will cost."

Headline: Ryan gives Ford site traffic studies another look; Developer is hoping to address concerns of future traffic congestion
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The developer for the Ford site has announced some initial plans. There was a meeting about it. Quote from developer: "we've heard a lot of comments about traffic and density." There are studies upcoming about traffic. Computers are involved.

Headline: Ideas about for future use of Highland 9
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old golf course is going to be used for something else maybe. People have different ideas about what it might be used for. Some people like soccer or baseball. Others like cross country skiing. Others want to keep the golf course. [IMO the correct answer here is soccer. And some housing, because we need some and why not.]

Headline: Ryan Cos. conduct its own tests of Ford site pollution levels
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Ford site developer is doing some pollution testing. Ford cleaned up the site itself. Apparently it is standard procedure. Article includes details about polluting chemicals.

Headline: Homeowners can expect a big property tax hike in 2019
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City property taxes are going up.

Headline: City Council searching for ways to lower 11.5% levy increase
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is trying to stop property taxes from going up so much. Some city staff are retiring, which might help cut costs. [In my experience, in general, most city departments are dramatically understaffed. When there are staffing shortages, employees have to do the jobs of two or three people and it is stressful, which leads to turnover and attrition, which is bad.]

Headline: A year later, St. Paul still looking to wrap up new regulations for to-go containers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city might or might not ban styrofoam containers. This idea was floated a year ago but was shot down on a 2-5 vote. Some groups like it, but restaurants do not like it generally speaking.

Headline: Amendments would increase density of Marshall rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The rezoning plan for Marshall Avenue between the river and Pacal has been tweaked by CM Nelson. Neighbors are concerned about historic preservation, community input, and teardowns. Quote from CM Nelson: "we need to maximize our opportunities along this very essential corridor."

Headline: Council awaits DSI's inspection of new accessory dwelling regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is probably going to pass a city-wide ADU ordinance. [Note: they did on Wednesday.] Article includes lots of details about the ordinance. CM Bostrom is concerned about enforcement.

Headline: St. Paul plans smaller Pedro Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city (HRA) is going to vote on the sale of an old building to a developer that was slated to be torn down and made into a park at one point. Neighbors are upset about previous promises about the park, which will be smaller than originally proposed if the proposal passes.


Twin City Neon #24

 [Near North, Minneapolis.]

 [Victoria, BC.]

  [Victoria, BC.]

  [Victoria, BC.]

 [Vancouver, BC.]

  [Vancouver, BC.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]


Bike Rack Grades for Saint Paul Breweries

[A Minneapolis brewery.]
If there’s one thing that’s really simple that Saint Paul can’t seem figure out, it’s bike racks.

Bike racks are so easy to get right, and almost everywhere in Saint Paul get it so wrong.

Oh, and garbage collection.

OK. Let's try again. If there are two things that are really simple that Saint Paul can’t seem to figure out, it’s bike racks and garbage collection.

Oh, and crosswalks… Oh yeah, and tax assessments for street maintenance… And bike boulevards…  And walking in and out of downtown... And snow plowing.

Oh hell, let’ s stick with bike racks for a second.

[Only in Saint Paul.]
Bike racks are easy and inexpensive, all things considered. And yet it seems that nowhere in Saint Paul makes bike racks a priority or manages to install a bike rack that actually works well and is easy to find.

This is true almost across the board, from businesses to schools to libraries to municipal buildings. It even holds true for breweries — breweries! — which, let’s be honest, if there is one kind of business that should be catering to trendy young bearded beer-drinking bicyclists by having good bike racks, it’s breweries.

When Clutch Brewing opened up recently in the Keg and Case Market and even they, with all the high-end aplomb, did not have good bike parking, I figured it was time to look into the situation with Saint Paul breweries on a (keg and) case by case basis.

Also, I’ve taught geography for years and am used to giving out grades, so here goes.

