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Out of deadly tragedy comes a new 100-year vision

Posted on 24 July 2018 by calvin

Architectural concept of the new building at Minnehaha Academy Upper School. (Submitted by Minnehaha Academy)

Minnehaha Academy has finalized its design for re-building the portion of their school that was lost in last year’s devastating explosion. The upper school campus, located at 3200 W. River Pkwy., has been the subject of neighborhood concern since early renditions of the plan were made public in the spring.

On May 17 the Zoning and Planning Committee of the Minneapolis City Council responded to an appeal filed by neighbors over the proposed re-build plan. The appeal was ultimately denied, but updated renderings show that Minnehaha Academy has responded to several neighborhood requests.

President Dr. Donna Harris said, “We believe this design reflects a modern interpretation of our original brick buildings, connecting the past with the future while committing to our vision of next-century learning. Our team and partners have selected sustainable and enduring materials including brick shingles on the top two floors, and a charcoal brick base on the main level. Both materials have natural variation and texture, which will complement the two existing buildings. There will be detailing throughout that respect the character of the campus, as well as the surrounding neighborhood.”

Photo right: Dr. Donna Harris, Minnehaha Academy president, in front of the modular unit that is temporary housing for administrative staff. She said, “Our school is 105 years old. As we’ve come together in this transition to reimagine our school for the next 100 years, we’ve realized that tragedy provides opportunity.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

From the most recent project update, the building height will be three stories (46’). The steeple will measure 59 1/2’ at the tip. The total number of parking stalls will be 209, with additional space for 111 bikes. School bus traffic will be limited to three buses in the morning and afternoon.

The design of the new buildings incorporates bird-safe glass to prevent collisions in the Mississippi River’s migratory corridor. Estimates are that 15 mature trees will be lost; 143 trees and over 700 shrubs will be planted. A three foot high, landscaped berm will conceal the view of the parking lot from the east.

“We hope neighbors can appreciate that our new building relates well to its location on the river,” Harris said. “The plan that we first shared was conceptual, and neighborhood reaction was not positive. We heard clearly that people were concerned about Minnehaha Academy being on the river gorge, which is a migratory bird corridor; that they wanted pollinator-friendly plantings and bird-safe glass. We made several adjustments to our design after hearing neighborhood concerns. It’s important to us that our new school be viewed as a community asset.”

To say that this was an unconventional rebuild project is a gross understatement. “Usually a school would have a couple of years to conduct a visioning process with board members, staff, and families,” Harris explained. “Then a school would run a capital fund drive, and have a reasonable time frame for relocating in the interim, and finally re-building. In our case, the explosion happened Aug. 2, 2017, and within 24 hours, I had communicated with our community saying we’d be in a temporary location on the day after Labor Day.”

Photo left: Architectural concept of the view from W. River Pkwy. (Submitted by Minnehaha Academy)

“What happened next,” Harris said, “was truly extraordinary. We quickly surveyed our parents and learned there was a strong desire to keep all of the student grades 9-12 in one location. Parents were willing to commute 8-10 miles beyond our current location. We settled on the old Brown Technical College site in Mendota Heights, which offered us 55,000 square feet of floor space. Mortenson Construction (who is also doing our rebuild) brought in a team of 42 men and women to do what seemed impossible in just 15 days. They worked 12-hour shifts and were able to repurpose the space to make it work for us. Our parents, our students, and our teachers trusted us. We didn’t lose one single family in the process.”

Harris concluded, “We didn’t handle the design process the way we would have if we’d had the luxury of adequate time. I’ve apologized for this at every public event I’ve attended. We’re committed to ongoing communication within the community—we value being a good neighbor. As we approach the one year anniversary of the explosion, it’s very important for us to reflect on our loss. We are also grateful though, for the sense of community that has been strengthened through this ordeal. We look forward to defining the legacy of Minnehaha Academy for years to come.”

Construction began in June, and the project will be completed for the 2019-2020 school year. Questions about the Minnehaha Academy re-build can be sent through





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Residents design ‘dream playground’ at Longfellow Park

Posted on 24 July 2018 by calvin

Project delayed by unexpectedly long lead times for equipment, but installation anticipated for mid-August

Installation of the new Longfellow playground has been delayed, but planners are confident it will be worth the wait.

Unexpectedly long lead times for procuring equipment have delayed the project at Longfellow, as well as at the Washburn Ave. Tot Lot this summer.

“The long lead times are the result of a number of factors that could include recent economic developments, as well as a huge influx of projects which is causing a backlog of orders for equipment with the playground vendors,” explained Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Design Project Manager Crystal Passi. “Overall, this is a pretty busy construction season.”

Photo right: Work at the site began in June when the old equipment was removed, the site graded, and a fence erected. The pool has remained open during the project. The current playground equipment at Longfellow Park was installed in the late 1980s and had reached the end of its lifespan, according to park board staff. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Installation of the new playground equipment is now anticipated to begin in mid-August.

Work at the site began in June when the old equipment was removed, the site graded, and a fence erected. The pool has remained open during the project.

Over 200 help design playground
When complete, the playground will include the feedback from over 200 people who attended multiple open houses and events. Kids and their grown-ups were invited to share thoughts and opinions.

“Thanks to all the community who came out to meetings and events, and provided feedback and helped to design the playground at Longfellow,” stated Passi.

She appreciated the viewpoint that children brought to the discussion.

“Kids brought some of the best and most creative ideas to the table,” remarked Passi.

“I think kids were most excited by monkey bars and climbing structure options. I think they will really enjoy the climbing and spinning ‘Global Motion’ feature because many kids can play on it at once, and it’s accessible for people of all abilities.”

