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"Architecture of well-being" on University new St. Paul gateway

 
 
Tod Elkins, principal of UrbanWorks, likens University Avenue to a “Miracle Mile,” referring to the many thoroughfares across the United States that have become bustling shopping, entertainment and cultural destinations. University was once a major retail corridor and will be again, Elkins says.
 
“In the future, University will become similar to Washington D.C.’s Orange Line. New large retail and apartment developments have reinvigorated that transit way. I’m surprised University has taken as long as it has to take off, but sometime soon it will look that way, too.”
 
A new mixed-used project at 2700 University, at the corner of University and Emerald avenues at the Westgate Green Line light-rail station, is a leap forward. Designed by Elkins and his team at UrbanWorks Architecture, for Flaherty & Collins Properties, the LEED Silver, amenity rich development broke ground Monday.
 
“Historically, we’ve learned that to create vibrant neighborhoods, you should lead with housing,” Elkins says. “You need to have households, then bring in retail and offices, so throughout the day and year, people are active and on the street.”
 
Located between the St. Paul neighborhood of St. Anthony Park and Prospect Park in Minneapolis, 2700 University will be a six-story building with 248 apartments, 3,000 square feet of retail space and two levels of underground parking. The project will also have a saltwater swimming pool, sundeck with cabanas, cyber café, pet grooming area, and bicycle repair station with indoor bike parking, bike stands, pumps, tools, water bottle filling station and workbench.
 
Moreover, 20 percent of the living units are designated affordable or “workforce housing,” Elkins says. “To me, workforce housing means for people who work in retail in front of the house, making $12 - $14 an hour. Or artists. Or not the lawyers, but the support staff in the office, along with recent college grads or empty nesters moving in from the suburbs. In other words, the people of the community.” Legally, affordable housing is designed for people who earn 50 percent or less of the area median income.
 
Those workforce units will also be integrated throughout the building, Elkins adds, “to ensure a healthy societal mix of residents.” The building’s transit amenities also contribute to the building’s “architecture of well-being,” he continues. “Whatever we can design in to get people out of their cars and walking, bicycling or using transit — especially when we’re designing urban infill buildings — we strive to do.”
 
UrbanWorks’ design adheres to St. Paul Sustainability Building Guidelines — the City of St. Paul is a financial partner in the project — and includes locally sourced materials, energy efficient systems, LED lighting, doorstep access to light-rail transit, and as many bicycle racks as car parking spaces.
 
While the large site sat unused for many years, the City of St. Paul kept searching for a clear vision with affordable housing and retail, as well as a landmark that could serve as a gateway building to St. Paul. To that end, the building, which amply fulfills all of the city’s criteria, will include signage spelling out “St. Paul” on the rooftop facing Minneapolis.
 
 
 
 

Cooperative real estate model goes national

 
Three years ago, the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) was created to allow people to collectively buy, renovate, and manage commercial and residential property. Despite a mix of restaurants and retail businesses on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, and the adaptive reuse of former industrial buildings into the immensely popular 612 Broadway and Crown Center nearby, the area has a history of rundown storefronts and absentee landlords. NEIC is changing all that.
 
With nearly $300,000 in member investments, and having transformed 2504-06 at the corner of Central and Lowry avenues into a successful building with thriving tenants, NEIC is sharing its innovative cooperative model nationally. Already, in New York City, inspired residents formed their own co-op modeled after NEIC — NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative — and more than 200 people immediately invested.
 
In February, an article in Yes! Magazine about NEIC went viral. Since then, the first commercial-property cooperative in the United States has been happily fielding inquiries from groups across the country, and board members will be speaking at conferences in St. Louis, Phoenix and Milwaukee on NEIC’s innovative business model. The appeal, explains Loren Schirber, a NEIC board member, is the opportunity to make a difference locally.
 
“People who have a vested interest in their neighborhood see the cooperative, commercial real estate model as an accessible way to make that difference and get a lot of other people involved,” Schirber says, and there’s more. “Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Facebook and other social media and crowdfunding sites have changed how we do marketing and communications, so real estate investment opportunities are becoming more localized and accessible to people. This is the next logical step, because people don’t simply donate, they see where their money goes, what it’s doing and take ownership in the process.”
 
