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Mary Hanson views show as conduit between experts and public

Posted on 24 January 2017 by calvin

Nation’s longest running, independently produced cable show producer calls South Minneapolis home

Standish-Ericsson resident and television producer Mary Hanson has been giving a voice to others for over 36 years.

“The Mary Hanson Show” is the longest running independently produced cable show in the United States. It has also been on public television since 1995.

The award-winning show focusing on health and social issues started on a whim.

At age 35, Hanson, a social work consultant attended training at the University of Minnesota. As the speaker ended and the lights went up, Hanson was dismayed to see that the brilliant speaker had an audience of about only 15 people. “I thought, ‘what a shame,’” recalled Hanson, now 73. “He should have had a packed house.”

Reatha_Mary_Photo_Tr#737443Photo left: Mary Hanson (right) interviews Reatha Clark King in August 2016 for an episode about “Race Relations.” Clark King grew up picking cotton. She earned her PhD and then worked as President of Metro State and V.P. at General Mills. She also was involved in research that was used with the space program, a popular topic right now due to the recently released movie, “Hidden Figures,” about other African American women who were a big part of the space program. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Walsh)

Mulling over the problem on her drive to work, Hanson passed by the KCHK-AM radio station she went past every day. “I didn’t think about it for one minute. I careened into the parking lot,” she remembered, walked in and asked to speak to the station manager.

He listened to her idea and then told her that he’d been looking for a way to connect with the community. She could do it–if she could find a sponsor.

Back at the nursing home where she worked, Hanson asked the administrator if he’d sponsor her radio show. He, too, had been wanting to do something for the community.

And just like that, Hanson had a show. Her next step was to buy a good tape recorder.

She’s always found it serendipitous that both of the men she talked to that day had been looking for a way to build community and give back.

Three good questions
Hanson’s show, first with the radio station and later with the fledgling cable companies, has always provided a forum for thoughtful, in-depth conversation.

She started with a five-minute show, learning that you can ask three good questions in that time frame. Soon her station manager gave her 10 minutes and kept upping it until she had a half hour show. She has found that for most topics, a half hour gives her enough time to go into depth on the issue. For those that need more, she breaks the topic up into a series, such as the 10-show series on understanding depression and suicide. Hanson pointed out that it is rare these days to get a news show that focuses on one topic for a half hour.

As a trained social worker, Hanson already knew how to ask families hard questions, so it came easily during the show. She has explored psychosocial topics such as blended families and anxiety, while branching out to medical concerns such as Alzheimer’s, infertility, and cancer treatments. Plus she features environmental topics and interviews local leaders.

From the start, she wasn’t afraid to call experts, authors, and other well-known people for interviews. They all said yes.

For her pilot cable show in 1980, Hanson scheduled Tom Wright, a marriage and family therapist, and professor, whom she had interviewed previously for her radio show, and picked a comfortable topic. That way Hanson knew that if she got too nervous and dropped the ball, Wright could carry it.

Dudley & M_Photo right: Mary Hanson (right) recently interviewed Dudley Riggs, the Founder of Brave New Workshop and man who helped launch the comedy careers of Al Franken, Jim Belushi and other. His new book, “Flying Funny: My Life Without a Net,” coming out in April will be the topic of a show this spring. (Photo submitted)

As time went on, she started spending more time on the Mary Hanson Show and less as a social worker. However, she still works one day a week as a social worker consultant at Catholic ElderCare, leading support groups and bringing in speakers for families—many of which she’s interviewed for the show.

Making a difference
One of the toughest parts of the job is finding underwriters and soliciting grants. Because she’s not on anyone’s staff, she is responsible for securing funding for her show. In addition to large companies such as Blue Cross and the Hennepin County Mental Health Association, individual donors help keep her show on the air.

“I’d rather be doing something that makes a difference than working a job where I could have a large salary,” stated Hanson.

K.Drummer_prep. for intervPhoto left: Over the years, Mary Hanson (right) has interviewed thousands of leaders and experts, including Kelly Drummer, the President and CEO of Tiwahe Foundation which preserves American Indian culture and supports American Indians with micro-grants. The Foundation office is located in south Minneapolis behind Savers. (Photo submitted)

The various awards and honors she’s received over the years have been a shot in the arm when she’s feeling on her own. One of the most special awards she received was the Hennepin County Mental Health Association’s C.A.R.E. award in 1985 for excellent educational work.

Hanson strives to present a range of topics that appeal to a variety of people, and she’s received comments from viewers that span Paul Wellstone’s public relations staff to the clerk at Super America.

Up next
For Mary, the hard part isn’t finding topics for the show…it’s narrowing them down.

“In Minneapolis and St. Paul, we have this great bunch of people. You could interview someone every day and not run out,” said Hanson.

The leadership interviews stretch her, as she feels that her strength is helping present complicated topics in a way that viewers can understand them. But she believes it is important to record the stories of leaders so they are part of the historical record. Of the 150 she’s interviewed, about 28 have died. “I’m so thankful I had the chance to get them on film,” said Hanson.

She’s working on how to package past shows together by theme to have available in libraries, schools, and history centers.

Work on translating the depression awareness series into Spanish is wrapping up. It will appear on cable and TPT in the United States and possibly Mexico. Hanson would like to do more on this topic, delving into the experience of teens and veterans with depression.

Hanson’s next mini-series will be on sex trafficking, a topic she’s working on with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Over the years, Hanson has observed some shifts on social and health issues. An interview she conducted with two men dying of AIDS in the 1980s is embedded in her memory. Back then it was a terminal condition. Today, the future is brighter.

But unfortunately, others are the same, such as child abuse and sexual abuse, and need more uncovering. Last fall, she interviewed Josie Johnson, a nationally known civil rights activist who was also the first African American woman on the Board of Regents at the U of M. When it comes to race relations, “she thinks things are actually worse now,” remarked Hanson.

Over the years, Hanson has interviewed thousands of people, including many who live near her 100-year-old South Minneapolis home, such as Lisa Larges, Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, and Jack Reuler, founder and Artistic Director of the Mixed Blood Theatre. Other South Minneapolis interviewees include: attorney Joanie Moberg; Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin; Kelly Drummer, Tiwahe Foundation; US Congressman Keith Ellison; DFL Minnesota Representative Frank Hornstein; former US Representative Martin Sabo (now deceased); Tina Feigal, author, parent educator; Cam and Paul Rogers, talking about raising a child with disabilities; Camille Hanson on “An American Artist Abroad”; Roosevelt High School students talking about “The Teen Years” with author, Gisela Konopka, PHD; and stay-at-home dads Steve Richards and Josh Moberg.

Purpose in life and work
Hanson is 73, but she doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. This is the work that gives her purpose.
“For me, the idea of being a conduit to bring the ideas, vision, knowledge and resources from the guests to the broader population has always motivated me,” remarked Hanson.