What the bike rack grades mean:

  • A+  Ideal, a Minneapolis-brewery-level achievement.
  • A  Good effort, good outcome, good bike parking.
  • B  At least they tried, and it could be worse.
  • Technically there is a bike rack, but whoever bought and/or installed the rack had never parked a bike before and it sucks.  
  • D  They didn’t try, but you can still park a bike thanks to nearby poles or gas meters.
  • F  Failure. 

As always, any breweries that have problems with their grades can revise and re-submit their work for full credit.

[All Saint Paul breweries in alphabetical order]

12welve Eyes: C 


A weirdly bad bike rack — just a railing in an alley — but they installed it there, so they get some partial credit? It is hard to mount your bike on the curb and affix it to the railing, and even if you do, you might still be worried a truck will squash it. Also, you’re in an alley. (You can also lock your bike to one of the nearby window wells.)

That said, it does say “bike parking” on the brewery’s sandwich board sign, which is the equivalent of putting a bad term paper in one of those fancy plastic binder covers.

A poor effort. That said, while this rack would normally merit a worse grade, this brewery might get some credit for extenuating circumstances.

[Not good.]

Bad Weather: B

Good, but turned in late and needed revisions.

After a few poor showings, finally came up with something that does not suck. The first effort was bad, then it was hit by a car and removed. They came back with a good rack within sight of the door, even if it is small. There are also a few small racks installed on the sidewalk.

Still underwhelming and under capacity, but could be worse.

[Before revisions.]

Bang: A+


The best bike rack in Saint Paul. Much like their beer, gets all the details right.

Barrel Theory: C [Updated.]

Somewhat plagarized.

Nothing but parking meters. Wikipedia is not a legitimate source. They do have an actual lollipop rack installed on the sidewalk. Could use some more.

[More please.]

Blackstack: C- / D+


A wheel bender in a difficult alcove. Very disappointing, hard to read. Almost worse that they tried and failed than if they hadn't tried at all. [See also this report.]

Burning Brothers: [Unknown]

(I have not been here.)

Clutch Brewing: B- / C+ [Pending revision.]

Not great, and docked points for lateness.

When they opened they had no bike racks at all, but apparently there are a couple hoop racks along the sidewalk now.

[Note: I am being told they have submited new bike racks for revision.]

Dual Citizen: A

Great effort, not ideal location.

They have lots of bike racks (including a deluxe two-level bike rack!) in the back by the patio. If you bike to the front door, though, there is nothing but parking meters.

[Extra credit!]

Flat Earth: C- [Updated.]

Wasted potential.

You have to chain your bike to a hand railing for the staircase steps. There is a basic cheap rack to the left of the front door, but it's weak sauce. This brewery could do so much more if they connected the patio to the bike trail and installed a couple good racks there. I am hoping there are extenuating circumstances, and would be wiling to offer an ‘I’ (incomplete) so that they can re-take the class again.

Great Waters: D+

Just passed.

At least it’s downtown, so there are plenty of sign poles and tree guards around.

[Typical downtown Saint Paul bike parking looks like this.]

Lake Monster: A

Great work!

Spacious wonderful racks in sight of the front door.

[They are still working on unicycle parking. If only there was a safe way to bike there!]

Summit: B

Good, but incomplete.

Four Dero racks are a good start, but should have at least three times as many of these lined up along the patio and parking lot.

[Not ideal; more racks please.]

Tin Whiskers: D+

Copied from the same source as Barrel Theory.

Please note that parking meters cannot be used as a legitimate source for full credit.

Urban Growler: C+

Shoddy work, could be better.

A small cheap rack in the otherwise spacious parking lot. Lots of room for improvement.

Wabasha: D

No effort here.

Railings are not a legitimate source to receive full credit.

[Lots of bikes, zero racks.]

Waldmann: A-

Could use some more revision, but otherwise good work.

A large bike rack on the patio grass is great, though it is a bit difficult to find and use some of the time.