Passi also believes this Global Motion spinner by Landscape Structures will set this playground apart as there aren’t many in Minneapolis.

Adults pushed for the use of natural colors at the playground, and stressed the importance of providing options for both younger and older children, stated Passi.

Meeting in the middle
MPRB received many comments from residents who wanted the sand surfacing to go away because it gets stuck in shoes and is perceived as messy, explained Passi. At the same time, people wanted a sand play area for younger children because it is such a tactile play element.

Photo left: The upgraded playground at Longfellow will feature a Global Motion spinner, monkey bars, climbing options, little house, engineered wood fiber surface, small sand play area (not shown on rendering) and more. (Illustration courtesy of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation)

“I think we met in the middle by removing the sand as the main surfacing and switching to engineered wood fiber with a poured-in-place resilient surfacing for transfer points and connections to several features,” said Passi. “However, we also included a small separate sand play area that will sit directly adjacent to the playground. (Not shown in the renderings).”

The new playground will be a bit larger than before as MPRB created more space by removing a concrete pathway that used to divide it into two sections.

“This made it possible to fit more equipment into the site even with new fall zone standards that have changed since the original equipment went in,” remarked Passi.

The current playground equipment at Longfellow Park was installed in the last 1980s and had reached the end of its lifespan, according to park board staff. The components and wood structure were worn and began to fail due to age. Some items have been removed over the past few years as they were broken or had safety issues. Because of the age, the parts could not be replaced. Additionally, the equipment is also out of compliance to current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ASTM guidelines.

Dream playground
At the community open houses, residents used wood puzzles with equipment pieces made to scale to design their “dream playground.” MPRB staff took pictures of all the creations, and used these ideas, along with hundreds of comments and dotmocracy boards, to design a playground that includes most, if not all, of the features that space and budget would accommodate. “I think people will be pleased with the design overall,” said Passi.

“I believe younger kids will really enjoy the little house for imaginative play,” she added. “I think older kids will find that the large climbing structure has tons of different activities, which is something kids were adamant about.”



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Traffic, parking top list of concerns near Minnehaha and Nawadaha

Posted on 24 July 2018 by calvin

To make the building at 4737 Minnehaha Ave. fit in with the neighborhood, the design includes a landscaped pedestrian frontage with individual sidewalk entries for five homes. Every unit will have access to individual private outdoor space whether that be a porch, balcony, or terrace. (Illustration courtesy of The Lander Group)

Residents offer less input on proposed development; more comments on concerns near Minnehaha Park

Residents are less concerned about what’s being proposed for Minnehaha Ave. and Nawadaha Blvd. as they are about overall traffic and parking issues in the area.
Among the suggestions made at a July 10 Longfellow Neighborhood Development & Transportation Committee meeting were to build a parking ramp for Minnehaha Park visitors and to enforce parking restrictions along the streets.

Michael Lander of The Lander Group suggested that another meeting be held that would look at these concerns specifically before he proceeds with any development at 4737 Minnehaha Ave.

“There clearly needs to be some follow-up regarding traffic,” summed up Lander.

He also observed that 80 percent of the comments at the meeting had to do with the frustration over the planning documents for the area that residents don’t seem to have embraced.

Photo right: Michael Lander of The Lander Group presents his plan for a 30,741-square-foot building at Minnehaha and Nawadaha, across the street from Minnehaha Park where Greg’s Auto is now. It would offer 37 housing units, split between one- and two-bedroom apartments with a few studios. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Building to replace Greg’s Auto
The Lander Group has proposed constructing a $9-10 million, four-story structure at Minnehaha Ave. and Nawadaha Blvd., directly across from Minnehaha Park.

The building would replace Greg’s Automotive Service as the owner retires. “We will be cleaning up the site,” observed Lander.

Previous projects in Longfellow by The Lander Group include West River Commons at E. Lake St. and the river, and Parkway West at 46th and 46th. The Lander Group has also recently completed a project at 38th St. and 28th Ave. which now houses its offices, and will soon be redeveloping the 38th St. light rail station site.

As they always do, the staff at The Lander Group began this project by looking through the various city and neighborhood plans for this area, explained Lander.
However, Lander was cautioned that these plans might not reflect the values of residents.

“Please don’t make any assumptions about what we want because there’s a broad diversity,” stated Neighborhood Development & Transportation Committee member Lisa Boyd.

One and two bedrooms
The proposed 30,741-square-foot building would offer 37 housing units, split between one- and two-bedroom apartments with a few studios. Configurations within the L-shaped structure would range in size from 550 to 1,062 square feet.

Every unit has access to individual private outdoor space whether that be porch, balcony, or terrace.

Rents are expected to be market rate at $1.80 to $2.60 per square foot with no income or rent restrictions.

To make the building fit in with the neighborhood, the design includes a landscaped pedestrian frontage with individual sidewalk entries for five homes.

Photo right: “Please don’t make any assumptions about what we want because there’s a broad diversity,” stated Neighborhood Development & Transportation Committee member Lisa Boyd, who cautioned The Lander Group that the plans on file for the neighborhood might not reflect what people want. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Lander pointed out that the entire area along Minnehaha is used currently to access the service shop, and the proposed design would make it safer for pedestrians who would not be competing with vehicular traffic.

The design includes 27 underground and ten at-grade parking spaces. Parking is accessed from an existing alley to the east. One bike spot per unit may be added to the wall in the parking garage.

Clem Paschal is concerned about how this will affect traffic in the alley and on his neighborhood streets, pointing out most families have two vehicles, not one. “Traffic has been really bad,” he said, since the park board fixed up the park.

Carleton Crawford owns the house adjacent to the proposed development site and noted that when he moved in two years ago, he expected there to be redevelopment.