“There’s also the personal reward of working with people who are brilliant and dedicated to what they’re doing,” she added. It makes for an enriching experience for not just Hanson, but also her crew of volunteers.

With the 20 hours of research and preparation that she puts in, each show feels like taking a mini college course. “It’s an exciting benefit,” said Hanson.

The Mary Hanson show just completed its 20th season on TPT 2.2 and can be viewed on public television 26 to 30 weeks a year. It is on cable year round, appearing on Channel 6, the Metro Cable Network, which interconnects the 14 cable systems in the seven-county area, as well as the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN), and the Duluth/Superior cable system (PACT). Each show that she does is broadcast at least four times on public television and 17 times on cable. For schedules, browse

Upcoming shows
On the schedule for Mary Hanson this next year are:
• Betty McCollum, US Congresswoman, 4th district. This environmental advocate is underappreciated in the state, according to Hanson.
• Larry Long, South Minneapolis troubadour, singer, educator who has focused his music on social justice.
• Dudley Riggs, founder of Brave New Workshop, who has written a book about his experience growing up in the circus
• James Jordan, MD, Former Medical Director of the Hamm Psychiatric Clinic
• Alzheimers in the Community, which will run as a sequel to the TPT documentary on Alzheimers
More at

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When illness hit Blue Moon owner, neighborhood offered support

Posted on 24 January 2017 by calvin

Lisa Berg Blue Moon ownerBlue Moon coffee shop (3822 E. Lake St.) owner Lisa Berg (photo right) is almost done paying off her medical bills, thanks to neighborhood residents and friends who donated $20,000 through Go Fund Me.

“That was a godsend,” stated Berg. “It blew me away.”

After insurance, Berg was left with $40,000 in bills from her hospitalization and subsequent rehabilitation. “I’m a pretty low-income person, so it was a jolt,” admitted 58-year-old Berg. She dug into her life savings, but still came up short.

That’s where the Go Fund Me came in.

As she wrote on the fundraising page: “Your help will go directly to pay the bills. It means so much to me because although asking for help feels difficult, I have to.”

She had to relearn everything
Two winters ago, Berg was fighting what she thought was just a cold that hung on and on. “I just thought I had a bug,” recalled Berg, but she was so very tired. One day her sister and niece visited and could tell that things weren’t right. They called an ambulance.

At Regions, Berg was diagnosed with influenza that led to kidney failure. Following her hospital stay, she spent five weeks at Walker Methodist Health Center.

“I had to learn everything again,” said Berg. “How to walk. How to count change. Sitting up in bed. Dressing myself.”

She praises both the staff at Regions and Walker Methodist for their care and hopes to be able to get to Walker Methodist soon to thank staff personally, although she’s waiting until she doesn’t have to maneuver through the snow. “It was kinda hard—they really work you,” remarked Berg. “But the staff there is outstanding.” Her wonderful occupational therapist started crying when she took her first steps.

Berg left the rehabilitation facility in a walker and returned to her second-story apartment in St. Paul. It was six months before she could make it down the stairs. Each day she practiced stepping down one step and then up. Down and up. Then she added another. Then she could make it down five steps. Finally, she made it down all 17 steps and sat on a bench. To celebrate, she posted on Facebook. “I’m outside!” she wrote.

Through her recovery, Facebook has been a solid source of support. Berg has appreciated the encouragement over each small accomplishment. “Sometimes I’d just cry out of gratitude,” recalled Berg.

She hasn’t been able to make it into her coffee shop much, but when she does, it’s been wonderful. “It’s so nice to go in there and see people,” said Berg. “I just like being there.”

She doesn’t drink coffee at home but indulges in her favorite when she’s there: a little espresso in a dark roast topped with brown sugar cubes.

“Having been fortunate enough to be in good health my whole life, I’m working hard to view parts of the past year as a fleeting illness, a recuperation, and a strength-building exercise,” wrote Berg in a Go Fund Me update to supporters. “And, of course, sometimes I feel sad about it and tired of it. But the coolest things for me are the healing and the good care I experienced and the love of all of you.

Whether or not you are supporting me financially, you are all supporting me in your words and good thoughts.”

22 years as Blue Moon
Berg started working in the food industry when she was in graduate school earning a degree in chemical dependency. She began baking bread and croissants at night in the Gelte’s kosher bakery on Hennepin Ave. in 1984, and then transferred to a day position baking pastries and tortes. Eventually, she rose to manager. Her time at Gelte’s was life-changing, and Berg points to owner Dennis Gelte as a role model for how to run a business and manage staff.

“He taught me how to be gracious and kind and also mindful of the business at the same time,” said Berg.

She left in 1992 to help a friend at Cafe Weird and the offshoot, Weird Kitchen Catering, cooking simple but delicious vegetarian dishes.

Then Cindy Kangas approached her about opening a coffee shop off E. Lake St. in a building owned by John Kolstad. Cindy managed the construction while Berg focused on financing. They gutted the space to the exterior wall, tore down the suspended ceiling, and pushed out the back wall to add a bathroom.
The Blue Moon opened on Oct. 23, 1994. “It was quite an adventure,” said Berg. For several years, Kangas and Berg operated a second coffee shop on Franklin, but divided the business when Berg realized she didn’t like splitting her focus.

Berg has always strived to provide a quality coffee beverage that is consistent no matter who is making it. She does this in part to recognize that people pay a lot of money for their beverages. Plus, others spend their whole lives picking coffee beans and getting them to coffee shops like hers. “That’s a big deal,” said Berg. “So I want to be a good caretaker for their work.”

Gina Palandri was one of the first baristas at the Blue Moon. “Lisa has provided jobs for people (like myself), provided a great, safe space for all the community, supported other local businesses, and provided neighbors with coffee and lattes,” she remarked.

Berg has worked hard to create a space where everyone is welcome, including the LGBT community. She’s never wanted to be surrounded by people who agree with her all the time and finds the diversity stimulating.

Her staff has echoed the customer base and is an “eclectic bunch of people.”

They’ve pitched in to keep the place running during her illness. The coffee shop has continued to stay open 365 days a year, just like always. It wasn’t closed for even a day due to her illness because of the staff.
“I’m very fond of all of them,” said Berg. “I hope I convey to them my gratitude every day.”

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Longfellow resident finds challenge and fulfillment in puppets

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin


Paul PaintingFor his third career, Longfellow resident Paul Eide (photo right) has turned to puppet making. Specifically, he is creating the heads of puppets.

Creativity has been a part of his work ever since he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in education. He was involved with puppetry even back then, and he was hired to make two puppets for a public service announcement.

