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10th Monarch Festival delights with art, music, and butterflies

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

As instructed, hands are still to allow this newly emerged and tagged monarch to take flight. It is one of about 75 butterfly releases from the U of MN Monarch Lab during the festival.

Article and all photos by JILL BOOGREN
An estimated 10,000 people came to Lake Nokomis under gloriously sunny skies for the Monarch Festival-Festival de la Monarca on Sept. 8. In its tenth year, the event celebrates the monarch butterfly’s 2,300-mile migration from Minnesota to Mexico through music, art, food, and dance.

With support from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Metro Regional Arts Council, ten different artists offered hands-on art-making opportunities.

Tents were abuzz with people painting, folding, gluing and pressing materials into monarch and caterpillar figures. Prints directed by Sol y Luna Gallery and Sarah Nassif hung on clothespins to dry, as did monarch-painted orange wings from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre (HOBT) and freshly-pasted piñatas from Yolanda Martinez. Kids showed off their felted caterpillars and hand puppets.

Photo right: Enjoying elote grilled corn are (left to right): Mani Subramani, the twins Prema and Vasantha, and Vidya Subramani. At the back is Vaishnavi Subramaniam. From Edina, this was their first time at the festival.

Visitors came from all over the metro area, some “frequent flyers” of the festival, others there for the first time.

“It’s awesome,” said Shannon Johnson, of New Hope, who was there with her family for the first time. “There are so many activities for kids.” Accompanying Johnson was her husband, Derek, and kids, Daphne, Felix and Simon, whose faces she painted with colorful monarchs.

Photo left: Adriana Foreman (at right) and Dillon Sebastian of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre paint large butterfly wings and lay them out to dry on the tennis courts.

Monarch wings, many of them homemade and painted on cardboard or canvas, were a prominent feature of the costume parade, which made its procession to the stage where the Folwell Performing Arts Magnet Mariachi Band was performing De Colores and other favorites.

Photo right: Tennyson Meyers checks out a monarch in the butterfly tent at U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s conservation station.

According to Stacy Aldrich, who teaches orchestra at the school, the band is comprised of 7th and 8th graders (at Folwell students begin learning string instruments in third grade). Some alumni joined them for the festival.

Music and dancing continued throughout the day. The masks, feathers, and capes worn by the Chinelos San Pablo Apóstol delighted their early morning audience, many of whom danced alongside the costumed performers. Later on, dancers with Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca dazzled the large crowd.

Photo left: Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca wow the crowd with traditional folk dancing.

As always, there were opportunities to learn about monarchs. Tours of the Nokomis Naturescape Garden, a monarch waystation, offered a glimpse of the native plants that benefit monarchs.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW) and MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge hosted the Monarch Butterfly Migration Art Shanty that was on Lake Harriet last winter. Layne Warner, of the Wildlife Refuge, presented inside the shanty as listeners colored and cut small pictures of monarchs to pin to a tree.

Photo right: At Sol y Luna Gallery people make prints that read in English and Spanish: (im)migration is natural – (in)migración es natural

“Sometimes so many monarchs are on a branch [where they overwinter in Michoacán, Mexico] it will fall off,” Warner said.

The University of MN Monarch Lab education tent showed visitors the life cycle of butterflies. With small groups gathered outside, they tagged and released about 75 butterflies throughout the day.

Photo left: Lennox White, 17 months old, enjoys her first monarch festival by dancing with the Chinelos San Pablo Apóstol.

While monarchs reigned supreme, other pollinators were featured too. Kids scrambled across the field in a monarchs-versus bees soccer matchup, and the USFW had a station for people to fill and color their own seed packets to benefit the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.

“The Twin Cities is one of a few places the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is found,” said Tam Smith of USFW.

Visitors also bought monarch-friendly native plants and ate elote (grilled corn traditionally served with chili-spiced mayo) and treats from a dozen different food trucks.

Photo right: Kaylee McDonald of St. Bonifacius paints a monarch wing during her first trip to the festival.

The event was hosted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in partnership with Nokomis East Neighborhood Association.








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Fong family closes Dragon City Cafe after 42 years on Lake St.

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

The Dragon City Cafe closed its doors for the last time on Fri., Sept. 14. Even at 2pm on the last day, every table was taken, and customers waited in line at the cash register to get their take-out orders, and to say goodbye.

Located at the SE corner of 43rd Ave. and E. Lake St. since 1975, the cafe had the feeling of not having changed much in all that time. Owner Donna Fong was still in the kitchen, supervising four generations of family members. As she has done for 42 years, Fong’s daughter Joanie Quan greeted every customer—seeming to know each one’s name and favorite dish on the menu.

Photo right: Owner Donna Fong with one of the dozens of fresh bouquets brought in by customers. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Longtime customer Linda Maloney stopped in with her family. “When my sons were young,” she said,”we used to come here several times a week. To tell you the truth, I’d sometimes take a little money from my (now) ex-husband’s change jar if it looked like we might be short. This place was an integral part of my children’s childhood.”

Charles Reimler, seated inches away at the next table, added, “It was the friendliness that kept me coming back. Joanie remembered my stepson’s food allergies every time and would go out of her way to make his favorite meal. It always reminded me of the television show ‘Cheers,’ except without the beer.”

Owner Donna Fong and her husband Daniel came to Minnesota from China and made Minneapolis their home. They cooked at the venerable Nankin Restaurant (then the only Chinese restaurant in town) from 1969–1977.

