Keeping the Mississippi River Gorge healthy takes many hands

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

River Gorge Stewards wrap up another successful season of 24 volunteer and educational events in 2018

In our local river bluff woods, trails and prairies, it’s easy to lose yourself listening to birds or enjoying blooming wildflowers. It’s also easy to forget that this natural area would not be what it is today without hands-on help from hundreds of River Gorge Stewards volunteers and strong community partnerships.

Tim Turner lives just a short walk to the Mississippi River Gorge. On a hike last fall, he ventured into the beautiful oak savanna just off the trail at E. 36th St. and W. River Pkwy. where he ran into a small group pulling up seedlings.

Photo right: Undaunted by the rain, Gorge Stewards circle up as Alex Roth, FMR ecologist, lays out the plan for planting natives at the oak savanna this fall. (Photo submitted)

Naturalist and volunteer-lead Kate Clayton of Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) explained that they were removing volunteer trees to make way for bur oaks as part of the long-term restoration of this special place. She also noted that before volunteers and community groups decided to form the River Gorge Stewards to take care of it, this rare savanna—home to over a hundred bird species and a favorite respite for many locals—was an impenetrable thicket of spiky buckthorn bushes.

Turner decided to join the effort. “As a frequent hiker,” he says, “I thought it would be a perfect way to ‘pay for’ the privilege.”

Since then, he’s had plenty of company. In 2018, FMR held 24 volunteer and educational events in the Minneapolis River Gorge with over 400 attendees.

Photo left: At the River Gorge Stewards Earth Day cleanup, a local Girl Scouts troop taught volunteers and passersby on W. River Pkwy. about invasive species in our local River Gorge park. (Photo submitted)

The annual oak savanna Earth Day cleanup was the biggest, with 58 volunteers of all ages picking up litter and trash, despite the event being postponed due to the late snow and late spring.

Next came a series of public volunteer outings focused on the continued restoration of the oak savanna as well as the riverfront sand flats near Lake St. Together, individuals, families and small groups pulled invasive species like garlic mustard and buckthorn and then returned to plant native shrubs and wildflowers in their place.

Local groups like Anderson United’s 5th graders and girl scout troops help maintain our local riverfront as well. Combining education and action, eight groups learned about the river gorge and how invasive plants affect the river before heading out for a day of stewardship service.

Photo right: A volunteer pulls garlic mustard before it can take over the woodland near the sand flats. Invasive plants like garlic mustard can overrun or push out native plants that birds, butterflies and other pollinators rely on for habitat in our local Mississippi River flyway. (Photo submitted)

As for Turner, after participating at several public events, he became the newest member of the River Gorge Leadership Team, a group of 15 dedicated volunteers, mostly from surrounding communities.

Team members are trained in species identification, tool use and more to support and continue the river gorge restoration work beyond the scheduled volunteer events. They put in extra hours pulling invasives and prepping a planting site or checking on newly planted shrubs and natives, making sure they have enough water between rains.

Turner says highlights of his first year with the team include “finally learning the names of plants that I have passed many times and working on projects with folks who care about the environment.”

Adam Flett, Stewardship and Education Program Director at FMR, says they can’t thank their volunteers, partners, and funders enough. “This is a favorite spot for many people, and we’re lucky we’ve got so many dedicated supporters,” says Flett.

He also pointed out that the Longfellow Community Council was one of the founders of the program, and remains a particularly important partner and funder in 2018.

Photo left: FMR SuperVolunteer Fred Tyler is ready to plant natives in the understory of the oak savanna. (Photo submitted)

Additional funders and partners for FMR’s youth programs, volunteer events and habitat restoration activities in the Minneapolis River Gorge during 2018 included: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Longfellow Community Council, Xcel Energy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the US Forest Service, Minnesota Natural Resources and Environmental Trust Fund, Andeavor Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, Seagate, HB Fuller Company, 3M Foundation, Hardenburgh Foundation, Langwater Foundation and Great Lakes Brewing Company.

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They/Them Project shows and tells transgender life stories

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Xochi de la Luna (left) and Brent Dundore (right) co-hosted a gender discussion at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.), in support of the They/Them Project on exhibit there through Dec. 5. On the wall behind them are portraits from the project. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Photographer and activist Brent Dundore has been working on the They/Them Project for the past two years, and he doesn’t see the project ending any time soon. So far, he has interviewed and photographed 33 gender non-conforming individuals, giving them a platform to be seen and heard.