Saint Paul Public Stairs Tour #3: the East Side this Sunday Afternoon

This Sunday, I'll be hosting the third (and final ?) tour of the epic cycle of "public stairs" walking tours that began so dramatically with a group of 200 people climbing and descending the stairs of Cathedral and Crocus Hills and the bluffs of formerly Pleasant Avenue.

This time we venture to the East Side, to walk the staircases of Swede Hollow, Railroad Island, and Arlington Heights. One of these staircases, in fact, is the precise public staircase that inspired my fascination with public stairs ten years ago when I happened upon it while canvassing for Al Franken's (remember him?) campaign for Senate.

Here's what I wrote at the time, upon the discovery of a unique set of public stairs in the jungles of East Saint Paul:

The neighborhood had a really contained feeling, so that walking down the street felt like lounging on an old and threadbare couch.
The little divots along some of the streets meant that there were entire houses that had no paved roads, only little paths running through little hollows that enclosed space like a forest cave. These places feel like the end of the world, but the sidewalks are flexible, and bend and waver to meet the needs of feet. Stairs pop up like wildflowers, and sidewalks carry on.

Join me at the corner of Case and Payne for a roughly four (4) mile walk through the streets, sidewalks, and public staircases of the East Side. Let's hope it doesn't snow this weekend.

What: Walking tour of public stairs (past and present) of the East Side
When: Sunday 3:15pm for a few hours
Where: Meet at the corner of Case and Payne. Likely route map, for the curious.
Why: Because they are there
Who: Anyone ambulatory

[An 1898 picture of the hollow follows. Note the stairs at bottom left.]


Sidewalk Flotsam #9

 [Ouija Board. Downtown Saint Paul.]

 [Chair. West Midway, Saint Paul.]

 [Sorry box. Location forgotten.]

 [Bumper. Somewhere in Minneapolis.]

 [Travel garment bag. Location forgotten.]

 [Hula hoop. West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Fork. Location forgotten.]

 [Pink ball. Rondo, Saint Paul.]

[Three bags of chocolates. Downtown, Saint Paul.]


13th Bloggaversary Post!

[Props to CHCH for having a 13th floor.]
Happy birthday to this blog, a.k.a. it's my blogg-aversary.

Yes, somehow it's been 13 years since I started posting things on this site, and I appreciate everyone who reads and supports this venue.

As always, this is the writing project closest to my heart. Even as over tHe last year I've become ever more busy with other projects, posting urban sidewalk-centric photos, poems, stories, and the occasional diatribe on this site is the thing that I look forward to the most.

So thanks for staying with it and reading the stuff on here. I want to especially thank everyone who's supported my work here on Patreon.

A few years ago a friend of mine suggested adding a Patreon support network to my unpaid work, and initially I rolled my eyes.

Than she said "Wouldn't you like to have $500 a month to help with the rent?"

Yes. Yes, I would.

I haven't reached that goal, of course, but I've gotten part of the way there and -- especially psychologically -- it makes a huge difference. While not a lot of money, knowing that people value what I've been doing for thirteen years (!) enough to toss me $5 or $10 is a huge comfort.

So thanks! If you would like to support the blog, you can become a regular Patreon supporter. It comes with a few benefits, such as vintage postcards announcing upcoming tours or events, and other perks.

Or you could throw a few bucks in the tip jar:

Or you could buy my new book. I'll even autograph it for you and ship it right to your door.

In other words, thanks for reading this blog. Stay tuned, as always, for more pictures of lampposts, polemics about blank walls or City Council candidates, weird maps, re-caps of the Highland Villager, and whatever else I can think of...

PS. You can also sign up for the mailing list if you like: https://tinyletter.com/blindeke

Coney Quest V: The Downstream Journey Rain Delayed for Two Weeks

Sad weather we're having in Saint Paul these days. Coney Quest V will have to wait.

Let's hope the fall time improves in a fortnight!