However, he questions putting a 50-foot wall next to his backyard and how long the shadow will be from a four-story building. He suggested that the L shape to the north be removed instead of using every bit of the property for the building.

Construction likely in 2019
The target market is expected to be seniors and empty nester/boomers, both likely living in or near the neighborhood in single-family homes. The location of the building and nearby amenities such as light rail and bus access, as well as the parks and shopping being added along 46th, is likely to appeal to younger mid-career professionals seeking a more mature neighborhood setting, according to planning documents.

Apartments will feature open floor plans, abundant natural light, and modern kitchens and baths.

While many of The Lander Group developments include commercial space on the ground level, 4737 is all residential. Lander pointed to the large development with a grocery store, restaurant and more being constructed along 46th, which will be within a block of this space.

The project will incorporate stormwater best management practices (BMPs) on site. The BMPs will be designed to reduce peak flow runoff rates and provide water quality treatment before connecting to the city storm sewer, and will be coordinated with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Other sustainable features include: solar energy panel allowance; LED lighting; low water use plumbing fixtures; and high-efficiency heating and cooling.

The current project timeline would start construction in February 2019 and end in May 2020.

‘Million dollar site’
“You’re trying to make Minnehaha Falls like Lake Calhoun,” stated lifetime Longfellow resident Mike Foster. “It’s going to be all big buildings. This is arguably the premier park in Minneapolis.”

Meanwhile, resident Matt Brillhart pushed for higher-end housing at the site because of its proximity to Minnehaha Park. “I’m a little underwhelmed by this design,” stated Brillhart. “This is a million dollar site.”



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Local sites buzzing as Minnesota Bee Atlas nears completion

Posted on 24 July 2018 by calvin

Every two weeks, Longfellow resident Kathy Swenson packs her data recording sheet, magnifying glass, and flashlight, and heads over to the Minnesota Bee Atlas test site at 36th St. and W. River Pkwy. Swenson is a volunteer monitor at one of two test sites in South Minneapolis; the other site is at the Nokomis Naturescape Garden on the northeast shore of Lake Nokomis.

Each site has what’s called a bee block on it: a chunk of wood with holes of different diameters that make channels for wild bees to lay their eggs in. The bee blocks were mounted on poles and put in place by Britt Forsberg, program coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service, which is responsible for creating the bee atlas.

Careful monitoring of bee blocks across the state will provide new evidence as to which wild bees live where, and how they are doing.

Photo left: Minnesota Bee Atlas monitor and Longfellow resident, Kathy Swenson, checked the bee block at 36th St. and W. River Pkwy. She said a lot of people who think they’ve been stung by bees have actually been stung by wasps. Wasps are smooth-skinned, carnivorous predators that live primarily on aphids, caterpillars, and other insects. Bees are hairy and live on pollen and nectar. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“I started monitoring the bee block in April,” Swenson said, “in-between blizzards. The first two times I went, all of the drilled holes in the bee block were empty. The third time I went, nine of the holes were filled, which meant that wild bees had laid eggs and deposited pollen sacs to nourish their young when they emerged.”

Forsberg, who is coordinating the making of the bee atlas, said, “This project is happening because the Extension Service received a four-year grant from the state’s Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund. We’ve engaged 150+ volunteers across the state to act as citizen scientists, gathering information about Minnesota’s wild bees through observation. Once completed, the online bee atlas will be hosted by the Bell Museum. Our goal is to have all of the data on wild bees in one place, where it can be accessible to the public as well as to researchers.”

The Prairie Oak Savannah and the Nokomis Naturescape Garden sites were chosen because they have a rich variety of native plants, which provide a variety of food sources for wild bees. Native plants rely on native pollinators; native bees need native plants to nest in and to eat.

Minnesota has an estimated 400 varieties of wild bees, and there are an estimated 20,000 varieties of wild bees worldwide.

Why should we care about wild bees? Forsberg said, “Wild bees are prolific pollinators, and are known to pollinate several types of plants that honeybees can’t. For instance, plants in the squash family can only be pollinated by a certain type of wild bee called the squash bee.”

She continued, “With all of the talk about colony collapse in the last several years, most of the media attention has been on honeybees. The factors that are threatening honeybees (climate change, habitat loss, and pesticides) are the same ones that are threatening wild bees. Our citizen scientists are adding to the existing data about wild bees that has already been collected by the DNR and the U of M Bee Lab.”

The site at 36th St. and W. River Pkwy. is focused on stem-nesting bees, which are bees that lay their eggs in plant stems. An easy way to attract stem-nesting wild bees in the home garden is this:
—plant native aster or cup plants;
—after they’ve bloomed in the fall, cut the stems off at 15- 18“; and
—let the stems stand over winter, and into the next spring.

New growth will soon be much taller than the old stems, which can provide nesting habitat for wild bees while remaining invisible.

Once all of the data has been compiled, the Minnesota Bee Atlas will help to answer questions about wild bee behavior from “where do wild bees live,” to “when are they most active?” Little is known about how wild bees are responding to the overgrowth of buckthorn in Minnesota forests—among other things. Information gathered from bee block sites may provide new insights into a changing environment.

Swenson, who is a retired National Park Service ranger and volunteer coordinator with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, said, “This is my first year as a site monitor, and I’ve enjoyed being part of a real research team. Citizen scientists don’t create or evaluate a scientific project, but they do contribute in meaningful ways.”

For more information, visit



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Architect saves classic homes; gives them new life for the 21st century

Posted on 24 July 2018 by calvin

The little house, sitting midblock on 13th Ave. in the Hale neighborhood, had seen better days. Built in 1924, it had been the home for families who came and went, but when the last owner lost her husband, she began to collect items—lots of items. When she finally sold it last summer, junk and all, it became the beginning of architect Eric Hanson’s plan to save older homes by remaking them for modern families.