Photo right: Joanie Quan, center, was one of Donna Fong’s two children who worked full-time in the restaurant since it opened 42 years ago. Now a grandmother of seven, Quan said, “Our customers have been part of our family.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Grandson Bill Quan said, “Many of my aunts and uncles met each other at the Nankin, got married, and then worked for my grandparents when they opened Dragon City Cafe. My grandparents had eight children; their kids, grandkids, and even some of the great grandkids have all been part of the family business. My grandma and grandpa put their heart and soul into this place.”

In a competitive industry, the Dragon City Cafe seemed to break most of the rules for what makes a restaurant last. They kept a small, modest dining area, probably didn’t change the menu that often, had no website and, according to grandson Bill Quan, “never really did any advertising.” But customers loved coming there, and most came very regularly. As evidence of their loyalty, bouquets, pots of flowers, and handwritten notes were piled on every flat surface, and many customers dabbed at their eyes with paper napkins.

Son Richard Fong said, “My parents loved what they did every day here, and it showed.”




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Carter boys place at National Junior Championships Road Race

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Nick Carter crosses the finish line to win at the 2018 National Junior Men’s Championships. (Photo provided)

Fourteen-year-old Jack Carter has joined his brother Nick, 16, in scoring as a championship bicycle rider. Nick recently took first place in National Junior Men’s Championships in his age division, and Jack came in second in his age bracket. The boys were competing in road bike racing at Hagerstown, MD.

They also are on the mountain bike team at South High School, where Jack is a ninth grader, and Nick is in 11th grade. But the sport of cyclocross has them crossing the Midwest every fall to participate in multiple races.

“In cyclocross, you’re on a road bike with wider tires that are shaped a bit differently and have knobs on them,” Nick explained. “The races usually consist of a one-to-two-mile lap, about an hour long. The actual rides depend on how the course is designed.”
He said cyclocross races usually have at least two obstacles that often require the rider to get off his bike, carry it through the obstacle and then jump back on and continue riding.

“Some riders try to find ways to ride their bikes through the barriers, and that makes it more of a spectator sport,” Nick added.

He said cyclocross demands a combination of strength and technical ability. “All the courses are different, and some play well to people who are really strong. Others are suited to people who can ride well.”

The boys come to cycling naturally. Their dad, Doug, has been biking for years and introduced his sons to cyclocross. A state engineer for Minnesota Department of Transportation, he attends all the competitions with them and rides in the master division in many of their races.

Their mom, Katie, a biology teacher at Roosevelt, said she is more of a casual bike rider, cycling around the neighborhood. “For our family, cycling is a big thing,” she said. “But the boys have chosen the sport on their own. Every year we ask them if they want to try soccer or another sport, but they always want to do the cycling.”

“They get zero pressure from us; they do it all themselves,” she noted.

Photo right: (L to R) Jack Carter, coach Sherry Townsend, Nick Carter, and coach Charlie Townsend. Nick came in first in his age division, and Jack came in second in his division. (Photo provided)

For Nick, the cyclocross has provided a series of goals, always working towards advanced levels of cycling. His wins in national championships have led him to be invited two times to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. “They invite people to what they call Identity Camps,” said Katy. “They identify people who are ready to race at the next level.”

Although mountain biking and road racing are among Olympic sports, cyclocross has not yet been included. “Because it’s a fall sport, one of the questions is whether to place it in the winter or summer Olympics,” Nick said.

“Nick’s next goal is to get to the World Cyclocross in Europe,” noted Katie. She said she thinks Jack does as well as he does by competing with Nick. “They compete in everything they do,” she laughed.

Not so, according to Jack. “Often my older brother is ahead, and it gives me a point to strive toward. I try and catch up with him rather than compete with him.”

Jack said the biggest challenge for him in racing is holding on to the other people in the race. “I should be staying with the pack, instead of just charging in there. That is the hardest for me,” he noted.‘

Jack said a lot of cycling can lead to crashes, but he has never crashed on pavement. “Cyclocross is mostly on dirt and grass, so that’s not so bad. Road cycling is on pavement. I tend to play it more safe than dangerous,” he added.

“We both do multiple types of cycling,” Jack said. “Our championships in July were in road biking, where aerodynamics is important. Each type of cycling has its season,” he continued. “Road biking has ended, and now cyclocross starts. We will be traveling around the Midwest to compete.”

Locally, there are cyclocross races every Wednesday night in the Battle Creek area. “The big season races start in a couple of weeks at Waterloo WI,” Nick said. “The best riders from all over the world will come to Wisconsin, then on to Iowa City.”

Nick said the sport has grown tremendously. “When I started at 9, there were maybe four juniors in races. Now, the junior fields have 70-80 riders,” he said.

For Nick, the atmosphere at the races is his favorite part. “People come to watch, and everybody has a good time, cheering everyone on.”

Jack said he likes the fast speed of the road races the most. “I like just being in the race and enjoying it,” he said.
Nick has been invited to join an elite team out of Kansas, the Kansas City Cyclocross (KCCX), But he still hopes to maintain a balance between school, home, and biking.

“Some kids our age will do online school so they can focus on biking,” Jack said. “Our parents want us not to do that because it can lead to burnout. My dad enjoys cycling today as much as when he was a kid; he didn’t burn out. So we are taking a lighter pace.”