Mark your calendars for Wednesday October 24th.


Twin City Shop Windows #19

 [Detroit, MI.]

 [Lansing, MI.]

 [Troy, NY.]

 [Troy, NY.]

 [Troy, NY.]

 [Troy, NY.]

 [University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]


Sidewalk Poetry #58: Ode to the Street System of Southwest Minneapolis

When you are beset by doubt,
Take Lyndale Avenue due south
Where you can put your mind at rest,
Knowing all the streets run east and west
And all are perfectly numbered.
(There is, of course, no Twenty-third.
It was logically omitted to make
Thirtieth come out as Lake
Instead of an odd Thirty-first or -second.)
For years, successful men have reckoned
By this system, trained the self
To follow Lyndale and hang a right
At Fiftieth, into a neighborhood
Where homes are stable, children good,
Earnings are high and soundly invested
In products Consumer Reports has tested,
Where life is not paranoid, moody or radical,
But Republican, Lutheran and Alphabetical.
Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax, Dupont:
You can put your trust upon't
When hopes are few and times are hard -
Emerson, Fremont and Girard.
Humboldt, Irving, James and Knox:
This our foundation, these our bedrocks.
While Logan, Morgan, Newton, Oliver and Penn
Justify the ways of man to men.
There is order in the promise
Of Queen, Russell, Sheridan, Thomas.
O do not stop or make a turn
At Upton, Vincent or Washburn,
Knowing by then the system meaneth,
Past Xerxes, York, we'll reach our Zenith.
Be thankful this is not St. Paul.
There is no sense to it at all.
Where the Church, for all its spiritual and temporal powers,
Permits a jungle of streets named after trees and flowers.
Where a Minneapolis person can only look up to the heavens
As, driving in Eighth Street, he finds himself on Ninth and then on Seventh.

[by Garrison Keillor. h/t to Steve.]

[A store in Linden Hills.]


Reading the Highland Villager #218

[A cat enjoying the Highland 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: Master plan in works for Hidden Falls, Crosby parks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The park department is accepting comments about planning to improve or change these two parks along the river. Invasive plants and more density nearby are both things they might think about. Article includes some history and description of the parks. [TRUE STORY I once looked for the falls in Hidden Falls park but could not find them.]

Headline: Ford site's new street grid, traffic impacts discussed
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.

Headline: Wage debate seems to favor adjustment for tipped workers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city will raise the minimum wage for maybe not for everyone. [I wonder how they will enforce this to make sure that businesses like Cossetta's don't get big loopholes?]

Headline: Council sets conditions on reuse of St. Paul's Church as arts venue
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy who bought an old church will probably be able use it for concerts ad events, but only during certain times. Neighbors are concerned about noise, traffic and parking.

Headline: St. Paul may spend $8.5M on arterial, downtown streets in '19
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is putting money in the budget to repave a bunch of streets especially downtown. Some of the streets are in very rough shape. [Reminder that reconstructing streets is very expensive.] Article discusses the pros and cons of "pesky pavers."

Headline: Commission grants permit for reuse of former Fire State 10 on Randolph; But mayor's office puts sale on hold
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old fire station got a permit to reuse the building for a brewery, coffee shop, and event hall. But the Mayor pulled the permit from the Council anode to look at the project.There is some question about how expensive it will be to bring the building up to code. Article includes some history of the building.

Headline: $1M for new Fire Station 20 is reallocated
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A fire station on University Avenue will not be replaced right away. The money was removed out of the Capital Improvement budget. [The name of the fire chief is "Butch Inks." A previous SPFD chief was named "Rocco Forte." I don't know how you become fire chief but clearly having an awesome name is a requirement.] The WestRock industrial facility does not have a "fire station on site." [It does have a LOT of paper.]

Headline: JCC holds grant reopening of expanded center Sept. 30
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Jewish Community Center was remodeled.

