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Longfellow Girl Scout Troop 16566 learns ‘every voice matters’

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

Eleven Dowling Elementary fifth graders in Girl Scout Troop 16566 are concerned about safety on the streets around their school, and they went to city hall on Nov. 29 to ask the City Council to do something about it.

Nine of the 11 troop members also serve on the safety patrol at Dowling.

Photo right: Girl Scout spokesperson Hadley Dobish, age 10, asks city council members to consider street safety improvements around Dowling Elementary School, and all other schools in the city during a council budget hearing on Nov. 29. (Photo submitted)

“First of all, we would like to have 4-way stop signs at the intersection of E. 38th St. and Edmund Blvd., and at the intersection of Dowling St. and Edmund Blvd., and at the entrance to the school parking lot at Dowling St. and 48th Ave.,” said spokesperson Hadley Dobish, age 10, during the City Council budget hearing. “I do safety patrol on those corners, on different days, and I can tell you that cars go way too fast and careless through all these intersections.”

“Secondly, we propose to make Edmund Blvd. a one-way, southbound street, starting at Dowling St. until Folwell Dr.” Dobish continued during her two-minute speech. “All the school buses line up along Edmund Blvd., and the street is just too narrow to have traffic in both directions plus parents trying to drop kids off and cross in front of buses. And if someone is parked on the street, then two-way traffic is near impossible.

“We, as Girl Scouts and as safety patrol, agree that if we can get this short stretch of street, turned into a one-way street, it would be a great benefit to the whole community, to keep kids safe.”
The Girl Scouts didn’t stop there.

“Ideally, we hope the city can look at all intersections around schools in Minneapolis, and make sure that all schools have as many stop signs and safety considerations as possible,” said Dobish. “In this day of distracted driving with cell phones, we think it is necessary for these precautions to keep kids safe.

“Thank you for listening, and for helping us figure out how to make our ideas a reality and improve our city!”

The Girl Scouts were the first on the meeting agenda, because, as City Council President Barb Johnson, explained, she had been a Girl Scout and a troop leader.

“In my four years of listening to the public while considering the budget, these speakers really stood out; they clearly identified their concerns, brought forward potential solutions, and even had an accompanying illustration (a first!),” remarked Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson. “They tied their localized concerns (at Dowling school) to a broader ask for more city-wide attention to school safety. I could tell that the full City Council was just as impressed with them as I was.”

Photo left: Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson chats with members of Girl Scout Troop 16566 in the city hall chambers during a visit on Nov. 29. The Girl Scouts learned about the importance of citizen involvement in government. (Photo submitted)

The council ultimately passed a budget that included two new positions dedicated to improving pedestrian safety, and part of their work will be focused on schools. The ideas from the Girl Scout Troop were also duly noted and are being looked into, according to Johnson.

Girl Scout members include Dowling Elementary fifth-graders Dobish, Violet Mueller, Emilie Numrich, Maura Davis, Yossi Enestvedt, Suzi Priest, Soledad Serena, Khloe Albertson, Hazel Murphy, Abby May, and Giovanna Zanabria.

Dobish’s mom, Leah Drury, serves as co-leader of the troop that formed when the girls were in first grade. “Marian Wright Edelman’s quote, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’ has always resonated with me as a parent, and now as a Girl Scout troop leader,” observed Drury.

“I hope that by exposing the girls in the troop to even a small sliver of what happens in City Hall and in Minneapolis government,” Drury added, “it will contribute to their growing world view and leadership skills—and we will see strong female leaders emerge from this experience in the not-so-distant future!”

Striving towards highest honor
In addition to attending and speaking at the city council meeting, the Girl Scouts also toured city hall and had dinner with some of the females working behind the scenes to make things happen in city government.

Their excursion and work preparing for it earned them each an “Inside Government” badge. They are also striving to earn the Bronze award, one of the highest honors a Girl Scout Junior can earn. It requires working together as a group to identify a need in the community, and put in 20 hours of service to do something that will have a lasting impact.

“Our troop has been talking all fall about, ‘What can we do to help our city?’ And we decided to keep it local and connected to our school, since we spend so much time there!” explained Dobish, who met council member Johnson during a block part in her Ericsson neighborhood earlier this year. During that conversion, Johnson suggested that her Girl Scout troop visit city hall, and then helped arrange it, timing it with the city’s budget hearing.

Every voice matters
Troop 16566 is part of the Lake Nokomis/Stone Arch Service Unit in the River Valleys Girl Scout Council. This year, the national council has launched the G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leadership) experience. The focus is on four areas of leadership: STEM, Outdoor Skills, Entrepreneurship and Life Skills.

“Our troop is working towards being future leaders, and they were so honored to have the women leaders of our city take time to eat pizza with them,” remarked Co-Leader Karrie Mueller, who lives in Morris Park. “The girls also enjoyed hearing about our women leaders’ childhood ‘aha’ moments which propelled them into the leadership/civil service positions they hold today.”

Photo right: Members of Girl Scout Troop 16566 post outside Minneapolis City Hall after touring it, attending a reception with female department heads, and speaking during a city council budget hearing on Nov. 29. Girl Scout members include Dowling Elementary fifth-graders Hadley Dobish, Violet Mueller, Emilie Numrich, Maura Davis, Yossi Enestvedt, Suzi Priest, Soledad Serena, Khloe Albertson, Hazel Murphy, Abby May, and Giovanna Zanabria. Troop leaders are Leah Drury and Karrie Mueller. (Photo submitted)

The leaders the Girl Scouts met with included: Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant, Director of Public Works Robin Hutcheson, Deputy Director of Public Works/City Engineer Lisa Cerney, Regulatory Services Operations Director Kim Keller, Director of Civil Rights Velma Korbel, Director of Human Resources Patience Ferguson, and Deputy City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde.

“The girls learned about how they can make an impact on a local level, and that there are many people behind the scenes all working to make Minneapolis work and are continually working to improve the city. Meeting the women in charge of the departments of engineering, regulatory services, civil rights, and more, opened up their view of the ways to be involved,” stated Drury. “Seeing the hallways full of people waiting for their turn to speak to the council, and listening to some the speakers share their requests for the city budget, also made quite an impact about the importance of citizen involvement and how every voice matters.”

Johnson remarked, “As these girls grow up and choose career paths they are passionate about, I hope they consider public service—they can be the civil engineers, public health professionals, firefighters, animal care and control veterinarians, department leaders, and council members of tomorrow!”

He added, “The younger you are, the longer you’ll have to live with the decisions being made, so help make them!”


Highlights of Girl Scout Troop 16566’s visit to Minneapolis City Hall

Hadley Dobish
“I liked the huge statue called Mississippi and that it was good luck to rub his toe. I needed that good luck before I talked in a microphone in front of the City Council. I also learned that there are way more jobs involved in running the city than you think. I liked learning about animal control!”