The cooperative real estate model also takes our new cultural emphasis on the local and bespoke — whether beer, food or handmade goods — further, Schirber continues. “How you save for retirement or invest is a logical extension of trying to be more conscious of what to do with your money and the influence you have. So with NEIC, we tackled an eyesore in the neighborhood we wanted to see changed. That resonated with local people…. and word traveled.”
 
Through NEIC’s cooperative structure, any Minnesota resident could join for $1,000. They could also invest more by purchasing non-voting stock. After a year of seeking investors, NEIC purchased two buildings on Central Avenue. Aki’s BreadHaus and Fair State Brewing Cooperative opened in 2014. NEIC’s partner, Recovery Bike Shop, is located next door. In total, the project represents more than a million dollars in new investment on Central Avenue.
 
“We spent thousands of hours getting started, fine tuning our bylaws, figuring out our structures, setting things up,” Schirber says. “Sharing that information with other groups, to make the process easier for them, is a principal of cooperative ownership.” So far, groups located in places from Seattle to Silver Spring, Maryland, Northern California to Cincinnati, Ohio, Texas to Washington D.C., have contacted NEIC for information.
 
Meanwhile, NEIC is avidly seeking a second property to bring to investors, and holding three information sessions and happy hours to discuss past successes and future plans: 
June 4: Info session at Eastside Food Co-op (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
July 16: Info session at Narobi Market (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
August 13: Info session at TBD (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
 
“People have plenty of opportunities to become a minority investor,” Schirber says. “But from a tenant, investment and neighborhood standpoint, a cooperative model offers people more accessibility, control, ownership and a tangible reason for success.”
 

St. Paul bike plan begins with downtown "loop" and Grand Round

 
Minneapolis’ Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System is well known to Twin Cities walkers, runners and bicyclists. One of the country’s longest continuous systems of public urban parkways, the system includes the Chain of Lakes, the Mississippi River, and assorted parks, picnic areas and bridges. St. Paul has its own Grand Round, which is back in the news as a primary component of the recently approved St. Paul Bicycle Plan.
 
The plan, which the City Council passed in March, “will guide the development of a safe, effective and well-connected network of bicycle facilities to encourage and facilitate bicycle transportation,” according to the City’s website. In fact, the plan is poised to more than double the number of bike pathways and connectors through St. Paul in the next several decades. The two priorities this summer, says Rueben Collins, transportation planner and engineer for the City of St. Paul, are a new downtown “loop” and the Grand Round.
 
The Downtown Loop and Spur Network, according to St. Paul Smart Trips, was inspired by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. A loose square rather than a loop, per se, the system would include a variety of off-street bikeways and paths connecting parks, attractions and other destinations throughout the downtown area. The first phase is occurring along Jackson Street to create an important commuter and recreational connection between the Samuel Morgan Regional Trail along the Mississippi River and the Gateway State Trail, which extends northeast out of St. Paul with connections to Stillwater and beyond.
 
The Grand Round, a 27-mile parkway around the city, extends from Fort Snelling to Lake Phalen via Shepard Road and Johnson Parkway, continues along Wheelock Parkway to Lake Como, then to Raymond Avenue and across I-94 to Pelham and East River Road. “Not all the parts of the Grand Round read like a parkway,” Collins says. So as city streets are slated for reconstruction, bikeways will also be put in place to offer cyclists safe, often tree-lined and dedicated lanes.
 
This summer, as Raymond Avenue in the Creative Enterprise Zone is under reconstruction, so will that portion of the Grand Round be redesigned and implemented. “Wheelock is also scheduled for reconstruction in a few years,” Collins adds, “so we’re already looking at transforming it into a place that prioritizes biking and walking.” The City of St. Paul is also working at branding the Grand Round “to make it more attractive for bicyclists,” he says.
 
While the bike plan will be “implemented piecemeal,” Collins continues, “eventually the entire system will tie together into a single network. The new bike plan gives us the vision and blueprint for where we want to be in the future. It’s an overall, top down, bottom up, across the board plan for the entire city co-authored by many departments and partners.”
 
The bike plan is part of Mayor Chris Coleman’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, which was based on the work of internationally known urban designer Gil Penalosa who keynoted the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation’s Third Annual Placemaking Residency last year. Coleman’s 8-80 Vitality vision was designed to ensure infrastructure, streets and public spaces are accessible and enjoyable for all residents. The newly adopted bike plan is the first strategy to advance that vision.
 