“This was a time when there was a lot of worry about nuclear war,” Eide recalled. “These public service announcements were designed to teach farmers how to protect their cows from nuclear fallout by stacking bales of straw around them. This was to protect the cows from Strontium 90. I doubt too many farmers were up watching TV at 1am when these PSAs ran.”

When that project was finished, a job became available in the film department. “I intended to stay there for a couple of years, and I stayed there for the next 35,” Eide said.

“We did 15-millimeter films, educational movies on all sorts of topics: the arts, medicine, and anthropology. It was a wonderful job. I realized looking back how lucky I was to have that job,” Eide added. He retired from that job in 2000. “That was the end of my first career,” he noted.

While still working at the U, he combined his interest in puppetry and writing and became editor of the Puppetry Journal, a quarterly magazine produced for Puppeteers of America, a national organization. “I did that for the next 15 years,” Eide said. “It was a one-man production thing. I did some of the writing, all of the layout and graphic design, for better or worse.” He said that over a year ago, he decided to turn it over to somebody a couple of generations younger. “By then, I was 76,” Eide reflected. “I enjoyed this too, but I didn’t want to keep somebody else from doing it, so I stepped aside.”

Eide was at loose ends last year. Even though editing the Puppetry Journal had been a part-time job, he said it consumed him all the time. “I was constantly tracking down people to write articles and planning the next two issues,” he said. So when he retired from it, he was used to putting in a lot of working hours.

Paul Eide PaintingPhoto left: “It is one of those things that you can think about when you wake up in the middle of the night,” said puppet-maker Paul Eide. “It has been very much fun, and a good use of my time.” (Photo by Terry Faust)

“Around that time, last winter, a very, very talented puppeteer in Toronto, Ronny Burkett, was making puppets,” Eide said. “Burkett is one of those talented people that makes you shake your fist at the heavens and say ‘Why did you give him all the talent?’”

Burkett looked like a movie star, had a great voice, built these puppets, and wrote award-winning plays that would sell out. “He would perform all by himself to great acclaim,” Eide added. “He’s a Facebook friend, and he started posting pictures of puppets he was making for shows.”

Eide said Burkett was undertaking making 100 hand puppets to hand out to his audience to use and return them. He would post pictures of a lot of the puppets as he was making them. And as a Facebook friend, Eide viewed these different puppets.

“I thought ‘What would that be like?’ It made me think of my old high school art teacher when she was instructing us in watercolors. She told us the first 100 are the hardest, which implied that by the time you made 100, you would know what you were doing. Or not.”

Oliver Mudge Drawing by Paul EidePhoto left: Paul Eide first sketches the puppet in front and side views to understand its individual “personality.” (Photo by Terry Faust)

“At that time I was looking at a project for post-retirement. What if I set out to make 100 puppets?” And so Eide began working on his third career.

He said that the head is the most important part of a puppet because that is where the personality lies. So that is the part he concentrated on.

“I had made puppets off and on, all my life, and they were good enough. But I would like to make puppets that were really good. So I started experimenting with methods and materials of all sorts.”

Eide said the kind of puppets he likes to make are rod puppets. “Hand puppets are controlled by the hands, and marionette puppets are controlled by strings. In between, there are rod puppets, which have a rod for the head and rods on hands. They don’t have legs, generally, but you can get quite a bit of expression out of rod puppets with sweeping gestures.”

Buster Paul's CatPhoto right: Buster the cat watches over the work in Paul Eide’s workshop. Eide gives every puppet a name to fit its personality. He created one that looks like his grandmother’s sister. One developed from a Sherlock Holmes story he was listening to on the Internet. (Photo by Terry Faust)

“Every puppet had to have a mouth that opened and closed,” Eide explained. “I tried various construction methods and materials to cover them with and finish them with. I am now on puppet number 12, so I am just embarking on this.”

He claimed the puppets he has made so far all have a defect or some inadequacy. “By the time I get to 30 or 40, I might be reasonably good at it,” he chuckled.’

Eide said a puppet is like a musical instrument and a puppeteer like a musician. “A puppet comes to life when you move it,” he noted. “The instrument a musician picks up has to not only sound good but has to be built, so there are no impediments.” He aspires to make a puppet that works as well in the hands of a puppeteer; that is so reliable and smooth it feels good to hold it and make it come to life.

“I am experimenting with different finishes with the puppets,” Eide said. “There are little things, like a mouth that doesn’t close as it should, that I have to master.” He gives every puppet a name to fit its personality. He created one that looks like his grandmother’s sister. One developed from a Sherlock Holmes story he was listening to on the Internet. “There was a character who was a slightly deaf bell-ringer, and I imagined what he might look like,” Eide said. He draws front and side views of every puppet, making sketches of them at different stages.

Paul PaintingPhoto left: Longfellow resident Paul Eide was looking for his “third career” when he was inspired by the work of Toronto puppet-maker Ronny Burkett. Eide has set a first goal of making 100 puppets. (Photo by Terry Faust)

He works on more than one at a time. He said the structure is wood. He uses installation foam that comes in 4×8 foot sheets, cutting up and shaping with electric wire. Paper clay is used to complete the head, which can be sanded smooth and painted.

He has a workshop in his basement where he creates the puppets. “I try to go there while the cat is still sleeping,” he joked. His cat, Buster, likes to supervise while Eide works.

“I am enjoying this a lot. It is one of those things that you can think about when you wake up in the middle of the night. It has been very much fun, and a good use of my time.”

Eide reflected that puppetry is growing and changing. “The kind of puppets people are using change over the decades,” he said. “You could have made a living building marionette shows and touring schools. Now the school funding has dried up. But puppetry is going as strong today as ever. The main difference between now and fifty years ago is that contemporary artists don’t feel constrained by traditional forms and formats and puppetry styles. They experiment with any and all methods of giving objects the illusion of life, intelligence, personality, emotion–-which is what puppetry is.”

“Today a puppet can be anything, and it can be made to move by strings or rods or multiple puppeteers standing behind it in full view, making it move,” Eide continued. “There are many young puppeteers who are doing very good and very adventurous work–-just look at our two permanent puppet theaters in the Twin Cities: Heart of the Beast and Open Eye Figure Theater.”
And puppetry is a long-lasting career. Eide said that puppeteers from the age of four who knew what they wanted to be are still practicing the art of puppetry in their 80s.

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Soup for You! is building community one bowl of soup at a time

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

soup-for-you-04Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Chef Judah Nataf creates two different and tantalizing vegetarian soups five days a week, all year long, at the Soup for You! Café. The café is located in the basement of Bethany Lutheran Church at 2511 E. Franklin Ave. A modest wooden sign marks access to the café on the west side of the church building.

soup-for-you-17Photo left: Former server Sarah Matanah (pictured right) said, “I liked working in the kitchen, but my job kind of got in the way. Now I just come back when I can. I feel happy when I’m here; I think it’s the combination of being in a community space and eating good food. There’s little money involved in anything that happens at Soup for You! and somehow that makes everyone feel happier too, more generous. It’s like zucchinis in the summer. The more you have, the more you want to give away.” Friend Pam Burrows is pictured left.