“This project has meant a lot to me,” Dundore said, “because it’s given me the chance to educate myself and others about gender diversity. When it comes down to it, this project is often seen through the photographs—but if people aren’t listening to the interviews, they aren’t getting what they can from the project. If you look at the images and they mean anything to you, they will mean much more when you hear the participants tell their own stories.”

Some of those stories are not what you would expect. There is Emma, age eleven at the time of her interview. Emma prefers she/her and they/them pronouns, though she presents herself as a boy. When Dundore asked her, “Do you feel more like a boy when you wear a suit or other boy’s clothes?” She answered, “No, I feel more like me.”

The They/Them Project is currently on exhibit at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.). The images will be on view there until Dec. 5.

On Nov. 1, Dundore and project participant Xochi de la Luna co-hosted a community discussion about gender attended by a couple of dozen people. Emma’s sentiments were repeated by others from the project in attendance, as well as those in the audience not part of the project.

Xochi identifies as a-gender and uses the pronouns they/them. Xochi said, “I felt like I was living in a box when I was growing up as a boy. I just never was attached to the idea of what it meant to be a man. Those of us who are trans, we want to live in a world where there aren’t so many assumptions made about who we are because of our gender.”

Photo right: Diverse community members came together to talk about what gender identity and gender expression mean to them. Upcoming gender discussions will take place at the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center and Lutheran Social Services’ Center for Changing Lives. Check for details. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Dundore, who identifies as cisgender, gay and bisexual, and a husband, uses the pronouns he/him. “This project got started because I wanted to challenge my own ignorance on gender, and to better understand people who are gender non-conforming,” he said. Sporting a t-shirt that read, “Pronouns matter,” he explained,

“We’re all people with our own individual outlooks on life. I asked each project participant, ‘Could you imagine a situation in which you’d be upset if someone asked which pronouns you use? Every person answered, ‘Please, ask!’” Using the pronouns a person prefers is a sign of respect.

Dundore is an accomplished photographer with a celebrity and commercial portfolio, and an impressive corporate client and publications list. He currently runs BD Portraits Studio ( in the Powderhorn neighborhood. His activist photography credentials include starting the “Marry Us Campaign,” “Broadway Legacy,” celebrating black Broadway artists, the “Why I Ride Project” in support of the AIDS fundraising bike rides, “My Voice Seen,” and the “They/Them Project.”

Who is Dundore trying to reach with his current project? “Anyone willing to listen,” he said. “Go to the website,” he reiterated, “everything is there.”

The ongoing podcast can be seen and heard at

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NENA News December 2018

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Night Before New Year’s Eve 2018 set for Dec. 30
Want to celebrate the New Year with your kids but don’t want the late bedtime hassle?

The Night Before New Year’s Eve party is planned on Sun., Dec. 30, 5:30-7:30pm, at Lake Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy. It is a family-oriented event chock full of activities, including a “midnight” countdown at 7:15pm. The only cost of the event is a suggested $10 donation per family. Enjoy a kid-friendly dinner, carnival games, music, and dancing, marshmallow roasting over a bonfire, face painting, and much more! New to this year, NENA will be holding a food drive for the Minnehaha Food Shelf. Please bring non-perishable foods, toiletries, household, or baby items to donate.

Nokomis East needs volunteers for the Night Before New Year’s Eve. This event is fun for everyone who attends, including the volunteers, and it cannot happen without volunteer support. Volunteers working the event, in addition to being part of the fun, will get a free pizza dinner. Opportunities for families, groups, and young adult volunteers are available. Sign up to volunteer at or call 612-724-5652.

Annual State of the Neighborhood meeting 2019
The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association State of our Neighborhood community gathering is planned for Tuesday night, Jan. 15, 6-8pm, at Morris Park Recreation Center, 5531 39th Ave. S.

Come to hear from NENA, our business community, elected officials, and other community leaders. This neighborhood conversation will address several topics relevant to the Nokomis East community. NENA and our guest speakers will discuss plans to continue fostering a vibrant, active Nokomis East in 2019.

Save the date
The South Minneapolis Green Fair is being planned for Sat., Apr. 13, 12-4pm, at Roosevelt High School, 4029 28th Ave. S.

Commit to environmental sustainability as a part of your New Year’s Resolution! Cut your carbon footprint, reduce your impact on landfills, keep local plants and animals thriving, care for our lakes and streams by making some simple adjustments to your habits.