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Local photographer wins $50,000 Distinguished Artist Award

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Wing Young Huie was recently recognized for his body of work with a $50,000 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, the first photographer to ever be a recipient. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Wing Young Huie also releasing a new book, “Chinese-ness: The Meaning of Identity and the Nature of Belonging”

Minneapolis photographer Wing Young Huie has spent his 30-year career going out in the world, getting people’s stories and taking their photos. “And I’m always juggling projects,” he added in a recent interview in his studio, The Third Place, at 3730 Chicago Ave.

“This is my office more than a retail art gallery,” Huie explained. He has his photos on display, some windows along the back wall and a Ping-Pong table in the front.

“I’m a self-employed artist with no staff, so I am open at irregular hours or by appointment,” Huie said. “We do have events here, and I play Ping-Pong every once in a while. It’s a lot of fun.”

Huie is renowned for his photos of strangers, often holding a chalk-board with a word or phrase describing their innermost thoughts. He has had these photos of everyday people displayed along Lake St. in Minneapolis and University Ave. in St. Paul.

His photos have been displayed on billboards and walls, as well as on 4×6 photo paper.

He was recently recognized for his body of work with a $50,000 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, the first photographer to ever be a recipient. “You have to be nominated for it, so it’s kind of like a career achievement award,” Huie noted.

Huie will be releasing his latest project a book called “Chinese-ness: The Meaning of Identity and the Nature of Belonging,” on Oct. 30 at a book launch party at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

“It was really eight years ago that I conceived of this idea,” Huie said. He is the youngest of six children, and the only one in his family to be born in the United States. He had never been to China until he was invited there in 2010 by Arts Midwest, an arts organization that works with an international artists’ exchange program.

“They collaborated with the US embassy in China and brought me over and put together an exhibition from my different projects that toured through 12 cities in China,” Huie said.

“Being there for the first time, it made me wonder what if? What if my family had never left China? It made me look at all the ‘what ifs’ in my life, and so I decided to start this project ‘Chinese-ness.’”

He said that since 2010 he has made four trips to China and photographed people there, as well as people in the Twin Cities, Worthington, and other towns in Minnesota and other states, collecting a perspective on the definition of “Chinese-ness.”

“My idea was that you don’t have to be Chinese to experience Chinese-ness,” he concluded. “Many of the photos are of ethnic Chinese, but not all of them. I really look at identity through the filter of Chinese-ness.”

Huie said part of this book (his seventh) is memoirist. “I write about my experiences and collect other people’s experiences. In one way it also describes how my Chinese-ness collides with my Minnesota-ness and my American-ness.”

Huie calls this book his most personal of all his books, and also the one with the most writing. “One-third of it is text,” he said, “most of it written by me. I conducted conversations with people telling me their stories, to accompany their photographs.”

He added that another difference in this book is that he photographs men in China that he could have been. For example, he writes about a photographer and his wife who have a studio in China. “Had my parents not left China, I could have ended up being him,” he said.

“I also carried the idea a little farther,” Huie stated. “After photographing a Chinese man, I asked to wear his clothes. Then he photographed me. So the two photos are side by side, and I would write how I could have been him. I did that maybe a dozen times, in the book.”

As part of the “Chinese-ness” project, Huie also worked with the Minnesota History Theatre regarding a play about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first time the United States targeted a big country of people coming here. The act banned all immigration of Chinese laborers. “The play was about immigration, and I photographed the descendants of people who came over as paper sons and paper daughters. That is also in the book,” Huie said.

Paper sons and daughters were defined as Chinese people who were born in China and came to the United States by purchasing fraudulent papers stating they were blood kin to Chinese Americans who had citizenship in the United States.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act definitely speaks to what is happening right now,” Huie said.

While gathering information for “Chinese-ness,” Huie also completed a project in 2017 called “What Do You See?” working with White Bear high school students and in conjunction with the White Bear Center for the Arts. Through a variety of mediums, he showed the students his process for interacting with strangers. “You photograph them, get interviews with them or pieces of their stories,” he said.

“They photographed each other, did chalk talks.“ He said that students in a pottery class made two different cups that represented different aspects of who they are. In some cases, the students made drawings, two different portraits that showed their fellow students shifting identity.

He sometimes gave an assignment to a class to just go out in the hallway and talk to someone they had never talked to before, and come back with a story. For the chalk talk, Huie would ask the students some questions. They would write a statement on a chalkboard.

“Questions are a way to start a conversation,” Huie said. “I had them pair up with a fellow student who they did not know. I provided the questions, which were very open-ended, such as ‘Who are you? How do other people see you? What advice would you give to a stranger?’ After we have this conversation, we write something on a chalkboard that reveals something about ourselves.”

Huie said he told them they could write whatever they wanted as long as it was real. It could not be their favorite saying, something they had heard in a movie, read in a book or heard in a song.

The students completed this assignment by ultimately writing something on black construction paper, then photographing each other.

There was an installation of the photos in the hallways of the two branches of the high school, and an exhibition at the White Bear Center for the Arts. The Center for the Arts also created a book of the photographs and reflections of the students.

“Basically, I just went out and showed them what I do,” Huie said.



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Eighty-five apartments may replace former Bridgeman’s

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Former Bridgeman’s, recently Somtaste Restaurant, may be razed for a proposed six-story apartment building

The former Bridgeman’s near Minnehaha Park could soon be razed and replaced with a six-story apartment building.
Developers believe that there are many people interested in living this close to a regional park.