Nataf is a masterful soup maker who once spent a year living under the Franklin Ave. Bridge. He and his team of volunteers are clear that they aren’t running a soup kitchen—they’re offering a community meal. The two-hour lunch is served from 11am-1pm, Monday through Friday. It operates café-style with servers taking orders and delivering meals to each table with a smile.

The made-from-scratch soups feature organic ingredients and real cooking wizardry, the kind of food typically not available to people in search of a free meal. The recipes are determined by what ingredients there are to work with. In warm months, much of the produce is donated by local gardeners. Chef Judah usually arrives at 6:30am to start preparing the day’s meal.

soup-for-you-20Photo right: John Harkness put finishing touches on the day’s lentil-cranberry soup and said, “We serve about 70 bowls a day, around 1,000 bowls each month. We also sell quarts of soup at $9 per quart, or $7.50 with a punch card. The actual cost of making a bowl of organic soup is about $1.

The soups are so tasty that people that work or live in the neighborhood regularly come for lunch, generating revenue that can be used to cover the cost of meals for those who can’t afford to pay.

Diners pay whatever they feel is a fair price, whatever they’re able to, or nothing at all. The program’s goal is not to draw new members to the church, but to build community across ethnic, racial, educational, and economic lines. A hand printed sign outside the kitchen proudly states, “Over 20,000 bowls of soup served since Feb. 2, 2015,” which was opening day.

Long-time Bethany church member Brad Laudert said, “I’ve been part of this congregation since I was three years old. We’ve got the whole spectrum of customers down here sharing soup together—everyone from people experiencing homelessness to Augsburg College professors. There’s no separation.”

“This congregation has a long history of partnering with the community,” Laudert continued. “Soup for You! Is an extension of that. Our next project, building a shower and laundry facility for people experiencing homelessness, will be another extension. Thanks to a generous donor, the construction costs for that have already been paid. We’ll need volunteers to help build and paint, as well as donations of sweats for people to wear while their clothes are being laundered, towels, soap, and shampoo. In addition, we always accept donations for our clothing exchange. Cold weather items for men are especially needed.”

soup-for-you-15Photo right: Dannie Drinkwine Jr. said, “This place is about relationships. If you’re on the receiving end of services like having to stay in a shelter or receiving economic assistance, you can feel dehumanized. What Judah and all the others have created here is a beautiful food program where everybody is welcome.”

Laudert noted that “you don’t enter into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to help the whole world.’ You enter into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to help someone.’ Then that person helps another, and that person helps another, and before you know it, you’ve got something good going.”

Chef Judah said that “The Soup for You! Cafe would never have happened without Bethany Pastor Mike Matson’s help, enthusiasm and support. In many churches, establishing a cafe like this would have taken months of committee meetings and miles of red tape.”

To make a donation of money, clothing or time to the cafe contact Judah Nataf at 612-978-7974.

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East Lake Street White Castle restaurant closes after 60+ years

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The White Castle outlet at 36th Ave. and East Lake St. served its last slider at 6am on Sun., Dec, 10. The store has anchored the northeast corner there for more than six decades.

white-castle-closing-08According to district supervisor Marjorie Derolf, “Many of our team members and customers knew each other by name, but this was a corporate decision.” Though the property has been sold, Derolf declined to comment on who the new owners are.

White Castle has long been known for its signature small, square hamburgers called sliders. The restaurant chain was founded in Wichita, Kansas in the 1920’s. At the time, a slider cost only five cents. In 2014, Time Magazine named the slider, “the most influential hamburger of all time.”

White Castle developed its prefabricated architecture of white porcelain over steel exteriors, stainless steel interiors, and employees in bright, white uniforms to convey a sense of cleanliness. The chain of restaurants was America’s first foray into fast food.

white-castle-closing-01Photo left: Garrett Humphrey and Anna Loweth visited the familiar White Castle one last time.

According to their website, there are currently about over 420 White Castle outlets across the country. By comparison, there are more than 14,000 McDonalds restaurants in the US and thousands more around the world. The next closest White Castle outlet is at 100 W. Lake St.

Garrett Humphrey stopped in for one last meal on Saturday night with his wife, Anna Loweth. “ To tell you the truth,” Humphrey said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for White Castle. My Dad managed another outlet in South Minneapolis when he was a young man. My Mom turned up one day and applied for a job; he hired her, and they ended up getting married. I grew up on this food.”

Customers talked across tables on the last night, speculating on the future of the corner location. The unsubstantiated rumor was that a Canadian donut and coffee franchise called Tim Hortons would soon start construction.

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Wishing for a large grocery store on south side of Longfellow?

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Developers eyeing city-identified ‘town square retail site’ near 46th and Hiawatha for grocery store and apartments

Are you going out of the neighborhood to grocery shop? You’re not alone.

“Third-party grocery consultants estimate that 85% of the available food dollars leave the Longfellow neighborhood—resulting in more traffic and road miles traveled,” according to Drew Johnson of Oppidan Investment Company.

In fact, parts of south Minneapolis are classified as a food desert by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) because of low access to grocery stores.

grocery-store-img_5409snelling46thsmPhoto left: A grocery store and 140 to 160 apartments may be constructed at Snelling and E. 46th in 2017. The investment in phase one will be $38-$44 million. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Oppidan hopes to change that by building a new grocery store near the 46th and Hiawatha intersection.

Construction may begin soon.

“Despite grocery options along Lake St., across the river, or further west of Highway 55, a market analysis reveals the area as a ‘food desert,’ so having a grocery store there would serve the community well,” said Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson. “What will be important, though, is which particular grocer moves in. For it to be most beneficial to the community, I believe it has to offer something differentiated from what we already have nearby.”

grocery-store-urbandesignconcept5.7-acre site
Oppidan owns the 5.7-acre site with a 75,000-square-foot warehouse that Creative Kidstuff leases for its corporate office at 3939 E. 46th St. A landscaping company uses the southern portion of the site near the Dairy Queen and Nawadaha Blvd. The long, triangular-shaped parcel abuts a railroad track that is no longer used.

Illustration right: Oppidan’s plan for the site fits with the city’s transit-oriented development strategy for the area, which places a town square retail site at Snelling and 46th Ave. E.

Oppidan has been working on plans for a mixed-use project in the northern part of the site, with the grocery store fronting 46th St. Snelling Ave. will be extended south into the development and likely curve over to the area between Burger King and the mall.