NENA, Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association, and Longfellow Community Council have teamed up to present the South Minneapolis Green Fair, an expansion of the popular Nokomis Green Fair introduced earlier this year. It will be an opportunity to discover sustainable lifestyle options in a relaxed, judgment-free, and interactive environment. Meet a variety of exhibitors, attend informative presentations, or try educational activities. Environmentally focused nonprofits or local businesses interested in exhibitor opportunities can contact Program and Communication Manager Lauren Hazenson at 612-724-5652 or

Love Nokomis East? Want to meet more neighbors? Volunteer!

Meet your neighbors and shape the future of the neighborhood in just a few hours. NENA needs a variety of volunteer positions, including community photographers, newsletter volunteers, and community outreach volunteers. Some volunteer positions can be modified to fit your availability or schedule.
Interested? Want to learn more? Contact Lauren Hazenson at or 612-724-5652.

Sign up for NENA News
Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

Upcoming meetings and events:
12/5/18, 6:30pm: NENA Housing, Commercial, and Streetscape Committee, NENA Office, 4313 E. 54th St.
12/1218, 6:30pm: NENA Green Initiatives Committee, NENA Office
12/20/18, 7pm: NENA Board Meeting, NENA Office
12/30/18, 7:30pm: Night Before New Year’s Eve, Lake Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy.


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Swing out Old Year 2018 at Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge is filling the month of December with exciting shows. Here is a selection of entertainment venues that have not yet sold out at press time. (These are in addition to the free concerts in Dec. that you can read about under “Music Wednesdays scheduled in Dec.” in the Briefs on page 11.) Unless noted otherwise, all performances are 21+.

On Fri., Nov. 30, the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling plus Cedric Burnside will perform. Doors open at 7:30pm and tickets are $18 in advance and $22 the day of the show.

Summit Brewing & Nobool present The Belfast Cowboys on Sat., Dec. 1, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 the day of the show.

On Sun., Dec. 2, 6pm, The Funk & Lardum Aeternum will present Bobby & Bacon’s Holiday Jamboree. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show (or $12 at the door with food shelf donation).

Hamell On Trial (photo right) will take the stage at 7:30pm on Tues., Dec. 4. This is a free show.

On Thur., Dec. 6 both Lynn O’Brien (“Rising” Album Release) plus Annie Mack will take the stage at 7:30pm. This performance is reserved seating for $20, and presented by Sociable Cider Werks.

The Church of Cash Holiday Show will happen on Fri., Dec. 7 (early show), at 7pm. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show. The late show at 9:30 will feature Hoodphellas plus

Bigfoot Country for $9 in advance and $12 the day of the show.

Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound plus Jon Rodine & Friends will perform Sat., Dec. 8, at 8pm. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the show.

The All I Want For Christmas Is Whiskey Tour featuring Dan Rodriguez will take the day Sun., Dec. 7 with a matinee at 3:30pm (the evening performance is sold out). Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show if any tickets remain.

Indeed Brewing & Jazz 88 will present Jazz Indeed: Dave Karr & Friends on Tues., Dec. 11. Doors and beer samples open at 6pm with music starting at 7. This is a free show.

On Thur., Dec. 13, 7:30pm, settle in for the Radio Heartland 10th Anniversary Party with Erik Koskinen, Dustin Arbuckle & The Haymakers, Molly Maher, and Dusty Heart. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show.

The Garagey Lil‘ Holiday Festival 2, The Castaways plus • The Sex Rays • Black Widows • Trash Street • Dose & Dinks • Fret Rattles • Burlesque Dancers • Dr. Bob’s Puppet Show will capture the evening Fri., Dec. 14, 7:30pm. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show.

A Holiday Blues Show featuring Cornbread Harris & Friends will perform Thur., Dec. 20, 7:30pm. Tickets are reserved seating at $12 each.

Then settle in for Frogleg (photo left) New Years Eve plus The People Brothers Band on Mon., Dec. 31 for a New Years Eve blowout. Doors open at 8pm and music begins at 8:30pm. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 the day of the show and ticket includes champagne toast plus snacks at midnight.

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Transition Longfellow receives national recognition

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

On Oct. 27, Transition Longfellow received national attention as a runner-up for the Community Impact Award given by Transition U.S. to groups that have made a difference in their local community. The grassroots, neighbor-led group provides education and social activities for people in South Minneapolis and beyond who are concerned about sustainability, food resilience, clean energy, climate change, and emergency preparedness.