“We really like its location and the proximity to the regional park and falls,” said Reuter Walton Development developer Kyle Brasser.

The 85-unit, 65,000-square-foot structure at 4757 Hiawatha Ave. would offer studio (500 square feet), one-bedroom (about 650 square feet) and two-bedroom (about 1000 square feet) apartments. Rents are expected to range from $1000-2,000.

It will also have an exercise room, common area and bike center on the main level.

Photo right: The proposed 85-unit structure at 4757 Hiawatha Ave. would offer studio (500 square feet), one-bedroom (about 650 square feet) and two-bedroom (about 1000 square feet) apartments. Rents are expected to range from $1000-$2,000. (Graphic submitted)

This apartment building would be located next to the commercial buildings along Hiawatha Ave. and Nawadaha Boulevard, and provide more housing density. It is not being built in the middle of a block of single-family homes, Brasser pointed out. It will be just south of the strip mall that houses Pet Supplies Plus, Anytime Fitness and Dreamers Vault, among other businesses.

Reuter Walton decided not to include commercial 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 added.

Reuter Walton has built about 20 ground-up developments within Minneapolis. Several are located in the Uptown, University of Minnesota and Downtown areas. This will be the company’s first development in the Longfellow neighborhood. Currently, Reuter Walton is constructing an apartment building in the Mac Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul at Snelling and St. Clair.
It would take about one year to construct the 4757 Hiawatha Ave. building. Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2019.

Parking tops the list of concerns
The Reuter Walton proposal was presented to the Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee (NDTC) in September.

They received positive feedback regarding the need for apartment housing in the area and were told there is an appetite for mixed housing in this corridor, according to Brasser.

Photo left: The former Bridgeman’s Restaurant at 4757 Hiawatha Ave. was most recently home to Somtaste restaurant. Reuter Walton proposes to raze the existing structure to construct a 6-story apartment building. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The majority of comments were about parking.

Reuter Walton is planning to provide 59 indoor parking stalls on the main level and a sub-level lot for the 85-unit building. “For city planners, that’s an acceptable ratio,” said Brasser, “but there’s concern from residents that it isn’t adequate parking.”

Because of these concerns, developers are exploring ways to provide more parking on site.

Given the proximity to the light rail station at 46th St., developers expect apartment dwellers to use public transit. But they acknowledge, “we’re still a far cry from people relying on that as their main source of transportation,” said Brasser.

He believes this is a broader issue that the city needs to address for the area.

For the buildings they have constructed within Minneapolis, Reuter Walton typically has a .7-.85 ratio, or 70 stalls per 100 units. The 4757 Hiawatha building is on the low end of that ratio, which is part of why they’re hoping to add more parking stalls.

At the NDTC meeting, residents also questioned traffic flow to this site, which is currently accessed by the Nawadaha frontage road that follows Hiawatha and then turns east to connect with Minnehaha Ave.

The roadways around the area are expected to change in the future, as the plan is to extend Snelling south of 46th.

This development will be on the agenda for the Longfellow Community Council meeting on Tues., Oct. 9 (6-9pm), and in front of the city planning commission in November.

Other new apartment buildings in the area include:
• a 4-story, 37-unit building at 4737 Minnehaha Ave. (at the current Greg’s Auto) by The Lander Group
• a 4-story, 55-unit building at 4553/4561 Minnehaha Ave. by Hayes Harlow Development, Left Lane Corporation, and Twin Cities Home Rental
• a 5-story, 80-unit efficiency building at Hiawatha and 45th by RS Eden (Amber Apartments)
• a 5-story, 148-unit, mixed-use building that will house Cub Foods at 46th and Hiawatha by Oppidan
• two 5-story buildings at Snelling Yards, 3601 E. 44th St., by Lupe Development Wall Cos. and Ecumen with 130 units of workforce affordable housing and 121 units of senior housing





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‘Extremely affordable’ housing project planned at 45th and Hiawatha

Posted on 28 August 2018 by calvin

Amber Apartments to provide a step between homelessness and citizens who give back to their communities

An “extremely affordable” housing project in Longfellow will bridge the gap for people who are working but still don’t make enough to afford a standard rent payment.

Amber Apartments is being built by RS Eden, a niche player in the development world that provides affordable housing with support services, explained President and RS Eden CEO Dan Cain.

“The expectation is for people to move from a level of dysfunction to function,” said Cain.

The company manages or owns nine buildings in the Twin Cities, totaling 550 units, that help people get off the streets and into stable housing. The company began with just three staff members and now has 180 employees. In each building, there are also services aimed at dealing with problems that contributed to homelessness, including addiction, mental health issues, lack of education, and more.

Photo right: RS Eden Chief Financial Advisor Paul Puerzer (left) and President and CEO Dan Cain hold up an illustration of Amber Apartments, an 80-unit building that will provide extremely affordable housing along Hiawatha and 45th Ave. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The goal of the Amber Apartments in Longfellow is to provide efficiency, single-occupancy units at about $600 a month.

“We’re not giving people a handout, but a hand up,” explained Cain. “They have to do the work, but we provide the opportunity.”

Low barrier housing
RS Eden employees envision filling Amber Apartments with tenants who are working but don’t make enough to afford market-rate housing—even what’s labeled as “affordable.” Maybe they’re working at a couple of part-time jobs. Or, they work next door at Walgreens or Cub as a cashier earning minimum wage.