“This store will bring grocery goods and services not currently offered in the trade area, and what consumers have come to expect in a grocery store: hot food bar with seating areas, grab and go options, large fresh bakery and large deli, floral, and organic offerings, as well as standard ‘center isle’ items,” said D. Johnson.

Early phase one concept plans show between 140 to 160 apartments, and around 50,000 square feet of retail, the majority for the grocery store. The investment in phase one will be $38-$44 million.
D. Johnson pointed out that the plan for the site fits with the city’s transit-oriented development strategy for the area, which places a town square retail site there.

Development challenges include barriers to development such as the high-voltage lattice towers, the cost of new public streets, and managing traffic on 46th and Hiawatha. Additionally, there will be environmental clean-up from some of the former uses at the site, including a coal/fuel company, a lumberyard, a gas station, and diesel storage.

Oppidan was drawn to the parcel because of its large size and location with great transit connections.
“Done right, this project will offer positive features to both new and existing residents/neighbors: additional housing options in a market that has an extremely low vacancy rate, multi-modal access to grocery, cleaning-up impacted soils from historical uses, treating stormwater before it leaves the site, and public trails and plaza areas connecting to other redevelopments in the area,” said D. Johnson.

“Despite being located across the street from Minnehaha Falls, a block from the 46th St. light rail station, and on a bus-rapid-transit line, the property today is mostly a giant asphalt lot… they even pile wood chips out back!” said council member Johnson. “I believe there are much better uses for such an excellent location.”

The sheer size of the property may be its biggest challenge. “This makes a strong vision and good urban design essential, as it is all too easy for most developers to pursue the biggest, easiest, and cheapest project possible to maximize profit and move on. I have seen firsthand Oppidan’s willingness thus far to focus on the details and make the redevelopment of this property a good fit for the neighborhood,” said A. Johnson. “They are also planning ahead for the future so that this site could be combined with others nearby to make a little village for shopping, living, and entertainment that’s integrated with green space and paths to the park and transit.”

When A. Johnson first saw the plan, he suggested some revisions to activate the public realm on 46th St. with commercial spaces and pedestrian-friendly features.

“They broke up the long and bulky building into two separate buildings, and they made some other tweaks to fit better with the site and neighborhood,” observed A. Johnson.

“Moving forward, the city will play a pretty big role in helping make any development of this site a success, as there are some public infrastructure changes to consider, such as extending Snelling Ave. and converting the abandoned railroad tracks into a connection with Minnehaha Park,” added council member Johnson.

Min Hi Line: a linear park
The Min Hi Line Coalition envisions a linear park traversing the space now unused by railroad tracks, of which the area within the grocery store development is the southernmost link to Minnehaha Park.

Since 2001, the city’s master planning guiding documents have also promoted the old rail right-of-way being turned into a linear park. A bike/walk trail in this area would create a protected connection between the Midtown Greenway and Minnehaha Pkwy, and complete the Longfellow Grand Rounds, as noted in the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan.

The Min Hi Line Coalition ( aims to incorporate park space with public art, trails, streets, historical markers and storm water management. Successful precedents from across the country, such as the Atlanta Beltline, New York High Line, and Minneapolis Midtown Greenway serve as models and guide the work.

Share your comments
The developer’s next step is to engage with community stakeholders.

Learn more on Tues., Jan. 3 at the Longfellow Community Council’s Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee meeting at the Longfellow Recreation Center (3435 36th Ave. S.), at 7:30 p.m.

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What would happen to Lake Hiawatha if dams in creek were removed?

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Park Board, City enter phase two of investigation and hope to find preferred solution to water issues at golf course

If the level of Lake Hiawatha were lowered, would that keep the golf course playable and stop water from entering nearby basements?


While dredging the lake wouldn’t help lower the level of the lake, planners are studying what would happen if the existing weirs at 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. were lowered and the creek dredged between the two. (A weir is a low dam built across a river or stream to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow.) The outlet of the lake would also need to be modified.

A plus side to a lower lake is that it would offer more flood storage in the area. When there is a large storm and the area around Lake Hiawatha floods, that’s flood storage, pointed out a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board FAQ on the issue. The bigger the area, the more flood storage there is. A lower lake level would not only provide more flood storage but also might lower flood elevations. The exact impact is not yet known because it hasn’t been studied.

Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adjusted its 100-year flood zone maps, affecting some properties in South Minneapolis. Nearly the entire golf course itself is within the FEMA 100-year floodplain. The level of the golf course could be raised by filling in the low areas.

steffani-ekatrina-michaePhoto right: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and city of Minneapolis are working closely on a solution to the water issues around Lake Hiawatha and the golf course. Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich (at left), Minneapolis Director of Surface Water and Sewers Katrina Kessler, and MPRB Assistant Superintendent of Planning Michael Schroeder answered questions together at the public meeting on Tues., Nov. 29, 2016. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

While that might reduce the need for pumping groundwater, it would also reduce the flood storage, which increases the chances of roads, buildings and houses flooding.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Assistant Superintendent of Planning Michael Schroeder stressed that neither the park board nor the city have the authority to make any alterations to Lake Hiawatha or Minnehaha Creek. Permits and approvals would be needed from regulatory agencies that include the Department of Natural Resources, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, FEMA, and the Army Corp of Engineers.

“This is a big problem, and this will take a big solution,” said Schroeder during a public meeting on Nov. 29.

Phase one: water being pumped in a big circle
During the first investigative phase, planners gathered data to understand the scope of the problem.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been evaluating what to do at the golf course since the large amount of pumping was discovered last fall while planners were working to restore the golf course with $100 million from FEMA.

jeanne-roxannePhoto left: Jeanne LaBore lives near the golf course. She commented that the planning so far seems predicated on the notion that a golf course will be maintained. She questioned the cost of that and suggested that remediation for the homes, such as the installation of sump pumps, might be cheaper. “What’s the best use of that land?” LaBore asked. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The volume of water being pumped from Hiawatha Golf Course is far greater than allowed by a permit issued by the DNR in 1993 for 36.5 million gallons.

The golf course is currently pumping 263 million gallons of groundwater annually, the amount of water used by a small town in a year, said Schroeder.

Of that, 105 million gallons a year are being pumped in a little circle, seeping from the ponds into Lake Hiawatha and back into the ponds. Of the rest, 17 percent is stormwater run-off, and 50 percent is shallow groundwater. Tests determining this were done from Dec. 31, 2015, to Jan. 4, 2016.

If pumping were to stop, most of the course would be underwater, and it would be shut down.

Planners also realized that turning off the pumps might flood 9-18 homes nearby in the area of 19th Ave. and 44th St. They began meeting with homeowners in June to better understand how deep their basements are and the water issues they face. They also question whether homes farther upstream might also be affected.