Hanson had watched as dozens of urban homes were sold and then torn down, with huge mansion-like houses replacing them. The new houses are, he insists, often too big for the lots on which they sit and too big for their neighborhoods, dwarfing nearby homes. “Teardowns are happening like there is no tomorrow,” he says. “I am trying to save houses instead, remodeling them to fit into the neighborhood.”

Photo right: The little house on 13th Ave. is still in the ‘before’ stage of remodeling. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

He searched neighborhoods from South Minneapolis to the Wisconsin border until he came upon a one-story 867-square-foot home, on a tiny .12-acre lot, a block from Minnehaha Creek. And, he says, he immediately saw the possibilities. Partnered with former client Steve Aldrich, the two acquired the house last summer for $165,000 and started to plan.

The house, Hansen says, was filled with enough stuff for him to recognize it as a hoarder house.

“It was kind of sad,” he says. “After the owner’s husband died, she just couldn’t throw stuff away. We bought it ‘as is.’ There were a lot of dumpsters filled with things and a lot of trips to Value Village.” After donating the furniture, books, and antiques to a charity, he began the rehab, starting by tearing apart the interior.

Hansen has an abundance of ideas for the tiny home. He wants to move upward by adding a second story, making the 2-bedroom home into a 4-bedroom home. He wants to move the front door to create the main entrance off a patio on the side of the house, to refigure the layout and maybe, finish the basement. The house may end up with 2,500 square feet, but the footprint of the house won’t change, he says. Hansen blanches at huge homes on little lots and, he hopes, this home will be an example for others who want to live in South Minneapolis and elsewhere in the Twin Cities but want a larger home.

Photo left: Architect Eric Hanson has big plans for the little house and for the future of smaller older homes in the Twin Cities. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

JK Carpentry, who has worked with Hansen on some other projects, has signed on. “We’re taking the existing house and reviving the foundation,” says builder Jeremiah Kunde. “We’ll make it a family home. We’re trying to save stuff that might otherwise go into a landfill, and with this house, we can reutilize material and turn it back into the home. We can make it so the house will still be here 100 years from now.”

“The basement is a big room, rehabbed in the 1960s,” Hansen says. “We’ll find a way to raise the low ceiling, add drain tile it so it will be a nice dry house, maybe make it into one big family room and add colored concrete floors.”

The kitchen, he says, will have southern rooflines and lots of sunlight. ‘We have this house set up for full solar,” he says.

The plan also includes keeping the two-car garage but allowing the possibility of expanding it upward.

Projects like this, Hanson says, can take months but he hopes to sell it in the fall. But he says, what would be ideal would be a homebuyer who bought the home this summer and became part of the planning process. The home is currently on the market, even as the work on it continues.

Steve Aldrich, Hanson’s business partner in this project, claims he has only a small role in the project, besides buying the home. But, he is putting in hands-on work on the rehab. “I cut a lot of the little trees and hauled out a lot of garbage,” he says. “I’ve been mowing the lawn there.”

“Eric did work on my house in St. Louis Park about five years ago, and we talked about buying something like this and making it into something beautiful. The whole idea is to have a buyer to who understands our vision,” he says.

He says that rehabbing existing small homes is the future of residential neighborhoods in the Cities. “My first house in 1987 was only four blocks away. I love that neighborhood, near the Creek,” Aldrich says. “In 10 or 15 years, the streets around here will be filled with houses that have been rebuilt. “Everyone wants to live in nice houses while being closer to the center of the city.”

Hansen says that it would take a special kind of person to sign on now. “A lot of people don’t have the stomach for the remodeling process,” he says. “But, we are trying to engage the public.”

“Remodeling is harder than doing it from scratch,” he concludes. “But we are trying to do something different. It’s going to be beautiful.”



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Midtown Farmers Market at a critical and challenging crossroad

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

It isn’t often that a figure of speech is true both figuratively and literally, but this is one of those times. The Midtown Farmers Market, which sits at the crossroad of E. Lake St. and Hiawatha Ave., is in a time of transition—and where that transition will lead is not yet known.

The venerable community gathering space has sat adjacent to the Hi-Lake LRT Station for the last 15 years. Originally located on the Lake St. side of the property, it was shuttled to the back in 2015 when construction began on a building that now houses Hennepin County Human Services.

“Our current location is less visible and less accessible than the original one,” said Market Manager Mallory Forseth. “For the last couple of years, customers have had to deal with major construction issues. Attendance for last year’s market season was down 20% from our peak year in 2014. We want people to know that we’re still here, even though we may not be visible from Lake St. We need the support of the neighborhood to keep our market going strong.”

Forseth continued, “There are other big changes ahead,” Forseth “We’ve recently learned that we’ll have to find a temporary location for 2019 and 2020, while the 1.4-acre public plaza meant to house us, and many other neighborhood functions, is built. The Corcoran Neighborhood Organization (which is the Midtown Farmers Market parent group) is looking, but hasn’t yet found a suitable neighborhood site for the market to relocate to.”

Photo right: The proposal for the new public plaza would reduce the number of vendor stalls from 65 to 42. Market administrators say this number is inadequate to provide the variety of goods that customers have grown accustomed to. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to Forseth, the process of working with Hennepin County on the plaza design has been frustrating. The operational requirements of the market are basic, but requests for public restrooms, storage for market supplies, and a sufficient number of vendor stalls have not been accommodated in the current plan. Without them, Forseth said, “I don’t see how we can continue to operate in this space. We feel we are at an impasse.”

Market supporters believe it should be clear [to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and City Council Representative Alondra Cano] that the benefits of keeping the Midtown Farmers Market in Midtown are worth those accommodations.

Also, the proposal for the new public plaza would reduce the number of vendor stalls from 65 to 42. Market administrators say this is inadequate to provide the variety of goods that customers have grown accustomed to.

According to Forseth, “We’re located at a very busy transit hub. From a transportation standpoint, that makes us one of the most accessible farmers market in Minneapolis—and we have the potential to grow that even more. When all of the construction is complete, there will be a total of 500 units of housing divided between the various buildings here. This is an enormous opportunity!”

“With Hennepin County Human Services being on-site,” she added, “we saw our EBT and SNAP Food Program sales go up by 25%. We’re able to offer a food match for customers participating in either of these Hennepin County assistance programs. When they enter the market and stop at our table, they can purchase $10 worth of tokens, and we’ll match their purchase with an additional $10 worth of ‘market bucks.’ This is a step in the right direction for access and equity, having fresh, healthy food right here in the neighborhood for people with limited income.”

“In addition to healthy food,” Forseth said, “the Midtown Farmers Market offers free fitness classes, live music, kids’ activities, family games, and plants for the garden.”

“The Hi-Lake Intersection has been neglected by both Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis for a long time,” Forseth said. “Reasonable accommodation for the Midtown Farmers Market in the public plaza design would give officials and politicians a chance to make good on some of their many promises.”

Image left: Market Manager Mallory Forseth said, “What makes this market so great is the sense of community celebration that comes from bringing healthy food to the middle of South Minneapolis twice a week, six months out of the year.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Corcoran Neighborhood Association will be distributing information at the market over the next few weeks to educate customers on the issues it is facing. A neighborhood forum is in the planning stages for July 26, 5-7pm. Place yet to be determined. To learn more, go to and subscribe to their newsletter. Community input will be sought as the discussion continues.

Forseth concluded, “We would also value input regarding the lower level retail spaces of the buildings being constructed. The Midtown Farmers Market is a food business incubator. If the market finds a way to stay in this location, what about designing in a commercial kitchen where vendors could make or bake their products? There are many ways that retail might be implemented to support and complement market offerings, as well. With big picture thinking, this transit-oriented development project has the potential to be an amazing opportunity for the whole community.”

“In the meantime,” Forseth said, “neighbors can support us by shopping here.”

Market hours are Saturdays 8am-1pm, and Tuesdays 3-7pm. Cars can enter the Midtown Farmers Market on 31st St. and 23rd Ave. Bike racks are located near the LRT Station. Bus and train stops are at Lake St. and Hiawatha Ave.

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Nokomis writer Lorna Landvik’s novel becoming a short film

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Lights, Camera… Oh My Stars!

It was all action on a Nokomis block as novelist Lorna Landvik’s home was transformed to a movie set for one evening in June. Her front porch was used for a scene in a short film being created from her novel, “Oh My Stars.” (Image right submitted)

Neighbors gathered as equipment was hauled out of a large truck and erected on Landvik’s lawn and across the street. Young Ellie Hugener said she was excited to see “all the cool stuff to set up.” For Linda Skoglund, it was “a little touch of Hollywood in South Minneapolis.”

It’s something Landvik remembers from her days living in Los Angeles: big trucks pulling up to film locations.

Giving her characters life on the big screen is a dream coming true for Landvik. A couple of her novels (she has written 11) were once optioned—“Patty Jane’s House of Curl” and “Your Oasis on Flame Lake”—but neither went anywhere. At book readings, people would ask

“When’s it gonna be a movie”? to which Landvik would jokingly reply, “Surely someone has a cinema connection”?
And one day someone did.

That connection was Director/Producer Cynthia Uhrich, who soon met with Landvik and the idea for “Oh My Stars” the movie was hatched. It would be a short film, a “proof of concept” that would sing the possibilities of a full-length feature but also stand on its own as a 10-minute movie.

Photo left: Director/Producer Cynthia Uhrich (left) and Author Lorna Landvik on set for “Oh My Stars.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

The story, which takes place during the Great Depression, is of young Violet Mathers, whose arm is amputated after an accident. Facing bullying by her peers and mistreatment at home, Violet decides to travel to California and take her own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. She is waylaid, however, and meets musicians Kjel and Austin, who restore her spirit and sense of belonging through music and friendship.

“It’s about people who don’t think they have people in their corner. Then they find them,” said Landvik. The characters transform, defeating huge obstacles—adjusting after having an arm amputated, trying to live as a black man in America (Austin is black), letting go of bitterness, finding comfort and forging on. A perfect movie, Landvik thinks, for these divisive times.

“It’s about finding ways to get along,” she said. “Who doesn’t benefit when we all get along?”

It’s also a type of movie that Landvik says just isn’t being made right now, but one that she as an audience member wants to see. “I think the movie [will] be many things, including a real palliative.”

From page to screen
The film is being made possible by a kickstarter on GiveMN, with donations tax deductible through Uhrich’s nonprofit production company In the Moment Films. Its mission statement, to provide employment opportunities for women both in front of and behind the camera, is appealing to both of the women at the helm of the film.

“Especially exciting for me, is that not only are we going to have a lot of women crew (we’ve hired I believe 13 women on this production),” says Uhrich in a promotional video that is posted on their GiveMN page. “Also… our leading lady, we see her [played by two different actors] as an elderly lady and a young girl, and she’s a great protagonist.”

Photo left: Filmmakers converge as the crew prepares the set for a scene in the film of Lorna Landvik’s celebrated novel “Oh My Stars” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

Producing any film presents challenges, but this is especially so when one is set in another time.