“This will allow them to continue in the process of working and being responsible citizens, and not have to spend 50% or more of what little income they have on rent,” stated Cain.

Residents at RS Eden apartments often can’t pass background checks and don’t have high credit scores. So RS Eden offers “low barrier housing.”

According to RS Eden Vice President of Supportive Housing Lois Mueller, “Many of the people we meet have histories that have resulted in multiple barriers to securing housing, making it easy for landlords to screen them out. RS Eden’s commitment is to ‘screen people in.’ We look for reasons to believe that a prospective tenant will make it, and become a good neighbor.”

RS Eden focuses on creating intentional communities in their buildings. “We look for people who have buy-in to a culture of pro-social values and beliefs,” explained Cain. “They may not have always been that, but now they want to contribute to the community and take responsibility for their own lives. There are any number of barriers that people have had to overcome to make that full leap from where they’re coming to where they’re going.”

He added, “It’s breaking the cycle.”

Photo right: Amber Apartments is being named after RS Eden President and CEO Dan Cain’s daughter as a legacy project to honor the 46 years he’s been with the organization. The majority of the $18 million cost of the project will be covered by various grants and low-income housing tax credits, but RS Eden needs to raise $700,000. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Right now there are some people who aren’t being served by the housing projects RS Eden already offers as they aren’t technically homeless because they’re staying with a mom or brother or friend. Amber Apartments will provide a place for those people, said Mueller.

When RS Eden opens a new building, they often find that police calls go up in the area. It’s not because there is more crime in the RS Eden building, but because the residents of the RS Eden building are calling in about the crime they see in the streets around their homes, observed Cain.

One of the first steps RS Eden took in getting this project off the ground was to visit with the Longfellow Community Council and garner support.

“We look for a neighborhood that will support the transition for people to become involved in their communities,” stated Cain.

It wasn’t until the LCC Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee approved the project that RS Eden purchased the property.

Five-story, 80 unit building
Amber Apartments will be located on the property that now houses the Bell Laboratory building, just north of Walgreens along Hiawatha Ave. and kitty-corner from the upcoming Snelling Yards housing development. It does not include the historic Flair Fountain structure.

The five-story, 53,950 square-foot building will sit on one acre. It will include 80 efficiency units that range from 418 to 518 square feet. A parking lot will have 40 spaces, or about a half space per unit, and there will be inside storage for bicycles. One-third of the property will be green space along what planners hope will soon be the Min Hi Line linear park.

The entrance to the building will be off 45th rather than Hiawatha.

The building will sit directly across from the 46th St. light rail station, and planners expect that most residents will not have a car. It was the proximity to a light rail station and A Line Bus Rapid Transit that drew RS Eden to this site.

“For low-wage workers, the expense of owning and operating a dependable car presents one more barrier to success, but not having a car means not having access to jobs, health care, and other necessary amenities,” remarked Mueller.

Photo left: RS Eden President and CEO Dan Cain hopes the city will consider constructing a pedestrian bridge near 45th and Hiawatha to serve residents, including high-density housing projects at Amber Apartments and the Snelling Yards site. Right now, people regularly cross Hiawatha near 45th instead of walking down to the crosswalk at 46th. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Donations needed
Amber Apartments is being named after Cain’s daughter as a legacy project to honor the 46 years he’s been with the organization.

The majority of the $18 million cost of the project will be covered by various grants and low-income housing tax credits, but RS Eden needs to raise $700,000. Donations can be made via the website at

Planners expect Amber Apartments to be fully funded by the end of 2019, and to start construction shortly after that. It will take 10-11 months to complete.

An affordable housing crisis
Minneapolis is in high need of affordable housing, according to Mueller, who pointed out that the city is in need of tens of thousands of affordable housing units according to a study by the Dougherty Financial Group. The definition of affordable housing is housing costs that are 30% of a person’s income. To afford rent payments of $700-$900 a person must make between $2,100-2,800.

Rental vacancies in the Twin Cities have dropped to 2.4 percent while the unemployment rate has dropped to 2.9 percent resulting in low rental vacancies and strong rent growth, according to the Dougherty study. Meanwhile, the compensation for private market workers in 2017 increased just 1.4 percent, making it difficult for low-income wage earners to find housing.

“There has been a lot of attention recently on the homeless encampment along Hiawatha Ave., but we’ve been facing a crisis in homelessness far before those tents went up—it just hasn’t been quite as visible,” remarked Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson. “The Amber Apartments proposal helps address this crisis by creating some units for homeless individuals and families, along with providing necessary support services, such as helping them get and keep jobs. It also creates additional units that help address the affordable housing crisis hitting many major cities, including ours, with runaway rents that push working families out and destabilize their lives.

“We need more development proposals like this and I am thankful to have RS Eden as a partner in these efforts.”


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Residents call for compromise at Hiawatha Golf Course

Posted on 28 August 2018 by calvin

On July 25, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners passed a resolution directing CAC members to reduce pumping at the golf course while also maintaining a minimum 9-hole course. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

After four years of disagreement, some are optimistic and others apprehensive about new Park Board direction

Neighborhood residents are being asked to compromise and come together over the Hiawatha Golf Course after four years of disagreement.

Standish resident and Hiawatha Golf Course Community Advisory Committee (CAC) member Sean Connaughty pointed out that compromise was achieved by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) commissioners during a 6-2 vote on July 25.