Update on investigations 29 March 2016Analysts estimate that some nearby basements are at an elevation of 811.3, which falls below the 812 elevation of the lake. The street is at an elevation of 816.3, while the ponds are at 808.6.

Illustration left: This graph shows the elevations of the land and water of Lake Hiawatha. The dark blue shows existing open water, while the light blue shows the area that falls below the 812.8 elevation of the lake, and would be under water if the pumping were to stop altogether. The white area shows the portion of the golf course that is at 813.8. (Photo submitted)

The elevation of nearby Lake Nokomis, which is separated from the creek, is 816. Planners acknowledge that anything done at Lake Hiawatha will affect Lake Nokomis, and plan to take that into account, as well.

Phase two: what’s next
MPRB is now ready to move on to phase two and pinpoint the best answer for the long-term future of the park land.

“We’re going to move through this process deliberately,” promised Schroeder.

He did stress that the property would remain parkland even if the golf course goes away.

MPRB is working closely with the city. “We know that the park board can’t solve this on our own. We’re going to find a solution together,” said Schroeder.

The solution will not just deal with the golf course, but also the trash flow and ecology of the creek.

“This is a very broad and complex issue, and we want to find a good answer to it,” said Schroeder.

Investigations will evaluate what will happen if the park board continues pumping, reduces pumping, or stops pumping.

“If we’re going to do this for another 100 years, we want someone to say it is good for 100 years,” said Schroeder.

Della Young of Young Environmental Consulting Group has been hired to provide expertise, and another technical consultant is expected to be hired.

A preferred scenario with a clear direction forward and costs will be identified by July 2017.

Jeanne LaBore lives near the golf course. She commented that the planning so far seems predicated on the notion that a golf course will be maintained. She questioned the cost of that and suggested that remediation for the homes, such as the installation of sump pumps, might be cheaper.

“What’s the best use of that land?” LaBore asked.

“We think it’s really important that before you get to that preferred concept, you address the ethics of trying to keep a wetland a golf course,” said resident Connie Peppin.

According to Schroeder, the next community meeting will be in March in order to get more input from residents.

How will the trash issue be solved?
The trash that flows directly into the lake without a filter from a stormwater pipe on the northwest side continues to remain an issue for residents. One attendee encouraged the city to put the stormwater somewhere else, not in the lake.

There are only so many options for stormwater, pointed out Minneapolis Director of Surface Water and Sewers Katrina Kessler. There are hundreds of storm drains in the city. “Ultimately, we are responsible to what is flowing off our properties,” she said. She urged residents to consider other alternatives to salt sidewalks this winter to keep that from entering the watershed.

Roxanne Stuhr remarked that much of the trash pulled out of Lake Hiawatha by volunteers has been styrofoam, and she suggested that the city ban these types of containers.
Another resident suggested that the city begin sweeping streets more frequently. Kessler responded,

“We are looking at that.” The parkways adjacent to lakes and creeks are already swept on a bi-weekly basis in the summer.

“This is a problem that takes many hands to solve,” said Kessler, who pointed out that they’re trying to attack it from multiple facets.

The Friends of Lake Hiawatha are encouraging residents to take part in the city’s Adopt-A-Drain program to keep trash from entering the lake. Volunteers commit to clearing leaves and trash from a drain regularly.

The city piloted a floating curtain in an attempt to catch trash entering the lake from the large storm drain last summer. The curtain netted only four pounds of trash. Compare that to the 2,400 pounds kept out of the city’s drains through the Adopt-A-Drain program, said Kessler.
Seventy residents have adopted over 120 drains in the Standish Erickson neighborhood, with 29 of those draining to Lake Hiawatha.

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Shop your community values on Small Business Sat., Nov. 26

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

Shop your values this holiday season and stay local on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26.
“Small Business Saturday supports the growth of our local economy and the individuals that are dedicated to making our neighborhoods thriving places to eat, shop, play, and live,” observed Theresa Swaney of the Lake Street Council.

moonpalacebooks_heiderdrichPhoto right: Heid E. Erdrich speaks to a crowd at Moon Palace Books on Oct. 12 during in celebration of Sun Yung Shin’s new book “Unbearable Splendor.” The first 25 customers at the book store on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, will receive copies of the Winter Catalog (with a coupon), a free downloadable audiobook copy of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and a free copy of “We Should All Be Feminists.” (Photo submitted)

She pointed out that in 2015, consumers spent over $16 billion on Small Business Saturday.

“While it is not necessarily a reject of big box stores entirely, Small Business Saturday represents a commitment to our neighborhoods and supporting local business owner’s passions,” said Swaney.

At Urban Forage Winery and Cider House (3016 E. Lake St.), the owners live and shop for supplies in the area. Bottles come from Fridley. Labels are printed in Minneapolis. The yeast and various winemaking supplies come from St. Paul.

theresaswaney_0e0d8b8Photo left: There are about 2,000 businesses along Lake St., and the majority are small businesses. “Lake St. is a great culturally diverse mix of businesses and has always been a start point for immigrants and minorities,” said Theresa Swaney of the Lake Street Council. “We have a large percentage of Latino, Somali, and women-owned businesses on Lake St.” (Photo submitted)

“People should shop locally first because we have a really good product!” said Urban Forage Winery and Cider House owner Jeff Zeitler, who opened the facility in December 2015. “There’s no reason to ship cider from England or New Hampshire or Oregon to have a really good quality cider. We make it right here! Minnesota produces wonderful apples, and our cider shows it.” He suggested giving their apricot cider or strong mead as a local, artisanal gift this holiday season, and keep money in the community.

What is Small Business Saturday?
First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday.

Nov. 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday, a day earmarked to celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.

More than 200 organizations have joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. Shop small and earn big with an enrolled American Express® card this holiday season. Through Dec. 31, cardholders will earn 2X rewards when they Shop Small.

Find qualifying American Express Card-accepting neighborhood merchants featured on the map at

Local small businesses also support important policies
hub_shagamaw_blue_detail_1Main Street Alliance is also encouraging people to patron the local shops, restaurants, and service providers that create local jobs and invest in their community.

Photo right: The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.) is partnering with The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ on a special demo ride on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26 from 3-7pm. It will feature fat/plus mountain bikes from Surly, Heller, Jamis, and Felt. (Photo submitted)

The Main Street Alliance works to lift up the voices of small business owners on important policy issues, many of which benefit the communities they serve. In Minnesota, the MSA is fighting for a common-sense, practical approach to earned sick and safe time as a new baseline standard.