“It’s expensive. It’s not like we can just run outside and grab footage,” Uhrich explains. “We have to be very, very particular with all of the details. The props have to be right. The wardrobe has to be right. The music has to be right.” While on set, Landvik spoke of the details involved in scouting for a vintage truck and costumes from the period and finding a perfect Depression-era home.

And regardless of whether the film is a short or full-length feature, a wide range of equipment is required. For the porch scene, lights, gels, and filters of various sizes were placed just so to invoke the right mood and tone, which in this case was Kjel and Austin sitting on a front porch in the evening, making music by candlelight and shooting the breeze.

They also have to cover salaries and hauling equipment (and people) to various locations. Another couple of scenes were set right up the street at Roosevelt High School, where Landvik is an alumnus. (Another point of synergy: she discovered that the librarian’s grandparents graduated from Roosevelt in 1937, the year the story takes place.)

Other film locations include a factory in northeast Minneapolis, a couple of private homes, the stage of the Black Dog music cafe in St. Paul, the countryside near New Prague, and a 1930s home in Arkansaw, WI.

Landvik, who wrote the screenplay for the film, has enjoyed being along for the ride. She’s been on set and sat in on auditions. Though an actor herself, she’s been out of that process for a while.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” she said, adding that her three main principles—Violet, Kjel, and Austin—are emotionally spot on. “They’re so fun to watch.”

Full circle
To film a scene on her porch is to come full circle for Landvik; it was exactly here, while rocking in a chair, that her novel’s characters first presented themselves.

Violet came first. Landvik knew she was from Kentucky, that there would be a terrible accident, and that the bulk of the story would take place during the Great Depression.

Kjel came next. “With this odd Nordic name, I knew he had the charisma and looks and musicality of pre-Elvis Elvis,” said Landvik.

Then Austin came. An African American man in a story set in the 1930s… how was that going to be? “The fun of it is, I [was] going to find out.”

The title came later, which to Landvik reflects Kjel’s exuberance and love of the world. “He loves being in this world.”

“Oh my stars” is also an expression her mom, Ollie, used all the time. Breaking with her usual writing approach (she keeps her stories-in-progress close to the vest), Landvik talked with her mom “so much” with this book. Her parents had grown up in the Depression. Her mom had made all of Landvik’s clothes, including her Barbie’s clothes, which she hated as a kid. “I wanted store bought.”

But when her mom, who Landvik said never needed a pattern and would have loved to have been a designer, made her a tulip dress that she loved and then made her friend the very same one, Landvik became a “real pill.”

Sadly, her mom passed away before the novel was published. Some time afterward, Landvik learned from an aunt sharing old letters that in their childhood games they went by names they made up for themselves. Her mom’s invented name? Violet.

Filming for the movie is now complete, and the team is moving into post-production (editing and sound) with hopes for a wrap by the end of summer. Completion will depend on the success of the kickstarter, which is about halfway toward its goal.

In the online video, Uhrich tells would-be contributors they’ll be part of a project that’s “pretty exciting.”

“[Lorna]’s a Minnesota treasure,” she said. “She’s one of our local celebrities.”

More information can be found on the “Oh My Stars Movie” Facebook page and GiveMN fundraising page.

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Lake + Minnehaha Open Streets scheduled July 22

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Shut the traffic down…

People choose to experience it in different ways.

Whether biking, strolling or rolling, Lake Street and Minnehaha Open Streets will offer visitors a chance to explore the many offerings of this part of Minneapolis without any vehicle traffic on Sun., July 22, from 11am to 5pm.

Starting in the Lyndale neighborhood in 2011, the event has grown to include seven neighborhoods in Minneapolis, opening their streets to pedestrian traffic on different weekends throughout the summer.

“But the idea is much older than that,” said Maria Wardoku (photo right by Jan Willms), president of the board of Our Streets, formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which hosts Open Streets each year. The event began in Bogota, Colombia, in 1974 and is called “Cyclovia” in Spanish-speaking countries. That translates to “cycleway.”

The Lake and Minnehaha Open Streets will run from Chicago to Minnehaha Ave. and then from Lake down Minnehaha to Minnehaha Regional Park, just south of 46th St.

“Businesses are invited to come out onto the street and participate,” Wardoku said. “There are different options for how they can partner with Open Streets. We want to encourage businesses who are on the street or close to it to be a part of the event.”

Wardoku explained that each of the seven Open Streets is unique. “Every year is also different because different partners come out,” she added. She said this year there will be a Midtown-Phillips zone at Lake and 15th Ave., hosted by the Midtown-Phillips Association. “There are going to be stages featuring musicians from the area, a soccer team participating, and Heart of the Beast Theater, among others,” she noted. She mentioned one business along the way will be hosting its grand opening. “It’s an ideal day for people to launch their businesses,” she said. “Where else can you connect with 10,000 people, who mostly live in the area?”

Open Streets is scheduled to happen, rain or shine. “There are certain safety issues we would follow—for example, if there is lightning—but we have had good luck with the weather in the past,” Wardoku said. “One year there were a lot of storms during the summer, but every Open Streets day was nice.”

The first year the event was scheduled in Minneapolis at Lyndale, it attracted a crowd of 5,000. “Last year we had a little longer route in that neighborhood, and 45,000 people came,” Wardoku said. She said E. Lake and Minnehaha is definitely a strong draw for Open Streets also, and 18,500 were in attendance last year. “We have volunteers counting each year,” she added, “and about 101,000 came to all of our Open Streets in 2017.”

A lot of work goes into the planning for Open Streets, according to Wardoku. “We have some down time in the fall and early winter, but most of the year we are focused on engaging businesses on the street and organizations,” she said. So many people are involved in each Open Streets, and keeping the logistics straight can be a big job.