“Although it gives nobody everything they want, it meets the basic needs of all constituents including Lake Hiawatha. Homes will be protected, climate resiliency restored, pollution mitigated and the golf course preserved as a 9-hole course,” observed Connaughty.

“Picture an ecologically run 9-hole course, which maintains the key community asset of Hiawatha Golf Course in a reduced pumping scenario, honors the African American history and provides habitat and public access to spaces unusable for golf.

“I am just one person in this community and an appointee on the CAC, but I accept this compromise,” Connaughty said. “Let’s get excited about the near future. May the CAC move forward now with the business of the master-planning process.”

Photo right: Some wetland areas already exist on the golf course land, including this pond in the northwest corner. Under the reduced pumping scenario, lowland areas of the course will be flooded and unsuitable for golf. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Last year commissioners directed the CAC to begin a master planning process for the golf course property. Some CAC members felt that their official charge was not specific enough, and asked that the board, which had changed following the 2017 election, look at the issue again.

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners did that on July 25 and passed a resolution directing CAC members to reduce pumping at the golf course while also maintaining a minimum 9-hole course. Voting in favor were Commissioners Stephanie Musich, Meg Forney, Letrisha Vetaw, Jono Cowgill, Chris Meyer, Brad Bourn; voting against were Londel French and Kale Severson; AK Hassan was absent.

The golf course is currently pumping 242 million gallons of water each year in a circular fashion to keep water from flooding the course, which sits two feet below the lake, although it only has a permit through the Minnesota DNR for 36.5 million for irrigation. Commissioners directed CAC members to reduce pumping by 70% to 94 million gallons.

The revised compromise resolution was drafted by new At-Large Commissioner Vetaw, who resides in Southeast Minneapolis.

Some optimistic
According to District 5 Commissioner Musich, “I am optimistic that the public planning process utilized by the MPRB will be able to proceed in a productive way now that the new board has reaffirmed the decision made by the previous board.

“The adopted resolution respects the past while considering the future of this park land and the need to design an ecologically diverse landscape that reduces pumping while protecting nearby homes from groundwater intrusion, and is resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Musich pointed out that the property will continue to be operated as it is today until a master plan is adopted by the board and ready to be implemented. The park’s planning division estimates the process, including procuring funds, will take at least five years.

Ryan Seibold of Friends of Lake Hiawatha is pleased with the park board decision.

“I think it is wonderful that plans will prioritize cleaning up the water, adding more habitat for wildlife, and restoring ecosystems in our city and neighborhood,” said Seibold. “The decision to redesign this public space to be flood-resilient and ecologically-driven is the most sustainable decision the board could make. Protecting our water resources and dealing with climate change is important now and in the future. As a community member, I hope that the CAC as a whole will collaborate effectively with the park board on this positive direction forward.”

Some apprehensive
However, some community members remain apprehensive.

“As someone who lives in a former wetland area that has been developed for residential purposes and has personally experienced the cost of fluctuating groundwater levels, I am apprehensive to say that adding more water to an area, allowing it to go back to its natural state, is a good idea—especially, when you are now taking away a floodplain (Hiawatha Golf Course) that has historically protected the area,” stated CAC member Joan Soholt, who resides near Lake Nokomis.

“The concern that was expressed at the meeting is that we do not understand the hydrology in the neighborhood adequately to understand with high enough certainty to assure that pumping at the golf course will impact that water levels in the neighborhood,” pointed out Dana Lonn, an engineer who lives between Nokomis and Mother lakes and supports keeping the 18-hole golf course.

“There is a significant concern that reduced pumping will result in a further raising of the water table which put some homes at risk. Some of the park commissioners see the issue as a very narrow decision as whether we are pumping only to save the golf course. The decision may be that narrow. However, a number of the commissioners and many in the neighborhood see the decision to be much more complex than that,” said Lonn. “We are advocating for a more comprehensive study to understand the implications of reduced pumping at the golf course.”

Residents associated with the Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability group are asking for an unbiased study from United States Geological Society (USGS) to more fully understand the interrelated issues of water management in the area.

This issue is being evaluated by the Lake Nokomis Groundwater and Surface Water technical team, which is composed of representatives from the city, the park board, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

Lonn worked for Toro Company in Bloomington for 48 years and was connected to the golf industry. “The MPRB has not done their homework on the impact of a golf property,” Lonn maintained. “Properly managed golf is an environmental asset to the community. The view by many is that it is a toxic waste dump. That is just not true.”



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Program focuses on seniors at risk of isolation and loneliness

Posted on 27 August 2018 by calvin

It is nearly 5pm on a Monday, and Longfellow resident Jim Buskirk is anticipating a visitor. He is looking forward to conversation and a challenging game of tic, a card game similar to gin rummy.

Emily Wildberger has finished her work day as a project manager for Target Corporation. She is nearing the due date of her pregnancy and is tired and ready for a nap.

But all those feelings disappear as she looks forward to meeting her friend Jim, hoping that this evening she might actually win a card game with him.

Buskirk and Wildberger are part of a program initiated by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE), 1845 E. Lake St. The mission of the organization is to end social isolation and loneliness among older adults in the Twin Cities.

Photo right: Longfellow resident Jim Buskirk (left) is visited by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly volunteer Emily Wildberger every other week. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Although the program of visiting companions has always been a part of LBFE, a new project, Neighbor Connect, is starting now in the Longfellow neighborhood.