“Offering paid sick time is a workplace practice that acknowledges and makes room for managing the sometimes unpredictable needs of other human beings. Paid sick time also helps create protection for employees whose managers may lack the skills, training, authority, or empathy to have created an environment where illness or emergency can be managed more collaboratively, and having a clear paid sick time policy provides people managers with a consistent starting point for initiating absenteeism-related conversations with employees in circumstances where such discussion is warranted,” remarked Julie Kearns, owner of Junket: Tossed and Found (4049 Minnehaha Ave.).

2,000 businesses in the Lake St. corridor
There are about 2,000 businesses along Lake St., and the majority are small businesses.
“Lake St. is a great culturally diverse mix of businesses and has always been a start point for immigrants and minorities,” said Swaney. “We have a large percentage of Latino, Somali, and women-owned businesses on Lake St.”

stringdingersPhoto left: The Stringdingers will be part of the Third Annual Minneapolis Rock Art Experience on Sat., Nov. 26 at The Hook and Ladder Theater (3010 Minnehaha Ave) from 4 to 9pm. The live music begins Live Music at 8pm. Also playing will be Luke Warm and the Cool Hands with Ryan Young (CD release party) and The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League. Arrive earlier to enjoy local artists and their creations for the music world that will be on display and for purchase. It’s Minnesota artists, Minnesota musicians, and Minnesota beer at a new Minnesota music venue. More details at (Photo submitted)

In the Lake St. corridor, many residents are entirely dependent upon the wide range of small businesses—by choice or by necessity. Because of this, pockets of commercial activity have sprung up to support this dependence, including the Downtown Longfellow area at the intersection of 27th Ave and Lake St.

“Not only can you eat, shop, and play but you can also buy your groceries, go to the library, mail your packages and get your clothes dry cleaned,” stated Swaney.

Small business owner Zeitler appreciates how progressive the community is, and how involved people are in their neighborhood.

“Longfellow and Seward have the feel of a small town,” observed Zeitler. “They’re more sophisticated that most small towns, but the neighborhoods are friendly and have a little bit of a Lake Wobegon feel. I also love being a part of the revival of Lake St. There were lots of vacant storefronts—we were one of them—a few years ago that are now thriving businesses.”

Variety of local gifts, events
What sorts of gifts can residents find along the Lake St. corridor? According to Swaney, check out:
• Home goods at Forage Modern Workshop (4023 E. Lake St.) and Corazon (4646 E. Lake St.)
• Pop culture items at Northern Sun (2916 E. Lake St.)
• Outdoor and sports gear at Repair Lair (3304 E. Lake) and The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Coffee related items at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Clothing and jewelry in Lyn-Lake
• Vintage items from the Minnehaha Mile, stores like Junket (4049 Minnehaha Ave.) and Time Bomb (4008 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Garden supplies at Minnehaha Nursery (4461 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Holiday shows at Hook & Ladder (3010 Minnehaha Ave.), Heart Of the Beast Theater and the Jungle Theater
• Norwegian gifts from Ingebretsen’s (1601 E. Lake St.)
At Moon Palace Books (3260 Minnehaha Ave.), the first 25 customers on Small Business Saturday will get a free downloadable audio book copy of Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and a free copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.”
The bookshop moved around the corner earlier this summer with the help of a volunteer book brigade that moved 10,000 books. “It took three hours and 60 volunteers, and is why we totally and completely love this neighborhood. So many good people willing to help,” said Moon Palace Books owner Angela Schwesnedl.
Next door, the Trylon microcinema (3258 Minnehaha Ave.) is holding a benefit for its 2017 expansion on Nov. 26. The Trylon has 50 rocker seats, a 20-foot screen and a pair of 35mm projectors that were donated by the University of Minnesota. During the benefit, thousands of used DVDs and Blu-ray discs, many sealed Criterion and rare UK discs (UK BR and DVDs will only play in an all-region player), will be for sale, beginning at 9am.
The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.) is partnering with The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ on a special demo ride featuring fat/plus mountain bikes from Surly, Heller, Jamis, and Felt. Meet at The Hub at 3pm, and ride from 4-7pm. Lights will be provided, and demos of the following models will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis: Surly Ice Cream Truck, Surly Karate Monkey 27.5+, Surly Krampus Felt DD10, Jamis Roughneck and Heller Shagamaw. All bikes are welcome.

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Simple and nature-based playground planned at Nokomis

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

Playground near community center will be redone next year and stand out as a unique park

nokomis-playground-designNeighborhood kids are excited by the plan to redo the playgrounds by the Nokomis Community Center next year.

Photo right: The new design for the playground near the Nokomis Community Center features “logs” for balancing on and “wood” stepping stones made from recycled plastic materials, “tree” poles for climbing, and raised hills. There’s a “birds nest” to play in on one of the three-to-four-foot high raised hills, and a taller structure on another. There will be one tall slide and two smaller ones, a climber, diggers, swings and Willow Thicket. (Photo submitted)

They had the chance to check things out during an open house at the Nokomis Community Center on Tue., Nov. 15.

“It’s really cool,” said nine-year-old Emersen Russell after looking over display boards. Her friend, Annika Clift, agreed, pointing to an image of the multi-user swing. “We love those things!” she said.
Ava Beckett, age 10, is excited to see “those spinning things that I love.”

“Everything looks fun,” stated Gemma Cudd, age 10.

Adults gave the plan a thumbs up, as well.

“I think it looks nice,” remarked longtime resident Scott Beckett.

img_5044chrisgemmaavasmPhoto left: Playground designer Chris Desroches (left) explains the new pieces of equipment that will be installed at the Nokomis playground to Gemma Cudd, age 10, and Ava Beckett, age 10 during an open house. Beckett is excited to see “those spinning things that I love.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“It looks like they’re sticking to the spirit of the outdoors and nature,” observed 16-year neighborhood resident Mike Russell. “It looks very interactive.”

After seeing the parks in many other cities while traveling for work, Russell said he really appreciates what Minneapolis has. “The city and nature really blend like no other city,” Russell said. “We have access to a lot of things to do outdoors.”

Additional comments on the plan will be accepted until Dec. 2 either in person at the Nokomis Community Center or online at

It will go the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for approval on Jan. 4, 2017.

Simple and nature-based
The new design for ages 2-8 has a similar feel as the parks at Wabun and Levine Triangle, but it isn’t meant to be like any others in the city.

“One of the goals is to have each playground be slightly different,” explained project manager Beth Pfeifer. “We want people to have different experiences at different parks.”

To get a feel for how residents use the current equipment, playground designer Chris Desroches observed it in person and then factored in resident comments before fashioning the new design. Comments were solicited earlier this year at three open houses and the Monarch Festival.

“People liked what was existing there and the style of it,” recalled Desroches. They expressed a desire for a simple and nature-based playground.

“This will be a unique space,” said Desroches.

