Reading the Highland Villager #125

[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]  
Headline: Union Park at odds with city over use of cell tower funds; whereabouts of unspent lease payments still up in the air
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Money from leasing agreements with a cell tower was supposed to go to improvements to two parks, but the city can’t account for the money, which is some think like $40K. it seems like Parks and Recreation is claiming that the money was spent on the parks in question, but they don’t have good documentation of spending the funds there. [Typical Saint Paul.] Article includes history of the cell tower construction fight. [Involving the Planning Commission, thankfully before my time. I find it difficult to have strong feelings about cell towers, either way, but agree that they are an eyesore.]

Headline: Design standards for new home construction stall; creating rules exclusive to Ward 3 is questioned 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors in Highland and Mac-Grove would really like to see new design and setback standards for “teardowns” but … Article quotes two members of the Planning Commission expressing some skepticism that the process is simple, citing the problems with negotiating setbacks and having arbitrary borders around certain neighborhoods, rather than the entire city. [I don’t have strong opinions about this personally.] The city is working on a study on the new design standards, but it is being delayed due to these kinds of complexities. Article includes background on the 1721 Princeton Avenue teardown situation. [Update: the Macalaster College High Winds foundation has purchased the home.]

Headline: Commission OKs plan for Grand apartments 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A four-story apartment building will be built on Grand Avenue. Neighbors worry about “parking congestion.” Article includes the quote: “The car elevator is new for Saint Paul.” [A new day is dawning, friend.] The developer is upset about having restrictions about how many on-street parking permits he is allowed to purchase. [On-street parking permits is a whole topic that neighbors in areas like this should think way more about. For one thing, they should be more expensive! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard they’re like $10 a year or something right now. Pricing is the only way to ensure there are more spaces available. It’s pretty simple really. You can have free parking or you can convenient parking. Unless you live in Flint Michigan or the Twin cities suburbs, it's impossible to have both.]

Headline: Proposed bike loop divides downtown business community
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Overview of the plans for the downtown bike loop and the dispute between two business groups about whether to support the loop or retaining on-street parking on certain streets downtown. Article cites Mayoral aide Anne Hunt: “The only part of the downtown loop and spur system we’ll be building this year is Jackson Street.” [I like how she calls it a ‘spur’ system as well, as connecting downtown to the neighborhood bike lanes in all directions will be *the key* to its success.] Article also mentions the downtown parking study [which is in the works and is really what everyone should be focusing on].

Headline: University Avenue, 7th Street bikeways added to city bike plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee unanimously passing the proposed bike plan while make a few changes, including adding 7th Street and a short stretch of University Avenue to the map. [This article is about the Committee that I chair, so I’m not going to say much about it. You can read the city’s memo on the matter, which does a good job of summarizing everything, here: link to a .pdf packet, scroll to the end.]

Headline: Neighbors divided over widening of Randolph-Lexington; Will it ease congestion or attract more traffic, that is the question [How Shakespearean! But that's actually not the question. The question should be, "what is best for everyone living in Saint Paul? If the answer to the question is 'easing congestion', which is almost always a lost cause in a growing city, than the question is messed up to begin with.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Ramsey County and Saint Paul’s public works departments are trying to figure out what to do about reconstructing an intersection by a grocery store and a freeway. There is a proposal to widen the intersection [though the exact details are unclear] to “improve traffic flow and eliminate the long backups that have irritated motorists.” Article cites neighborhood group people that are upset because it would impact safety and would “simply attract more traffic.” Article includes some safety statistics. There are “eight scenarios” for the intersection which would “involve taking some of the boulevard”, removing retaining walls or trees. [I have heard they might condemn some of the existing homes or apartments on the corner, though this is not mentioned in the article. Bulldozing existing tax-paying homes in order to widen roads for often-suburban commuters is a thing that cities used to do a lot back in the old days. I had thought we’d learned our lesson. Also, there are some public process issues with this project, as it did not go through usual public approval.] Article also states that “several people asked that pedestrian bridges be built over the streets.” [What lunacy! Has anyone ever been on a pedestrian bridge before? I have examples I can show you.]

Headline: Urban Organics wants to bring plants, fish to Schmidt warehouse; facility would be second in city to use aquaponics 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An [almost science-fiction-like] scenario fish poop in an old building grows vegetables that filter water for fish (that then poop again) in an abandoned brewery. “Others were skeptical about potential odors.” This is already happening over on the East Side.


*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Visionary

I was sitting on the bus on my way home one day. I was listening to some good music in my headphones. It was a cloudless autumn day and everything was a healthy yellow and orange color and blue sky. At a stop a african man and a young boy, maybe 5-6 years, got on. The man was tall and had bad clothes, he looked like he did not have much. They sat in front of me. I immediately became annoyed and started to think about how I hated them, fucking immigrants coming to my country, he is poor and I pay taxes so he can get welfare. I thought about how his son is going to become a lousy shit and rape white women. I started to get mad and decided to beat him up, I was going to follow him when he got off the bus.

