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U-Haul, Starbucks, and Domino’s proposed for Hiawatha and 42nd

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

Neighbors concerned about increased traffic, lack of green space and auto-oriented businesses

A proposed U-Haul, Starbucks, and Domino’s would transform the Hiawatha and 42nd St. intersection on the east side if approved by the city.

The seven-bay Wash Me car wash on the northeast side will be demolished to make space for two buildings to house a Starbucks and a Domino’s. The proposal was reviewed by the city’s planning commission for the first time on Apr. 12.

City staff expressed substantial concerns about the proposal, due to the location and number of drive-through lanes, principal entrances, and buildings on the site, as well as the lack of pedestrian connections to Hiawatha Ave.

The design includes a 1,928-square-foot building to house the Domino’s on the south side of the site with a drive-through window for call-ahead orders. North of that would be a 2,196-square foot building to house the Starbucks with a double lane drive-through window of its own. Both would be one-story buildings, with a total of 17 parking spaces. One pedestrian connection is planned to 42nd St. but there are none planned for Hiawatha Ave.

The one entrance would be located on the west side of 42nd paired with an exit, and the Domino’s drive-through lane would exit about thirty feet from Hiawatha Ave. on 42nd St.

The Domino’s one-half mile south of this location is expected to close and relocate to this site.

A Starbucks at 4700 Cedar next to Tom’s Popcorn Shop is in the final stage of construction and will open soon.

Illustration right: Neighbors are concerned about how two drive-through businesses on the corner of 42nd St. and Hiawatha Ave. will affect a traffic pattern that they say is already congested. (Graphics submitted)

The 6,765-square-foot Wash Me building at 4155 Hiawatha was constructed in 1985 and is valued at $550,000, according to city property tax records. It is owned by Wash Me Corporation based out of Edina, which also operates car washes at 3957 Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis and 8940 Excelsior Blvd. in Hopkins. A representative could not be reached for comment.

Too much traffic already
“Two drive-through businesses at an intersection already experiencing traffic issues is unacceptable,” remarked Ericsson resident Jeff Gehardson. He pointed out that he lives 300 feet from that intersection. He already has trouble turning onto his street, and often drives two blocks over to Nokomis to enter 42nd. Plus traveling west across

Hiawatha is already difficult and inefficient because of the timing of the lights and the light-rail trains.

“I am pro-development in the city. I am pro bike. I am pro mixed use. This proposal is frustrating, to say the least,” he said. “Stand alone businesses that depend on dozens upon dozens of $10 sales mean very high traffic. We are not suited for it at all.”

Longfellow resident Bev Tuck doesn’t think this spot is big enough to support these two businesses, and she is concerned this plan doesn’t have enough green space.

“The developers and architects are always from Edina, or Eden Prairie or some other suburb coming into our neighborhoods and taking our land for their investment purposes. They pretend to ask for our input, but they hope to override it,” remarked Tuck. “Traffic congestion and lack of green spaces do not affect their lives—they don’t live here.”

U-haul to raze one building, preserve the other
The U-Haul being proposed on the southeast side of the intersection is farther along in the city review process, and public comment was taken during an Apr. 23 hearing.
The 2.18-acre site at 4225 and 4251 Hiawatha Ave. is currently vacant.

U-Haul plans to raze the large factory building on the south side to construct a five-story climate-controlled, self-service storage center (photo left provided). This building most recently housed Woof Pack Doggy Day Spa, American General, Metropolitan Security, and Hiawatha Commercial Auto Care.

The small building that formerly housed Taylor Star 1 Automotive will be turned into a showroom with model storage rooms for rental selection. Plus, an array of packing and shipping supplies, including cartons, tape, and packing materials, will be for sale.

This building was originally a Mobil Service Station opened by Navy veteran, Bernard “Bum” Flanery in 1957. The Flannery Brothers, Tim and Brian, now own and operate Flannery Brothers Automotive at 2720 E. 42nd St.

Over 250 people have signed a petition aimed at preserve this historic building. U-Haul plans to keep the iconic Pegasus horse and install antique gas pumps to give the nod to the history of Longfellow while still looking toward the future, according to U-Haul Southern Minnesota President Chris Bohlman.

The service station is also a nod to U-Haul’s history.

“For decades, well before we had company-owned stores, the business of U-Haul truck and trailer sharing was conducted out of small service stations like this one that would serve their communities as U-Haul neighborhood dealers. That practice dates to 1945,” observed Bohlman. “To this day, our dealers play a pivotal role and account for the bulk of our network across the U.S. and Canada with more than 20,000 locations.

“U-Haul celebrates history, culture, and legacy. We have a track record of preserving historic buildings, and we stand passionately behind our adaptive reuse program.”

Green initiatives
Through its adaptive reuse of old and often vacated properties for new U-Haul stores, the company helps eliminate blight, cuts down on new building materials, and keeps old building teardowns out of landfills, said Bohlman.

Photo right: A proposal before the city would tear down the existing Wash Me car wash and replace it with two one-story buildings to house a Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

U-Haul also offers and promotes several green programs. Customers gift used furniture and household goods to one another at the Re-Use Centers at U-Haul stores.

Through the Take a Box, Leave a Box program, customers drop off and pick up used boxes in useable condition for free so that they may be reused. U-Haul uses furniture pads made from recycled denim, and biodegradable packing peanuts made of corn and potato starch, which keeps styrofoam out of landfills.

“Our sustainability platform demands we make an effort to find store and dealer locations that are within a few blocks of public transportation to reduce the need for excess driving,” pointed out Bohlman. He believes that being just a few blocks from a light rail terminal will significantly cut down on traffic and benefit the neighborhood.

The Hiawatha Ave. location will accommodate families that require access to and from downtown, and all of the neighborhoods to the south of town.

There is currently just one U-Haul facility in Minneapolis. It’s located at 3545 Nicollet Ave. and is on 0.43 acres of land.

“The Twin Cities are arguably the most underserved metropolitan area in all of North America with regard to U-Haul self-move and self-storage facilities,” said Bohlman.

Currently, more than half of U-Haul’s customers in Minneapolis proper are driving outside the city. “As a major proponent of sustainability and green business, U-Haul wants to be able to help Minneapolis lower its carbon footprint while providing time-saving solutions,” stated Bohlman.

In 2016, Minnesota’s U-Haul traffic ranked #3 in the nation based on annual migration trends reports when comparing arrivals versus departures for one-way U-Haul truck traffic. In 2017, St. Paul and Minneapolis remained the two largest markets in the state for arrivals and departures of one-way U-Haul customers by a substantial margin.

U-Haul is a sharing-centered business focused on helping people meet a very basic need, Bohlman pointed out.

Sustainability studies show the presence of every U-Haul truck placed in a community serves as a potential substitute for 19 personally-owned SUVs and pick-ups on the road.

“Fewer vehicles on the road means less traffic congestion, less pollution, less fuel burned and cleaner air. When communities share a vehicle to meet the needs of many, everyone wins—especially proponents of less traffic and a better environment,” said Bohlman.

LCC opposes auto-centered business
During a community meeting hosted by the Longfellow Community Council last summer, residents showed concern for increased traffic, the addition of a surface parking lot, an auto-orientated use, building height and design, according to a letter written by LCC Board President Melissa Erjavec to the planning commission.

She pointed out that the U-Haul proposal is in opposition to several plans calling for a reduction of auto-oriented businesses in the area. The 46th and Hiawatha TOD (2009) Strategy and the 46th and Hiawatha Area Station Master Plan (2001) envisioned residential and office space at this site.

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A new restaurant, The Bungalow Club, opens on East Lake St.

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

The crisp, white letters “TBC” painted on the door were the first sign that something was happening at 4300 E. Lake St., the former home of the Craftsman Restaurant & Bar.

The attractive Longfellow space had been vacant for months, following the closing of the Craftsman. A restaurant called The Bungalow Club is the building’s new tenant, and its partners had been preparing for their Apr. 17 opening since the first of the year.

Photo left: The Bungalow Club held a soft launch for family and friends the weekend before their official opening. Guests (foreground) enjoyed the expanded bar, which now seats 16 for dining and drinking.

Owner and chef Andrew Kraft said, “My goal has always been to have my own restaurant. I’m excited to create a menu that isn’t complicated but is very interesting. I like food that’s simple and clear. The cornerstone of TBC will be fresh pasta: we plan to have six on the menu, and the menu will change seasonally. We’ll offer house-made sausages and an extensive line of pickles. First and foremost, we’re looking to be a friendly neighborhood spot with a really solid menu.”

“My mom actually came up with the name The Bungalow Club,” Kraft continued, “when we were talking one day. She said, ‘Maybe it could be like a club for the bungalow owners in the neighborhood?’ What we envision is a place for everybody, including kids and families. This won’t be a blaring scene. We’re planning on moderate light and noise levels, an extensive list of well-sourced wine, beer, and cocktails, and special events on the patio this summer like BBQ night, or even a pig roast.”

Photo right: Chef and owner Andrew Kraft (left) and friends.

Kraft comes to the helm of TBC with solid credentials. A graduate of the Culinary Institute in New York City, he spent several years working in Manhattan before returning to Minneapolis as chef of the Grand Café from 2013-17.

General manager Jeremiah Dittman, Kraft’s brother-in-law and business partner, also spent considerable time learning the restaurant business in New York City. He shares

Kraft’s vision for running a fun, energetic neighborhood business that can eventually grow into a destination for the metro. “We’re aiming for a menu that feels comfortably adventurous,” Dittman said. “We want to offer options that range from the familiar to the unexpected, all with bright, fresh ingredients.”

The physical restaurant space is looking bright and fresh as well. The oak floors have been re-done, the bar has been extended and will serve 16 customers instead of eight.

All of the tables and counter spaces are gleaming. According to Dittman, “The Craftsman operated here for ten years; updating and some TLC were definitely in order.”

They’ll offer their dinner menu Tuesday thru Sunday from 4-10pm, with brunch served on Saturday and Sunday from 9am-2:30pm. By the time the patio opens, they’ll have brunch from 10am-4pm six days/week, and continue with dinner service from 4-10pm.

In addition, Kraft said, “We think we’ll make an excellent daytime workspace. All of our booths will be equipped with power plugs and public WIFI. We’ll offer an excellent selection of espresso, drip coffee, and specialty teas, as well as a nice assortment of baked goods, many of which will be baked in-house. Eventually, a Happy Hour will evolve, with likely hours from 2-5pm.

For more information on The Bungalow Club, visit their website at

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CAC to investigate reduced pumping options at Hiawatha Golf Course

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

The charge for the Community Advisory Committee from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is to make recommendations to the MPRB Commissioners in support of any changes to the golf course property or perpetuation of current uses, with attention to priority, sequencing, timing, and funding. About 100 community members attended the first CAC meeting on March 28 at the Nokomis Recreation Center. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Some question scope of project and push for putting everything on the table, including 18-hole golf course

The future of Hiawatha Golf Course is being considered by 18 community members who have been appointed to a Community Advisory Committee (CAC).

Their charge from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is to make recommendations to the MPRB Commissioners in support of any changes to the golf course property or perpetuation of current uses, with attention to priority, sequencing, timing, and funding.

“What should we do with this property with the reduced pumping scenario? Our job is to answer that question and come forth with recommendations to the park board,” said CAC Chair David Kaplan, who is also a board member of the Standish-Ericcson Neighborhood Association.

The CAC will work to understand past investigations, conducted by the MPRB and others, to gain a reasonable understanding of water management conditions on the golf course property and nearby private properties. They are also tasked with becoming knowledgeable about past and current use of the property, including communities served by the current golf course.

Members will act as primary contacts on the project within the community.

Photo right: Community Advisory Committee Members (left to right) Kathryn Kelly, Joan Soholt and Tara Olds are among the 18 people who are studying what to do at the Hiawatha Golf Course. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

CAC members are Anne Painter, Chakra Sankaraiah, Craig Nichols, Damon LeFlore, David Kaplan, Duane Whittaker, Joan Soholt, Kathryn Kelly, Matt Hilgart, Nathan Shepherd, Roxanne Stuhr, Sean Connaughty, Sean Keir, Sheila Terryll, Tara Olds, Teresa Engstrom, Tim Clemens, and William Means. Members represent groups such as a representative from the Anishinabe community, a golf coach, cross-country skiers, a Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association board member (who is serving as the CAC chair), a college professor, a landscape designer, a marine archeologist, member of the Friends of Lake Hiawatha, and more.

State Senator Patricia Torres Ray said that she is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to assign a staff person to the group.

The committee’s first meeting was held on Mar. 28, and was attended by about 100 community members. Upcoming meetings are set for Apr. 30 and May 30 from 6:30-8pm (locations to be determined).

Minutes and handouts from the first meeting, and other items included in the CAC member binders, are available on the MPRB project web site.

“We want to make this as transparent as possible because this is an issue that affects all of us,” pointed out Kaplan.

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) Board Member Brian Shekleton told those gathered that he has been attending meetings about the Hiawatha Golf Course since 2014, and he looks forward to being a resource.

“We have a partnership with the park board and the city of Minneapolis such that when any one of those entities does work along the water body, we all work together to think through the planning,” said Shekleton. “Our mission is to help people, entities, companies, and units of government to have better water quality when they do a project.”

CAC member Sean Connaughty, of Friends of Lake Hiawatha and the MPRB volunteer steward of Lake Hiawatha, discussed a grant he has received to work on mitigating the large stormwater sewer pipe that drains into the northwest part of Lake Hiawatha. He plans to share updates with the CAC as the project progresses.

“I think cleaning up the lake can be an exciting goal for all of us,” said Connaughty.

Disagreement regarding scope
Some CAC members, as well as community members, questioned the scope of the project and thought it was ‘putting the cart before the horse.’
“This has not been what some of us had been told,” observed CAC member Kathryn Kelly. “We’ve been told that everything is on the table, including an 18-hole golf course.”

MPRB Assistant Superintendent of Planning Services Michael Schroeder responded that he had discussed the issue with legal counsel, and was directed to follow the resolution in its entirety that was approved by the park board of commissioners last August and not pick certain pieces of it to use as the CAC charge. That resolution, he pointed out, begins by instructing the CAC to look at a reduced pumping scenario with the perpetuation of golf in some use.

“Any changes to our instruction need to come from the Board of Commissioners itself,” said Kaplan.

Treat each other as neighbors
With the help of MPRB Community Outreach, Equity & Inclusion Manager Radious Guess, ground rules for how the CAC will operate were agreed on.

These include: speak from your own experience, respect all voices, and listen to understand. Don’t just wait to speak, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Speak with intention, no assumptions, ask for what you need to offer what you can, treat each other like neighbors, and seek common ground. The group should focus on compromise, with no screaming, think ecologically, and come with an attitude of collaboration, respect for science, and be transparent.

What the process looks like
After coming to an understanding of the project and getting to know the site and its various needs, the CAC will begin imagining possibilities—that is, thinking big for the future and developing guiding principles, according to MPRB Project Manager Tyler Pederson.

CAC members will then refine their big ideas, figure out how they fit into the larger Hiawatha-Nokomis Master Plan, and develop a focused vision before identifying a preferred direction.

The next step will be documentation–putting the plan on paper and developing recommendations to present to MPRB. Following that, the draft plan will be shared with a 45-day public comment period.

After it is approved by MPRB, the plan must also be adopted by the Met Council.

It may require alignment with permitting agencies: US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Office of State Archaeologist, city of Minneapolis, and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

Information from the two other advisory groups, the Technical Advisory Panel and the Project Advisory Committee, will be shared during the process.

“We’re at the very beginning of this process, even though we’ve been here for many years,” pointed out Pedersen.

Work will be fluid
Next up will be forming a consultant team. MPRB has already received three proposals from companies that have a variety of staff members in areas such as engineering, landscape architecture, recreation specialists, golf course architecture, ecological engineering and more. Interviews will be ranked by MPRB staff members, and a recommendation of one proposing consultant will be sent to the board of commissioners for contract approval.

MPRB is also seeking a cultural advisor from the Dakota community.

While some questioned how the group could plan without knowing all the answers related to the water issues, Schroeder acknowledged that they would make course adjustments as they go.

“Your work here will have to be somewhat fluid,” he stated. “As we learn information from other sources, we’ll bring it back to this group.”

Those with comments are encouraged to email or fill out an online comment form at

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ANCIA Saxophone Quartet to play music from around the world in free concert at Nokomis Library May 5

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

To step inside this Nokomis living room on a wintry Sunday morning was to be readily transported to a much warmer place: Cuba. ANCIA Saxophone Quartet was rehearsing a piece by Paquito D’Rivera in preparation for upcoming concerts, including a free one on May 5 at the Nokomis Library.

Titled “Monk-Tuno,” the song is a play on the word montuno, a traditional Cuban musical style, and renowned American jazz musician Thelonious Monk. These Latin rhythms offered a respite from the blustery day outdoors and a great preview of ANCIA’s upcoming performances. Featuring Latin jazz, South American tango, music from Mexico, Japanese folks songs, Afro-Funk and more, the quartet promises a trip around the world—inside the library.

Photo right: Left to right: Matthew Sintchak, Angela Wyatt, David Milne and Joan Hutton of ANCIA Saxophone Quartet will be performing a free concert of music from around the world at Nokomis Library May 5. (Photo by Daniel Soderstrom)

ANCIA (pronounced AHN-chee-uh, the Italian word for reed) was founded by Nokomis resident Angela Wyatt in 1990. One connection led to another and then another, and they became the four members who make up the quartet today. Wyatt plays the baritone saxophone, Joan Hutton, who is also from the Nokomis neighborhood, plays the alto saxophone, St. Paul resident David Milne plays the tenor saxophone, and Matthew Sintchak, from Madison, WI, plays the soprano saxophone.

Together the critically-acclaimed group performs music that spans cultures, genres and time periods, drawing on their talents as well as the range and potential of their instrument of choice.

“The saxophone is such a fantastic instrument,” said Milne. “It’s got versatility, flexibility, beauty, and power.”

Intended to be played as part of a group (according to Sintchak, there are actually 14 types of saxophone), the saxophone works as well at a concert as it does in church or at a jazz festival. ANCIA welcomes the variety of music that entails and are as at home playing with a chamber orchestra as they are in a university setting.

Dedicated to showcasing new works for saxophone quartet, ANCIA actively commissions work from modern composers.

“We’re eager for that repertoire,” said Wyatt. “Composers appreciate that we’re so versatile.”

Which means they’ve had to remain flexible. The group laughed while reminiscing about a couple of past tours. Like the time in South Korea when Sintchak was handed a 15-minute solo soprano piece just moments before the concert was to begin (they had received their other music a couple of months in advance). Or the time in Berlin when the composer was told to “make anything you want to” and greeted ANCIA by saying “I bet you hate me right now.” The quartet had agreed to play the material before it had been written, a sort of challenge they seem to embrace.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Sintchak. “It’s like a chef’s special.”

In commissioning a new composer, the idea of trying to embed meaning into the work is vital to the group. ANCIA collaborated with Minnesota-based composer Libby Larsen on “Confluence,” which they premiered in Strasbourg, France, in 2015. The composition draws on cultural aspects and environmental concerns at the confluence of rivers in four distinctly different regions: the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake in the Pacific Northwest; the Yangtze and Jialing in China; the Rhine, Mosel, and Ill in Europe; and the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri in the Midwest.

Each of the four movements gives different representations of culture and the sounds you might hear. For example, Mississippi Folk songs and steamboats, with the water itself adding distinctive qualities and rhythms and invoking different moods.

“[One movement] begins at a nuclear power plant,” said Hutton. “So it’s not happy.”

Quartet members share a love of teaching and passing it on to the next generation. Music educators themselves—Hutton at Augsburg College, Wyatt at Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools, Milne at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Sintchak at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater—ANCIA members credit instructors they’ve had for encouraging them to play music.

“We’ve all been blessed to have world-class professors and mentors,” said Wyatt. “That’s a huge piece to playing our instruments at a high level.”

Sintchak said he had great teachers who said he should keep on playing. “I didn’t realize how fortunate I was in my music instruction until I got to college.”

To remain a group over many years while juggling families and other obligations is its own challenge, yet ANCIA has made it work. They practice one weekend a month, with Sintchak commuting the longest (from Madison), to make music.

“We all have crazy busy lives,” said Wyatt. “But we carve out this space to play music together.”

“It’s pretty special when you find people to make music with, and you love their company,” said Hutton.

Hear them play at a free one-hour concert at Nokomis Library on May 5 at 10:30am and at Highland Library in St. Paul on May 20 at 2pm. These concerts were made possible through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Cultural Heritage Fund. Stay tuned for ANCIA’s CD release later this year.

For more information on other upcoming concerts and to hear recordings, visit their website at

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The biggest stumbling block to more ADUs may be high cost

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

Chris Iverson, who said he has been anchored to the Longfellow area for many years, had become fascinated with the idea of scaled-down living. So when he learned the city had changed its rules to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on properties, he started making plans to downsize his lifestyle.

An ADU is defined as a room or set of rooms with its own cooking, sleeping and sanitation facilities which is located on the same lot as a single or two-family home. It must be smaller in area than the main dwelling to which it is accessory. ADUs can be detached, attached or internal. The property owner must reside either in the ADU or the principal dwelling unit.

“I loved the idea of increased density, not for the sake of density, but for the practical use of the space. So there was interest for me, and it gave me the opportunity to build something,” Iverson said.

Photo right: Chris Iverson built his ADU above his garage in the back of his duplex. By law, the owner or a relative of the property owner must live in an ADU. (Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Home Tour)

He bought his first house in Longfellow in 1989 and left the area a couple of times but kept returning. “I definitely like the neighborhood, so deciding to invest here was pretty easy,” Iverson related.

He owned a duplex in Longfellow but was residing in a 2700-square-foot home in St. Louis Park. In January he moved into his 640-square-foot ADU, choosing to live there himself and rent out his duplex.

Although ADUs had been approved by the City Council in December 2014, the actual building of them has been moderate.

According to Minneapolis Community Planning and Development, between December 2014 and February 2018, between 34-38 ADUs have received zoning approval each year. The department has received 121 zoning applications for ADUs, and of that total 109 have been approved by zoning. Ninety-four of the 109 applications have also received a building permit or have completed construction.

Compared to St. Paul, which has a limited ordinance that passed in late 2016 and has resulted in only one ADU receiving approval for construction by the end of 2017, Minneapolis ADU construction is forging ahead. But compared to Portland, OR, which on the average approves one ADU per day, the growth is small.

However, it is in line with what the Council was expecting. Andrew Johnson, Ward 12 council member, said he considered the number of ADUs in Minneapolis to be more than he was expecting. “The first year, when I talked to Lisa Bender about her expectations, she thought it would be under a dozen,” Johnson said. Bender, a council member representing Ward 10, proposed the legislation leading to acceptance of ADUs in Minneapolis.

“You know, the reason why I don’t think we see more is because of the cost,” Johnson continued. “I mean, the cost of building new construction is not affordable. I look at some of the ADUs, and we’re talking upwards of $150,000 to $200,000. That’s pretty standard. You’ve got to be pretty motivated and have some good resources to make that decision work.”

Photo left: Chris Iverson standing in his Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in back of the duplex he owns in Longfellow. (Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Home Tour)

Iverson agreed that cost was a big factor. ‘It was maybe a bit of an over-investment in the short term, but that probably goes more to what I built.” Iverson said he went a bit overboard with his heating system because he wanted radiant heating for comfort and more efficiency. “I spent a little more, but I’m not worried about the long-term,” he said. Renting out his duplex also helps him cover the cost.

Iverson said he had an initial hurdle because he had to change the zoning on his property to move his project forward. “Most of Longfellow had an R1A zoning, but since my property is a duplex, I had to get that fixed before I could move ahead.”

Iverson said his architect, Christopher Strom, had been fairly involved in helping with guidelines for his ADU. “My instructions to him were to build completely within the zoning rules. I didn’t want to have to go back to the city for additional changes,” Iverson stated.

He said the process can take time. He first spoke to Strom about the project in the spring of 2016 and focused on getting all of the zoning requirements completed by the fall of that year. “In the fall of 2016 we started the design process and finally broke ground to start building in June 2017,” Iverson said. “It was a whole year before we actually broke ground, and the project itself took several months to construct.”

The neighbors have been very supportive, according to Iverson. “No one came forward and said they were uncomfortable with the zoning change. My next door neighbor had expressed some concerns about privacy and having this structure that would be looking into the back of her house, but we had conversations,” Iverson recalled. “Longfellow, in general, has such varied land use.”

He said council member Johnson was a big help to him in the process. “Andrew was great and super supportive as a resource. His office was really helpful. I also talked to folks at Longfellow Community Council, who were willing to leverage what they could.”

Photo right: Chris Iverson has all the amenities in his 640 square foot ADU. (Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Home Tour)

Iverson designed his ADU to be completely contemporary, much different from the style of his main house. He said there are all kinds of criteria for the square footage of the ADU, and it must be at least one square foot smaller than the main house. He was not prepared, however, for all the notice his ADU would receive.

“People who don’t know me know my structure,” he claimed. “I was in the Longfellow Market and checking out when the cashier asked if I was the guy building the ADU. I said I was, and he told me he had recognized my car in the parking lot from where he had seen it parked in front of my property. I have also had bikers passing by the property and giving me a thumbs up. And cars will drive by and take pictures. I even had someone come and knock on my door and ask me questions about the structure.”

Iverson said all the comments have been positive, and he sometimes stands in his kitchen window and waves at the people who stop to look at his ADU.

It will be on display for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Home Tour the weekend of Apr. 28.

Johnson said he has not received any complaints about ADUs. Before they were approved in Minneapolis, there had been concerns raised about traffic, parking concerns and structures not fitting in with the neighborhood, but none of those concerns have been raised. “I know we had one unique situation in my ward of variance based on a grandfathered-in nonconforming property. Otherwise, these go up pretty quietly; you just see a building come up.”

Someone who has constructed a few of those structures is Joe Slavec, who operates Minneapolis Garage Construction.

“Mostly we build garages, but we build a few ADUs here and there,” Slavec said. “They are kind of sparse because of the cost.”

Slavec said part of the costs involve plumbing, and he thinks the plumbing union has been instrumental in not letting people move forward. “There is an easier way to make these units work,” he said. “To reduce the costs, you should be able to use a system that has been used in Canada. It has a mulching unit on the back of the toilet, and it mulches waste so the toilet and water facility in the garage is supplied by a half inch PEX line and there’s a ¾ inch PEX line that goes out and can hook up to the house rather than go out into the street. But I have yet to see plumbing inspectors approve the use of that system. That would dramatically reduce the cost.”

Slavec said it is also important for property owners to realize they are basically building a small house when they build an ADU. “This is going to be a five to six-month process because you have to get all the inspections and same things that go into building a house,” he noted.

He said that a decline in the labor market has made it even more difficult to get someone to come out for a small job.

“Fortunately, there is not a shortage of electricians or plumbers, but there is on carpenters,” he said.

One of the ADUs Slavec has built is for himself, on his property in Independence, on the other side of Wayzata. “I live in the main house and have a detached ADU. My home is the old Shady Beach Resort,” he said.

Despite the cost, Slavec said he is getting more and more requests for ADUs.

“I typically point people to one of my earlier experiences,” he said. “We were building a garage and the lady next door was just starting her own ADU project. She had provided three contractors with the same set of plans and received quotes for $180,000, $250,000 and $320,000.”

“She chose the $180,000 project. I circled through the following spring and checked in with her and asked how the project was going. ‘Well, we’re still working on it,’ she said. ‘It’s up to $210,000 now.’”

Slavec said when he tells people that is around the standard cost, it scares some of them off.

Slavec said his parents are elderly and currently living in Iowa. At the point where they might need help, he will be able to offer them the ADU to live in. “Or I might live there,” he reflected. ‘but it will be nice that I can offer them the same care as the care that I received when I was growing up.”

Another factor that Slavec encourages people to consider is the importance of getting a set of plans first before hiring a contractor. “Otherwise people go into the process with a great deal of confusion,” Slavec said. “When they go in with a designer, at least someone is getting paid for that knowledge, and sharing it and helping that person move forward.”

He said if he gets a request for an ADU, he passes it on to a designer, asking him or her to work with the customer.

“Once you are done with the designer, get it locked in,” Slavec said. He encouraged the property owner to then take that plan to three different contractors and get an honest price. “I tell them to start with the designer; it cuts to the chase and helps people make a more informed decision,” Slavec said.

He also warned people building ADUs to hold the designer accountable and be sure codes are being checked. He said the designer should create a plan that can be brought to the city and accepted.

Slavec said he does see ADUs becoming a growing trend. Iverson agreed, adding that his architect is now working on another ADU in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Johnson cited the increasing costs for rentals and home purchases will make a remodel or ADUs look more and more reasonable.

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Resiliency is the focus of Lake Nokomis shoreline design project

Posted on 27 March 2018 by calvin

MPRB planning $450,000 project to improve shoreline and increase natural landscape

This project will enhance 4,800 linear feet of shoreline north of the west beach, around the lake and down the point on the east side. (Graphic courtesy of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board)

Nearly $450,000 will be spent on plantings and other improvements around Lake Nokomis this year to improve the eroding shoreline and water quality. With this, invasive plants will be removed, and habitat developed.

Right now, a natural lakeshore buffer is absent or narrow in many areas. Aquatic vegetation is nonexistent in some areas, and water clarity less than one meter due to excessive nutrients.

The upcoming Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) project includes 4,800 feet of shoreline that extends about 20 feet inland.

During the second community meeting held in February, MPRB project manager Jon Duesman outlined the problem and explained what will be done to fix things.

He stressed that this project will not address groundwater or surface water issues. A separate multi-agency group is working on that problem.

However, some residents question why any work is done before that issue is resolved, and lake levels better understood. Recently, the lake has had substantial variations in water levels. The ordinary high water level is 815.4, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“In the last seven years, we have seen drastic changes including dying trees, flooding, invasion of cattails, eroding beaches and shoreline to the lake,” pointed out Joan Soholt, who is part of a group of local residents seeking to address water issues in the Lower Minnehaha Creek Watershed.

“Shouldn’t we address the cause of this fluctuation before we put money into plantings and enhancements? It seems like putting the ‘cart before the horse’ to plant unless you resolve the lake level problem.”

Duesman pointed out that planners recognize that lake levels have been fluctuating. “We’re designing this to be resilient regardless of what the water levels do,” he stated.

More natural landscape
The Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan approved in 2015 calls for increasing the amount of naturalized landscape around the lake by 10-50%.

“We’re looking to increase the quality and the quantity of these natural habitats,” remarked Doug Mensing of Applied Ecological Services (AES).

Much of the existing shoreline has turf grass and woody vegetation right up to the shoreline.

Current problems include a limit to upland and shoreline buffer habitat due to extensive turf and invasive species. Shoreline erosion is occurring in locations due to shading, wave action, trampling, and shallow-rooted vegetation. Aquatic habitat quantity and quality is limited due to little aquatic vegetation and poor water clarity. Plus, sediment and algae further suppress plant growth by preventing light penetration.

Photo right: During the second community meeting held in February, Doug Mensing of Applied Ecological Services (AES) outlined the problem along the Lake Nokomis shoreline and explained what will be done to fix things. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There is erosion near the north stormwater pipe, wet areas in the lawn, and concentrated run-off.

This project will enhance 4,800 linear feet of shoreline north of the west beach, around the lake and down the point on the east side. In doing so, the project will improve habitat for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates while re-establishing the aquatic and shoreline vegetation that is critical to overall lake clarity.

Each shoreline area is divided into three areas to pick the right types of plants: upland buffer, shoreline, and emergent.

The upland buffer begins about two feet from trails to the wetland delineation line and includes mostly short mesic prairie and areas of wet prairie. The shoreline buffer is the space from wetland delineation line to water’s edge. Diverse native shorelines (including many pollinator species) will be planted in the upland and shoreline buffer areas.

Some plants in these areas remain from a planting project in 2005, but all of the emergent plantings from then have died.

A concern was expressed that the new plantings may die as the old ones did. Duesman replied, “We intend to have a very robust planting that is resilient.” He stressed that they do not want to waste money, yet everything they do is being done without knowing whether water levels will go up or down.

“We’ve heard this message loud and clear,” Duesman said.

The emergent wetland is from the water’s edge to depth of approximately two feet. It will include a diversity of shallow emergent species (such as river bulrush, lake sedge, giant bur-reed, and common three-square) near shoreline and transition to only hardstem bulrush out to the two-foot depth.

An online survey of residents showed that the majority preferred shorter, random plantings versus formal or taller plantings. While many of the more colorful plants won’t do well in this area, some bands of color will be included to provide seasonal variety.

Rip-rap toe protection will be used in two or three locations that get a lot of wave action, although MPRB is also evaluating the use of toe-wood, coir log with live stakes, and minor grading and soil lifts.

Eleven of the 18 accesses to the lake with erosion in this area will be removed during this project and filled in with plantings, while others will be modified to last better in the long-term. Durable lake access may include the placement of large, level stones.

Work to begin in September
Funding for this project was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund to restore, protect, and enhance Minnesota’s wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.

The first phase of this project will be more simple, while potential future phases may increase the formality and number of limestone blocks used.

Work is slated to begin in September 2018.

Additional feedback is being collected via an online survey at

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Cub, Oppidan break ground on grocery store, apartment complex

Posted on 27 March 2018 by calvin

The grocery store will be on the first floor of a five-story building that also includes 3,000 square feet of small-shop retail, 148 market-rate apartments, and a large public plaza. The grocery store is expected to open in the spring of 2019, and residents will begin moving into the apartments in the summer of 2019. (Graphic courtesy of Cub)

A Cub store at 46th and Hiawatha, featuring a new urban design, will be the first to anchor a residential complex being developed by Excelsior-based Oppidan Investment Company.

At 46,000-square-feet, the store will be about half the size of a typical Cub store. The existing Cub store on Lake St. that has recently been remodeled will remain.
“We’re going to build a pretty incredible store,” said Cub Foods President of Operations Chad Ferguson during a groundbreaking ceremony on Thur., Mar. 15. “This will be truly unique.”

He pointed out that in addition to stocking groceries for meals made from scratch, the new store will offer inspirational items that require some food prep, as well as full meals that are ready to go.

Photo right: “We’re going to build a pretty incredible store,” said Cub Foods President of Operations Chad Ferguson during a groundbreaking ceremony on Mar. 15. “This will be truly unique.” In addition to a large deli area with Quick and Easy® and made-to-order meals, the new urban store will feature a theater-feel popcorn shop, a farmer’s market layout in the produce section, enhanced floral gift space, and a pharmacy. Delivery services for the neighborhood and apartment complex will be available. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a spacious outdoor seating area, complete with bicycle parking, as well as a walk-up window serving coffees, ice creams, and signature cookie sandwiches year-round from the Refresh! juice bar. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The design of the store features multiple entrances, lots of natural light, and an expansive indoor café-style space that welcomes guests to take a break or plug-in for work.

“We’re evolving our look and feel while showcasing new shopping innovations for a better experience for our customers. We feel this new format Cub is a perfect fit for this neighborhood,” said Anne Dament, Executive Vice President of Retail, Marketing, and Private Brands at SuperValu.

Fostering community
One of Cub’s four pillars is Cub in the community, pointed out Ferguson, and this new store will foster a community atmosphere in ways other Cub stores don’t because of its location within a transit-orientated, mixed-use development near a Blue Line station.

The grocery store will be on the first floor of a five-story building that also includes 3,000 square feet of small-shop retail, 148 market-rate apartments, and a large public plaza. The site was formerly home to the Creative KidStuff corporate office building that was recently demolished.

“We’re very excited to see the culmination of over a year of planning and development,” said Drew Johnson, Vice President of Oppidan Investment Company. “Cub has done a great job responding to and incorporating stakeholder feedback into their store design. The finished project will be a tremendous asset to the neighborhood.”

Photo left: “We’re very excited to see the culmination of over a year of planning and development,” said Drew Johnson, Vice President of Oppidan Investment Company. “Cub has done a great job responding to and incorporating stakeholder feedback into their store design. The finished project will be a tremendous asset to the neighborhood.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“You couldn’t pick a better location,” said Andrew Johnson, Minneapolis Ward 12 Council Member. “It’s across the street from the busiest park in the state, on LRT and BRT lines with several prominent bike paths nearby, and a short walk to Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River.”

The development serves as the pilot phase of the two-mile “Min Hi Line,” a multi-modal pedestrian path and linear park that will eventually provide connectivity from Minnehaha Park all the way to the Midtown Greenway. This pilot project will be constructed on a section of former railroad right-of-way now owned by the city of Minneapolis.

“It’s an idea whose time has finally come with the Oppidan development because they choose to orientate their development to the line,” remarked Min-Hi Line co-founder Cora Peterson, who grew up in East Nokomis.

Photo right: The development serves as the pilot phase of the two-mile “Min Hi Line,“ a multi-modal pedestrian path and linear park that will eventually provide connectivity from Minnehaha Park all the way to the Midtown Greenway. “It’s an idea whose time has finally come with the Oppidan development because they choose to orientate their development to the line,” remarked Min Hi Line co-founder Cora Peterson, who grew up in East Nokomis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The line will help green the urban landscape and provide social connectedness, Peterson pointed out. “The development of the Min-Hi Line is the next step to ensure that Minneapolis and the Twin Cities continue to lead in quality of life nationally,” she said.

Innovative features
This new, urban design comes as the Stillwater-based Cub celebrates its 50th anniversary. Cub was established in 1968 as one of the nation’s first discount grocery stores. The organization was purchased in 1980 by SuperValu® and operates 80 grocery stores in Minnesota and Illinois. Nearly all of the large supermarket chains are testing smaller market stores in response to customers who may not want to walk through large stores anymore and are used to shopping online.

Ferguson credited the many Cub staff members who helped give life to the innovative features in this urban design.

In addition to a large deli area with Quick and Easy® and made-to-order meals, the new urban store will feature a theater-feel popcorn shop, a farmer’s market layout in the produce section, enhanced floral gift space, and a pharmacy. Delivery services for the neighborhood and apartment complex will be available.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy a spacious outdoor seating area, complete with bicycle parking, as well as a walk-up window serving coffees, ice creams, and signature cookie sandwiches year-round from the Refresh! juice bar.

“There will be so many cool touches that will make this not only a place to pick up groceries, but a place to gather—and create a social experience which I know is important to the area,” said Ferguson.

Development fulfills local vision from 2002
In the 1960s, a six-lane freeway was planned for Hiawatha Ave., but the neighbors said, “No,” recalled Hennepin County District 4 Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who lives a few blocks away from the Oppidan development. Through the transformative power of the neighbor’s vision, the area is home to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), light rail (LRT), small businesses, apartments, and more.

In 2002, the county invested a small amount to fashion a plan for the area at 46th and Hiawatha, based on neighborhood input, pointed out McLaughlin. This plan provided the framework for Oppidan’s vision for high-density use at the site.

“This area of Minneapolis has experienced exciting growth with higher-density residential projects, due in part to its proximity to downtown, MSP Airport, the Blue Line light rail, bike trails and Minnehaha Regional Park,” said Oppidan Vice President of Development Drew Johnson. “However, the neighborhood does not have a full-serve grocery store to complement this residential growth. When this project opens, over 10,000 people will be within a 10-minute walk of this store.”

The grocery store is expected to open in the spring of 2019, and residents will begin moving into the apartments in the summer of 2019. The project’s general contractor is Anderson Companies, and the architect is Pope.

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Gun protests at local schools

Posted on 27 March 2018 by calvin

Roosevelt students, teachers, join nationwide protest against gun violence

Article and photos by JILL BOOGREN
Hundreds of students and teachers walked out of Roosevelt High School at 10am on Mar. 14, as similar walkouts took place at thousands of schools throughout Minnesota and across the country.

Holding signs (photo right) that read “Stop killing students,” “Detener la violencia” (Stop the violence), and “Stop shooting & start living,” demonstrators chanted “What do we want? Safer schools! When do we want it? Now!” They called for ending gun violence and shamed the National Rifle Association. Drivers honked as they passed by, drawing cheers from the students.

The walkout lasted 17 minutes, in remembrance of each of the 17 people killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, one month before to the day.

A few neighbors watching the demonstration from across the street (photo left)  applauded as students made their way back into the building. Pastor Brenda Froisland of Bethel Lutheran Church said she “had their backs” and was there to support in any way it was needed.

“I rely on our youth to deliver the message,” said Froisland. “I’m sorry we haven’t made the difference for them.”

Photo right: Students gather outside Roosevelt High School for 17 minutes on Mar. 14 to remember the 17 victims of the school shooting in Florida and protest gun violence.

Kathy Nelson, a second-generation Roosevelt alumnus, looking forward to her 50th class reunion this year, also showed her support.

“I feel like what we couldn’t accomplish, they’re going to,” said Nelson. “I’m so excited for change.”

Photo left: Students holding up signs on the sidewalk in front of Roosevelt High School on Mar. 14.

The protest was initiated by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, using the hashtag #Enough. Their website showed more than 3,100 schools participating across the country, although many additional schools, including Roosevelt High School, participated without signing up.

The Mar. 14 walkout followed one that took place Feb. 21, in which dozens of students left Roosevelt High School and joined other demonstrators at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park before marching to City Hall. By and large students here, as nationwide, are expressing frustration over gun violence and adults’ failure to enact meaningful gun reform.

“There have also been other shootings, and nothing’s been done,” said Charly Tiempos, a ninth grader who joined the protest in February. “Kids are taking control instead of adults.”

The movement shows no signs of slowing. According to Roosevelt Teacher Sasha Yunginger, eight Roosevelt students were planning to board a bus to Washington D.C. to participate in the March For Our Lives protest on Mar. 24 (after the Messenger deadline).

Another national school walkout is planned for Apr. 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.





Photo right: Roosevelt students join students from Washburn and other high schools at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park for a march to City Hall on Feb. 21.





Photo left: Signs posted in the window of The Aliveness Project on Nicollet Ave., where demonstrators were met with applause.




Photo right: A student holds a sign at the Mar. 14 demonstration.






Seventeen teachable moments at Hale School memorial/protest

Although the temperature at 10am hovered just below the freezing point, nearly 150 people showed up at Hale Elementary School in the Nokomis Neighborhood on Mar. 14.

They were protesting gun violence and were there to remember the Parkland High School students, staff, and educators who died in a school mass shooting only one month earlier.

Photo right: A lot of parents showed up to say ‘We stand with students’ at the Mar. 14 protest/remembrance. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Hands Around Hale was one of 2,500 similar gatherings around the country, one of more than 75 that took place around Minnesota. Minneapolis schools officials said that peaceful walkouts would be allowed as long as students stayed on the school property, but Hale is a grade school, so there was no walkout. Instead, parents who wanted their kids to participate in the event signed their kids out of school. For those parents, the protest was a 17-minute teachable moment.

“A few people called and asked about this,” said Assistant Principal Steven Uhler. “Some parents didn’t want to do this because of the kid’s young age, but others wanted their kids to be involved.” (Photo left by Stephanie Fox)

Jana Kooren, the Public Educations and Communications Director of the Minnesota ACLU, said that her organization supported the Hale School policy. “We support free speech and the right to protest. We hope schools allow students to participate in a way to foster civic pride. It’s a great learning moment, and students should be allowed to do this without facing consequences.”

Photo right: Illiana Frissel, with her grandfather Joel Halverson, who said: “It’s time to turn the tide of gun violence.” (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Joel Halverson came to Hale to sign out his granddaughter, Illiana Frissell, and to stand together with other parents, grandparents, and neighbors. “I’m an educator,” said Halverson. “It’s time to turn the tide of gun violence.”

“I came to help save people from guns,” said Illiana, who is in the 3rd grade. “I am here to remember the kids who died of gun violence. There’s a sign on our school that says, ‘No Guns,’ and you should respect that.”

Lauren Venem decided to let her kindergarten-aged daughter stay in class, but brought Maple, her daughter’s service dog instead, saying, “Maple keeps my daughter safe, so I brought her along, instead.”

Social media announcements about the event brought a mixed online reaction. “These kids need to be taught some real history,” said one Facebook post. “We the people need our guns.”

But, many were supportive. “I do see that this event is less protest and more demonstration of love,” said another.

Photo left: Ellen Flory arrived with her two young children to honor the Florida students. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Megan Honigman, an organizer of the event, said she was motivated by her daughter, a student at Hale.

“My daughter is in 2nd grade and has been terrified of the Code Red drills, the active shooter drills,” Honigman said. “I was there last year when they had a drill, and they told the kids that there was a dog in the hall. Then one of the boys said, ‘There’s no dog. It’s in case they are trying to shoot us.”

“I try to tell her she doesn’t have to be worried about being killed while she learns in school. I tell her that parents are here to protect you. Schools should be a place of learning and fun,” Honigman said. “I am hoping this will help.’

During the memorial, as the demonstrators grasped hands to form a human chain around the school while neighbor Jennifer Kennard sounded a chime 17 times, one a minute, a chime for each person who died at Parkland High School.

Among those attending were Rep. Jean Wagenius. “How could I not be here?” she said. “Citizens are speaking out.”

Photo right: Neighbors, parents, and students protest gun violence at ‘Hands Around Hale’ on Mar. 14. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Former City Council Member John Quincy attended as well. “This is a tremendous coming together of people,” he said. “And, it’s a call to action, part of something bigger than just this one event. It’s special, and it’s bringing us together.”

“I thought it was amazing,” said Honigman. “We didn’t know what would happen, but looking at the parents circling the school and seeing the strength of the parents who went there as a way to protect their kids, I know that this was a way to let our children and their educators know that as voters, we demand a change.”

The movement, she said, is getting bigger. “A lot of us didn’t know what to do, but now we’ll be working with the parents of this school and are talking about getting together with parents from other schools. We are just trying to figure out things as we go.”

“A lot of the people I talked to,” she said, “told me that we don’t know exactly what we can do to change things. But, if you have a group of people together, you can say to each other, ‘we can do something.’ You can say, ‘we can make a difference.’ And maybe, there will be a snowball effect.”


Protests also prevalent at South High and Dowling Elementary

Photo below: On the one month anniversary of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, students and teachers at South High School walked out of their classrooms at 10am on Mar. 14. Their silent march around the school building lasted 17 minutes, to honor each of the 17 victims of the recent shooting. At another neighborhood event, parents joined hands in 17 minutes of silence at Dowling Elementary School. Similar events took place across the country to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the impact of gun violence. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

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Minnehaha Academy plans ‘student-centered’ design for new building

Posted on 27 March 2018 by calvin

Minnehaha Academy, in conjunction with Cuningham Group, has designed a new student-centered design for the Upper School, 3100 W. River Pkwy., following the explosion in August 2017.

According to Dr. Donna Harris, President of Minnehaha Academy, and representatives from Cuningham Group, the student-centered design is based on best practices and the latest design research. Important elements that were taken into account were:
— multi-use spaces that are welcoming, dynamic and flexible to help support student-centered learning;
— spacious learning spaces that are well organized, with flexible furniture and layouts that support a variety of activities and various teaching styles; and
— restorative areas in the building to nourish the mind and spirit (elements such as window seating that faces the outdoors will offset fatigue and stress, and casual spaces will facilitate conversation and connections).

Photo right: A view of the new addition which Minnehaha Academy has designed after the explosion at the school last August. Cost for the project has not yet been finalized. (Photo provided)

Harris emphasized that the design of the new Upper School reflects Minnehaha Academy’s celebrated history, while still meeting the current and future needs of the students and teachers for the next 100 years. Minnehaha Academy’s foundation of Christian faith played an important role in the design to underscore the joy, beauty, and grace of God.

Photo left: Minnehaha Upper School’s new front entry as designed by the Cunningham Group after extensive meetings with teachers, staff, students, and parents. (Photo provided)

The exterior architectural materials of the new addition were chosen to complement the existing palate of materials throughout the campus. They are neutral and light, durable, and sustainable, and are intended to reflect the simple and modern Scandinavian sensibility of the school’s founders.

Cuningham led more than 35 design meetings—across departments, grade levels, and schools—to co-develop the design principles alongside Minnehaha faculty and staff. The work to-date has been expansive, but there is much more work ahead, and many more opportunities for input as the building process moves into the next phase.

Photo right: An aerial view of the proposed new building project for the Minnehaha Academy Upper School, 3100 W. River Pkwy. They hope to begin the project this spring for completion in fall of 2019. (Photo provided)

Minnehaha Academy students and families also were involved in the design process. Many participated in a visioning workshop, provided input on facilities vision and design principles, and shared inspirational ideas through the visioning exercise. According to Cuningham, the student’s ideas were transformative and heartfelt. “The students will help us in an exciting next step to three-dimensionally answer the question, ‘How will we make our Christian faith visible?’”

“Our faculty and staff are deeply invested in this project,” Harris said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2018, and the school is committed to welcoming students back to campus in August 2019. The cost of the project will not be finalized for several more months. Funding for the building project will include the insurance adjustment from the explosion and from fundraising. Capital campaign planning is underway, and more details will be available this spring.

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Solar customers need project liaisons for happiest outcomes

Posted on 27 March 2018 by calvin

There are 22 solar panels on top of the Casey residence in Longfellow. (Photo submitted)

After working in the solar energy industry across the country, for companies both big and small, Michael Allen and his brother, Bryan, learned how not to do things in the solar industry.

Following years of experience, they returned to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and in 2009 launched All Energy Solar, 1642 Carroll Ave. in St. Paul, a company that provides clean, green, solar energy solutions for residential, commercial, agricultural, and government clients.

“A common frustration we saw with customers was that at the end of a project, they would tell the company working with them ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were still around,’” Allen said.

The brothers knew early on they wanted to form their own company, with Allen writing the business plan for All Energy Solar while he was still in college. And after working in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut gaining experience, they knew how they wanted to treat their customers.

“We poured our heart and soul into this company, and we still do,” Allen said. “And there is no better feeling than getting a really happy customer.”

He said All Energy Solar doesn’t just have salespeople and installers, but also someone in the middle. “We wanted to create a project manager, but we call them project liaisons,” Allen explained. “We have others set up to do things a project manager would do. But we wanted someone who just does the interconnection work with the utility. Our project liaison holds the customer’s hand and walks the customer through the process of getting solar energy.”

Allen said the customer should not need to talk to the electric company or the permit company; the project liaison should be able to get all the answers needed. “The way we have structured our company, if you have a happy customer you will have a happy business and happy employees,” Allen continued. “And so, we always have felt it important to make it easy and simple for our client.”

“We talk all the time about putting ourselves in their shoes. You get on the other end of the phone and not hear anything for two weeks. What would you want to be done?”
Allen said the Minnesota-made rebates ended in 2017. “The legislature did away with that program and took $100 million out of it,” he said. “But instead of that, there is the Solar Awards program through Xcel, and that is provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. That rebate program started on Jan. 8 and will be ending soon. So we are encouraging anyone who is interested to apply as soon as they can.”

Allen said the most important component for a home to qualify for solar energy use is the shade and types of trees in the customer’s yard. Second is orientation, whether the house is facing south or east or west. The third most important is the tilt angle of the roof.

“With potential barriers, you look at how you can get around that,” Allen said. “We utilize different technologies for different projects. We can isolate certain areas of the solar panel system.”

He said that in Minneapolis and St. Paul, traditionally home-owners need 16-32 panels. “It comes down to how much energy you use as a consumer and buy from Xcel. We have systems that are as low as eight panels.” Allen said a customer might want the biggest solar panel system money can buy but may not need that much.

Allen displays an app that shows the solar details on his own home. With the app, at any time, he can see how much energy he is using and how much he is producing. He can tell if something in his home has been turned off, or if an appliance such as a toaster is being used. “You become much more aware and conscious of the energy you are using,” he said.

Allen said the company can install solar panels on home and business roofs, garage roofs, or on the ground. “If your home or garage are covered by trees, but you have a nice area in the backyard where you like to go sit and have a beer in the evening, we can ground-mount the solar panels there,” he said. His company can also build a carport and mount panels on top of that. “We work all over the state, from Moorhead to Mankato, from Duluth to Marshall, in huge 40-acre fields to an eight-panel solar system.” The company also doles solar panels in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Connecticut.

The benefits of using solar energy are numerous, according to Allen. “First, there are the financial savings,” he said. “With the rebates Xcel has, along with federal tax credits, you can get more than half of the entire cost of the project paid for. That is money given to you. It’s pretty tremendous that you can make a home improvement and receive that type of incentive.”

The consumer is also benefiting the environment by using solar energy. “But let’s assume this is not your biggest concern,” Allen said. “Why do it?”

Allen said the rate of return on the investment is so important to consider. “What are you currently doing that gives you return on your investment with electrical usage? You are getting reliable electricity, but what return are you getting by paying Xcel every month?”

The other factor he said a customer should consider is the energy independence component. “It’s not about sticking it to the man, but more just about self-reliance, not having to rely on someone or something else.” Through solar, the customer is creating his or her own energy.

What might be the most challenging aspect of this for the homeowner? Allen said it is knowing that it is going to work and having confidence that it will. He said the homeowner has a 10-year contract with his company. The company has multiple warranties. “We warranted our work for five to ten years,” he said, “anything we have touched on the project. We have done this work long enough we know what, and what not, to be concerned about.” He noted that solar has now been around for about 70 years, and there is pretty phenomenal technology now that makes it a safe and reliant product.

“From our standpoint, the most challenging aspect is continuing to navigate the on-going red tape,” Allen said. “But we manage the red tape and deal with issues head-on.”

With its strong customer service, All Energy Solar has been able to get a foothold in an industry where there have been many entrants and exits, according to Allen. “I don’t say with any pleasure that our competitors have come and gone. At the end of the day, it is not good for the industry, especially an industry where people are still reluctant,” he said. He noted that a lot of companies can throw solar panels up on the roof with no problem. “The installation is probably the easiest part of it. But all the red tape on the front end of a project can be daunting to the customer.”

Allen relies on the staff at All Energy Solar to make the whole process as simple and easy for the homeowner or business owner as possible. “One big reason we are so successful with our liaisons is that they are not just looking for a good paying job, but the majority of our employees are also looking for more fulfillment. They are really into the solar thing and believe in what we are building for our clients,” Allen said.

The company has around 120 employees, and Allen said the majority live in St. Paul or Minneapolis.”I take a lot of pride in that; it’s a pretty cool thing,” he stated. He said his company also works with local providers, and he believes that helps the local economy and the community.

“I would like to also tell people to keep an eye open for some newer programs and some larger opportunities to buy in bulk,” he said. “Customers can be part of a program that allows them to get discounts on their solar project because of a bigger initiative that’s going on. This is very exciting.”


Solar panels plus phone app make saving energy easy and fun

Longfellow residents Mac-Layne Casey and his wife, Katy, have been advocates of solar energy for a long, long time.
“I have been a big fan of solar power since I was a kid,” Casey said. “And Katy’s dad actually built a solar panel for his neighbor back in the early 80s.” The couple had long thought solar panels were something they wanted to try, but Casey said they thought it was something they wouldn’t be able to afford.

But a little over a year ago, he said he saw some signs and heard some advertising on the radio about affordable solar energy. “I thought I would check it out and see what it was all about,” he recalled.

“It turned out to e a great option for us, and the whole process was very easy,” Casey said. The couple met with a representative from All Energy Solar, and they were able to take advantage of a Minnesota-made rebate.

“We started last year around February because the rebates were soon ending,” he explained. Their name was placed in a lottery, and they were among the 50 percent who qualified for the rebate.

“Our solar panels were made in Minnesota,” Casey said. “The company made the process very, very easy for us. They held our hand through pretty much everything, all the paperwork and the rebates. That was huge. It could have gone either way.”

Casey said they have 22 solar panels on their roof (photo right provided). They first met with All Solar Energy in late February and had the project completed by Aug. 10. “Our roof is a big flat canvas that faces the south, so basically we were the perfect home for solar panels,” Casey stated. The amount of shade and angle of the roof play a part in determining the success of the solar paneling, but adjustments can always be made.

“Throughout the year our energy usage is roughly 17-kilowatt hours a day,” Casey said. “In winter we are using less air conditioning, so our winter usage is roughly 13-14 kilowatt hours a day and in summer, 20-22.”

He said the company provides them with an app that shows how much energy you are using and how much you are making.

“I geek out on that app every single day,” Casey admitted. “When our contractor was redoing our basement, I could see when he was entering our house just by the use of energy. He’s a buddy of mine, and I would call him and say ‘Oh, you’re working on the house now.’ And he would say “How did you know?’ It’s pretty cool.”

Casey said in the last few days, they have averaged production of 35-kilowatt hours a day. “Winter is a little bit slow for production because we had a snow cover, but in summer it’s great, even on cloudy days. I feel so happy to see these 35-kilowatt-hour days. We have not paid Xcel for the last two months just because of the energy we are making.”

Casey said that using solar energy also changes the way he looks at energy. “I have always been one to turn off the lights, but now I am fine-tuning it even more. It will be interesting to see this summer when we use air conditioning. If we have it colder or warmer, it changes the amount of energy. It’s an experiment.” He continued to explain that he feels adding solar energy has been a great investment, and also fun. “I now charge my phone using solar power,” he said.

Casey said that probably the biggest con to the process is when it’s snowing and the solar panels are covered with snow. “The first snowfall we had this year, it was really icy,” he noted. “The rain and ice mix left a thick sheet of ice on the roof, and we had poor readings for a month. But now we are making up for it. These are really high-energy days.” He added that the solar panels save wear and tear on the roof and actually expand its life.

“I do have way more energy boxes in the back of the house than I used to, but we have decorative plants that cover those.”

“I have had solar energy for less than a year, but my long-term bet is that it will last and that All Solar Energy will be around for 25 years and the maker of solar panels will be around for 25 years,” Casey said. “It’s kind of a leap of faith, but I’m not the first one on the block to use solar energy.”

He said he and his wife feel they jumped in at the right time, with the new administration in place and not knowing what might happen.

He is also pleased with the significant rebates they will get over the next ten years. “Basically the state and federal government is paying for over two-thirds of the cost of our solar panels. We are paying for less than a third, which is great,” he said.

Looking at the use of solar energy for their home, Casey said he sees it as a kind of cycle.

“I look at Katy’s dad and where he was at in the early 80s, building these do-it-yourself solar panels. That was the first step. Now 40 years later we are using solar panels for energy. And we are educating our two-year-old, showing him the value of solar energy. Passing down that mentality is pretty great.”

There are 22 solar panels on top of the Casey residence in Longfellow. (Photo submitted)

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