The new design features “logs” for balancing on and “wood” stepping stones made from recycled plastic materials, “tree” poles for climbing, and raised hills. There’s a “birds nest” to play in on one of the three-to-four-foot high raised hills, and a taller structure on another.

“What we wanted to do was play off the nature play area, but not replicate it,” explained Desroches.
The hills will be well-suited for younger kids, who won’t be hurt if they end up rolling down them.
Residents asked for a high slide, so there’s one in the plan, as well as two other smaller ones. They wanted lots of swings, so the plan includes a row of six with another two baby swings on the other side.

People with older and younger kids commented that it is hard to maintain good visibility of all their kids with the current set-up. In recognition of that, a hill will be graded and benches installed that allow parents to view the entire playground area at a time.

Planners intend to tie the existing disconnected play structures into a single playground through the use of a long concrete border (that will double as a balance beam for children) and a single container filled with an ADA-compliant surface. The green portions are a material similar to that at Wabun, and the rest will be a virgin hardwood material made specifically so that a wheelchair can be rolled across it. Plus, it last longer than regular mulch.

Metal equipment to be reused
Some of the existing equipment looks like it is solid and still in good shape, pointed out some residents. Park workers agreed. Two galvanized steel slides, a climber, the chin-up and turning bars, and the diggers will be reused.

Because safety standards are different today than they were 50 years ago, not everything can be reused in the same way. The dolphin with teeth and a bowler hat can’t be used as is, but designers have a plan for it. The dolphin will be buried in the sand so that children can dig it up. Planners think this lends towards the desire by community residents to keep pieces that inspire creativity.

The Willow Thicket that has been at the Rose Garden temporarily will find a permanent home at Nokomis.

It will be surrounded by round concrete billers — sort of like the ones in the front of Target stores, explained Desroches. The bollards can be used many different ways. Children will be able to climb on them. Plus, they allow parents to engage with each other in a way that neither benches nor picnic tables do while also keeping a good eye on their children because they can lean on them and move around as needed. Other bollards will be placed around the concrete border to break it up.

Nature pop-up becomes pilot project
As part of the project, the pop-up nature play area on the south side that was added last spring will be made more permanent.

A natural play area wasn’t included in the Nokomis master plan, but since it was so well-loved, planners didn’t want to remove it, according to Pfeifer.

Instead, the pop-up will become a pilot project.

They’ve asked the forestry department to hold onto specific shapes and pieces next spring that will become key anchors in the natural play area.

The area will be closed for a short time to regarded and place the new wood pieces.

Work likely to take six weeks
Residents commented that they wanted to have a playground to use during the summer, particularly for use by the Rec Plus program that begins when school releases. Planners also recognize that having it under construction during the Monarch Festival would be bad timing.

The current plan is to wait until fall 2017 to begin work, but if there’s an early spring, the project will be done then instead.

Once work begins, it will take about six weeks to complete, depending on the weather.

The large playground structure for ages 5-12 that was recently replaced will remain. However, the existing sand will be replaced with an ADA-compliant surface. The hope is to complete that work first so that this part of the playground will still be usable while the rest is fenced off.
The $300,000 cost of the work is part of the MRPB’s 2015 Capital Improvement Plan and is funded with net debt bonds.

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Community policing, neighborhood safety, topics at LCC meeting

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

The Longfellow Community Council (LCC) convened a four-person panel of experts to address neighborhood safety concerns on Nov. 9.

The panelists were Shun Tillman, 3rd Precinct Community Crime Prevention Specialist; Alyssa Dotson, neighborhood block club leader; Andrew Johnson, Ward 12 councilperson; and Thomas Stiller, 3rd Precinct lieutenant. The event was moderated by LCC Board Member and East Lake librarian Anna Sheppard.

lcc-community-safety-meeting-08Photo left: The panelists for LCC’s Community Safety Meeting agreed that reducing crime in Minneapolis happens block by block—but it takes concerned citizens to get it going. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Before the panel discussion began, LCC’s program manager Ashleigh Walter presented the results of the recently completed community safety survey. One hundred and forty people responded and, overall, the survey indicated that people feel safe in their neighborhood, have faith in their police, and believe that police response times to emergencies are reasonable.

Respondents identified the area around Lake and Hiawatha as feeling the most uncomfortable: the underpass, the light rail station, and the nearby Hi-Lake shopping area all got poor marks for perceptions of safety. People responded overwhelmingly positively to participation in block clubs and related activities.

There has been a recent spurt of home and garage break-ins in Longfellow. What’s the best way to reduce crime on your block? Join an existing block club, or start one from scratch. “There are a lot of advantages to being involved with block clubs,” Dotson explained. “Everything from learning to work effectively with the 3rd Precinct police officers to getting assistance with neighborhood problems and issues. And, the best part, being known in your neighborhood and getting to know others.”

Block Club leader training is held nearly every month, with the exception of December. Contact to learn more or to register for the next training session.

On the subject of community policing, Stiller (a 22 year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department) said, “This is a very busy precinct, and public safety is our #1 priority. Regarding improving community relationships, we are adding more beats and more beat officers.”

Stiller explained that “a beat is a specific area, like 46th and Hiawatha, where the same officers regularly patrol on foot or bikes. The officers assigned to beats are there because they want to be there. Neighborhood residents and business owners get used to seeing them, which makes their relationships stronger.”

“Every Minneapolis Police officer now wears a body camera,” Johnson added.”This took almost four years to implement, and we believe strongly that this is good for the officers as well as the citizens.”
“I’ve pushing for an added layer of transparency for the last couple of years,” Johnson continued, “a quality assurance team that would randomly review footage from body cameras. The team would be made up of volunteers. We could identify officers who are underperforming, and those who are going above and beyond their duties. This kind of QA is standard practice in almost every industry.

Surprisingly, I’m not aware of any other cities that are utilizing it. I hope the idea will be up and running by 2018.”

Additionally, two types of training have been implemented for the Minneapolis Police Department to bridge the gap between officers and citizens.

The Implicit Bias Training helps officers learn to identify their personal biases. The training underscores that every person, no matter how well-intentioned, holds biases of which they are often unaware.

The Minneapolis Police Department is more than half way through its year-long Procedural Justice Training, in conjunction with the US Department of Justice. Procedural justice focuses on the way police interact with the public—and how those interactions shape the public’s views of the police, their willingness to obey the law, and actual crime rates.

Johnson concluded by saying, “We need to continue with these kinds of trainings, and we need to hire more police officers. Our force is overworked and understaffed. The mayor’s budget for 2017 asks for funding to hire 15 more officers. Despite my own healthy impatience, I feel that slowly things are getting better around the issue of community policing.”

For anyone interested in deepening their neighborhood involvement, consider joining LCC’s Community Connections Committee. It meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6pm at the Longfellow Recreation Center, 3435 36th Ave. S.

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