As new bikeways are constructed, communities will be invited to weigh in on the types of lanes and facilities that will best serve them. “We’re always asking the question, ‘What do bicyclists want?’” Collins says. “The question sounds simple, but is actually quite complex.” Dedicated and protected lanes, and shared lanes are attractive to different types of bicyclists. Also taken into consideration are “what the existing environments allow us to build.”
 
“At its root, a systematic bike plan is an economic development strategy,” Collins adds. “We know that people want to work and live in place where they can be outdoors, connecting with nature and with the people around them. We also know bicycling is an indicator of a healthy city and healthy economy. Our goal is to be the best city for bicycling in the country.”
 

SPRC's 4th annual Placemaking Residency focuses on healthy cities

 
“The connection between place and health isn’t an intuitive one,” says Patrick Seeb, executive director, St. Paul Riverfront Corporation (SPRC). The fourth annual Placemaking Residency hosted by SPRC, May 11-15, hopes to forge that connection in the Twin Cities.
 
Titled “Moving the Twin Cities to Better Health,” the weeklong event will explore the relationship between urban design and population health through workshops, walking and biking tours, presentations and social events. Events will take place on St. Paul’s East Side, along University Avenue and in the Ecodistrict in Downtown St. Paul, as well as in the East Downtown area of Minneapolis and the South Loop of Bloomington.
 
“Well be out in the community, moving around the Twin Cities throughout the day and into the evening, in order to be interdisciplinary and so that participants — including urban planners, community activists, health experts and policy makers — can find different ways to engage,” Seeb says.
 
In past years, the residency has featured one key speaker focusing on a single topic. Last year the focus was on walkability and bikeability in the cities. The year before, the residency topic was place as a driver of economic investment. The first year, arts and culture as a strategy for place was the focus.
 
This year, three residents — all from the San Francisco area — will “enrich the conversation,” Seeb explains. Dr. Richard Jackson is the author of Designing Healthy Communities and the host of the PBS series of the same name. “He’s made a career out of studying the built environment and its impact on health,” Seeb says.
 
Gehl Studio is the San Francisco-based office of Gehl Architects. The firm’s work is cross-disciplinary, and incorporates architecture, urban design and city planning in projects around the world. “The studio focuses on changes we can make right now,” Seeb says. “Rather than thinking about long-term change, the studio specializes in immediate solutions. The Open Streets movement came out of their shop.”
 
The third resident, Dr. Anthony Iton, is senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment. “His work helps people understand geographic, racial and wealth disparities throughout the U.S.,” Seeb explains. “He’ll present data about how your zip code can predict your expected lifespan.”
 
“In the past 40 to 50 years, the focus on cars, people feeling unsafe walking or biking to work or school, and food deserts are among the concerns that have emerged relating to health and cities,” Seeb says. “There’s a whole field of thinking that says we can change all that; that we can reduce childhood obesity if neighborhoods and streets are safe for kids to walk or bike to school, where they have access to healthy fresh local food.”  
 
“With this placemaking residency focused on healthy cities, we hope to expose people to the topic and get them to look at MSP and the choices we make in our cities through the lens of health,” Seeb continues. “The question is: How can we be much more intentional about creating a safe and healthy future in our cities?”
 
 

Oulmans bring a "throwback vibe" to new Como Dockside

 
In early May, Jon Oulman and his team will open the doors to their latest restaurant and entertainment venue: Como Dockside in the Como Lakeside Pavilion in St. Paul. A 14-person selection committee, including City of St. Paul officials, approved the team’s proposal, which will “not only take full advantage of the unique space situated on the edge of Como Lake, but it will also offer services, food and recreation activities that will make it a vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in a statement. Oulman couldn’t be more thrilled.
 
“Have you been here?!” he responds, when asked why he decided to add the Como Pavilion to his impressive portfolio of businesses. “It may be the most incredible facility in the Twin Cities. It’s in the busiest regional park in the state. Only the Mall of American has more visitors annually than Como Park. It’s an incredible public asset, on a lake, with so much history. Talk to three people in St. Paul and at least two of them will have fond memories of engaging with the park and the lake.”
 
Oulman says he was also ready for a new adventure. “Personally, I felt like nobody needed me anymore!” he says, laughing. “The 331 Club has been running for 10 years now. We’re into our fourth year at Amsterdam [Bar and Hall] and that’s going really well. So last fall I was talking with my son Jarrett [who co-owns Amsterdam] about the public facilities in and around Minneapolis with food and beverage, like Sea Salt [next to Minnehaha Falls] and Tin Fish [on Lake Calhoun). The line at Tin Fish to get food! We saw potential here. And the timing is perfect.”
 