Headline: Wellington seeking more land for building near new stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to buy some land from MnDOT by Snelling Avenue. Neighbors are concerned about traffic.

Headline: City again denies variance requests for Dayton duplex
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owner of a property on Dayton Avenue will not be allowed to turn it into a duplex. Neighbors are concerned about "character of the neighborhood."

Headline: Federation drops debate over renaming of Linwood Monroe
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The name of an arts school might or might not be changed. President James Monroe owned slaves.


Coney Quest V: The Downstream Journey next Wednesday 10/10

[Google map is here.]
Nothing says "fall just got here but is already leaving" like a bike ride in Saint Paul (and environs) to eat vernacular coney dogs.

That's why, for the fifth (5th) year in a row, I am organizing a bike ride to eat "Saint Paul style" coney dogs.

How many coney dogs, you ask?

Three, sir. No more, no less.

Three shall be the number thou shalt eat, and the number of the coneys shall be three.

Four shalt thou not devour, nor either eat thou two, excepting that thou then proceedeth on to three.

(Five coneys is right out!)

Once the number three, being the third number, be reached...

OK OK, after that we will then bike back toward downtown Saint Paul while digesting the coneys.

(For those wondering what a coney dog is, please consult the brief coney explainer contained in the blogpost for Coney Quest IV: The East Side Excursion.)

Monty Python references aside, the challenge is this: there are some wonderful coney dogs along the river to the south. It's true. I have seen them with my own eyes, devoured them with my mouth, and digested them handily. They are excellent coneys, both surprising and traditional, and served in properly crusty settings.

With fates aligned, this year we venture forth into wild lands beyond the southern border to fetch a brace of coneys. Tally ho!

Know too that there are other benefits to the attending Coney Quest V: The Downstream Journey. They are 1) the bike ride is mostly an off-street trail skirting the Mississippi River, and 2) the fall foliage is sublime right now, and 3) these historical Concord Street bars are fine establishments of their kind.

With that in mind, show up at the (probably not long for this world, alas!) Kelly's Depot Bar around 5:30 to consume the first coney.

We will depart promptly at 6pm for a ten-mile (10-mile) bike ride southward along the river, to Celt's Bar in Inver Grove Heights.

From there, we will turn around, head north to Al's Corral Bar, arriving around 8pm, and finally returning home, bellies and hearts full and contented.

Hope to see you there!

What: bike ride to eat coney dogs
When: 10/10 at 5:30pm
Where: Kelly's Depot Bar in Lowertown
Why: because they're there, for now
Who: anyone with a bike and an appetite for coneys

[Tantalizing spoiler images follow.]


Notable Quotes #11: Lester B. Morrison describes the Rosemount Refinery

Once you caught your first glimpse of the refinery towers you were no longer int he city. there were freeways ad interchanges and overpasses and then there was the sprawl of the airport and then you crossed the river and left it all behind and there was just the one straight road running south through the industrial scrub.

The Kingdom of Nah, Lester called it. Oz after the apocalypse. The dark place. The place of lonely men. Find a cheap place out there to hide and in the middle of winter you could convince yourself that you were somewhere in Russia.


The spectacle of the refinery was Ruskin's Pathetic Fallacy on the grandest and most wrenching scale, a place that mirrored the way Lester felt and the way he saw the world, and it was no metaphor: the smoke and fires of the refinery towers at night and the stench and soot and the tens of thousands of light towers did nothing but demonstrate how pervasive and impenetrable the darkness was.
It was like like living in the furnace room of hell. Every place that did any sort of business out the catered to people who'd had the light beat out of them. Fifteen or so miles in any direction from the refinery was like a resettlement zone for all the extras from Night of the Living Dead. Just as you entered this zone coming from the north there was a sign along the road that read: Toward Zero Deaths.

Lester didn't have any idea what the sign was supposed to mean, but it meant something, and he noticed it every time.

[From Brad Zellar's House of Coates.]

[The refinery in Rosemount.]