Transition Longfellow cofounder and organizer, Leslie MacKenzie, received the Grassroots Leadership Award.

That wasn’t the only recognition the group received this year. In the spring, Transition Longfellow was nominated for a health department award for its work on climate preparedness in 2017.

With a budget of about $1,000 a year, the group delivers 4-6 activities a month, most of them at little or no cost. Over the years, the group has:
• Installed 183 raised bed vegetable gardens in the homes of neighbors and provided food-growing and food storage education and resources
• Hosted 77 movies and potluck meals, providing neighbors with a chance to learn together and get to know one another
• Organized field trips, game nights, knitting and mending circles, and book groups
• Brought energy, climate and health speakers to the community
• Produced a weekly emergency preparedness email series in 2018
• Worked with the neighborhood association to host a Low Energy Fair in 2016
• Built Little Free Libraries, rocket stoves, and solar cookers
• Made insulated curtains, sunscreen, candles, kombucha
• And more

Visioning its future—engagingnew volunteer leaders
“National recognition is nice, since we’ve been doing so much for so many years, but our focus is really on helping our local community to be more resilient. That’s what’s most important to us,” said Leslie MacKenzie.

She said the group is taking time this fall and winter to engage community members in visioning what Transition Longfellow could be moving forward. “We have people come to our activities from all over the Twin Cities, from the suburbs, from Duluth … we had a group come to visit us from Washington, D.C.! Should we change our name to reflect our broader reach?

“We have recently focused on three areas: food resilience, community building, and climate preparedness. Should we expand or become even more laser focused?

How can we partner with others in the community to increase our impact?

“And most importantly, we’ve developed a wonderful volunteer base over the years and our Facebook page is a phenomenal resource, but we need to expand our organizing and communications team so we can continue to deliver interesting programs and prevent burn-out of our long-term volunteers. A couple of hours of volunteer help every month—or with a specific project—goes an incredibly long way with a group like ours.”

If you would like to be part of the visioning conversation, visit the group’s website ( to sign up for one of the listening sessions. If you would like to learn more about volunteering, contact Leslie through the website.

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How much traffic can 46th St. and Hiawatha handle?

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Residents question Reuter Walter representatives during a community meeting on Oct. 9. Reuter Walter has proposed razing the former Bridgeman’s near Minnehaha Park at 4757 Hiawatha Ave., and constructing a six-story, 85-unit structure. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Residents discuss traffic, parking, and air quality issues sparked by proposed developments near Minnehaha Park

Can the 46th St. and Hiawatha Ave. area handle all the traffic caused by development there?

Residents aren’t sure, and they have been voicing their concerns at local meetings, including one on Oct. 9 at Brackett Park.

There were two developments that night on the agenda, Reuter Walter’s proposal for the former Bridgeman’s property and Hayes Harlow Development’s proposal for Minnehaha and 46th (see related article on page 1), but overall five projects are currently being reviewed for the area. Plus, just north is the upcoming Snelling Yards development and Amber Apartments building, and to the east will be the redevelopment of the Ford plant.

“That’s a gigantic increase in car traffic,” said one resident.

Another stated, “It’s going to be a traffic nightmare.”

Citizens are asking for a traffic study. Others also asked for air pollution and air quality studies to be done in the area.

Council member Andrew Johnson clarified that a traffic study couldn’t be used to deny a project. “It can be used to mitigate traffic impacts,” he explained and stated that he will push for one to be done.

Johnson said that it is important to him that traffic flow well in this area, but that includes vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, and buses.

“It’s not easy as there’s a lot of competing interests here,” he said. “How do you make 46th St. adequate for not just now but 10, 20 years down the road?”

Parking concerns
Residents have also been expressing concerns about parking at these buildings, which are sometimes providing less than one parking spot per unit.

The 4757 Hiawatha Ave. project proposes 59 stalls for 85 units; the Oppidan phase 2 high-density option next door proposes 96 stalls for 96 units; the Minnehaha 46 building proposes 27 stalls for 54 units, and the Lander Group proposal for the Greg’s Auto site has 37 stalls for 37 units.

“Where are everyone’s friends going to park?” questioned one resident. Another pointed out that most couples have two vehicles.