The Oulmans, operating as Como Dockside, responded to a survey of more than 1500 people who noted what they wanted in a new facility. Those criteria included a year-round place for food and beverages, a variety of entertainment options in addition to the beloved community groups, and more engagement with the park and lake. In response, the team revamped the kitchen and dining area on the main floor, and the second floor will be a lounge with comfy club furniture.
 
“We built the place out so in the summer, when you’re inside, you can see out through the large windows,” Oulman says. “In the winter, you’ll feel warm and cozy.” The menu will feature New Orleans-style po' boys, picnic baskets to takeaway, local craft beers and wine. In the evenings, for dinner, food will be plated. “It’s kind of a throwback vibe, which I’m interested in, so we’re wrapping the aesthetic around that.”
 
Because the park keeps attendance records for activities at the pavilion, the team could “see what’s been successful and supported by the community,” Oulman says. “For example, 800 people show up for the Como Players theater group. So we certainly aren’t going to get rid of them!”
 
“Our goal is just to make the entertainment offerings more diverse, with maybe some jazz, bluegrass and other Americana,” Oulman continues. “We don’t want to over-impact the neighborhood. There are a lot of people who live around the lake. So 75 percent of the community groups people really love will remain.”
 
The hours are also a change of pace from those held by the former café in the pavilion. Como Dockside will be open until 10 p.m. during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The team is bringing in a new dock system; new canoes, kayaks and paddleboards; and a 30-foot electric guided dining boat. “You can get a picnic basket, a bucket of beer and one our guys will putt you around the lake for an hour,” Oulman enthuses. “This is St. Paul!”
 
 
 

Lakes & Legends brings Belgian micro-brews to Loring Park

 
MSP’s craft-beer boom still shows no sign of slowing down. Opening this summer, in a 12,000-square-foot space in LPM Apartments — a 36-story apartment tower recently completed in the Loring Park neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis — is Lakes & Legends Brewing Company.
 
“Consumers keep flocking to craft beer,” says Ethan Applen, co-founder and CEO of Lakes & Legends. “It’s partly an extension of growing interest in local foods and peoples’ desire to know what’s they’re putting into the bodies. But for us, Lakes & Legends is also an opportunity to go deeper. We think there are brewing opportunities where we can grow.”
 
In particular, Lakes & Legends will focus on Belgian and farmhouse-style ales. The former, Applen explains, are “more improvisational. The beer goes back centuries to when monks in Belgium started brewing with what was on hand. The flavor profile has a lot of flexibility and appeals to even non-beer drinkers.”
 
The farmhouse style, he continues, “comes from farms in northern France and Belgium. Farmers would brew beers in the winter with whatever was left over from the harvest, and again that’s where the improvisational piece comes in: barley and rosemary, wheat and lavender.”
 
Lakes & Legends ingredients will be local and organic whenever possible, to find “a balance between the recipe we want to make and what’s available,” Applen says. He’s especially excited to source from MSP’s diverse ethnic growers.
 
“We’re looking at the Hmong community and culture. Ginger, citrus and hot peppers, which they grow and use in their cuisine, are all ingredients we can use in our beer. International ingredients from a local community!”  
 
Applen's father and wife, Katie Kotchka, are from Minnesota. He grew up in Southern California and has lived in LA for 15 years. His background is in startups and entertainment, and he’s worked for Disney and Warner Bros., where he innovated new businesses. He’s been traveling back and forth for the last year, and will be moving to MSP in May.
 
Lakes & Legends co-founder Derrick Taylor, Applen’s brother-in-law, is a Minnesota native and MSP resident who has managed the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in St. Paul. Lakes & Legends' head brewer, Andrew Dimery, comes to MSP by way of Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, KY, and Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis, IN. Lakes & Legends will not have a kitchen, but will partner with local restaurants and food trucks to bring local eats to the taproom.
 
“We want to be part of a community,” Applen says, which why he and Taylor selected the LPM building. They looked around Northeast Minneapolis and the Midway area of St. Paul. But they felt LPM and the Loring Park area are “a great part of Minneapolis, cool and upbeat, with tons of residents, and with breweries near by but not over served.”
 