“Through Neighbor Connect, Longfellow community members will forge a path toward creating isolation-free blocks to ensure everyone, even those who live alone, are connected and feel a sense of belonging,” said LuAnne Speeter, communications director for LBFE.

Both Wildberger and Buskirk can attest to the benefits of connecting with each other. They began their visits last January.

“I found out about the program through the NextDoor app,” Wildberger said. She had started working as a companion in college, so it was something she knew she wanted to do and something she knew was needed in the neighborhood. A native of South Carolina, she moved to the area with her husband, who is Minnesotan that grew up in the Longfellow neighborhood.

“She just started coming every other Monday,” Buskirk said. The pair think Buskirk’s daughter Shelly, who lives in Atlanta, may have been the one who contacted LBFE to find a volunteer to visit her father.

“I have been in this house since 1964,” Buskirk noted. “I was in the army during the Korean War, and I was married for 35 years. That was wonderful.”

He attended Augsburg College, where he met his wife. They raised three children. Buskirk worked as a mailman, later being promoted into management. “I did that for 35 years, also,” he said.

Buskirk has a great love of sports, which he shares with Wildberger. She, in turn, has taught him about her dog and love of fantasy fiction. “Being a mailman, Jim did not like dogs very much,” she said.

Wildberger said she went through some training and received a little bit of information about Buskirk. “We went out for dinner a couple of times, at Carbone’s and Applebee’s,” she said, “so you could see if you liked me. And I guess you did.”

These days, with Wildberger’s advancing pregnancy, they usually meet at Jim’s house and play cards and visit.

“We don’t really have that much in common,” Wildberg said. “But that’s good because we can learn new things from each other. I am learning about baseball, basketball, and football. And Jim is an expert on TV shows.”

For his part, Jim has learned about her husband and the little pink house they share with her dog. And he has met her brother, Drew, who came over to play cards with them one day.

Forming these connections is what LBFE is all about. According to Speeter, the organization started in Paris in 1946 and was first in the United States in 1959. It opened in the Twin Cities in 1972.

As well as helping form friendships between elders and other community members, LBFE has a program called Friendship and Flowers, in which homebound residents receive visits and homemade cookies on a monthly basis.

“We have focused Neighbor Connect in the Longfellow area to try and get as many elders connected as possible,” Speeter said. “There are about 1400 elders over the age of 65 in the Longfellow community who live alone and are more at risk of isolation and loneliness.”

She said the program primarily works with elders who do not have a strong family connection nearby or a strong social network, but anyone who feels isolated can benefit.

“We get referrals from lots of different sources,” Speeter explained. “Sometimes from family who lives out of town, or from social services. Some people just call up and say they would like to have a friend.”

Speeter said Longfellow was chosen as a pilot project for Neighbor Connect because of the number of elders living in the community and also because some tools were already in place, such as organizations like the Longfellow Community Council and Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors. “We are partnering with them to focus on this neighborhood, and then replicate Neighbor Connect in other communities,” Speeter said.

“So many people are on social media these days, and you just don’t see them out in their yards and interacting with each other. We hope this program will bring greater excitement and greater awareness among community members.”

For Buskirk and Wildberger, the evidence of the success of the program is already in place.

“I play cards on Thursdays with a male friend, and every other Monday with Emily,” Buskirk said. “I really look forward to those days. The best thing out of the relationship is getting to know her and having a friendship.”

“The best thing is friendship,” Wildberger agreed. “Jim is a part of my community. People at work ask if I have won at cards. It’s fun, and we talk.”

“I don’t think the age difference is a barrier. I think it is nice for us to be this far apart in age. He has raised three children and has grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is nice to have someone who has experience with family life.”

For anyone in the Longfellow community interested in becoming a part of Neighbor Connect, contact Ann Fosco at or 612-746-0725.

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Dowling Community Garden celebrates 75th anniversary

Posted on 27 August 2018 by calvin

Photo above: Dowling Community Garden was started in 1943, as part of the Victory Garden movement. Home gardening was a way to support the troops in World War II. It freed up canned food to be shipped overseas. The garden today has 190 plots and about 250 gardeners. It’s one of only two remaining Victory Gardens in the country.


Dowling Community Garden celebrated its 75th anniversary on Aug. 18. The three-acre garden space is located on the grounds of Dowling Environmental School, at 46th Ave. and 39th St. S. Dowling gardeners live in Minneapolis and surrounding communities, are culturally diverse, of all ages and abilities, and come together to share their love of gardening.

Photo right: Jerry Foley (right) was the opening speaker. “Our garden is the granddaddy of the growing movement of community gardens,” he said. “We contribute about 4,000 lbs. of fresh, organic produce each year to food shelves and meal programs.” Pictured at left is State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, a neighborhood resident and longtime garden supporter.





Photo left: Dr. Lloyd Winfield (center) is principal of Dowling Elementary School. He said, “This garden is about community with a capital ‘C.’ We’ve been grateful for longstanding partnership between the garden and our school.”


Photo right: Activities included heirloom tomato tasting and a display of vegetables grown on-site. Dowling Community Garden is committed to organic growing. The low annual membership fee includes access to water, compost, and a variety of garden tools.


Photo left: The day of celebration included kids’ activities, a proclamation delivered by Rep. Jim Davnie from Governor Mark Dayton, and a speech by Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey.





