Dementia behavior consultant is carving his own niche

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
From his home office in the Longfellow neighborhood, Dr. Eilon Caspi (photo right) is doing all he can to humanize the face of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Caspi, who holds a Ph.D. in gerontology, has worked his whole adult life in the aging field, starting as an aide in a nursing home where his grandfather lived in Israel 23 years ago. He has been growing his business as founder, owner, and director of Dementia Behavior Consulting LLC since 2015.

Caspi offers an array of services to people living with dementia, as well as their family care partners, staff, and other professionals in the healthcare system, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. These services focus on preventing various forms of behavioral expressions, including those commonly labeled aggressive. Caspi believes that the majority of these distressing and harmful behavioral expressions are the result of unmet human needs intersecting with the person’s cognitive disabilities.

Caspi said, “The quality of care provided to people living with dementia is only as good as the quality of timely support and education provided to family and professional care partners.”

This conviction sets him apart from many specialists in his field. “I place the highest priority on equipping care partners with evidence-based knowledge and skills. This is what will empower them to provide effective, person-directed, dignified care to those living with dementia,” Caspi said,

Photo left: Gerontologist and wood carver Dr. Eilon Caspi holding one of the brain hemispheres he has hand-carved from mahogany.

Caspi emphasized that the primary focus of Dementia Behavior Consulting LLC is on the reduction of the harmful stigma commonly associated with dementia, instilling realistic hope, and providing personalized psychosocial approaches—not drug treatments such as antipsychotic medications. “These expensive medications have been shown in a series of research studies to bring only modest positive effects to a small portion of people living with dementia,” Caspi said. “They often cause a number of adverse and serious side effects that outweigh the benefits.” That said, there are unique circumstances when these medications may need to be used thoughtfully and carefully (including Gradual Dose Reduction Guidelines).

Caspi explained, “There are 5.4 million people in The US estimated to be living with a form of dementia. For those who receive a diagnosis, they will typically leave their doctor’s office or diagnostic center (commonly called Memory Clinic), go home, read about their diagnosis online, and then they’ll panic. How do you find models of hope when there is so much misinformation out there? My passion is bringing evidence-based, best care practices to elders, families, and healthcare professionals in a timely way.”

From Dr. Caspi’s perspective, people living with dementia and those who are cognitively healthy have one very important shared asset: all human beings benefit from close, trusting relationships. “In many ways, people with dementia are just like the rest of us,” he said. “Unfortunately, psychological needs are among the first to be overlooked in home care situations, and (about 80% of people living with dementia are cared for at home) as well as in long-term care facilities.

He continued, “While Alzheimer’s disease and several other forms of dementia are progressive, highest practical psychological a high level of psychiatric well-being can be realized in many individuals when support systems and quality of care are optimized. Strengthening the support system to the person and her/his family care partners, timely evidence-based education, and reduction of fear and stigma—these are the things to focus on.”

It’s a known fact that the age pyramid in this country is shifting in a big way. The Baby Boomer generation contains about 76 million people in the United States. As they age, the number of people living with dementia is expected to soar. Some of the risk factors that may raise the likelihood of developing certain forms of dementia include poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of cognitive stimulation, smoking, high blood pressure, high stress level, lack of personally meaningful social engagement, and lack of purpose in life. These factors are thought to be cumulative.

Caspi is looking for a senior volunteer (55+) to help him with office-based projects that will improve the lives of people living with dementia in Minnesota. To inquire, email him at or contact him through his website at

Comments Off on Dementia behavior consultant is carving his own niche

Day of the Dead celebrated at Roosevelt High School

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

As told by JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ, Spanish Immersion
This was the first year that Roosevelt High School organized an event for El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The idea was to celebrate our Latino diversity and multicultural traditions at Roosevelt High School with the broader community. La Catrina is the most popular icon of the Day of the Dead festivals from around the world. She is known as the ‘ambassadress of death,’ a beautiful skeleton lady dressed in elegant clothes. In Latin American countries, we react to death with mourning, but also with celebration and joy. We know that death is among us, and we have learned to accept it.

As a teacher, I want to make sure that my students acquire the language and culture of Spanish speaking countries through meaningful exposure. Re-enacting some of the legends and traditions of El Dia de los Muertos was such an opportunity.