I saw him press the button and got ready at the next stop, and just before we stopped I was about to get up and the man turned to his son and said something in a heavy accent that I will never forget in my life.
"I love you my son, be good."
He then gave him a big, hard hug and the boy got off the bus alone. He waved good bye and sat back down, with his hands on his face. I just stared out the window where his son had been standing. My world view came crashing. He was just a father who wanted his son to be good, he loved him just like my father loved me. For some reason this changed everything for me. I know this is a very small thing but I started to think about how he wanted a better life for his son. He was a man that had changed everything for his family.
I sat on that bus for hours, it kept going around. I thought about how wrong it was to do the things I had done. I left that city the next day and started over. I am much happier now. I dont feel the hate in my heart every day anymore.

[Look at the parking lot.]


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Reading the Highland Villager #124

[Villagers mount up in a West Saint Paul grocery.]
[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Headline: Concerns rise over height of Cleveland Ave. building; Residents also uneasy about traffic parking [You could put that subtitle after *any* Highland Villager story. It's like that game with the fortune cookie fortunes.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [In a particular bit of irony] Edina Realty wants to re-develop their old building into a four-story mixed-use building. [Silly realtors, what with the market-driven real estate thing...] There was a public meeting that people went to to say that the building was too large, too dense. It would have 53 market rate apartments above office or retail on the ground floor. The building height is 10' above the non-CUP zoning heights. Article includes quote from a [somehow reasonable] man: "We live in an urban area; something is going to be build here." Third best quote: "The answer is a parking ramp." [Does it matter what the question is?] Neighbors are also concerned about parking and congestion. Second best quote, from a resident: "Expecting tenants and customers to use underground parking is a 'Pollyanna' approach." Best quote, from an anonymous woman:  "It's lovely, but it belongs in Woodbury." [OMGOMGOMG! That's even harsh for me!]

Headline: City envisions Ford site powered by renewables; 125-acre development would generate all of the energy it needs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is an old hydro power plan under the Ford site, and there was a public meeting about how to make the coming redevelopment of the old auto plant powered by renewables. Engineers and consultants came into town to talk to the people there. District energy is a possibility. [That would be cool! It's super efficient.] There will be more meetings in the future, including one on bikes and sidewalks. A TIF district might fund any energy infrastructure.

Headline: Local projects join those seeking new round of CIB funding; district councils ar among the first set to review proposals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The capital improvement budget applications for city money for projects and things from the Highland Villager coverage area are listed here. For example, money for a circus school, improvements to parks and rec centers, a "kitchen and event space" for a golf course, playground equipment, an improved bike path along the 35E freeway [other side of the sound wall], new pavers in Mears Park, a new fire station, traffic calming at Selby and Snelling, sidewalks for West 7th Street by Sibley Plaza [because the developer isn't improving the streetcape himself?], the 3rd/Kellogg bridge [that is sorta falling down but doesn't technically need to be replaced], lighting for Cleveland Avenue and Wall Street, sidewalks connecting to the Green Line [this should have been funded by the project but should be a no brainer], "Mister Michael Recycles Bicycles is again requesting an off-street bicycle connection between Pascal Street and Ayd Mill Road" [I sense some ennui from the author here], traffic calming for Grand and Syndicate, and more [surrender] orange flags for people to cross the street. [Glad I'm not on that committee. PS fund bike and ped projects!]

Headline: Debate continues over changing parkland dedication regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to increase the amount of money it gets from developers for parks, increasing it for residential and decreasing it for other uses in some cases. The Chamber doesn't like it, nor do affordable housing people. Parks people do like it.

Headline: Council OKs Shepard-Davern rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new zoning plans for the Shepard-Davern area at the far end of West 7th Street were passed by the City Council. Nobody came to argue about the Sibley Plaza rezoning. [See previous Villagers. Author seems surprised.]

Headline: New plan for Shepard-Davern area also set; Debate surfaces over future of 'ghost park' [I like the idea of a 'ghost park'. It could be a haven for lost souls in search of more parking.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors are upset that a "natural tract" along a bluff in the Shepard-Davern area is neglected and full of trash, and would like it to be a higher priority for the city. Article includes history of the park from this book, which claims that the it was one of the city's "ghost parks." One resident would like it used to commemorate native american heritage. [We need more of that.] Article includes details of plan that would [hopefully] make walking wafer by improving intersections. [Good luck, because West 7th street is designed at deadly speeds, basically an uncrossable traffic sewer.]

Headline: Design standards for new home construction discussed
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People  in the southwest part of the city had a meeting to talk about how to make new houses [probably part of the "teardown" discussion] conform to certain standards about height, lot coverage, fenestration, and other things. Article includes quote from CM Tolbert: "This is a very complex issue." There is a planner who is working on it to "mat the character of neighborhoods and see what trends emerge." Best quote from a neighbor: "You see some siding that you wouldn't even put on a shed."

Headline:  City Council bans practice of backyard archery in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Waiting for the Soucheray column on this with bated breath.]