The event is very family-friendly, appealing to all different ages and different cultures.
“We survey the businesses who participate every year,” Wardoku said, “and we got 90 percent of them saying it was a positive experience.

For E. Lake and Minnehaha, 95 percent of businesses said they would recommend it. I think people get a lot of value out of it.”

There are seven to ten staff members working on Open Streets, along with some interns in the summer. “Mostly, it is volunteers,” Wardoku said. “It can take 100 volunteers to put on a good event.”

She said Open Streets has had great sponsors, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Metro Transit, and the City of Minneapolis.

Businesses can participate in a tiered system. “You can come in as a basic business and have a spot on the street,” Wardoku explained, “for the lowest cost.” She said there are approximately 200 different vendors, and maps are printed out to help people follow the route.

“Businesses participating at a higher level are highlighted on the map,” she said.

Considering the most challenging aspect of putting on Open Streets, Wardoku said it all depends on the role one is playing. “The person recruiting volunteers might say that is the hardest; the person getting sponsors might say that is the most challenging part. We are always looking at funding and long-term larger sponsors. It really helps to have some city-wide sponsors that can provide the foundation we have to work from.”

Wardoku said she loves to ride her bike from one end of Open Streets to the other and engage along the way. “Some people like to walk the whole route, pulling their kids in a wagon. But if they are limited for time, they will look at that map and hit certain high spots.”

“One of the joys of Open Streets is that it’s closing down a main thoroughfare for a long stretch, and it’s fun to ride or walk from beginning to end and not worry about traffic for that whole time. You really see things you don’t normally because of the speed you are going. Even streets I have been down a hundred times before, I have missed little details. At Open Streets, you appreciate the neighborhood at a different level, and everyone is in a good mood.”

See more about the 2018 Lake + Minnehaha Open Streets here and here.

(Front page slider image by Margie O’Loughlin)

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Citizens worry sewer project will decrease flow to Coldwater Spring

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Replacing 90-year-old sewer tunnel under Minnehaha Creek that is in danger of leaking sewage into groundwater

Will a sewer tunnel project in south Minneapolis affect how much water flows at Coldwater Spring?

Some people are worried that it will, and this has prompted the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) to revise its original plan for the regional sewer interceptor tunnel. Yet some Coldwater Spring supporters don’t think the risk has been eliminated.

Photo rightt: Nobody knows where Coldwater’s source waters come from. Tom Holtzleiter of Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition is pushing local government agencies to pinpoint the exact location of that fracture that feeds water towards the spring. “More and more projects are going to come up, and they’re going to need to know where that line is,” stated Holtzleiter. “So far they’ve gotten lucky and not hit it. But sooner or later they’re going to run across it.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Tom Holtzleiter has been active in working to preserve Coldwater Spring for the past 20 years. A current resident of Bloomington, Holtzleiter grew up playing at Coldwater Spring. When the Highway 55/62 interchange was redone in 2002, Holtzleiter led a group, the Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition, which pushed for the installation of an 8-acre liner to isolate the road from the nearby spring.

Coldwater Spring, located on the southern end of Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, is considered sacred by some Minnesota tribes and has been home to people for 10,000 years. Dubbed the birthplace of Minnesota, it was the first place European settlers lived when Fort Snelling was being built in 1820. As recently as 1976, Coldwater was an emergency drinking water supply for south Minneapolis when the city’s water supply was “putrid with algae,” according to

Managed since 2010 by the National Park Service as part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Coldwater is the last natural spring of size in Hennepin County.

Sewer line failing
The existing regional sanitary sewer tunnel about 40 feet under Minnehaha Creek near 3901 Minnehaha Pkwy. E. is deteriorated and in danger of leaking wastewater (sewage) into the groundwater in the future.

This sewer pipe has served the city of Minneapolis and MCES since the mid-1930s, but it now needs some attention, according to Tim O’Donnell of MCES.

“The long-term environmental risks are too great to do nothing,” stated O’Donnell.

Photo left: A sewer tunnel project near 3901 Minnehaha Parkway E. may affect the flow of water at Coldwater Spring, but the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) is working to minimize the impact. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The regional sanitary sewer collects wastewater via local sanitary sewers from South Minneapolis (south of approximately E, 42nd St.) and about one-third of Edina. MCES conveys the wastewater through additional regional sanitary sewers through Minneapolis and St. Paul to the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro Plant) located about three miles southeast of downtown St. Paul.

Plan changed to avoid dewatering
Originally, MCES planned to replace the existing, damaged regional sanitary sewer with a new deep sewer tunnel. That would have required dewatering of the limestone bedrock—that is, temporarily lowering the groundwater level in the limestone layer by pumping it out.

Recognizing that this had the potential of impacting groundwater flow to Coldwater Spring, which is located approximately 1.5 miles southeast of the sewer tunnel, MDES decided to rehabilitate the existing tunnel instead, which will not require dewatering.

However, this will still involve drilling up to three ventilation shafts into the limestone bedrock.
According to O’Donnell, the shafts will allow fresh air to be transferred into the deep tunnel system for workers’ safety.

“These ventilation shafts are necessary to meet strict OSHA requirements for working in underground, confined spaces,” he said. “The shafts will be encased in steel and grouted in place, which will allow groundwater to flow around them without affecting the flow to Coldwater Spring.”

However, Hotzleiter isn’t so sure. He’s worried that any drilling through the limestone into the sandstone beneath will break the seal. It’s possible that if this happens, water will flow towards the Mississippi River another way, and the flow at Coldwater will trickle away to nothing.

There has also been some disagreement about how much water has flowed through Coldwater in the past, and how much is going through now.

There is a monitoring point on the southern wetland but not one on the spring reservoir north of it, so the data only shows part of the complete picture, pointed out Holtzleiter.

MDES received a mix of comments at the May 22 public hearing and in writing. “People appreciate that MCES had re-evaluated the alternatives and found an alternative that would not impact the groundwater flow to Coldwater Spring,” stated O’Donnell. “Others were concerned with temporary park and trail access impacts during construction and some tree loss. And the Friends of Coldwater and its followers, and some members of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community are opposed to MCES installing two or three ventilation shafts from the ground surface down to the regional sanitary sewer pipe that will be rehabilitated.”

The National Park Service, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the city of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) support the revised project.

Where is the fracture line?
Nobody knows where Coldwater’s source waters come from. The consensus is that about two-thirds of the groundwater flows to the spring through basal Platteville limestone to the north and west. Beneath this 20 feet of limestone is 70 feet of sandstone. Much of the water flowing into Coldwater moves along a fracture line, but the exact location of that fracture has never been determined. Engineers have guessed that it is near where the sewer tunnel work is planned, but it could be 20 feet away or right at the project site.

Holtzleiter is pushing local government agencies to pinpoint the exact location of that fracture.

“More and more projects are going to come up, and they’re going to need to know where that line is,” stated Holtzleiter. “So far they’ve gotten lucky and not hit it. But sooner or later they’re going to run across it.”

He pointed out that the budget of this current project is $31 million, and believes a concurrent study of the fracture line would be a “drop in the bucket” comparatively.

Construction begins next year
MDES is working to finalize the project design and will then select a contractor. Construction will take place between spring 2019 to fall 2021.

Bike/walking trails and streets may be affected during this project, but MCES is working with the city of Minneapolis and the MPRB to minimize potential disruptions.

MDES will also work with the National Park Service to increase their monitoring of water flows into Coldwater Spring during the construction project.
“In the unlikely event that there are changes to these water flows during our construction project, we will know that quickly and will make any necessary modifications to our construction,” stated O’Donnell.

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Residents favor one-span curved bridge design at S. 28th Ave.

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Design will offer better sightlines of the creek for trail users traveling under the bridge

Local residents are helping decide what the new S. 28th Ave. bridge will look like over Minnehaha Creek.

The feedback gathered during a public meeting on May 30 was that neighbors want to see a curved façade design with enhanced concrete cutouts.

People also prefer a design without a pillar separating the trail from the creek. This will provide better sight lines to the creek for trail users, and replicate the existing historic structure. Plus, a one-span bridge will have less impact on the park during construction.

Photo right: When the new bridge is completed in 2019, trail users will cross under the busy S. 28th Ave. roadway along Minnehaha Creek. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There was a discussion about railings, but this element will be determined further along in the design process. However, the bridge railings used at the Burnham Road Bridge near Lake of the Isles were well received by historians. The original railings on the bridge were concrete but will be replaced with metal ones.

While the existing bridge is an arch, the new one has to be square to accommodate the trail underneath the roadway and the house to the south, explained City Bridge Engineer Jack Yuzna.

Top priority to move trail beneath the road
Moving the trail beneath the busy S. 28th Ave. bridge is a top priority of users. This intersection was highlighted in the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Master Plan, and a trail crossing below the bridge ranked as the second most important priority for the entire park.

Citizens at a May 9 open house on the project reiterated the danger of crossing S. 28th Ave. as it is now with a skewed trail alignment.

This trail is a component of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway that has been nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and so the bridge needs to complement the historic setting as well as the natural setting, pointed out Yuzna.
“It’s a community amenity,” stated Yunza.

The original bridge was constructed in 1904 when vehicles and pedestrians shared the roadway. The arch has a clear span of 25 feet and rise of 7 feet. In the 1920s, the iron railing from the Franklin Ave. bridge was installed on the 28th Ave. bridge and sidewalks were added by cantilevering 3.5 feet beyond the bridge’s spandrel walls.

Photo left: While the new bridge will take up the same space as the old one, the configuration will be different. The driving lanes on the new bridge will be more narrow while the sidewalks will be wider. (Graphic submitted)

The existing structure has narrow sidewalks of 4.5 feet wide. In the new design, there will be 10 feet on each side to make it more comfortable for pedestrians and easier to remove snow. Approaching the bridge there will be eight-foot sidewalks with 6 feet of green space between the sidewalk and the street.

When the new bridge is constructed, the street lanes will be narrowed to make a shorter crossing for pedestrians, explained Public Works employee Patty Day.

Lanes are currently 22 feet and will be 16 feet in the future. The bridge will remain 56 feet wide.

There will also be new ADA-compliant crossings at E. 47th St.

Bridge will be out for six months in 2019
While the work is underway, S. 28th Ave. will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians for about six months. Residents didn’t favor using Nokomis Ave. as a detour route, so S. 34th Ave. will be the designated route for vehicles. This will be coordinated with the 34th Ave. reconstruction project from E. Minnehaha Pkwy. to E. 58th St., as well as Metro Transit.

Trail users will be directed up a block to E. 46th St.

The 28th bridge work is expected to begin in April 2019 and be finished in November 2019.

During that time, the disruption to flora and fauna will be minimized.

“The engineering team is working closely with the neighbors immediately impacted by the project and have made adjustments based on that feedback,” said Day. “Engineers are also working closely with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to ensure that the design of the pedestrian and bike trail is consistent with the long-range plan for the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park.”

The proposed layout will be shared next with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Pedestrian Advisory Committee. It will then be brought before the Transportation and Public Works Committee of City Council in July 2018.

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