Yossi Enestvedt
“There were a lot of women working there at the top, like the woman engineer who had worked there a long time, and it was cool to see a lot of women in the room who were in charge along with the men. It was an experience that was amazing to me, and I want to go back again!”

Maura Davis
“[The best part was] seeing some of the cool things such as the statues and the tiles engraved by people and the fake marble in the building. I also enjoyed going to the city council meeting and seeing the cool designs on the wall and listening to people speak. While we were eating pizza, I also enjoyed hearing important women talk to us about their jobs and getting to ask them questions.”

Soledad Serena
“Some of the highlights about visiting City Hall were: Learning about the jobs of the people who work at City Hall, visiting the library, and learning about some of the history of City Hall.”

Violet Mueller
“Got to meet some really cool people like the mayor-elect, but the most amazing was all the GIRL POWER that runs our city- yeah! The man of the Mississippi statue was pretty cool, too, and it turns out he has a lucky toe.”

Khloe Albertson
“The people that worked there were the best part because I like the job that they do. It seems like a really cool job.”

Emilie Numrich
“I really liked that I was able to see the whole City Hall and learn how it was built. It was exciting to have some of my friends speak to the City Council. I really liked meeting the new Mayor. Thank you to the City Council members for allowing us to do this. I am glad that my City Council Member Andrew Johnson was a nice as I thought he would be.”

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Snelling Yards development in preliminary stages; input sought

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

Snelling Yards is the name of a parcel of land between 44th and 45th streets, and Hiawatha and Snelling avenues. The City of Minneapolis has owned the land for more than 60 years, using it most recently as a storage facility.

According to Steve Minn, project principal with Lupe Development, his company along with partners Wall Construction and Ecumen (a non-profit that focuses on innovative housing for seniors) was awarded exclusive development rights for the property in August of this year.

Photo right: The Snelling Yards as they appear today on Snelling Ave. between 44th and 45th streets. If the two, five-story buildings that comprise the Snelling Yards Development are approved and constructed, they will be completed in 2020 at the earliest. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“We partnered with the Longfellow Community Council for a meeting in October that was minimally attended,” Minn said. “Afterward, our partners huddled and agreed that this project was not going to succeed without neighborhood input and participation. We mailed a letter to every resident in the immediate impact area (125 residents) that explained the project and invited them to our next neighborhood meeting held Dec. 11.”

He continued, “We want to clarify to the neighborhood what affordable housing means from a development standpoint. Our company has holdings of more than 1,000 affordable rental units across the Metro. The average income of our renters is $32,000-$38,000 for a household of two, and up to $44,000 for a household of four. We create housing for people who go to work every day.”

To underscore the impact of the affordable housing shortage in the Twin Cities, Minn said, “We have a flagship development called the Mill City Quarter along the Mississippi River near Downtown Minneapolis that we’re trying to replicate with the Snelling Yards. It consists of 150 units of what we call ’affordable workforce housing.’ We have 0% vacancy there, and more than 1,200 names on the waiting list. In the last 12 months, 20 units became available and were rented in less than four hours. Finding affordable housing is nearly impossible in the Twin Cities right now. The pace of replacement just can’t keep up with the pace of loss.”

Affordable housing is created in the following way. Developers of an affordable housing project can take a federal tax credit equal to a percentage of the cost incurred for development. Developers typically propose and complete a project, certify its cost, and rent to tenants who meet certain income guidelines. The tenants must demonstrate their income eligibility each year. The developers agree to limit rents for 30 years, following rent tables that are indexed to an area’s median income. After 30 years, the developers may raise rents to market rates—ending their commitment to providing affordable housing. Affordable housing is meant to bridge the gap between market-rate housing, and what lower income earning renters can afford.

The Snelling Yards Development is designed as an inter-generational campus of affordable workforce and senior housing oriented to the existing Hiawatha Corridor transit infrastructure. The five-story workforce housing building will have 125 one and two bedroom units, underground parking for 69 cars, and above ground parking for 22 cars. The five-story senior housing building will have 128 one and two bedroom units, underground parking for 69 cars, and above ground parking for 40 cars.

The intent is also to create the first connective block of bike and pedestrian access between the Sabo Bridge and Minnehaha Park, in what is being envisioned as a substantial “Greenway of the Future” along Hiawatha Ave.

Illustration left: Diagram of proposed development at the Snelling Yards. (Provided by Lupe Development)

“Our development team believes that the Snelling Yards will be a demonstration project of extraordinary value,” Minn said. “We will provide durable cement exterior materials, architectural grade metal, high-performance sound mitigation, and quality interior finishes that rival market rate properties. Our design choices will compliment the neighborhood, including over-sized warehouse-style windows in accordance with some of the surrounding buildings.”

The Snelling Yards Development website states that, “Longfellow has a substantial aging-in-place population living in ­single-family homes, and an even larger workforce population that wants quality, affordable housing at a variety of price points. We believe that our housing options will add vibrancy to the neighborhood, and address a chronic shortage of affordable housing in the community.”

If the project goes through as proposed, it will include a combination of green spaces and public amenities, coupled with high quality, sustainable development practices. On the Snelling Ave. side, the two buildings will share a Green Commons and a pocket park built over an infiltration stormwater management system. The system will remove no less than 70% of the total suspended solids in stormwater (90% if the project is selected by the Mississippi Water Management Organization for demonstration purposes.)

The development team plans to incorporate a 40 kW photovoltaic solar collection system on at least one of the two buildings. The system would be made possible by the Minnesota-Made Solar Rewards Program, and subject to the award of certain federal and state tax credits. Few housing development teams in the Twin Cities have the combined solar and tax credit experience to build such a system into an affordable housing project.

For more information on the Snelling Yards Development, or to hear results of the public meeting held at the Longfellow Recreation Center on Dec. 11 (after the Messenger deadline), email or call him at 612-843-4068.

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‘Made in Cuba’ exhibit showing at Longfellow gallery

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

This painting by Isabelle de las Mercedes is an example of one of Cuba’s self-taught artists who developed her art to a high level. Her work is shown at the Havana Museum of Fine Arts alongside other self-taught artists like Noel Guzman Bofill, and both are recognized internationally. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Exhibit at Squirrel Haus Arts takes counter approach to Cuban exhibit on display at the Walker Art Gallery

A mixed media exhibit called “Made in Cuba/Hecho en Cuba: Recycling Memory and Culture Part II” is showing at Squirrel Haus Arts in the Longfellow neighborhood. The exhibit opened in November and will stay up through Jan. 14. The work of 70 artists is featured, exploring a wide range of themes and disciplines, including posters, photography, folk art, ceramics, and wearable art.

Photo right: Minnesota native/exhibit curator Sandra Levinson has been traveling to Cuba as an independent traveler and as a tour guide since 1969. When asked how many trips she has taken, Levinson said, “I stopped counting once I got to 300.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Sandra Levinson, executive director of New York‘s Center for Cuban Studies, curated the exhibit and was in town for several related events in early December. “What we really wanted to do was bring vibrant, accessible Cuban art to the Twin Cities,” she said. “There is a show about Cuban art running concurrently at the Walker Art Center called ‘Adios Utopia.’ We have some of the same artists on view, but also many others. We also have original works of art for purchase, not digital prints of original work.”

Photo left: Viewer Cristina Lopez said, “I appreciate the grounding in Cuban cultural context that this show provides.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to Levinson, the exhibit at the Walker makes a point of showing Cuban-born artists who mostly opposed the Cuban Revolution and immigrated to the US. The show she brought from the collection of the Center for Cuban Studies makes a counter-point. Levinson said, “I’m critical of the show at the Walker. We felt it was important to provide a simultaneous exhibit with a broader view of contemporary Cuban artists who still live in Cuba, like Alberto Lescay and Jacqueline Brito. Our show doesn’t have a political agenda.”

Another strong feature of the exhibit is that it shows the work of self-taught artists. “We have collected so many pieces over the years by artists who taught themselves how to be expressive,” Levinson said. ”Their work is very authentically Cuban, and speaks to the rhythm of daily life on the island.”

One of the most recognizable elements of Cuban art is political posters. Volunteer Kate Bix explained the popularity of posters in Cuban culture, both as a form of expression and as a form of art. She said, “The Cuban people have always celebrated with posters. One of the most popular artists to document the Cuban Revolution was Raul Martinez, and we have some of his pieces in the show. You can see how he told the story of the 1959 Cuban Revolution to the people of the island, who were largely illiterate before the Revolution took place. He used vibrant colors and almost comic book-like themes to communicate what was happening.”

Squirrel Haus has been an arts incubator and community gathering space in Longfellow since 2015. Owned and operated by Michael and Donna Meyer, it continues to evolve into a gallery, rehearsal space, set design location, event center, and meeting/workshop venue. It is also the permanent studio home of artists Donna Meyer and Maris Gilbert. Gallery hours for this exhibit are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-5pm. Squirrel Haus is located at 3450 Snelling Ave. in Minneapolis.

(Editor’s Note: the Squirrel Haus gallery does not have regular hours unless there is a show going on, and the hours vary as to who is exhibiting.)

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For some, homelessness is sometimes just an illness away

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

You have no privacy.
You have no place to rest.
If you are sick, you have no place to lie down.

These are some of the most significant challenges of being homeless, according to Fernando Anderson (photo right by Jan Willms).

Anderson is a young man who grew up in St. Paul’s Rondo area. “My dad was active in the community,” he said. “He was an election judge and a delegate for the DFL.”

But medical issues and unpaid student loans set Anderson on the road to homelessness.

“I was going out to college in Mesa, AZ, but I kept getting sick,” Anderson recalled. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an auto-immune disease that attacked his stomach. “I was hospitalized two to three times, and I am supposed to have a couple of surgeries,” he noted. “I was bleeding inside.”

Anderson decided to return to Minnesota. He fell behind on school loans. He hoped to get enough money from a tax refund to get back on his feet, but the government took the refund.

Anderson now resides in a homeless shelter at Nicolett and 28th, sponsored by the Simpson Methodist Church. “It’s one of the better shelters,” Anderson said. “They offer free clothes, and people from restaurants donate and cook food.”

He said the shelter resembles a dorm, with a men’s section and women’s section. People sleep in bunk beds.

“Altogether there are about 70 people in that shelter,” Anderson said. “But because it is cold out, the shelter has been full. There are couches and a dining room, and they have been letting people sleep on the couches. They have reached a maximum of 73 people.” The shelter lets people stay from 5pm until 9am, and then everyone has to leave for the day.

“I am in a situation where I am supposed to be resting,” Anderson continued, “but I have to leave. And sometimes I have nowhere to go. I was frozen out of my car the day before yesterday, and it was really cold. I was stuck outside at the shelter for an hour and a half because they don’t let you come back in.”

Anderson said people who are sick are not separated from those who are not, and the situation can be difficult.

“The other day a person with Stage 4 throat cancer passed out. She has been working, but she doesn’t get a chance to rest. I think the person was just exhausted,” he said.

Anderson said he thinks what would help most in reducing homelessness is a change in laws so that credit checks and bankruptcy checks could not prevent people from getting housing.

“The fellow who bunks above me has been working at Valvoline for ten years, but he can’t get into a place because of his background and credit. He has a son, who stays with his cousin, because he can’t get housing, even though he has been saving up.”

Anderson said some people who are in the shelter are working, trying to save up enough to find a place to live. “They pay application fees, but are then denied for poor credit or a checkered past,” he said.

There is definitely a stigma to being homeless, according to Anderson. “Society thinks a lot of homeless people are on drugs or alcohol. I am not, and I have a clean rental history, but my credit is bad. And so that has prevented me from getting housing.”

“A lot of people see people like us, and they think we don’t have skills or don’t want to do anything. I have had my own business since 2009. It’s a small business; I do a little bit of landscaping.”

He said that in his situation, he was working but not earning enough to prove he could pay rent.

Bernadette, who did not want to give her last name, said that she is concerned about women in general who are forced to live in a shelter.

“We like to have our dignity,” she said. “Some women do not know how to take care of themselves, and others do, but we are all lumped together. Some of us are older, and we have raised our children, and we are used to doing for ourselves. Some thought they would be able to stabilize themselves, but things got worse, and they have fallen through the cracks.”

Bernadette stressed the importance of hygiene in a shelter, as she commented that some think because you are homeless you are not clean.

“Some of the women in shelters need to be in recovery; others are ill and having a hard time. They should separate us into categories, rather than all in the same place. I do think those who are ill should have a priority in getting housing,” she said. ‘”What is needed most is for women to get themselves back on their feet, and get help with the steps needed to get housing.”

Anderson said he understands how people’s spirits can go down. “I know that discouragement everyone is feeling. I have felt it myself.” Anderson recalled the work he has done from volunteering in the block club with his father to working with Save Our City Kids, Step Up, the U of M. “I have delivered papers, cut grass, raked leaves, helped seniors and been involved in community engagement work,” he said. But he is concerned about his need for two more surgeries and his credit difficulties getting in the way of moving forward. “I see people much sicker than I am who are not getting affordable housing. So I am not optimistic about any person in my situation who is going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

And yet, Anderson does look toward a brighter future. He said he is passionate about teaching people about sustainable living, agriculture and ending hunger. “I want to empower people to take care of themselves,” he said. In that vein, he has started a website at He is hoping that by raising himself out of homelessness, he can help others to do the same.

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Mactír Irish dance owner loves freedom of running her own business

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

Mactír Academy advanced dancers perform their opening number at the 2017 Irish Fair of Minnesota. Left to Right: Bella Johnson, Julia Amerongen, Mallorie Moe, Zoe Sullivan, Aislin James, Lillian Pettigrew, Kendal Ellingson, Caoimhe Woodburn, Hannah Martinez, Abby Moe, and Maddy Lemay. (Photo submitted)

Dancers learn life skills—time management, teamwork, critical thinking, communication—while learning routines

For Mactír Academy of Irish Dance studio owner Emily Wolff, opening her own business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

“To have the opportunity to do something I love every day feels like a dream come true,” remarked Wolff, who runs the dance studio at 2241 E. 38th St.

“My advice to other small business owners is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone, try new things, and keep trying them. Your business needs will always evolve, and you have to be ready to adapt when that happens!”

She also encourages new business owners to have a long-term vision for the business at the start. “Build your business mission and philosophy from day one, and then let that drive how your business grows and evolves,” stated Wolff. “When you are in times of major growth or change, go back to that mission and philosophy to help push you forward.”

Photo right: Mactír Academy of Irish Dance studio owner Emily Wolff lives just four blocks from the studio in Corcoran. (Photo submitted)

For Wolff, the most significant challenges she faces center on the business side of things. “While I can run the accounting side of things, and track costume inventory, it’s certainly not my favorite thing to do,” she remarked. “However, it’s all well worth it to have the freedom to run my business the way I choose to run it. When you are the owner and director of the school, you set the tone for how your dancers and families make an impact in the community.”

She also loves the hands-on nature of what she does.

“I never opened a dance school so I could sit in my office all day,” said Wolff. “Teaching classes six days a week and working with people of all ages is just the type of environment where I thrive. I love that I can showcase both my creativity and my leadership, skills!”

SENA good fit for school
Mactír Academy opened in the spring of 2013 in the “Eat Street” area in the Old Arizona Building along Nicollet. The school moved to its current location in the Standish-Ericsson neighborhood in June of 2015.

While it was a pure coincidence that the dance studio ended up in the SENA neighborhood, it has been a great fit for the Mactír community. Wolff had set out to find a larger space and knew she wanted the school to remain in Minneapolis as it is the only performance and competitive school that is based Minneapolis.

“Our dance families absolutely love the neighborhood, and we have built fast connections with the elementary schools in the area, with many of our dancers attending schools in the neighborhood,” remarked Wolff.

Over 125 students take classes for all ages and abilities. The youngest dancers, the “Wolf Pups,” start as young as three years old. From there Mactír offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced level classes to children and teenagers. Dancers attend classes anywhere from 1-4 times per week depending on their age and level. Mactír offers both competitive classes and team performance classes, based on the time of year.

There is also a thriving adult program at Mactír. Three levels of adult classes are offered, and beginner adults can start throughout the year with the six-week skills classes on Mondays.

Learning life skills
As a child, Wolff grew up two doors down from the editor of “The Irish Gazette,” Jim Brooks. He had a daughter about her age, and the two were friends. When Irish Dancing became popular again in the early 1990s with the start of Riverdance, a school opened in St. Paul.

“I was four years old, and my parents really didn’t have a strong Irish heritage, but they thought it would be something fun for me to do with my friends,” noted Wolff. “Our classes were held in bar basements and church gyms, but we were having so much fun.”

Photo left: Some Mactír Academy’s beginner and intermediate dancers greet the MC before a St. Patrick’s Day show at Hale Elementary. Left to Right: Amelia Schmidt, Silje Wicker, Connor Luby, and Berit Wicker. (Photo submitted)

The school she started at has long since closed, but she kept right on dancing. Now she’s been dancing and teaching for 25 years.

“I love that Irish Dance is about so much more than dance,” observed Wolff. “Yes, it keeps me fit, and my mind working in unique ways, but it’s the life skills that I have learned that are the most valuable to me, and something that I try and instill in my dancers now. From time management, to communication, to teamwork, to critical thinking, Irish dance has so many more benefits than people realize.”

Wolff also loves the social aspect of Irish Dance.

“Irish dance is such a unique sport. It can be done in so many different environments,” she pointed out. “I have performed and competed all over the country from a nursing home in Alexandria, Minn., to dancing at the largest Irish Festival in the world with International musicians. Irish Dancers can dance in the most informal settings, and the most elegant of affairs and still fit right in.”

Striving for excellence
According to Wolff, Mactír Academy strives to be the premiere team-based competition school in Minnesota, where dancers and families choose their own journey. That may be going to a couple of feiseanna (competitions) a year, performing with local and international bands, or competing in the Irish Dance World Championships.

“Our dancers are taught to always strive for excellence in and out of the dance studio and take those skills with them wherever life takes them,” stated Wolff.

The school’s next big performance season will be in March. “St. Patrick’s Day is our busiest day of the year!” said Wolff. “You can catch us at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul on Mar. 17 and 18, and also in the Minneapolis Parade on Mar. 17.”

For more, browse, email or call 651-261-8575.

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School opens in former Rainbow; senior housing, grocery store coming

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Wellington Management expands reach from west side of Hiawatha to east with 6-acre Minnehaha Crossing project

The former Rainbow Foods, 2912 28th Ave. S., is being reincarnated as a mixed-use building anchored by a school.

The Universal Academy Charter School (UACS) moved into the building in time for the start of the 2017-2018 school year. The K-8 school is located in temporary classrooms at the front of the building as landlord Wellington Management Company oversees a 19,600-square-foot second-story addition for classroom space on the back side of the building. To accommodate the addition, a single-family home on the property was torn down.

When it is complete, the school will have 31 classrooms and 55,000 square feet, with an entrance on the east side of 29th Ave.

“Our team is excited to redefine the backside of a big box retail center with a light-filled school where students will learn, play and grow,” said Wellington Management Director of Acquisitions and Development David Wellington.

Photo right: The former Rainbow Foods site has been mostly vacant since the grocery store closed in 2014. It had been purchased by Jerry’s Enterprises as part of a 27-store deal that reshaped the Twin Cities grocery scene. The building and 6-acre lot were purchased by Wellington two years later for $5.35 million, according to Hennepin County records. Universal Academy Charter School moved into temporary classrooms in time to start the 2017-18 school year. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Built in 1984, Rainbow Foods closed in 2014 after it was purchased by Jerry’s Enterprises as part of a 27-store deal that reshaped the Twin Cities grocery scene. The building and 6-acre lot were purchased by Wellington two years later for $5.35 million, according to Hennepin County records.
Universal Academy served 288 students at its St. Paul location in the Midway neighborhood last year. This year, the school added another kindergarten class for a total enrollment target of 338 students.

Photo left: “Our team is excited to redefine the backside of a big box retail center with a light-filled school where students will learn, play and grow,” said Wellington Management Director of Acquisitions and Development David Wellington. (Illustration courtesy of Wellington Management)

Formed in 2014, UACS was originally slated to be located in Minneapolis, but ended up in St. Paul, according to Principal and Director Ms. Farhiya Einte. Most of the students live in Minneapolis.

Ninety-eight percent of students at the charter school are English language learners, according to Minnesota’s Report Card on the school. Its authorizer is Novation Education Opportunities.

‘Golden opportunity’ for Wellington
The Minnehaha Crossing project continues the efforts of Wellington that began more than a decade ago with projects such as Hi-Lake Shopping Center, the Greenway Office Building, Corridor Flats, Lake Street Station, and the Blue Line Flats.

Photo left: The three-prong Minnehaha Crossing project at the six-acre property along Minnehaha Ave. includes a two-story addition on the west side for a school, the renovation of the east side of the empty Rainbow building for a grocery store, and the construction of a 90-unit senior affordable housing building. (Illustration courtesy of Wellington Management)

The largest landowner and developer in the Hi-Lake market, Wellington Management’s work in the area began with the purchase of the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in 2004, recalled Wellington, whose father considered it a “golden opportunity.”

He added, “It was a good fit for our company. We saw a lot of potential for development.” It was a strategic decision to become invested in the area. Since “we’ve really enjoyed our work in the neighborhood,” said Wellington, age 35, who plans to work at the company another 30-40 years and continue the civic-minded approach his father has taken.

Photo right: A 19,600-square-foot second-story addition is currently under construction on the back side of the former Rainbow Foods building. When it is complete, Universal Academy Charter School will have 31 classrooms and 55,000 square feet, with an entrance on the east side off 29th Ave. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Through the years, the family-run company has doubled the density at the original site, first by building Corridor Flats, which houses Aldi’s and 36 market-rate condos. Then they erected the Lake Street Station building next to the light rail line in 2015, which provides 64 units of senior affordable housing. Rates are federally regulated and set at 60% of the area median income, or roughly $900-$1,200 a month.

Last year, Wellington built Blue Line Flats in the Corcoran triangle off 32nd St., offering 135 units of workforce housing at 30%, 50%, and 60% of the area median income.

The Minnehaha Crossing project marks the first time the Wellington Group has embarked on a project to the west of Hiawatha.

“We’re just trying to be your friendly neighborhood developer,” said Wellington.

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

The addition for Universal Academy is phase one of a three-prong project.

In the second stage of the Minnehaha Crossing project, the existing retail that currently fronts the parking lot along Minnehaha Ave. will be repositioned. This will include approximately 12,000 square feet of small shop retail, as well as a 22,000-square-foot grocery store. Work on this will begin after the school moves into the finished addition, likely in the summer of 2018.

They have been in discussions with Aldi, which has tossed around the idea of a new concept store focusing on high-quality meat and fresh fruits and vegetables at the site, remarked Wellington, but nothing has been finalized yet, and they continue to market the site to a variety of grocery stores.

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

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

“It takes a village to get an affordable housing project off the ground,” observed Wellington, but the company believes it is an important piece of the total development, particularly in light of the broader discussion on affordable housing in the city.

Wellington envisions that seniors who currently live in Seward and Longfellow will move into this building and stay in their neighborhood, shopping at the places they’ve always shopped at.

While Wellington Management tried to purchase the Auto Zone property at the corner of E. Lake and Minnehaha, the property owners were not interested in selling. So they signed a long-term agreement with Wendy’s to remain there for 20 years, and have plans to construct a single-story 3,500-square-foot retail building in the existing parking lot area not being used by Wendy’s along Minnehaha.

While two new buildings will use up some of the parking currently available at the site, Wellington believes there will still be enough parking there. He pointed out that parking, as well as the perception of adequate parking, is important to their retail tenants, and one of their primary concerns.

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Woodshop empowers women to do what they’ve been told they can’t

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Women’s Woodshop focuses on community building by offering variety of classes for women, non-binaries, and men

Women’s Woodshop owner Jessica Hirsch believes there is nothing more empowering than being told you can’t, and then going ahead and doing it anyway.

In 2014, she built a sculpture at a shelter for domestic abuse survivors. As she worked, a 12-year-old girl became one of her assistants, and she watched the girl’s confidence grow. The girl was building her own parts to add to the sculpture by the end of the month-long install.

“She went from using cordless drills, to miter saws, and jigsaws. When we completed the sculpture, she was glowing with pride,” recalled Hirsch. “It was witnessing that transformation that birthed Women’s Woodshop.”

Photo right: When Women’s Woodshop owner Jessica Hirsch was an undergraduate college student who was falling in love with sculpture, her instructor told her, “Sculpture makes you feel like a superhero. These skills you learn here can apply to all realms of life.” Hirsch agrees. “Someone can learn how to make a cutting board, and apply those skills to fixing up their house,” she pointed out. (Photo by Studio Zu)

She began planning to open a woodshop, but it was the 2016 election that really pushed her to take the risk.

“I think its imperative right now to hold physical spaces for positivity and community building at the ground level,” explained Hirsch. “I launched my website on the day of the inauguration as a personal protest.” A fundraiser to buy a safer table saw followed, and she began accruing more equipment.

“I am learning as I go, and I know it’s worth it when my student’s say ‘thank you for starting this space,’” said Hirsch.

Teaching from their skill sets
Women’s Woodshop offers three to four different classes per month. In all, the shop has offered 11 classes varying from birch bark weaving to power tools 101. There will be four new courses coming up this winter: Black Ash Basket Weaving, Custom Canvas Stretcher Bars, Patterned Cutting Boards, and a Shaker Stool Class.

While some classes are limited to women/non-binary folks, others are co-ed. “It’s about inclusion and changing the dynamics of the woodshop,” said Hirsch.

She offers men tips on how to be an ally on her website. Women and non-binary or gender non-conforming folks have various levels of experience with wood. When they ask a question, give them the answer they are looking for without additional information.

She also points out that women and non-binary crafters need space to learn. “I have witnessed many women being watched by male students when they are working. I think the intention is so that the man can step in if they need help. But actually, we need to do things ourselves to learn. We will ask you for help if we need it,” Hirsch stated.

Photo left: Kingfield resident Jenna Rice Rahaim took a wall shelf class using Japanese joinery techniques, and the finished piece is now hanging on her wall. “I’ve long admired joinery: constructing a functional and beautiful object without using glue or screws is like magic. Instead, the shelf has a single walnut wood peg, which keeps the entire shelf together,” said Rice Rahaim. (Photo submitted)

Instructors at the woodshop rotate based on availability, each teaching from their own skill sets.

TiAnna DeGarmo’s Wall Shelf class teaches students how to make a through tenon joint using hand tools. Teresa Audet teaches a butterfly (bow-tie) joint class with hand tools; she studies in Japan and also does residencies across the country. Hirsch is the only consistent instructor offering spoon carving, power tools 101, and bowl turning each month.

Beginners from the neighborhood
Since its opening on March 25, 2016, at least 200 students have walked through the doors.
Many of them are from the neighborhood, such as Standish-Ericsson resident Nicole Stroot. So far, Stroot has taken the Spreader and Spoon classes and is looking forward to the Women of Color Power Tools 101 class in December. Stroot discovered the woodshop driving by one day on her way to get groceries.

“I think having a maker space and working with something that comes from the land gives people more respect for the Earth,” remarked Stroot. “Jess has been my teacher for both classes. It’s her shop and she makes it feel like you belong there. I love her calm courage and grace.”

Stroot describes herself as an enthusiastic beginner. “I had taken wood shop 1 and 2 in high school, but I graduated a long time ago. Without tools of my own, you kind of lose the skills,” she observed.

“I love the idea of hand-carving, which I’ve never done before, because it’s so mobile and affordable.”

Stroot recalls being the only female student in those high school shop classes, and feeling intimidated at times. She has found the atmosphere at the Women’s Woodshop to be very different. “Being encouraged to work with our hands and being able to ask as many questions as we have without feeling like it’ll make us appear less intelligent is important. I also think it’s empowering to see other people that look like you doing things you’re interested in, knowing you’re not alone,” said Stroot.

Kingfield resident Jenna Rice Rahaim learned about the woodshop when a friend brought her to a spoon carving class for her birthday.

“I made a birch spoon that was perfect for sauces and stirring, and have been hooked ever since,” said Rice Rahaim, who later arranged for a private co-ed class for her dad’s 70th birthday.

Before that first class, Rice Rahaim was a complete novice, and six months ago she would have never guessed that she would be spending as much time in the studio and carving at home as possible.

“I had never used a power tool other than a drill and an electric sander,” she stated. “I had never worked with wood independently. On the spectrum of woodworkers, I’m still a relative beginner. But I’m very happy with what I’ve been making, both at Women’s Woodshop and at home, and find the process incredibly satisfying.”

She loves that the emphasis of the shop is on women and non-binary woodworkers. She appreciates that the woodshop is rooted in Scandinavian traditions, which are such an important part of Minnesota’s history. “And I’m grateful for the community that takes shape through this solidarity,” said Rice Rahaim.

“It’s empowering to learn to work with my hands in new ways and also learn safe techniques for using power tools. There’s also something incredibly grounding about learning about wood and tools in such an intimate way,” remarked Rice Rahaim. “We learn how to care for our tools and sharpen them and appreciate the craftsmanship with which they were created.

“We also come to feel connected to the wood we’re working with… aware of the differences between birch, cherry, or boxelder. Walks in the woods will never be the same after relating to the wood in such an intimate way.”

A ‘starter home’
Hirsch considers the location at 2237 E. 38th St. to be a “starter home” as it is a cozy operation. Almost everything is on wheels so the two classrooms can be re-arranged for each class.

Before this location, she had rented a studio in St. Paul but wanted to be closer to her home in Central, near Powderhorn Park. She called the storefront listing on a whim thinking they would never let her have a woodshop in an office/retail space. “Luckily my landlord is a spoon carver and encourages me to chainsaw in the back parking lot,” remarked Hirsch.

When she was starting out, Hirsch rented galleries to teach spoon carving, and it was a great way to test the waters without jumping into expensive overhead. “Now I offer my space for educators in the same way,” she pointed out. “We have a Writing as Healing workshop going on right now, taught by Glenda Reed, and a Turn of the Century Shoe Making Class taught by Martha Brummitt.”

Complimentary layer of sawdust
Community members are encouraged to drop by for a sale on Dec. 3, 11am-6pm. It will showcase women and non-binary makers ranging from ceramicists to weavers.

Additionally, the shop is normally open 10am-4pm, Tues.-Fri., with classes on the weekends. “If the lights are on, come on in!” encouraged Hirsch. The front window is packed with goods for sale made by instructors and awesome makers. Please note that most objects come with a complimentary layer of sawdust.

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Apartment building for seniors facing homelessness to open in 2018

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Funding puzzle falls into place for Minnehaha Commons, a 43-unit building operated by Alliance Housing

Minnehaha Commons, a four-story apartment building for seniors struggling with homelessness, is now fully funded and on track for construction in 2018.

The building (formerly called Frey Flats) will be constructed on the vacant lot at 3001 E. Lake St. and offer 43 studio units to single adults age 55 and over. The land was once home to McMahon’s Pub, which burnt down in March 2010, killing six people in the apartments above the bar.

Illustration right: Minnehaha Commons, a four-story apartment building for seniors struggling with homelessness, is now fully funded and on track for construction in 2018. The building (formerly called Frey Flats) will be constructed by Alliance Housing, Inc. on the vacant lot at 3001 E. Lake St. and offer 43 studio units to single adults age 55 and over. (Illustration submitted)

For many, the new apartment building is a fitting way to continue to shelter the same people who once rented low-cost apartments above McMahon’s Pub.

Only this time around, the units will be managed by a non-profit that’s well known in the community for maintaining a high standard of housing.

Alliance Housing was born out of the vision of St. Stephens’ Catholic Church with the goal of creating tangible, long-term housing solutions for homeless families and individuals.

The nonprofit (not religious affiliated) organization was incorporated in 1991 and took advantage of vacant and available properties at low cost in South Minneapolis. Alliance works with people who either can’t afford the high market-rate rents or who have difficulty renting because of a prior eviction, poor financial history, or criminal background.

Alliance’s programs and activities include affordable housing development and management, as well as supportive housing programming for families. Its 450 units of housing serve a continuum of single adults to families.

Waiting a year for housing
According to Alliance Housing Inc. (AHI) Executive Director Barbara Jeanetta, the interest list for single adult housing is over 200, and the wait is up over one year.

Fifty-eight-year-old Carl Rogers knows what it is like to wait a year to get housing. He spent the last year homeless, bouncing between shelters and the streets before he got into an Alliance boarding house.

He finds that many people assume you’ve done something to be homeless and that you’re homeless for a reason. But for Rogers, it’s hard to find work because of his disability and criminal record. That, combined with his race, makes it hard to find housing, as well.

“I think there are a lot of people like me who end up being homeless. A lot of times, they can’t find an affordable place in the area,” said Rogers, who is grateful to now have a place where he pays $335 a month for a room. “I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

Southside resident Charles MacMillan, age 57, has also found it difficult to find housing he can afford, despite having a job. “The thing about Alliance is they’re willing to work with you even if you have a criminal record,” said MacMillan, who rents a duplex with two others. He pointed out he’s been clean from alcohol and drugs for 17 years and doesn’t expect a handout. “It’s a place to start out to help you get better in your life,” he observed about Alliance.

Number of homeless seniors is growing
Rogers and MacMillan are among the growing number of adults over 55 who are facing homelessness in Hennepin County. The problem is expected to get worse as the number of Baby Boomers over 55 grows in the next decade.

“Last I checked, there were approximately 1,200 homeless adults over age 55 that are homeless (shelter stays),” said Jeanetta. “It’s likely higher given the number of people who bounce around with friends or stay outside.”

Jeanetta has found that most people don’t understand the level of chronic homelessness among adults over 55.

“Many of these adults have never had a place of their own or certainly not for many years,” said Jeanetta. “There is a high level of alcoholism and mental illness. Housing has proven to mitigate the problems from both.”

Alliance plans to have a capable, experienced service provider on staff at Minnehaha Commons through Touchstone Mental Health that can address underlying mental health conditions, and support whole person wellness and self-sufficiency.

There are good examples of how stable housing and a supportive community environment are a foundation for a more positive lifestyle and opportunity to make other positive change. The lack of it leads to other chaos.

A 2012 report sponsored by the Family Housing Fund, “Financial Implications of Public Interventions on Behalf of a Chronically Homeless Family” documented significant savings of public dollars in emergency medical care, foster care, substance abuse treatment and incarceration when people have stable and supportive housing.

In addition, these elder adults are easy victims of assault, theft and other crime that further sets back opportunities for stability.

A shelter bed at Hennepin County cost $30 a day. A hospital stay at Hennepin County Medical Center for alcohol/drug use treatment is a minimum of $4,169 a day. A night in jail is $378 per day.

A room at an Alliance Housing facility costs $9-15 a day.

According to the Wilder Foundation’s homeless survey, seniors are the fastest growing segment of homeless people. Alliance Housing is uniquely positioned to successfully house this population because of its previous experience serving seniors in rooming houses. Alliance’s tenant service coordinators and property managers build trusting relationships with tenants, discuss problems, identify options for maintaining housing stability and increasing self-sufficiency, and assist tenants to choose their community services.

Alliance Housing’s model offers a solution for housing stability and makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background by developing and managing housing that is: inclusive, affordable, relational, and flexible. Alliance Housing also challenges the environment that limits its residents’ opportunities. Neighbors and tenants alike say Alliance’s properties are the “best on the block.”

Alliance also manages Hiawatha Commons (2740 Minnehaha Ave.) in Longfellow, a four-story, brick apartment building located a short walk from the Hiawatha Light Rail station on Lake St. This transit-oriented, mixed-income project was designed for low-wage workers who work in the neighborhood or at the airport, Mall of America and downtown. The building was opened in 2006, and its 80 units stay leased consistently.

Minnesota Housing recently announced that Alliance Housing would receive $5,146,302 in deferred funds for Minnehaha Commons. Other funders include the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and private investors.

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Local Tale Weavers Toastmasters learn to talk, listen, evaluate

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Article and photos by JAN WILLMS
It is a Tuesday night, around 6:30pm, and the meeting room on the second floor of Minnehaha United Methodist Church at 3701 E. 50th St. is starting to fill up. Here, on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, the Toastmaster group, Tale Weavers, gathers to talk, listen and evaluate each other’s words.

Don Mathews, current president of the Tale Weavers, co-founded the group with Dave Schaal in 2003.

“I had started going to the VAMC Toastmasters club in 1996,” Mathews said. “I thought ‘What a great organization, dedicated to people who like to talk.’” Mathews described Tale Weavers as a club that is small and has a safe environment, where new members feel comfortable. He said when someone gets up to speak for the first time, he or she can be assured that the audience members have all done it before. “We are not teachers, we are comrades,” he explained.

Mathews said members get a kit when they join, with two books enclosed. One is a manual on communication, the other on leadership.

Photo left: Don Mathews speaks to Tale Weavers.

“The communications manual is all about speaking,” he said. “The first speech project is the icebreaker, a four-to-six minute speech where you tell us about yourself. You are what you know the most, and this speech is the easiest way to break the ice. The second speech is about saying what you mean, talking about something you are passionate about. And as you get more encouragement and confidence, you learn how to say it.”

Mathews emphasized that when someone joins they are responsible for their own education. “Most people join, and within eight months they’re out. They get through about six speeches and then just leave. Toastmasters International has found this to be a problem,” he said.

He said members who are successful in the club are those who are self-motivated or have someone to help them. “People who grow and stay in Toastmasters for many years are very self-directed. One thing which we try to do in our club, which all clubs should do, is when a new toastmaster comes in we get them to give their first speech, provide evaluation and get them as comfortable as they can be.”

One part of the Toastmasters program that does not provide a lot of comfort to newcomers, according to Mathews, is table talk. In Tale Weavers it is called tiny tales. Members are asked to answer a question or speak off the cuff for two minutes. Sometimes a story is started, and after two minutes, someone else needs to continue it.

“I ask them if they have ever been asked a question by their boss and had to answer it quickly. And if so, don’t they wish they had practice?” Mathews said these short, impromptu speeches provide good learning.

He stressed the importance of the skills training Toastmasters provides. “For $40 every six months, you get to practice many speeches. You can pay $!000 for a Dale Carnegie course, get a couple of practice sessions and then you’re on your own. So what is best? Be self-directed or be told what to do? Where do you retain your learning?” He said a lot of companies are bringing in Toastmasters because it is excellent training for their employees and does not cost very much.

Photo right: Stephen Taylor weaves a story.

Mathews said his only expectation of members is that if they cannot make a meeting, they let him and the education vice president know.

Mathews said Tale Weavers has a lot of charter members who are still in the club. “That’s always a good sign for a club,” he claimed.

“Here at Tale Weavers we tell stories,” Mathews continued. They have told stories at NPR Moth Hour events. One member does storytelling for children; another has a small film company. Whatever their profession is, Toastmasters has been helpful.

“Every club does different things,” he said. “We have a regimented program to follow but are still flexible enough you can do what you want with it. Visit another club and draw comparisons. We’re very different but in some ways the same.”

Mathews said he recommends potential members visit at least three clubs to see where they feel most comfortable.

Schaal, who co-founded the club with Mathews and is vice president of education, said he has been a Toastmasters member for 20 years. “To tell a good message, you want to tell stories,” he noted. Listeners may forget your point but remember your story. And if they remember your story, they will remember your point. I felt storytellers could use Toastmasters, and Toastmasters could use more storytelling. I told Don, and he said ‘Let’s do it!”

Schaal said belonging to the club has made a difference in his professional life. “For a while, I was a consultant, and I had to do a lot of interviewing. Toastmasters helped me so much. He said it has also helped him in his work as a minister and his character acting as he plays Santa Claus for groups each year.”

Schaal said that although Toastmasters started as a speaking club, the organization has a long history of wanting to serve people professionally, providing skills in listening, giving feedback staying on time and other leadership skills.

Kent Hawks, a 17-year member who is vice president of membership, said Tale Weavers is designed to help members improve and develop as speakers, leaders, and storytellers.

“Once people become members, they become my responsibility,” he said. “I make sure they are coming to meetings.” He said if someone becomes busy in his or her professional life, he encourages them to take time away and return when they can.

He said he works in customer service and has found Toastmasters has helped him communicate on the phone. “I can talk with them about anything, and impromptu speaking is something I want to keep up with.”

He said Toastmasters becomes a part of one’s life. He has earned the Distinguished Toastmasters award, the highest level in the organization, and he said it took him 14 years to do it. Hawks said he worked with another member, and they encouraged each other to move ahead.

“We strongly recommend that when someone joins, they get a mentor,” he said.

It has been about an hour and a half. Speeches have been given and evaluated. A grammarian and timekeeper have weighed in. One member listens for how many ahs or ums a speaker may voice.

The evaluations are helpful and encouraging. And there has been a lot of laughter.

Mathews likes the blend of professionalism and enjoyment. “Someone told us once we were professional clowns, and we take pride in that,” he said.

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Skateboarders looking forward to better and more skate parks

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Nokomis in mix for 20-year Skate Park Activity Plan; MPRB will take public comments during hearing on Nov. 29

Ask a Minneapolis skater what he or she thinks of the city’s skate parks, and you’ll likely get a list of problems.

The six existing parks were built 15 years ago with modular obstacles and features that were designed by playground manufactures versus skateboard professionals. The park at Morris has a soft, asphalt surface and the ramps and features have sunk into it. All the existing skate parks are small and undersized. The elements are short, and not exciting to use. And they’re all falling apart.

These issues and more are outlined in the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation’s new Skate Park Activity Plan, which was initiated in 2012.

“Minneapolis skateboarders have been asking for quality skateboard parks for years. It has been a long five years in the making, but I am looking forward to the Minneapolis skateboard community finally getting the world-class skate parks they deserve,” stated City of Skate President Paul Forsline, who served on the MPRB’s steering committee for the new skate park plan.

Public comment on the plan was accepted online until Nov. 5, and will be taken in person during a public hearing on Wed., Nov. 29, 6pm, at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation (MPRB) Headquarters, 2117 W. River Rd.

20-year roadmap
The 66-page Skate Park Activity Plan is a 20-year roadmap for providing quality support to the local skate park community and encouraging skating among new generations of park users.
The draft Minneapolis Skate Park Activity Plan has three goals:
1) Increase the number, variety, and distribution of skate parks in Minneapolis;
2) Address policy barriers to high-quality skate park experiences; and
3) Improve the overall skate park experience through design, operations, partnerships and safety measures.

It also provides context and analysis to help inform future decision-making regarding skate park opportunities within Minneapolis and the Minneapolis park system.

Photo right: In this design conception, a skate park is shown at Nokomis as part of the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan. But, it is currently unfunded. It would be located west of the recreation center, and the initial design integrates natural elements. Skate bowls flow within the landscape. The skate plaza replicates nature with granite, bark textures, and shade trees. Plus, there’s a high priority on integrating water management features. (Image provided)

The plan recommends having one regional skate park, ten neighborhood skate parks (including expansion of the existing six), and six skate spots for a total of 17 public skate parks.

“If the skate park plan is funded moving forward, it will give our award-winning Minneapolis Park system a skate park infrastructure second to none,” observed Forsline.

He pointed out that Minneapolis has developed some of the best skateboarders in the world, despite little public support. “We saw Alec Majerus take silver in July at the 2017 X Games at US Bank Stadium. Minneapolis skateboarding is known and respected worldwide,” said Forsline. “It is time for our own public entities to recognize this and support our local skate scene.”

What the parks could be
Currently, 5,000-square-foot skate parks exist at Morris, Armatage, Brackett, Elliot, Bottineau and Creekview parks.

“These six parks never inspired skateboards, yet some of the skate parks are the busiest features in their respective parks,” remarked Forsline.

Photo left: The skate park at Morris Park. “Morris has limited space, so it would be important to prioritize a skate park for beginner and younger skaters, but have some creative and unusual features to still challenge more advanced skates,” remarked Paul Forsline of City of Skate. (Photo provided)

In the plan, these parks would be updated and expanded, when possible.

“Morris has limited space, so it would be important to prioritize a skate park for beginner and younger skaters, but have some creative and unusual features to still challenge more advanced skaters,” said Forsline. “A community stage would be a nice multi-use feature to include in this skate park space.”

“The skate park in Morris is in poor shape,” observed Longfellow resident Bill Welk. “I have not been there for several years due to the condition of the skate park and overall poor layout. The skate park features pre-fabricated concrete obstacles sat on an asphalt surface. Over time the heavy concrete obstacles have sunk into the asphalt and created gaps between the ramps and the asphalt. Not to mention that the rough asphalt eats up speed as a skateboarder pushes across; however, the aged asphalt is wonderful at removing layers of epidermis should a trick not go according to plan.”

Brackett’s existing skate park has always been a well-used skate park, despite having a rough asphalt surface. “With more space allocated here, having both street and transition skateboard features would be important,” said Forsline. “We have to keep the existing old playground rocket feature as a landmark. Maybe build the skate park around the rocket? A NASA and/or space themed skate park would be cool. A glowing skateable moonscape would be awesome.”

To accommodate the number of skaters in the city, the plan calls for adding skate parks at Nokomis, Northeast Athletic Field Park, Central Gym Park, and Cedar Field Park, and the potential Underpass Park and Skyway Commons Pocket Park.

A skate park at Nokomis is a part of the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan, but it is currently underfunded. It would be located to the west of the recreation center, and the initial design integrates natural elements. Skate bowls flow within the landscape. A skate plaza replicates nature with granite, bark textures, and shade trees. Plus there’s a high priority on integrating water management features.

Photo right: “The Nokomis Park is in a great location. It is set to be built in an area between the two lakes,” pointed out Longfellow resident Bill Welk of City of Skate. (Illustration courtesy of City of Skate)

“The Nokomis Park is in a great location. It is set to be built in an area between the two lakes,” pointed out Welk.

In addition to creating spaces for skateboarders, planners recognize that inline skaters and BMX riders will use these parks.

“The skateboarding community in Minneapolis is pretty tight-knit,” observed Welk. “I like that skateboarding is always there for me when I want it. I can go skate by myself or with a group of people. There isn’t a set time, a season, or reliance on another people to skateboard.”

The challenges the community faces include a lack of public parks and long winters, according to Welk, who was part of the steering committee meeting on the Skate Park Activity Plan.

Quality skate parks: a great asset
“Skateboarding is only going to grow in popularity, and a city with a skateboarding plan is going to benefit,” pointed out Forsline, whose children skateboard. “Quality built skate parks by our park system will be the most heavily used features in our park system, and will, therefore, be a great value for our tax dollars. Well-designed skate parks should be inspired spaces that the community and skaters are both proud of.

“I hope every Minneapolis child has the opportunity to discover the challenge and creativity of skateboarding at their local public park and throughout our city.”

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