Headline: Committee to review plan for new Grand Ave. apartments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Plans for a four-story building on Grand Avenue are going to the zoning committee. Neighbors are neither for nor against the plan. There will be no balconies, and "social activity atop the garage would be banned." Also "the number of visitor parking permits is limited to four." [Reminds me of this.]

Headline: Controversy over on-street parking arises in Ramsey Hill
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two new groups have begun on Facebook to advocate for more parking in the Selby-Western area after a restaurant opened up in an old art school administration building there. The owner of one restaurant would like "two-sided parking" on residential streets, but neighbors do not like the idea. One-sided parking has been in place since 1967, because "it is a mater of public safety for emergency vehicle access as well as more effective snowplowing." Article includes enigmatic quote: "the one-sided parking ban was enacted for political reasons." [Parking conspiracy! I don't have strong opinions about this. There are plenty of narrow streets in South Minneapolis that seem not to burn down, and cars get around just fine. In the winter you can enact temporary bans, lke they do sometimes, no?]

Headline: City condemns Concordia Ave. house damaged by fire in 2013
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A house that mostly burned two years ago must be torn down.

Headline: Snelling, Ford and east 46th will be torn up for much of '15 [I know that technically the Highland Villager's coverage area extends into parts of Minneapolis, but it's always weird to see them actually mention Minneapolis in a story. It's like the seeing Brett Favre in a Vikings jersey.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Roads that need to be reconstructed periodically will be reconstructed, and also a [nice new] aBRT bus line will be installed. Article includes quotes from the transit planner about the new stops. Snelling will be getting new sidewalks between Pierce Butler Route and Selby Avenue. [Not that it'll make crossing the street much safer...] Ford Parkway will be getting bike lanes [despite the fact that the city didn't want to put it on the bike plan].


Twin City Yarnbombing #2

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]


 [Seward, Minneapolis?]


[Three images of a yarn installation on a tennis court; Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]

Twin City Doorways #15

 [Grand Marais.]

 [Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

 [Downtown Saint Paul.]

 [West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

 [Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

[Northeast Minneapolis.]


TCSidewalks Live: Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Green Line

It's time once again for a quasi-historical tour of the dive bars of the Twin Cities. This time we'll be zooming in on the Green Line.

As it turns out, dive bars are unevenly distributed along University Avenue, the vast majority of them occupying the amazing stretch of blocks on the Northeast corner of Snelling and University. Perhaps this part of the street is so dense because of the dearth across the way, the former streetcar barns and warehouses that have become the city's largest collection of big-boxes, parking lots, and strip malls.

Dives also abound elsewhere in the neighborhood, scattered throughout Frogtown and points North along Thomas and Minnehaha Avenues. But that is the subject of another tour...

The rich vein of Green Line dives lies begins just East of Snelling Avenue and extends to the edge of the industrial areas to the West. Measured in miles, the voyage might not seem daunting. But measured in the depth, the expedition will plumb the souls of even the most world-weary. I have lingered in the chambers of University, and listened to the songs of old bricks. I will share with you what historical pearls I have gleaned. Together we will make what we can from the dust.

Legendary Saint Paul musician, restless soul, sometime taxi driver, and everyman historian of the underbelly Mike Gunther will be joining us to share tales of pre-light rail University. Brace yourself for February, get on the Green Line, and enter the world of the Midway.

What: A walking and train tour of some noteworthy dive bars of University Avenue.
When: Thursday, February 19th; departing at 6:30.
Where: Begins at Trend Bar and proceeds West.
How much: Free, but please drop a buck or two into the tip jar if you are able.

[Facebook event.]

Q: Huh?

A: This is a walking and train tour taking place in Saint Paul called "Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Green Line."

Q: What is a Dive Bar?

A: Cleanly defining a dive bar is difficult, precisely because dives are not very clean. It's a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity. Here's what we know...

Windows - These are a minus. Dives eschew fenestration. What happens in the dive, stays in the dive.

Staff - Ideally, there's only one staff. Maybe someone works in the back. The more staff, the less divey.

Regulars - A must. When you walk into a dive, people should stop talking like in a wild west saloon and look at you a bit funny. Unless you are a regular, you really don't belong. 

Daydrinkers -Yep.

Pull Tabs - 90%. Meat raffles are also good. Best is when there's a pot of some sort of free food sitting on a table.

Nonchalance - Dives can't be trying too hard to make money. If they are, they're not dives any more. No fancy menus. No fancy paint jobs, etc.

Cleanliness - Nope.

"Craft Beer" - Not generally, unless its brewed within the same city as the dive.

Food - Almost always greasy or nothing. Heggie's Pizza is the hallmark of a dive.

Q: Do I need a bike?

A: No, not at all.

Q: It's February, you idiot.

A: The train is warm and near. You will have to walk about a mile, in total, but not all at once.

Q: Can I come for part of it, but not hang out with you the entire goddam time?

A: Yes. I will be tweeting locations, there will be a quasi-schedule, and you can always call (if you're lucky enough to have my digits) to find out where the tour is at. Come just for one dive, or enjoy the whole diving expedition.