Photo right: A dozen bakers contributed cupcakes for the birthday celebration.




Photo below: Gardener Terry Barnes in the pollinator plot she created as part of her volunteer service hours at the garden. Every gardener contributes four hours of service each summer.



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Local author earns national Pinckley Prize for debut novel

Posted on 27 August 2018 by calvin

Standish resident Marcie R. Rendon won the 2018 Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction for her debut novel “Murder on the Red River” (Cinco Puntos Press). Her book was also a finalist in the Western Writers of America 2018 Spur Awards in the Best Western Contemporary Novel category.

Photo right: Marcie R. Rendon (Photo by Rebecca McDonald)

On being recognized in two distinct genres, Rendon said simply: “Wow. Wow! I’m happy, you know?” An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation who has lived in the Twin Cities for more than 30 years, Rendon also notes what the awards aren’t: Native American.

“Often our work gets categorized into a Native American category, and neither of these awards is a Native American award.” Not that she wouldn’t also welcome that. But she’s glad her novel “moves outside of a certain box.”

The story follows Renee (“Cash”) Blackbear, a Native American woman entering adulthood after a traumatic childhood, and her longtime friend Sheriff Wheaton, as they work together to solve a murder that takes place along the Red River. More a refined character portrait than a bracing whodunnit, the story moves quietly and deliberately across the Red River Valley—in Minnesota and North Dakota, on and off the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Rendon paints a landscape both raw and familiar and sketches a protagonist to match. You can see the fields of wheat stubble and dirt caked on the soles of boots, smell the inside of the bar and hear the crack of pool balls on the break. Cash, in turn, is tough as nails, resourceful, edgy and funny.

She’s also a different character altogether than the one Rendon started writing about.

Rendon has been writing her whole life, deciding in 1990-91 to make her living as a writer doing “anything that pays.” This has included journalism, children’s books (she wrote “Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life”), plays, and poetry.

A fan of Stephen King, Rendon enjoys reading crime fiction. She started writing a couple of crime novels herself but shelved them and instead set about writing the story of a woman who writes poetry, goes to Nashville and writes country music.

But instead, in came Cash, this no-nonsense character who demanded her story be told.

“Cash appeared, and it was like ‘No, no no no, that’s not the story we’re doing,’” said Rendon. It was a struggle at first, but once she started writing it just flowed. “This was the story that was there to be told.”

Cash is a product of the foster care system, a part of her life the author presents as not something extraordinary, just blunt fact. In writing her story, Rendon didn’t set out to educate people (“I intended to write a murder mystery that anyone could enjoy”), but here it was: Cash’s experience, so commonplace for Native Americans but foreign to most Minnesotans.

“So many people don’t know this history of the taking of native children,” she said, referring to the government practice early last century of sending Native children away to boarding schools and then during the 1950s and ‘60s of adopting kids out to white families.

As described in her Author’s Note in the novel’s end pages, one in four Native children were taken from their families and placed in non-Indian homes or institutions (the percentages were higher on the White Earth and Red Lake reservations) before the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that welfare agencies work to place Indian children with their biological family first, or an extended family of the tribe.

“When you meet native people, everybody has a story about social workers and foster care,” said Rendon, who lived in the Red River Valley and White Earth area until she was 24 or 25 years old. “I was just writing a part of life… much in the same way that someone who grew up in the Bayou in Louisiana would write about it.”

Representation is important to Rendon. An avid reader when she was growing up, she could never find any books about Native American people like her. It was all Plains Indians and Edward S. Curtis photographs and cowboys and Indians.

“I wanted pictures and stories about who we are now,” said Rendon. “As an artist, writer, who does plays, poetry, now novels, I wanted other Native people to see themselves.”

Her children’s book “Powwow Summer” shows a contemporary family going to a contemporary powwow: people in cars, a mom in shorts putting her child in dance regalia, and going to the powwow.

“I want to be able to do that for us. I think it’s important not just for Native people but for everybody in this diverse world,” she said. “It’s hard to know the value of your existence when you have no picture of yourself. I want to be able to give people that, [the sense that] they do matter, they do exist, that their pictures and lives are just as important and valuable as anyone else’s.”

Rendon also gives voice to others through the Women’s Writing Project, a COMPAS program in which she and fellow writer/poet Diego Vázquez Jr. teach women in county jails to write. Participants write poetry and read it aloud to each other. Their work is published in a book, and the writers do spoken word reading to other women in jail. It builds confidence and gives them an opportunity to get up and say, “What I have to say is important.”

Rendon sees injustice within the criminal justice system, where for some of the women the only reason they’re in jail is that they haven’t been able to make bail. They’re in for minor offenses, but they don’t have bail money, so their children are either with family or in foster care. The writing becomes a positive outlet.

“Diego and myself, we’re using this writing so that women have some idea that there’s some other thing that they do, that art as itself—whether as writing or visual art or dance or creating videos, hair styling, sewing—all those things are healing,” said Rendon. “The more you can put your energy into creating, your brain doesn’t drift over into the noncreative things you can be doing with your time.”

You can hear more from Rendon as she joins other panelists at PEN America’s “BreakOut: Voices From the Inside” at the Weisman Art Museum on Sun., Sept. 9, 12-4pm. The program is free and open to the public.

Rendon is also bringing Cash and Wheaton back in a second crime book by the same publisher in April 2019.

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Hiawatha Academies

Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly