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Minnehaha 46 housing project made affordable by design

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Smaller units, fewer amenities planned for new 54-unit building at 46th and Minnehaha

The new five-story building proposed at 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave. will be affordable by design, according to developer Sean Sweeney of Hayes Harlow Development.

While working for eight years in San Francisco, Sweeney was a part of affordable housing and market-rate projects, and saw the challenges of both, he told citizens gathered at a community meeting on Oct. 9. In Minneapolis, he continues to hear that the city needs more affordable housing, but he pointed out that getting the federal subsidies and tax credits for those projects can be very time-consuming.

Photo right: The existing building at the corner of 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave. offers 12 transitional housing units that share four bathrooms with low-cost rents ranging from $450-650 a month. Sweeney said they considered keeping the building, but determined it was too run-down to rehabilitate. It will be replaced with a five-story structure that will have 54 apartments and retail space on the first floor. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Instead, he has decided to construct buildings that are affordable by design. “We’re building smaller units,” he said, “and keep the building tight, simple and efficient.” This helps keep rents lower, Sweeney explained.

A new, 38,452-square-foot building will replace an existing structure that Sweeney said he’s been told is an “eyesore in the community.”

The existing building has 12 transitional housing units that share four bathrooms with rents ranging from $450-650 a month. Sweeney said they considered keeping the building, but determined it was too run-down to rehabilitate. The mechanicals needed to be upgraded and additional bathrooms would be needed.

This project does not include the building that houses Solid State Records on the east.

54 units, 27 parking stalls
According to Sweeney, when they approach a new site, they ask the following questions: What is most needed? What is the best use at this site?

At Minnehaha and 46th, they determined the need was housing units and commercial space. They were drawn to the site because of its proximity to the light rail station and bus lines, and believe that most of their building residents will use transit instead of their vehicles.

“We think this is a great area,” said Sweeney.

Photo left: Pete Keely of Collage Architects (left) and Sean Sweeney of Hayes Harlow Development explain their development proposal during a community meeting on Oct. 9. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The current plan calls for 54 housing units spread out over five floors, with 2,900 square feet in retail space on the first level along 46th. A parking lot with 27 units is planned for the back of the property with access off the alley, along with parking for one bike per unit.

“We looked at underground parking,” noted architect Pete Keely of Collage Architects. “But we get about as much and we save $600,000-700,000 by not going underground.”

Photo right: A new, 38,452-square-foot building proposed at 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave. will offer studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with rents expected to range from $900 to $1,200. (Graphic submitted)

Other buildings in the metro area that Sweeney has developed that have fewer cars than residents include the Ray Apartments in St. Paul, the Lyndy in Lyn-Lake in Minneapolis and the Central in Minneapolis. “There are proposals on the table in the city for projects with 49 units in two separate locations that are planning no parking at all. The city is very supportive of the reduced parking requirements,” stated Sweeney.

They anticipate adding 15-20 cars a day to the local traffic.

Stepped-back design
In order to avoid placing a tall, five-story wall next to residences on the north side, developers have proposed a stepped-back design that moves from five foot from the property line on the first floor to 11 feet away to 30 feet away on the upper floors.”

With that approach, the first floor is 9,982 square feet, the second and third floors 9,465, the fourth floor 8,296, and the fifth floor 7,283.

Units on the first floor will resemble townhouses with walk-up entries and space for a garden and patio in front.
Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units will be available with rents expected to range from $900 to $1,200. One-bedrooms at the nearby Oppidan/Cub development are expected to start at $1,200, Sweeney pointed out in comparison.

Storage is planned for the center of the building. There will be a small, 10×20 roof deck on the top floor.

Construction will likely begin next April and last 10-11 months with completion in early 2020.

Smaller units, more affordable
“I think the trend will continue to focus on smaller units and afford­ability,” stated Sweeney. “I believe people want to live in great neighborhoods and those neighborhoods will be ones that feature a multitude of housing options at different price points, walkability, transit, and neighborhood-serving commercial. The creation of those neighborhoods will hopefully work to improve people’s live, reduce car dependency and help combat climate change.”

The Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee will consider this proposal at its Nov. 8 meeting and decide whether to provide a letter of support.

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New director brings Theater of the Absurd to Roosevelt High School

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

In the auditorium at Roosevelt High School, students move deliberately in a tight group across the stage, scripts in hands, rehearsing their lines. Behind them, a trio of musicians creates a palpable tension on guitar, cello, piano, and muted trumpet. In front, on the main floor, the director paces back and forth, following the same time and rhythm. He calls out an occasional note, and actors and musicians respond with subtle alterations. They run through the scene again.

“Oh”! the director shouts to the full group, electrified. “You’re killin’ it!”

It’s the sixth day of rehearsals for the school’s upcoming fall play, and it is evident the cast and crew are jumping right in. Steering the production is Ryan Underbakke (photo right by Jill Boogren), who is bringing his own brand of energy and enthusiasm to his new role as director of Roosevelt’s theater program. And he’s charging right out of the gate with his adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s 20th century absurdist masterpiece, “Le Rhinoceros.”

The play takes place on a sunny afternoon, a day like any other. Things are normal, mundane even, when suddenly everyone begins turning into a rhinoceros. Absurd? Yes. But its themes—individual will, responsibility, logic, absurdity, fascism—resonate as readily today as when the play premiered in 1959.

This production, according to Underbakke, has student-created music, a physically-dynamic cast, and a cinematic style. The aim is to shake things up and deliver a new theater experience for performers and audiences alike.

“I think it’s gonna be… hopefully uncomfortable, exciting and full of rhythms,” said Ryan. “It’s gonna be weird.”

“Weird” is fitting. Underbakke seems to delight in messing with the expectations of theatergoers. His adaptation and direction of the immersive “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” at Children’s Theatre a few years ago, for example, involved asking the audience to choose an action that would determine the ending.

Underbakke brings with him a wealth of experience. He received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota (U of M), studied film and television acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory in Los Angeles, then earned an M.F.A. from the London International School of Performing Arts. In addition to directing at Children’s Theatre, he has acted and taught in New York, Los Angeles, London, and the Twin Cities.

At Roosevelt, he holds the position vacated by Kristi Johnson (Stepping Stone Theatre), who revived Roosevelt’s theater program after a 15-year absence of theater at the school. Johnson played what Principal Michael Bradley called a “pivotal role” in laying the foundation of the school’s theater program, getting students engaged, launching programs and directing a play and a full-length spring musical in each of her three years.

Photo left: Students rehearse Roosevelt Theater’s upcoming play “Rhinoceros,” adapted by the high school’s new theater director Ryan Underbakke (foreground, in silhouette). Shows are Nov. 15-17. (Photos by Jill Boogren)

Johnson’s departure meant Bradley would need to find a new director who would meet his high standards.

“When we look to hire art teachers, I want people who are serious artists who are serious about teaching,” he said. “Ryan has the professional experience, a deep acting resume. What’s been a real surprise is seeing him engaging the kids.”

By his own telling, Underbakke had serious problems in school. He had problems connecting, and college wasn’t on his radar. He felt he wasn’t good at anything. And though he was “terrified” by acting at first, in the theater he found a place where he was good at something.

“I was such a rebellious little kid. I wanted something important to me,” he said. “Making people feel important is super important. We don’t do it enough.”

His is the classic tale of the one teacher who believed in him encouraging him to apply for a theater scholarship at the U of M, which propelled Underbakke into a career in the dramatic arts.

He had a role in the film “Melody June Cooper: Actress* for Hire” and has been involved locally with Dark and Stormy Productions and Live Action Set. He has taught at St. John’s University, Richmond School of Drama in England, New York Film Academy, St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts and MacPhail Center for Music.

Now Underbakke is bringing his experience and rigor to Roosevelt High School.

“The passion level here is so different,” he said, noting how much the artists at Roosevelt want to work. “Theater is fun when you work at it. Structure is fun.”

For “Rhinoceros,” rehearsals span about five weeks with all performers expected to be there daily after school. It’s an ensemble cast, all of whom are on stage the whole time. In Underbakke’s view, they all have to work together, and he invites input. Student musicians are scoring the show.

“Why not empower students, treat them with respect, let them do their thing”? he said.

The choice of play is exciting for Bradley, who sees it as an opportunity for students to dig deeper.

“By being exposed to absurdist theater, being pushed deeper into an active process, I hope to see the program grow and flourish,” he said. “I want kids to discover their passion for the arts at Roosevelt.”

The play will take place at Roosevelt High School (4029 28th Ave. S.) Nov. 15, 16 and 17 (Thur.-Sat.) at 7pm. The show is a little over an hour with no intermission. Baked goods will be available before and after the show. Suggested donation of $5 is requested, but all are welcome to attend.

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Oppidan considers townhomes or five-story apartment building

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

In the second option, a five-story building with 96 units of workforce housing would be built. It would include a parking garage with 55 cars and a surface lot with space for 41 cars next to the existing parking lot for the Lowa46 building. (Graphic submitted)

Community feedback on Cub site options will be solicited at Nov. 1 meeting

Oppidan is considering a low-density and a high-density approach to the south end of the property that will soon house a Cub and a five-story apartment building with 148 units.

Drew Johnson of Oppidan asked for feedback on the two options during the Oct. 2 Neighborhood Development and Transportation (NDTC) meeting.

The proposal will also be discussed during a community meeting on Nov. 1, 6-7:30pm, at the Hiawatha School Recreation Center, 4305 E. 42nd St.

Lowa46, the five-story structure on the north end of the lot along 46th St. and Snelling, will be complete in 2019. Cub Foods is expected to open in April or May, and the apartment complex in June or July.

Phase two of the project involves the two-acre triangular shaped area on the south side, between the old Bridgeman’s and Dairy Queen.

Photo right: Drew Johnson of Oppidan shares two options for development on the south side of the Cub parcel with Neighborhood Development Transportation Committee members during the Oct. 2 meeting. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

This parcel was part of a 12-acre area identified as a Town Center site in a 2002 study based on neighborhood input. This plan provided the framework for Oppidan’s vision for high-density use at the site. The plan called for 450 units of housing clustered around the light rail station and 95,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, pointed out Johnson. In 2013, the study was updated, and a goal set to expand diverse multi-family housing options near the light rail station.

“We’re taking our framework from these documents, but we want to get feedback,” stated Johnson.

Two options
In the low-density option, Oppidan proposes the construction of eight townhomes in a row along the Min Hi Line. The front doors and parking would face west (towards the six-story apartment building that has been proposed by Reuter Walter on the old Bridgeman’s site).

However, the planning documents seem to support a denser plan, observed Johnson.

In the second option, a five-story building with 96 units of workforce housing would be built. It would include a parking garage with 55 cars and a surface lot with space for 41 cars next to the existing parking lot for the Lowa46 building. Access will be from the south along Nawadaha or north from 46th and the Snelling Ave. extension.

The new building would offer 580-square-feet studios (15 total), 750-square-feet one-bedroom apartments (37 total), 950-square-feet two-bedroom units (22 total), and 1,000-square-feet two-bedroom units (22 total).

While the Lowa46 building on the north side will be market rate with rent prices at about $2 a square foot or $1,800 for a one bedroom, Oppidan is proposing that the building on the south be workforce housing with rent prices at about $1.30 a square foot or $900 for a one-bedroom. This would be possible through the use of low-income housing credits, a national program that the state administers, said Johnson.

One of the major factors that will determine whether the high-density option is even possible is whether the large Xcel transmission tower is moved, observed Johnson. Oppidan would apply for a Met Council grant to help with the “extraordinary costs of moving the tower.”

Is community input valued?
Some have questioned whether Oppidan really factors in community feedback, as it didn’t seem to affect the grocery store chosen at the site.

According to Johnson, Hyvee was interested in the site but wanted the amount of parking you’d find in a suburban neighborhood. They said they’d come if the parking lot size was doubled, and the city wouldn’t agree to that. On the other hand, Cub was willing to work within the regulations at the site.

Also, for every person that suggested another option such as Aldi’s or Trader Joe’s, there were people saying, “I love Cub,” said Johnson.

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Dowling librarian pens children’s book about biologist Edward Just

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

The life of Edward Everett Just, an African American marine biologist whose career spanned the years from 1911 to 1941, is being celebrated in a new children’s book authored by Melina Mangal (photo right by Jan Willms), a librarian media specialist who teaches research and literature at Dowling Elementary, 3900 W. River Pkwy.

The idea for “The Vast Wonder of the World” came from Mangal’s daughter, who was in kindergarten in 2012 and had a coloring sheet on Just. “I know of a lot of scientists, but I had never heard of this person, so I wanted to know more about him,” Mangal said. Her researching instincts kicked in, and she began exploring his life. “Everything I learned just made him sound a lot more interesting,” she said. “He was honored on a postage stamp in 1996. His personal life was as interesting as his professional life.”

Mangal, who has written four other biographies and short stories for children, thought Just would be an interesting person for her first children’s book with illustrations.

She said a book about Just’s academic life and his search for funding, “Black Apollo Scientist,” had been written in the 1980s by Kenneth Manning, currently a professor at MIT. “It is a great, comprehensive book, but not for kids. And I thought kids should know more about this scientist.”

Mangal received a teacher’s study grant and traveled to South Carolina, where Just grew up. “It was fascinating to go to a place where his family had lived, see the water and the lowlands. It had sounded like he was awakened to science in college, but he was versed in it as a child. It was part of his upbringing,” she said. “What did he do as a kid? What did he see? What did he explore?” These were questions Mangal sought to answer.

Just’s father died when he was four, and he was raised by his mother, who founded the town of Maryville, named after her, and served as mayor and also started a school. “I also wanted to write a book about his mom after doing the research,” Mangal said. “She was a force.”

Beginning his studies in literature, Just was also a poet. But then he took a biology class and his life changed forever. As she researched Just’s life, Mangal said she worked with a couple of scientists who helped her get the facts right. She was also able to interview some of Just’s family members. “I talked with a niece of his, who is in her 80s. Just at one point lived with her family for a while.”

It took more than five years of research and writing to complete the book. Mangal discovered that Just went through real institutional struggles with segregation. He ended up doing a lot of his research in France, Italy, and Germany. “He found a better environment in Europe and felt more welcome there,” she said.

“The research and writing took a long time,” Mangal explained. “I had to write under 1,000 words. There were so many different versions I wrote before getting a publishing contract.”

She said that in working with a picture book, the editor is the one who works directly with the illustrator. Luisa Uribe, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, was chosen as the illustrator.

Mangal said Uribe’s sister lives in South Carolina and was expecting a child while they worked on the book. “Luisa was able to go out and visit her sister, and at the same time get a more concrete idea of time and place by visiting and walking the areas where Just lived; she was doing the same things I did.”

Uribe had her own vision of what the illustrations would look like, according to Mangal. “She did an excellent job in capturing some of the whimsical, spiritual nature of Just’s work and writings. He always had a mystical inclination about him…she captured that as well.”

The back of Mangal’s book includes a detailed timeline of Just’s life and some quotes attributed to him. “There was so much of that I had to originally leave out; I was so happy to be able to add it,” she said.

Mangal said she likes both the research and the writing when working on a book. “I’m such a research nerd,” she joked. “I love the process of going and digging through old research.”

She explained that she had more access to information than Manning had, who wrote his book before so much was digitized. “I was able to find new documents, and connect the dots. And the act of writing grounds me and cements so many things in me.”

When she first started researching the book, Mangal was working part-time and had more opportunities to work on her writing. “The last several years I am working full-time again, so I get up early and write before school,” she said. “I take the summers off and get into a stricter routine.”

She has several books in the planning stages. “I always have too many things going on in my head,” she said with a smile. “I never had writer’s block; I had dreamer’s deluge.” She has two biography ideas she is researching, a series of fiction stories she is finishing and a picture book completed that is being sent out to publishers.

“The Vast Wonder of the World” will be launched Nov. 3 at the Red Balloon Bookshop, 891 Grand Ave., St. Paul. Mangal will also have book signings at Barnes and Noble and Galleria. “This is new for me,” she admitted. “My other books were more educational and not trade books. I did not have book signings like I do now, and it’s a whole different ball game. I have to work on the speaking part. I am so used to talking about other people’s books; it’s different to talk about mine.”

Mangal said she hopes kids will be inspired by her book. “My big goal is to have kids think about their own backyards and explore what is around them,” she said. Another reason she wanted to write about Just is that a lot of books deal with applied science, but he worked on basic or pure science. “It’s a very important field, but we don’t hear about it that much.”

She also noted that black scientists are not so well known. “Just is a science hero, but also an American hero,” she noted. “He was doing his work at a time when it was difficult and could actually be dangerous and life-threatening in the places he was in, but he persevered.”

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Longfellow School to celebrate100th year with event on Dec. 6

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Longfellow High School (formerly Longfellow Elementary School) is inviting past and present alumni, staff, neighbors, and friends to help celebrate the school’s 100th Anniversary on Thur., Dec. 6 from 3:30-7pm. Located at 3017 E. 31st St., the venerable brick building has seen a lot of change since it was built in 1918.

The school currently serves pregnant and parenting students between the ages of 12-21, and their children. Part of the Minneapolis Public School (MPS) system, Longfellow High School is an Alternative Learning Center with on-site child care and required parent education classes for all students.

Science teacher and event organizer Lauren Tolbert said, “I’m very proud of our school, especially because of everything our students have to deal with. Being teen moms, they’re often balancing being heads of households, raising children, and finishing their educations so they can support their families better. When the ALC opened in 2013, we had to make significant changes to the building so that it could function as both a high school for 85 students and a family center for nearly as many infants and small children. The anniversary celebration is a chance for people in the community to see how it all works.”

Photo right: Science teacher Lauren Tolbert (left) and principal Dr. Padmini Udupa (right) are helping to organize the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the building that houses Longfellow High School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When the celebration begins Dec. 6, there will be play time for families from 3:30-4pm, including a water table, art activities, photo booth, and light refreshments. From 4-5pm, MPS superintendent Ed Graff will speak, along with elected officials, previous staff and students. Former Longfellow Elementary School music teacher Amy Furman will lead a group-sing of the old school song. From 5-6pm, tours of the re-configured building will be offered. Throughout the afternoon, guests can participate in the community art project to be titled “100 Hands.”

If anyone has school memorabilia in the form of photos, yearbooks, or written memories, or is willing to make food or beverage donations, contact Lauren Tolbert at

Longfellow High School enjoys an unusually close relationship with the neighborhood it sits in. “The students who come here, on average, have attended as many as seven different schools,” Tolbert explained, “It’s rare that a student transfers out of Longfellow.

The relationships that students build here, with each other and with the staff, are essential for their success in school. A stipulation of being here is that each student must agree to attend daily prenatal, infant, toddler, or preschool child development classes (depending on their progression of pregnancy and parenting level). They’re not only graduating with a high school diploma; they’re learning how to be well-informed parents.”

Nearby Holy Trinity Lutheran Church has provided substantial, ongoing support and encouragement to students and their children.

Upwards of 30 church volunteers teach knitting classes, bring Quarterly Award ceremony treats, ”adopt” families at holiday time, and are present for every school function and celebration. Through their food distribution program Fare for All, Trinity donates vouchers for free, nutritious boxes of food to six students each month.

The East Lake Library is also closely connected with Longfellow High School through book donations and librarian visits. Students and their children are encouraged to visit the library as well. Principal Dr. Padmini Udupa said, “We work hard to get our students out in the community so that they can experience its many assets first hand.”

Udupa was quick to add, “It’s important that our students aren’t always on the receiving end of kindness; we also help them find ways to give back. Last year, several students worked with volunteers from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to make polar fleece blankets that were then donated to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.”

Udupa continued, “One of the things we need to develop this year is more service learning opportunities for our students during school hours. If there are businesses within walking distance that could use a small group of students (and an accompanying staff person) to do meaningful volunteer work, we encourage them to contact us.”

To RSVP for the 100th Anniversary Celebration, respond to, or call the front desk at 612-668-4700.

Udupa concluded, “We’re looking forward to reminiscing together. The building is alive because of all of the memories that it holds.”

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

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Carter boys place at National Junior Championships Road Race

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Local photographer wins $50,000 Distinguished Artist Award

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Eighty-five apartments may replace former Bridgeman’s

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuter Walton decided not to include commercial in this development because it will be located on the same block as the new Cub Foods development, explained Brasser. “Speculative retail space in apartment buildings is difficult to fill,” he added.

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

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

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

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

The majority of comments were about parking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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