Photo right: Student Romina Tello dressed as La Catrina. The story of La Catrina inspired me to involve the high school students: to make them aware of the beauty and the richness of our roots and to help the students show that to others with pride. México is not the only country in Latin America that celebrates the Day of the Dead. In many other countries as well, it is believed that the dead come back and re-join their families on Oct. 31, and depart again on Nov. 2. 




Photo left: To include all of the students, we created a collection of legends that are told across Latin America. The legends were chosen by the students themselves, and this was the beginning of a writing process in both English and Spanish. Many of the students’ essays appeared on the altars they made for the Museum of the Dead, which was set up down in the basement.


Photo right: In many homes and cemeteries, altars such as these are prepared to honor the dead.





Photo left: Student Marie Peterson offered face painting to visitors of all ages. Following the presentations and and tours, which were given in both English and Spanish, pozole was served to guests at no cost. Pozole is a traditional Mexican corn soup made on special holidays. 



Comments Off on Day of the Dead celebrated at Roosevelt High School

Fun / community was Spooktacular theme

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

Children, families, and tenants all turned out on Oct. 28 for the 4th Annual Spooktacular Halloween Open House at Minnehaha Senior Living and Providence Place Senior Living, 37th St. and 23rd Ave. Many families turned up in costumes (photo right provided) and played the games which included a fishing booth, a duck pond, pumpkin bowling, and pumpkin golf. There were also themed costumes (one family had a circus theme with a ringmaster, a lion who jumped through a hoop, a lion trainer, a strong man, an acrobat, and a popcorn vendor). The “circus” family walked through the facility entertaining tenants and surprised them with a lion act (a child dressed up as a lion jumped through a hoop that a “lion trainer” was holding).

There was a shadow room, a haunted house, craft rooms with pumpkin painting and door hanger crafts, games, and cookies and cider for all who attended.

“Our tenants and residents got a big kick out of seeing the children in all of their creative costumes! Lots of our tenant’s grandchildren turned out, and lots of neighborhood kids turned out to show off their Halloween costumes. One highlight was when people oohed and awed when they saw a giant T’Rex dinosaur (photo left provided) enter the doors of Minnehaha. They were also delighted to see babies dressed up as unicorns, owls, pumpkins, and other fun costumes. We had over sixty children and their families walk through our doors and celebrate with our tenants this year.” said Molly Blomgren, Community Life Director.

It was also the kick off for their annual food drive for the area food shelf. Food shelf donations are being accepted up until Thanksgiving at both facilities.

Comments Off on Fun / community was Spooktacular theme

International president of Toastmasters says organization changes lives around the world

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

Toastmasters changes lives.

Balraj Arunsalam (photo right by Jan Willms), international president of Toastmasters from Sri Lanka, said he has seen the proof of this many times.

In the Twin Cities area to speak at a fall conference in Rochester Nov. 3, Arunsalam said he has seen the impact Toastmasters has not only on its members but their families, communities, and businesses.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.

The first international president from Sri Lanka and also from South Asia, Arunsalam joined Toastmasters in 1989.

“What drew me to Toastmasters is that I wanted to be with a like-minded social group, and I looked at Rotary and Lions,” he said. “But I ended up at Toastmasters.” He said he liked the way they conducted meetings, their evaluation technique, and fellowship.

“The fellowship aspect was fantastic,” Arunsalam said. “There was a good display of food, drink, pastries, iced coffee, and tea….from 1989 until now we have 30 minutes of fellowship before we start the meeting.” He became president of his club in 2002. “And ever since I have been going nonstop.”

The first Toastmasters meeting was held Oct. 22, 1924, in Santa Ana, CA. Ralph Smedley, who was a director of education for the YMCA, wanted to start a group that could assist men in public speaking and leadership. From those beginning fellowships, the organization has grown to 16,500 clubs represented in 142 countries, with more than 352,000 members.

“We had one club in Sri Lanka in 2000, and today we have 128,” Arunsalam said. “There was one club in India in 2001, and today there are 750.” He said the fast growth of clubs is attributed to the needs of the hour, from India to Tanzania to Australia to the USA.

“The need is the same; the need for communication and leadership is universal,” Arunsalam stated. “That is why we are growing year after year, and we have exponential growth when other organizations are struggling to grow.”

Although the average person thinks of Toastmasters as a place to learn to speak in public, Arunsalam said that is not true. “You can also learn to speak in public, but that is only 10 to 15 percent of our program,” he said. “The balance is about you and me and all the skills that we can learn together to improve our quality of life, to improve our skill levels to be better entrepreneurs or business leaders. That is Toastmasters.”

To emphasize this point, Arunsalam talked about the huge difference belonging to Toastmasters has made in his family business. “I have reduced our meetings from running four or five hours to one hour,” he said. “That’s because I now know how to get the same effect in one hour. I prepare myself, and I get my staff prepared before the meeting, and all this is possible because I learned meeting management in Toastmasters. I learned the step by step process to fix an agenda and not get distracted by other items that might waste time at meetings.”

Arunsalam said that many companies and organizations have meetings all the time. “I don’t know when they get the time to do their work or meet people. I am free to meet people because my meetings are short, sweet and crisp but have a huge impact.”

He added that what he has learned from Toastmasters has also resulted in his not losing a single staff member for the last nine years. He said Toastmasters has taught him that people do not work only for money, but for quality of life, self-esteem, skill building, sharing and being able to impart knowledge. “These are all things we do at Toastmasters, and we are working in an environment of family,” he said.

Arunsalam said Toastmasters is probably the only nonprofit that exists within a profit organization. “You can run speech meetings, skill building, courtroom, debate competition and festival meetings,” he said. “But we must not forget our fundamentals. We also have to include our speeches, evaluations, table topics and all those regular things we do.” Building skills to be effective evaluators, according to Arunsalam, is the secret to the club’s existence over the past 93 years. ‘It’s friends helping friends, and it’s learning by doing exercise,” he said.

During his tenure as international president, Arunsalam said two huge projects are planned. The headquarters of Toastmasters, which has been in Santa Ana all these years, will be moving to Denver, CO. And a new program, Pathways, is being launched. This features new online programs to capitalize on technology. “There will be 300 competencies and skill sets to learn from,” Arunsalam said.

He explained that he has seen the impact Toastmasters has had on his children, who he said have been involved since age 4.

They went through youth leadership and speechcraft programs. My daughter was selected to represent Sri Lanka as a youth delegate to the United Nations, and she spoke at the 25th general assembly,” he said. “I have seen many Toastmasters’ children become presidents of organizations, leaders in sports and their communities. The impact of Toastmasters is huge.”

“I can learn to speak in Toastmasters,” Arunsalam continued. “That is one small thing. But you can be a better human being and successful in life with all these skills you can develop in Toastmasters. That’s why we call ourselves an education organization.”

He said Toastmasters can be a lifelong journey, with members currently ranging in age from 18 to 105. “I see people changing in front of my eyes every day,” he noted. “If you use your club to be the best you can be, you have the opportunity to change the world.”

Comments Off on International president of Toastmasters says organization changes lives around the world

NENA News: Night Before New Year’s Eve planned Dec. 30

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

Night Before New Year’s Eve
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 on Sat., Dec. 30, is a family-oriented, free event chock full of activities, including a “midnight” countdown at 7:15pm. Enjoy a kid-friendly dinner, carnival games, music, and dancing, marshmallow roasting over a bonfire, face painting, and much more! Join in the fun at Lake Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy.

Annual State of the Neighborhood Meeting 2018
The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association State of our Neighborhood community gathering will be held Wed., Jan. 17, 6-8pm, at Morris Park Recreation Center, 5531 39th Ave. S.

Hear from NENA, our business community, elected officials, and other community leaders. This neighborhood conversation will address several topics important to the Nokomis East community. NENA and our guest speakers will discuss plans to continue fostering a vibrant, active Nokomis East in 2018.

New Nokomis East business grants
NENA is now offering the Marketing Matching Grant and the Business Partnerships Grant, exclusive to businesses located in Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park, and Wenonah neighborhoods.

Businesses seeking to update their branding, website, marketing, or looking to attract more customers can apply for a Marketing Matching Grant of up to $2,000 for their project. This grant matches $1 for every $2 spent by the participant.

Two or more Nokomis East businesses that seek to engage in a short or long-term marketing or public engagement partnership can apply for up to $5,000 in matching funds through the Nokomis East Business Partnership Grant program.

Contact Program and Communication Manager Lauren Hazenson at or go to for more information.

Meet your neighbors and shape the future of the neighborhood in just a few hours. NENA needs outreach volunteers to gather community ideas for the Community Snapshot. The Community Snapshot is a chance for Nokomis East residents to work together to identify the future needs, opportunities, and assets in our community.

As an outreach volunteer you will:
• attend Nokomis East community events,
• meet residents, and
• gather community input

Interested? Want to learn more? Contact Tyra Payer at or 612-724-5652.

NENA loan programs
NENA is now offering two home improvement loan programs. Homes in the Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park and Wenonah neighborhoods are eligible. Loan applications are processed on a first-come-first-served basis.

Owners of one to four unit residences can apply for home improvement loans of up to $15,000 to make improvements to their properties. Owner-occupants and investors may apply. The interest rate is either 3.5% or 4.5% depending on income. No income restriction applies.

A limited amount of Emergency Repair Loan funds are available for emergency repairs. Only owner-occupied households are eligible. Income restrictions apply. The maximum loan amount is $7,500. The loan is 0% interest, and there are no monthly payments. The loan is due in total on the sale of the property or transfer of title.

For more information or to request an application for either loan program, call the Center for Energy and Environment at 612-335-5884, or visit the CEE website.

Sign up for NENA News
Your Guide to News, Events, and Resources! 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 in your neighborhood.

Comments Off on NENA News: Night Before New Year’s Eve planned Dec. 30

Above average rainfall, saturated soils and aging infrastructure cause sinkholes

Posted on 20 November 2017 by calvin

The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) received inquiries in late October from visitors and neighbors of Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park about waterlogged parkland and the appearance of sinkholes and settled grounds along streets and in parks.

High precipitation levels over the past two years have resulted in lush grass, beautiful summer gardens, and saturated ground. 2016 was officially the wettest year on record for the Twin Cities, and this year, we are already 4 inches above the average yearly precipitation. By Oct. 3, 2017, the Twin Cities had already exceeded the average rainfall for all of October.
These past wetter-than-normal years have resulted in high lake, river and creek levels, and also mean that groundwater levels and water tables are high.

Ground saturation and mowing
For many years the City of Minneapolis has collaborated with the MPRB to locate stormwater ponds on MPRB property. Since the surrounding soil can no longer absorb additional moisture, many of these ponds are flowing over into nearby parkland. In some areas around Lake Nokomis, parkland near the ponds was too saturated to mow, and the grass grew longer.

Stormwater pipes/sinkholes
During rain events, ground runoff enters underground stormwater pipes. During periods of heavy or extended rainfall, the extra water flow can cause weakened areas of the aging stormwater pipes to fail.

This failure causes water to seep into the ground, where it moves through the spaces and cracks between the soil toward lower elevations. The water may eventually pool, cause soil erosion and result in a sinkhole. The movement of groundwater means that the sinkhole may not appear near the failed pipe. It may be located several feet, yards-or even blocks–away.

The City of Minneapolis is working on a plan to systemically look at their stormwater management system. City officials are aware that there are parts of the system that are undersized. However, putting in larger pipes is very expensive and letting water infiltrate into the ground at various locations is much cheaper. The amount of water that can be infiltrated reasonably is something that needs to be determined.

Settling, not sinkholes
In some areas around Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park, parkland is “settling.” The soft, very porous, peat-like material ground that comprises much of the area slowly compresses over time, and patches of compressed soil may “settle” slightly lower than the surrounding ground. These areas are not caused by broken or weakened stormwater pipes and are not sinkholes.

The City of Minneapolis and the MPRB have identified a lack of groundwater monitoring devices in this area. While groundwater models are helpful, monitoring devices are key to understanding the variability of groundwater. MPRB and City staff have identified potential locations of these additional devices, including locations within parkland around Lake Nokomis. Installation was scheduled for the area. Finally, the groundwater pumping and flooding issues at Hiawatha Golf Course are not connected to the ground saturation and sinkholes at Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park. Although both share the same soft soil and are affected by high water, Lake Hiawatha does not empty into Lake Nokomis, so Hiawatha does not impact Nokomis.

Comments Off on Above average rainfall, saturated soils and aging infrastructure cause sinkholes

Hi-Lake Intersection has a tough summer

Posted on 26 October 2017 by calvin

The intersection confounds motorists, pedestrians, and bikers alike. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

This summer saw a significant rise in activity underneath the overpass at Hiawatha Ave. and East Lake St.

According to an update from Hennepin County Health and Human Services, a group of 5-25 people began occupying both sides of the road early in the summer. The group was predominantly Native American and was known to include both older drinkers and younger opioid users.

Most of the members had cycled through detox and substance use services, as well as the criminal justice system. Some had housing and gathered under the bridge to socialize. Others had housing in the past but were unable to sustain it. Homelessness was one of many issues facing this group, but not necessarily the main one.

The encampment, as it was called, has been abandoned since Tues., Oct. 3. On that night, 26-year-old Daquan Thompson was fatally stabbed on a corner near the encampment site. His assailant has been apprehended and charged with 2nd-degree murder in Hennepin County District Court.

Following Thompson’s murder, the Minnesota Department of Transportation put up “No Trespassing” signs on both sides of the underpass, despite the fact that approximately 2,500 pedestrians and bicyclists pass through daily. Trespassers all, technically speaking (photo right by Margie O’Loughlin).

The Hi-Lake Intersection brings a sad combination of physical infrastructure and social service problems to the neighborhood. Heidi Johnson McAllister, executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood Association, said, “I don’t think you can fix one without fixing the other. We should be looking at addressing the physical space and the social issues together.”

The infamous intersection was built in the 1990’s with the primary objective of moving motorized traffic. Some 34,000 cars and 350 buses travel through in eight different directions daily. The hoped-for outcome of improving the intersection will be to continue to move cars and buses, but to make it possible for bikers and walkers to travel safely too.

Humanize Hi-Lake is a group made up of residents who’ve been pushing for change at the intersection for years. Following an in-depth study released in 2016, both Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis are committed to making improvements there. McAllister said, “We are now entering into the phase of community engagement, with meetings beginning in November.”

Contact Vanessa Haight, community development manager at the Corcoran Neighborhood Association, with questions about upcoming meetings of Humanize Hi-Lake. She can be reached at Meeting dates will also be posted and the Facebook pages of CNO and Humanize Hi Lake.

Other community partners involved in the effort to bring about change include Our Streets and the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Minneapolis City Council Representative Alondra Cano (Ward 9) and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin will also be involved.


What happens to groups of homeless people who congregate in visible places for a time, and then disappear? The encampment of mostly Native Americans at the Hi-Lake Intersection has disappeared, following a murder there on Oct. 3.

The American Indian Development Council has been able to secure funding from the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County to open a housing facility for Native Americans with substance use issues. It will be a “low barrier” facility, meaning that residents can be admitted whether or not they are sober. The South Minneapolis facility will have up to 18 beds, be culturally specific to Native Americans, and will open in November.

The opening of this facility is an important piece of the conversation around humanizing Hi-Lake: finding a place where people who need help can go.

Heidi Johnson McAllister, Corcoran Neighborhood Association executive director, said, “Improvement of the Hi-Lake Intersection, to me, means that the underlying social issues are addressed as well as the physical problems of infrastructure.”

Comments Off on Hi-Lake Intersection has a tough summer

Vibrante invites shared living for women over 55 in East Nokomis

Posted on 25 October 2017 by calvin

Roxanne Cornell recently launched a one-of-a-kind living experience for women aged 55+ in the Wenonah neighborhood of East Nokomis. Called Vibrante, the handsome, two-story brick home she purchased and renovated overlooks Lake Nokomis at 5455 Woodlawn Blvd. Her goal is to have four like-minded women living there within the next six months, enjoying the company and support of one another in this private, home environment.

“The idea for Vibrante has been a long time coming,” Cornell said. “It started with my 35+ year career as a social worker; I became very skilled at connecting people to services.”

Photo left: Roxanne Cornell, Vibrante president, concierge, and visionary, said, “In this country right now, we have about 40,000,000 people who are over 65 years old. That number is expected to double by 2030. There’s a hole in the housing market for small-scale, shared housing. I believe it’s imperative that we look at new models for aging and living well.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“In the last four years,” she continued, “I was employed by a law firm specializing in working with older clients around issues of long-term care, estate planning, power of attorney, etc. I got to see firsthand that the options for living arrangements as people aged were very limited.”

Cornell is a proud member of the Baby Boomer Generation, and said, “Since the 1960’s, we’ve changed the way everything works in our country. We’re not going to go out quietly.’

She believes that the paradigm for retirement has shifted. Many boomers can’t afford to retire, and many others may choose not to—or at least may be retiring later. Wherever the future members of Vibrante are in the course of their lives, Cornell envisions a shared living community where they won’t have to grow old alone, staying vibrant, healthy, and engaged with life.

Cornell lives just a few blocks away with her spouse, in a house she has occupied for more than 20 years. She plans to be actively engaged in the life of Vibrante as its concierge, helping members with everything from choosing a health care clinic to buying theater tickets. The cost for concierge service will be included in the $200 monthly membership fee.

Renovation of the Vibrante home was done by local White Crane Construction. All of the shared spaces are comfortably and stylishly furnished. There are three private bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms on the second floor, and one on the lower level. Rents range from $1,975/month to $3,175/month (plus membership fee). Amenities of the home include a gas fireplace, backyard patio, built-in secure lower level storage, a spacious, state-of-the-art-kitchen and, everywhere you look, peaceful views of the lake and neighborhood.

Cornell explained, “Outwardly, I see myself as a social entrepreneur, but inside I’m still a social worker right down to my soul. Vibrante is so much bigger than me; it’s about changing the narrative of how we age. I could afford to renovate this house because of an inheritance left to me by my father. My vision is simply to create a space that can hold four spicy, older, independent women—one that offers them the right balance of shared space and privacy so that they can continue to live happy, full, and satisfying lives. I have no interest in turning this into a corporate enterprise through franchising.”

An informational open house is scheduled for Thur., Dec. 7 from 4-7pm. Call Roxanne Cornell at 612-816-6940 or email her at with any questions.

Comments Off on Vibrante invites shared living for women over 55 in East Nokomis

Park Board ready to update Longfellow playground

Posted on 25 October 2017 by calvin

Commissioner encourages residents to visit other parks and ‘shop’ around for what they want at Longfellow

Retiring Park Commissioner Scott Vreeland is looking forward to what Longfellow Park will look like next year after the playground is redone.

Planning for the playground began this year and construction will take place in 2018.
“I’m hoping to have my nine grandkids on it next summer,” said Vreeland, whose term is up this year.

Photo right: The first official open house for the Longfellow playground project was held on Oct. 14. The next ones are slated for Nov. 8 and Dec. 6. Kids are encouraged to give their input on the playground design along with their grown-ups. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Vreeland is not the only one thrilled to see the aging equipment replaced.

“The neighborhood is very excited to start the process of discussing what the new playground could be,” pointed out playground designer Chris DesRoches. “We are still in the early stages of the community engagement process. But, through events at National Night Out and the Longfellow Corn Roast, neighbors have shown interest in increasing the accessibility of the playground equipment, providing opportunities for all age children, and connecting the design of the equipment to the unique features of the Longfellow neighborhood.”

The first official open house for the project was held Oct. 14. The next ones are slated for Nov. 8 and Dec. 6. Subscribe to the project email list via the project webpage to get announcements for community meetings and to stay informed about the project.

Grown-ups and kids are encouraged to attend the open houses and share their thoughts on what they like.

Shop for stuff from other parks
Improvements have been made to several nearby parks in the past few years, including Minnehaha, Lake Nokomis, Triangle Park, Powderhorn, and Matthews.

There are lots of choices for playground equipment these days. “I hope folks do some shopping for stuff they like,” Vreeland stated.

Those who like the old wooden park structures may want to check out what was installed on the west side of Powderhorn. The new equipment is built of locust wood that is good for 50 years. “It has got a nice feel to it,” observed Vreeland.

“There are many cool things with adult and kid stuff that work together,” added Vreeland, including toddler swings attached to an adult swing. Other cities have been installing equipment that enables adults to exercise while watching their children at play.

Plus, Minneapolis has begun experimenting with nature play areas and hybrids that allow kids to play differently and work together.

“Each park has its own kind of character,” stated Vreeland. “It’ll be interesting to see how that influences the design.”

Photo left: The first official open house for the Longfellow playground project was held on Oct. 14. The next ones are slated for Nov. 8 and Dec. 6. Kids are encouraged to give their input on the playground design along with their grown-ups. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Playground dates to 1980s
The current playground equipment at Longfellow Park was installed in the last 1980s and has reached the end of its lifespan, according to park board staff. The components and wood structure are significantly worn and beginning to fail due to age. Some items have been removed over the past few years as they were broken or had safety issues. Because of the age, the parts could not be replaced.

Additionally, the equipment is also out of compliance with current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ASTM guidelines.

“I really tried to get this done sooner, but it didn’t happen,” remarked Vreeland. “I’m happy it is finally happening.”


Comments Off on Park Board ready to update Longfellow playground

Hiawatha Academies building new high school in Longfellow

Posted on 25 October 2017 by calvin

Series of community information meetings, intended to keep neighborhood informed about issues, continue

The historic Shasta Building, which has stood at the corner of 36th Ave. and 28th St. since 1946, has been partially demolished to make way for Hiawatha Academies’ new high school.

Slated to open in Fall 2018, the high school will initially serve 400 scholars (students) and is expected to grow to a full capacity of 788 scholars and 84 staff over the next four years. About 40% of the original building, including the curved brick and glass entryway, will be incorporated into the new design.

Photo right: About 60% of the old building is being torn down. The back side of the property will have a regulation-sized soccer field and a parking lot with space for 112 cars for a Hiawatha Academies school. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Hiawatha Academies is a network of K-12 college preparatory charter schools located in South Minneapolis. Their mission is to empower all scholars with the knowledge, character, and leadership skills to graduate from college and serve the common good.

With the creation of the new high school, Hiawatha Academies will achieve their strategic goal of serving 2,400 K-12 scholars in five schools across the city – or about 5% of Minneapolis’ school-aged population.

Like all Minnesota charter schools, Hiawatha Academies are tuition-free, independent public schools that are open to all students. Charter schools receive less per capita funding from the state of Minnesota than traditional public schools, and the way they finance operations raises some eyebrows.

Additional business partners supporting the creation of this new school include Sunrise Banks, Chase Bank, Propel Nonprofits (formerly Non-Profit Assistance Fund) Partners for the Common Good, Anchor Bank, and the Charter School Development Corporation. Members of the Minnesota Business Partnership are also significant contributors. The partnership includes Polaris, Excel Energy, Hubbard Broadcasting, and Dorsey & Whitney LLP. This method of funding charter schools with private investment is a part of what angers their detractors.

Estimates are that Hiawatha Academies will spend $27 million in renovations and new construction. Amenities will accommodate a full range of high school and community programming with 36 classrooms, a lecture hall, media and science labs, music, dance and art rooms, administrative offices, a gymnasium, stage, student/community commons space, service kitchen, food court/cafeteria, and soccer field.

A community meeting was held on Oct. 17 at the Church of St. Albert the Great to discuss neighborhood concerns. To date, Hiawatha Academies has held three community engagement sessions in the Longfellow neighborhood during 2017. These meetings are ongoing.

Three additional meetings have been hosted by the Longfellow Community Council; two by the Seward Community Group; two by the Midtown Greenway Coalition; and one by the Minneapolis Planning Commission.

Photo left: The iconic facade of the original Shasta Building will be integrated into the design of Hiawatha Collegiate High School being built at 3530 E. 28th St. in Longfellow. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Residents living near the construction site said that while these meetings have been helpful, they believe they should have been informed about the purchase of the Shasta Building by Hiawatha Academies before the sale was final.

Approximately 35 people attended the Oct. 17 meeting. Co-facilitated by Sean Elder, Hiawatha Chief Operating Officer, and Anne Thompson, a concerned neighbor, the meeting provided construction updates and addressed residents’ concerns—which were numerous.

In response to questions, Elder noted:
• In keeping with the City of Minneapolis Noise Ordinance, there will be no construction noise outside of 7am-6pm.
• All stormwater will be managed on-site.
• No school buses will be used to transport students. Approximately 80 students will be dropped off and picked up by their parents each day. The rest will bike or use public transportation.
• The interior design of the school is such that the spaces can be made available to the public during non-school hours, possibly as a community ed site, among other things.
• Chemical products are not used on the lawns at any of the Hiawatha schools.
• The athletic field lights will be on no later than 10pm on nights when there are home soccer games. The lights will be LED and directional, to minimize the spread of light in the neighborhood.
• The fate of the 400+ foot well on the property is yet to be de­ter­mined. The well contains high- quality drinking water. Neigh­bors may have a chance to be involved in the decision-making process.
• The pouring of the concrete foundation and backfilling will be completed by Thanksgiving.
• Toward the end of the 90-minute meeting, a resident expressed concern about the segregating nature of charter schools, how they are funded, and their impact on existing traditional public schools. Several people in the room shared her opinion. Thompson suggested that this should be discussed carefully at the next meeting.

Contact Sean Elder, Chief Operating Officer, at 612-251-3139 or with questions about the new high school. Check the Longfellow Community Council, Seward Neighborhood Group, or Hiawatha Academies websites for notice of future community sessions.

Comments Off on Hiawatha Academies building new high school in Longfellow

St. Paul Ballet

All Energy

Chanhassen Dinner Theatre