Six-story, 85-unit building
Reuter Walter has proposed razing the former Bridgeman’s near Minnehaha Park at 4757 Hiawatha Ave., and constructing a six-story, 85-unit structure.

Reuter Walton decided not to include commercial space in this development because it will be located on the same block as the new Cub Foods development, explained Brasser. “Speculative retail space in apartment buildings is difficult to fill,” he stated.

A citizen argued that the location is a “gold mine,” especially on the weekends. “You’ve got to see the lines at Sea Salt,” he said.

Others pointed out that visitors wouldn’t be able to see the first floor of this building from Minnehaha Park to know if a restaurant or coffee shop was there. There’s also an issue with parking, which could prevent a business from moving in as it did for so many years on the lower level of the building at the 46th St. light rail station. Venn Brewing finally moved in after years of negotiation with neighbors regarding parking on the streets nearby.

Some residents expressed concern about the proposed height at 4757 Hiawatha Ave., which will be about the same as the five-story Lowa46 building just to the north that will house Cub.

“I kind of feel like you are the 6.5-foot person standing at the front of the concert,” a resident stated.

The next meeting on this project will be on Nov. 8 at the Neighborhood Transportation and Development Committee.

Photo below: There are five developments being proposed or in progress around Minnehaha and 46th. Being proposed are the Hayes Harlow Development’s project at Minnehaha and 46th, the Lander Group project at Greg’s Auto location at 4737 Minnehaha, the Oppidan phase two project, and Reuter Walter’s project at the former Bridgeman’s property. Under construction is the first phase of the Oppidan project that includes 148 market-rate apartments and penthouses, a 45,000-square-foot Cub Foods grocery store, 3,000 square feet of small-shop retail, and a large public plaza. (Graphic by Tesha M. Christensen)

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Fungi, a new urban agriculture opportunity for South Minneapolis

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Ryan Franke (left) and Torin Dougherty, co-founders of the new urban agriculture business Backyard Fungi. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Backyard Fungi is the brainchild of two young Minneapolis entrepreneurs: Ryan Franke and Torin Dougherty. Franke is a dedicated mycologist (someone who studies fungi), and Dougherty represents the business arm of the newly formed business. Their Backyard Partner Program strives to bring more urban gardeners into the booming Twin Cities agriculture community, and they are seeking applications from South Minneapolis residents.

“We want to promote interest in growing fungi,” Franke explained. “Our goal is to have clusters of backyard partners in different South Minneapolis neighborhoods, to provide a source for restaurants and food catering businesses in search of locally grown, organic mushrooms.”

Dougherty added, “Our 2019 backyard partners will be growing wine cap mushrooms on wood chips and shiitake mushrooms on logs. These are the types of mushrooms we’ve had the most success with.”

The requirements for acceptance as a Backyard Partner will be, at a minimum:
• Able to commit 16 hours of time for the 2019 season, primarily in the spring and fall.
• An interest in growing organic food.
• A desire to be part of a community-based model of urban agriculture.
• 75 square feet of available yard space (fenced if there is a dog).
• A willingness to communicate clearly and reliably.

Franke and Dougherty are lowering the barriers to participation so that more gardeners can be involved. They are asking participants to pay $100 toward the start-up of their backyard mushroom beds, although the actual cost is closer to $400. The Backyard Fungi business model allows them to absorb many of the upfront costs in exchange for a portion of future mushroom yields.

Fungi are not difficult to grow; they’re just different. “We’ll bring our ‘fungal knowledge’ to your backyard when we schedule your site visit, teach fungal stewardship, and provide support as needed throughout the growing season,” Franke said.

Their decentralized business model has generated a lot of interest so far. Once all of the 2019 partners are on board, installation dates will be scheduled for the spring. Partners must agree to participate in the installation of their own mushroom beds, whether they are layering wine caps into piles of wood chips or inoculating logs with shiitake spores. Mushrooms require surprisingly little watering during the growing season, maybe only four or five times. Partners are responsible for watering, and for harvesting in the spring and fall: cutting, cleaning, and refrigerating the mushrooms they’ve grown until they can be picked up for distribution.

The model for reimbursing backyard partners is called a Harvest Barter. It’s a 50/50 split between the partner who grows the mushrooms and Backyard Fungi. A person could also choose to pay the $400 installation cost in full, keep the total yield for themselves—but they would lose all the benefits of being a partner.

Franke got hooked on fungi as a kid and re-hooked when he was camping on the North Shore with his wife two years ago. Following heavy rain, mushrooms started appearing—almost out of nowhere. He said, “After that trip, I just couldn’t ignore the lure of fungi anymore. I got an ID book and started figuring out every species I could find. From there I turned to the work of Paul Stamets, one of the world’s most respected mycologists who is both an author and YouTube presenter. When I bumped into Torin, a business major I’d known when we were both students at Gustavus Adolphus College, my first question was, ‘Do you want to start a mushroom business together?’”

According to Dougherty, fungi operate as part of a resource-sharing network. They are connected to bacteria, plants, animals, and other fungi. They distribute nutrients, water, and minerals to their partners. Franke and Dougherty envision their business running in much the same way: as a resource sharing network with mutual benefits.

For more information on becoming a backyard partner with them in 2019, contact

Minnesota conifers (cone bearing trees) support more than 50 different types of mushrooms including chanterelles, morels, and porcini—to name just a few culinary delights. A mushroom hunter should be very careful when harvesting, making sure that their identification is 100% accurate.

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Aldi will open in former Rainbow Foods site later this year

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Charter school building complete; focus shifts to grocery store and retail as part two of redevelopment phase

Aldi will open in the former Rainbow Foods space at 2912 28th Ave. S. in November or December.

The grocery store is part of a second phase for redeveloping the site.

During the first phase of Minnehaha Commons, Universal Academy Charter School used a section of the former grocery store during the 2017-18 school year while a 19,600-square-foot second-story addition for classroom space was built on the back side of the building. To accommodate the addition, a single-family home on the property was torn down. The addition was completed over the summer and Universal Academy moved into the new addition at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Wellington has now shifted focus to the front of the building near the parking lot.

“We are excited to renovate a tired building and bring new life and energy to this block,” stated Wellington Management Director of Acquisitions and Development David Wellington. “After sitting vacant for several years, the project will once again be an amenity to the neighborhood by bringing jobs, a successful school, and neighborhood-serving retail to the Longfellow community.”

Renovation underway
Built in 1984, Rainbow Foods closed in 2014 after the store was purchased by Jerry’s Enterprises as part of a 27-store deal that reshaped the Twin Cities grocery scene. The building and 6-acre lot were purchased by Wellington Management Company two years later for $5.35 million, according to Hennepin County records. This is Wellington’s first foray into developing property on the east side of Hiawatha. The Minnehaha Commons project continues the efforts of Wellington that began more than a decade ago with projects such as Hi-Lake Shopping Center, the Greenway Office Building, Corridor Flats, Lake Street Station, and the Blue Line Flats.

Photo left: Work is now underway renovating the west side of the former Rainbow Foods building for Aldi and the adjacent retail. The entire west facade will be replaced. Various pedestrian improvements will be made adjacent to the new retail entrances including new sidewalks, a raised pedestrian crossing connecting Aldi to the parking lot, plantings and bike racks. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The total project cost, including acquisition, phase one (Universal Academy expansion) and phase two (Aldi/retail renovation) is approximately $18 million. This does not include additional tenant improvements being made by Aldi and future retail tenants.

Wellington does not own Schooner Tavern, just north of the Rainbow building at 2901 27th Ave. S. and it is not part of this project.

Work is now underway renovating the west side of the Rainbow building for Aldi and the adjacent retail. The entire west facade will be replaced. Various pedestrian improvements will be made adjacent to the new retail entrances including new sidewalks, a raised pedestrian crossing connecting Aldi to the parking lot, plantings and bike racks.

Taken together, the Rainbow site, Cub land, and Target property represent the second largest piece of continuous asphalt in the city of Minneapolis, pointed out Wellington. The city’s plans for the area call for greater density due to the light rail line, which Wellington Management has focused on providing as it redevelops the area.

Phase 3: affordable housing
Stage three includes the construction of a mixed-use building on the northwest corner of the parking lot. It will have 90 units of affordable housing for seniors, and 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level. This portion of the project is behind schedule as Wellington Management works to put the financial pieces together to make it affordable.

“We are working diligently to secure public financing sources needed to build the affordable housing project,” said Wellington. “We are hopeful that Phase 3 construction can begin in late 2019, but it’s more likely to start in early 2020.”

Photo right: Universal Academy Charter School moved into a 19,600-square-foot second-story addition built on the back side of the building in time for classes to begin for the 2018-19 school year. (Photo submitted)

Wellington Management tried to purchase the Auto Zone property at the corner of E. Lake and Minnehaha, but the property owners were not interested in selling. So they signed a long-term agreement with Wendy’s to remain there for 20 years, and the building was given a facelift.

Wellington also plans to construct a single-story 3,500-square-foot retail building in the existing parking lot area not being used by Wendy’s along Minnehaha.

Will Aldi close existing store?
Aldi has not confirmed whether it will move out of the existing store at 2100 E. Lake St. or whether it will keep it open, according to Wellington.

With more than 1,800 stores across the country, Aldi is in the midst of an accelerated growth plan, investing more than $5 billion to remodel and expand its store count to 2,500 by the end of 2022. Aldi is more than halfway through its remodel investment. The new Aldi store layout features additional refrigeration space to accommodate more fresh, healthy and convenient products.

“The continued success of our store expansion and remodel initiatives has given us the opportunity to carefully select and introduce new products that satisfy our customers’ increasing preferences for fresh items, including organic meats, salad bowls, sliced fruits, and gourmet cheeses,” said Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi U.S. “We know people lead busy lives, so we’re making it even easier for them to purchase everything on their shopping list at Aldi, while still saving money.”

As part of the expansion, Aldi is increasing its fresh food selection by 40 percent with new items, including:
• More ready-to-cook and organic fresh meats to make meal preparation more convenient, including organic chicken breasts and marinated cilantro lime chicken breasts.
• Expanded produce selection, including veggie noodles and ready-to-eat sliced fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and watermelon spears, and more organics.
• Expanding its Earth Grown line with new vegan and vegetarian options, such as kale and quinoa crunch burgers, and chickenless patties and tenders.

More than 40 million customers each month use the simple, streamlined approach Aldi brings to retailing. Aldi sells frequently purchased grocery and household items, primarily under its exclusive brands.

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Longfellow neighbor helps others at Franklin Hiawatha Encampment

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Jase Roe and his partner recently bought a house near Minnehaha Falls. In between packing and unpacking, and studying to become an addiction counselor at MCTC, Roe is spending many hours each week at The Wall of Forgotten Natives (also known as the Franklin Hiawatha Encampment). A former heroin and methamphetamine addict, Roe understands the complexities of addiction from both sides.

“There’s a stigma attached to being Native American that can break you,” Roe said. “I’m a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana. I was adopted by one of my aunts as a baby and raised in Eagan. Growing up in a white suburban community, I was bullied a lot. I turned to drugs early and lost 25 years of my life to addiction. I’m 42 now, and sober for almost six years. My struggle with addiction helps me to understand what some of the people in the encampment are dealing with.”

Photo right: Jase Roe (pictured right) and friends at a blanket and clothing drive event. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Roe spends his time at The Wall learning names and faces, and directing campers to available services. Last week, he logged two days signing people up for medical insurance and flu shots.

The Franklin Hiawatha Encampment held as many as 300 campers at its peak this summer. Roe estimates that number is closer to 200 now, about 80% of whom are Native. He noted, “The population has grown more challenging. There are hardly any kids around anymore, which is good. Most of the families have been taken in by local churches or have found temporary shelter with help from the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID). There is still a sense of community in the encampment, but the number of drug users has grown considerably. In my opinion, many people there are in survival mode.”

The City of Minneapolis and its agency partners had hoped to transition residents of the encampment to temporary housing by Sept. 30, but that date has come and gone. After three emotional city council meetings, a decision was made to develop properties owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians on the 2100 block of Cedar Ave. S. and the 1800 block of 22nd St. E. This is a short-term option, but all parties agreed it was the best of the possible, imperfect solutions.

Buildings on the sites have to be demolished, and some environmental remediation done before FEMA style trailers, water, and sanitary sewer can be brought in. Roe said, “I’m apprehensive about how long all that will take, and about who will actually be housed. There are many more people in the encampment than there are anticipated beds.”

For those outside the Native American community, it can be hard to understand how this situation has gotten so bad. A statement issued by the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors offered a thoughtful explanation: “Minneapolis is built on Dakota land, and has long been home to a significant number of Native Americans. Generations of genocide and forced assimilation have made the 21st century very challenging for Native people, who make up a disproportionate number of the homeless in Minneapolis. Causes of homelessness are related to addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, joblessness, economics, and many other causes.

Minnesota’s opioid addiction crisis continues to hit the Native American population especially hard.”

In a situation packed with unknowns, one thing is certain—winter is coming. A very successful blanket and clothing drive has just ended. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation toward meals can send a check to the Native American Community Development Institute (attention Two Spirit Society: encampment meals). Their mailing address is 1414 E. Franklin Ave., Suite #1, Minneapolis 55404.

As Roe settles into his new home, he is well aware that this is the second time he has lived in this neighborhood. The first was several years ago when his home was a mattress in the basement of a drug house near Lake Nokomis. “My life was a total mess then,” he said. “I realized I was either going to die soon, or go to prison. I had lost everything. Even my teeth had fallen out because of my meth addiction. If I smiled, I always covered my mouth with my hand. I have a new life now, thanks to the Minnesota Two Spirit Society, Out and Sober Minnesota, and my own motivation. I can leave a legacy of hope for my nieces and nephews now because I was given another chance.”

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Business owners concerned about 33rd St. reconstruction

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Will trucks be able to maneuver on a skinnier street with boulevards and curb cutouts?

Business owners are concerned that the city’s plan to reconstruct a two-block section of 33rd St. E. between Hiawatha and Minnehaha doesn’t factor in the street’s heavy industrial traffic.

The plans presented for the project at the Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee (NDTC) meeting on Oct. 2, would narrow the street significantly, which business owners believe would make it hard for trucks to maneuver.

Photo right: Transportation Planner Forrest Hardy chats with business owners regarding proposed changes to 33rd St. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The street is currently 44 feet across with parking on both sides. One option narrows the street to 38 feet and install five-foot boulevards on both sides. The second option would narrow the street to 32 feet with eight-foot boulevards and allow parking on only one side.

Transportation Planner Forrest Hardy explained that boulevards between the street and the sidewalk provide a better pedestrian experience, and create a place to pile up snow.

When asked how much per square foot a boulevard costs versus a paved street, Hardy did not have an answer. While costs vary from project to project, typically a wider street without a boulevard is more expensive than a narrower street with a boulevard due to increased quantity of pavement and sublease materials, according to city staff.

Business owners stated that they see very few pedestrians walking down 33rd. While there is a gas station at the corner with Hiawatha, they pointed out that there is no crossing and pedestrians need to go up to 32nd or down to 35th to get across Hiawatha.

There are several businesses along that stretch of street, including Castle Building, Lovelette Transfer Moving, McIntosh Embossing, United States Bench Corporation, and R&T Cement. Each of those employ about 10 to 15 people.

Photo left: Business owners are concerned that the city’s plan to reconstruct a two-block section of 33rd St. E. between Hiawatha and Minnehaha doesn’t factor in the street’s heavy industrial traffic. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Dave McIntosh questioned the plan to close one of the two egresses onto his property. He pointed out that more trucks than the ones servicing his print company use the double egress to turn around. This allows trucks to turn on private property rather than try to do that in the street near the railroad tracks.

Businesses owners also questioned the bump-outs planned at corners. Because of the angle that Snelling intersects with 33rd, trucks won’t be able to turn if there are bump-outs, they insisted.

Work planned by 2019
According to Hardy, the city is taking a long-term approach to this project as the life cycle of a street is about 40 years.
The reconstruction of both 33rd and 35th will include removal of the existing street, subgrade correction, curb and gutter, driveways, sidewalks, and utility work as needed. The pavement condition on both streets is rated as poor.

The city will also coordinate with the railroad to improve the crossings. There are about 16 rail crossings per day. The crossing is particularly bad along 35th.

“Right now it is practically impossible to cross the railroad tracks on a wheelchair,” said Hardy. “There is no sidewalk there. It’s just holes.”

The existing right-of-way on the streets is 60 feet wide, and existing sidewalks are 6.5 feet wide. Pedestrian ramps are not generally ADA-compliant.

In the plan for 35th between Hiawatha and Dight Ave., the street will be narrowed to 38 feet. There will be a left turn lane, through lane and right turn lane off 35th onto Hiawatha. One drive­way on the north side, currently blocked off, will be closed.

The reconstruction project will take place during the 2019 construction season, and will cost about 2.865 million. The city will maintain access to businesses while the work is done, Hardy assured.

A recommended layout is expected to be brought to the City Council Transportation and Public Works Committee in late fall 2018 for approval.

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