The brewery and taproom, he adds, “will be a resource for community gatherings and events. We want it to be a comfortable space, a third space away from home and work, where people can come and hang out.”
 

MTN joins creative mix in Northeast Minneapolis

 
 
After 22 years in St. Anthony Main along the Mississippi riverfront in downtown Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) is relocating to Northeast. On April 1, MTN will be joining the other entrepreneurial businesses, artists and creative industries currently in the Thorp Building, which is also a hub during the annual art festival Art-A-Whirl.
 
“As a creative media organization with a long history of serving the various communities in Minneapolis, we’re excited to move to the Thorp Building in Northeast in the middle of a thriving arts district,” says Michael Fallon, MTN’s executive director. Northeast Minneapolis was named the best arts district in the U.S. by USA Today.
 
“There’s so much potential for us in this neighborhood as we’ll be right in the thick of things, serving the community in the way public access television is meant to serve,” Fallon adds.
 
MTN’s mission is to “empower diverse Minneapolis residents seeking to connect to the larger community through the media,” according to its website. “We provide low-expense training for anyone who wants to learn to use the media,” Fallon adds.
 
MTN is largely supported through the Public Access Education and Government Channels (PEG) fees attached to cable subscribers. Over the years, the organization has given artists, comedians, community activists and numerous groups a platform for their work.
 
MTN’s studios have launched such talents as Fancy Ray McCloney, Viva and Jerry Beck (of the show “Viva and Jerry’s Country Music Videos”), Rich Kronfeld (of “The Choo Choo Bob Show”), “Mary Hanson (of “The Mary Hanson Show,” which is “one of longest running public access talk shows in the country,” Fallon says) and Ian Rans (of “Drinking with Ian”). MTN also broadcasts city government meetings and has given the growing Somali community a place to produce public-affairs shows that reach other immigrants. 
 
The new space will include staff offices; equipment rental; two fully equipped, community-focused television studios (with cameras, lights and a green screen) and video editing suites; a Youtube set-up for fast and easy studio productions; and a multipurpose classroom and public gathering area.
 
“We already been reaching out to the Northeast community and potential collaborations and we’re working on a partnership with [the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association] NEMAA,” Fallon says. “ We expect to fit right in and to become an essential part of the Northeast’s creative mix.”
 
 
 

"Inspired at Blu" brings student design to downtown Mpls

 
Now showing on the large digital wall in the swanky lobby of the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown is a selection of work by Michelle Bowitz, a senior in the graphic design BFA program in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. In a novel collaboration, the hotel and the college have created an artist-in-residence program called “Inspired at Blu.” Bowitz was the first student artist selected.
 
About her work, Bowitz says: “Curiosity and motivation keep me learning and growing as a designer everyday. All of my work speaks to who I am today; pulling from personal experiences and techniques I have learned throughout my years studying design. Minneapolis has been an incredible source of creativity and inspiration. I’m extremely excited to continue my life’s journey living, working and exploring in this beautiful city.”
 
Every six weeks, Blu’s digital wall — a design focal point in the hotel lobby — will come alive with a different student’s display. “Inspired at Blu” will rotate through all of the design programs in the college, including architecture, landscape architecture and product design. After Bowitz's graphic designs, "Inspired at Blu" will show work from the college's apparel design program. The collaboration is the first between a hotel and the college.
 
“It is important to us that our guests experience a true sense of place when they visit and we wanted to not only elevate that experience, but also further connect with the vivacious art community that Minneapolis boasts,” said Steven Lindburg, general manager, Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown, in a press release. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the College of Design, University of Minnesota, to provide emerging artists a platform to showcase their original art within the city.”
 
The jurors who selected Bowitz’s work include Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown management; College of Design faculty; Emmet Byrne, design director, Walker Art Center; Heather Soladay Olson, founder and marketing director, Soladay Olson | Marketing for Creatives; and Barbara Redmond, creative director & designer, Barbara Redmond Design.

Later this spring, the hotel hopes to expand "Inspired at Blu" to gallery spaces in the skyway to show 3D work.
 
 

Pollinate Minnesota adds to buzz about pollinators

 
For three years Erin Rupp worked with local bee advocacy group and honey producer Beez Kneez as its director of education, incubating ideas about how to expand the public’s understanding of the vital role pollinators play in our food system. This spring, her ideas came to fruition. Rupp recently launched Pollinate Minnesota, a nonprofit organization designed to engage the public, including policymakers, in “a world with strong, healthy pollinators and people, where farms are functional parts of ecosystems and schools are functional environments for all learners,” according to the website.
 
Pollinate Minnesota will use honeybees to teach about pollinators’ role in creating a healthy, sustainable food system, focusing on interactive experiences for individuals and groups that include visiting bees in their hives. “I really love teaching about pollinators by putting people in beekeeping suits,” Rupp enthuses. “Bees are great tool to connect to a lot of different subjects. They’re social insects. And we know they sting — that’s pretty engaging, right, that they can hurt us? — and yet we’re doing most of the stinging by damaging their habitat.”
 
Rupp says beekeepers are losing 30 to 50 percent of their hives annually, mainly due to starvation. Because of the decimation of native habitats, bees need to fly greater distances to find pollen and nectar. Systemic pesticides — including neonicotinoids, which persist in the environment, and when used as seed treatments move into the pollen and nectar of adult plants — kill bees. And plant cultivars, while showy and colorful, often have had the nectar and pollen bees need bred out of the plant.
 
“The decline of bees tells the story of how our food system is broken in a way that both second graders and state legislators can understand,” Rupp says. To those ends, Rupp is actively seeking partners for the upcoming season; places where she can expand the possibilities of teaching with bees, such as in parks close to schools or on school grounds. She’s also at the State Capitol working on “forward-looking legislation that’s good for pollinators and people,” she says, including Governor Dayton’s “Buffer Bill.”
 
Rupp also wants to work on pesticide legislation, and to collaborate with the Minnesota Department of Transportation of increasing native plantings along roadsides. Meanwhile, she encourages people to plant flower gardens and pots with flowers bees need. “Just ask the seed catalogs or plant nurseries you’re buying from whether their products are free of systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids,” she says.
 
On Monday, March 30, Pollinate Minnesota will celebrate its launch with an event that includes a 2015 legislative session overview of Minnesota state pollinator policy work.  The event runs from 6:30-8:00pm on 3.30.2015 at the Gandhi Mahal Community Room, 3009 27th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

 

Youth responses to art and identity enliven MMAA windows

 
The Pioneer Endicott in downtown St. Paul has undergone a significant transformation in the last year. The three-building complex includes the two, six-story Endicott buildings constructed in 1890 — and designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who officed there for 20 years — on either side of the Pioneer building, which was built in 1889 to house the St. Paul Pioneer Press. All of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
While the upper floors have been renovated into apartments, and the second is home to a wine shop, the street level in the Pioneer is home to the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA). Since moving into its “project space,” MMAA has mounted a number of significant exhibitions. But the museum has also creatively networked with an array of St. Paul organizations to expand its presence throughout the city — including co-presenting a theater production last summer that occurred on and around the Green Line light rail.
 
On view until mid-April, in the Pioneer Endicott’s large windows, between 4th and 5th streets, is another of these efforts: the photographic results of a collaboration among the museum and two youth-oriented non-profit organizations, St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and In Progress. The photographs were created by teen participants in Set It Up (a SPNN afterschool program), after they met with St. Paul artist Julie Buffalohead.
 
The students visited an exhibition of Buffalohead’s work, titled “Coyote Dreams,” at the MMAA, and talked with the artist about her process and artwork. (The show closed February 22.) “We had the students work with Julie because her art deals with themes that are very relevant to teenagers, such as feeling left out of cliques, not being good enough, struggling with identity,” explains Christina Chang, MMAA’s Curator of Engagement.
 
Buffalohead’s work, which has been exhibited throughout the U.S., also playfully and pointedly deals with motherhood, American Indian identity and popular culture. “SPNN has limited access to real working artists, exposure to whom is really crucial to young aspiring artists,” Chang adds. SPNN offers Set It Up youth various opportunities to use media and communications to empower themselves. While the program focuses on video production, it has evolved to include other media such as photography.
 
At the end of the exhibition tour and discussion, Buffalohead suggested the students create a photo project that reflected “the playfulness of childhood.” After meeting with mentors to brainstorm ideas around the theme, each student submitted a photo in response to the exhibition. The MMAA then worked with In Progress, a youth-oriented nonprofit that offers large format printing at a reasonable cost, to produce the final works for the windows.
 
One of the students, Darartu Tashoma, says that, “For me, it was inspiring to think back to my own childhood, and to think back on some of the stories of what I did as a kid. Julie’s art made me think about all our similarities that we have when we're children."
 
Adds Kevin Kalla, SPNN’s Youth Programs Coordinator, “Meeting Julie and hearing about her work was inspiring because she was very real in the way she talked about her art. She talked about the struggle of figuring out your identity, of being torn between two cultures and not being fully accepted by either. She talked about art as a way to process some of these emotions that are difficult to express. And she also talked about motherhood and how having a child inspired some of the more playful aspects of her work. I think that many of the youth in Set It Up found something to relate to in what she said, and were interested in the way that art could be used to explore some pretty complex ideas.”
 
The collaboration with MMAA was a first for SPNN. “While Set It Up has done photo projects in the past, this is the first time we've done a photographic response to an art exhibit,” Kalla continues. “The youth in Set It Up were able to have an authentic connection with an artist. They were able to collaborate with a local arts institution. And they had the honor of having their work displayed in public.”
 
“This project was a tremendously valuable experience for the young people in Set It Up, and that final piece — visiting the museum again and seeing their work on display in the windows — really made them feel like they were part of something bigger.”
 

Spyhouse West opening in the North Loop

 
Spyhouse Coffee Roasters will open its fourth cafe in a portion of the 3,900-square-foot, ground floor commercial space in Brunsfield North Loop on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. Dubbed Spyhouse West, with an expected opening in June, the coffee shop, “will have a very different aesthetic and charm, but will still have those same Spyhouse elements and character that have been a defining standard for us,” says Christian Johnson, Spyhouse owner and director of operations.
 
Johnson adds that he’d been looking for a location in the Warehouse District for more than a decade, until the apartment complex was completed last year. “Brunsfield aligns with our overall mission in that its minimalistic design and location, and the demographics of the immediate area, seem a perfect fit for us,” he says. The project, designed by Snow Kreilich Architects, earned an AIA Honor Award for architectural excellence in 2014.
 
The location is also far enough away from such other indie cafes as Moose and Sadies, Johnson continues. “I spent a lot of time at M&S in college in the 90's, so I am quite fond of those memories from back then,” he explains. This fourth location for Spyhouse (which started in 2000 with a coffeehouse in Whittier, then added another on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown in 2008 and in the 612 Broadway building in Northeast Minneapolis in 2013) “will bring an attention to the craft of coffee and design characteristics that are congruent with the lifestyle of the neighborhood,” he says.
 
Adds Vincent Lim, president and general manager of Brunsfield America, Inc., “One key criterion [for a potential retail tenant] was that the user must share our vision for the space — to be an amenity to our residents and our community.” In addition, he continues, “our research on Spyhouse revealed the very passionate and committed entrepreneurs behind the business.”
 
As for being an entrepreneur who has “worked 80 hours a week for the last 15 years,” Johnson says, “it is important for me to grow a brand not out of ego, but out of what feels right…. and to know when to slow down. I have so many ideas for restaurants and cafes that I have to be careful the design wheels in my head don’t accelerate too quickly.”
 
He doesn’t, however, have any plans to move out of state, much less out of Minneapolis. “We like to have cohesion and proximity within our stores to ensure consistency, quality and ease for the staff, and myself, to commute to,” says Johnson, who owns a home between two of Spyhouse’s locations.
 

Hoodstarter crowdsources solutions for vacant storefronts

 
Kickstarter connects you with people willing to fund the innovative idea you’re working on in your garage. Why can’t you get funding for the innovative idea you have for the vacant storefront down the block?
 
Hoodstarter may have an answer. Co-founders Justin Ley and David Berglund, who work together at UnitedHealth, recently finalized and launched a first-of-its-kind crowdsourcing/funding platform that allows users to post vacant properties, post and vote on ideas for new onsite businesses or public uses, and fund entrepreneurs willing and able to turn those ideas into tangible businesses.
 
Property owners, real estate brokers, entrepreneurs and Twin Cities residents mingle on its website, exploring property listings, offering ideas, gauging interest and forging new connections.
 
“The goal of Hoodstarter is to connect neighborhood and city residents — anyone with a stake in and ideas for the vacant space — with real estate brokers equipped to market empty properties, property owners looking to monetize their holdings, and companies or entrepreneurs willing to shoulder the risk of launching a new use,” says Berglund.
 
“We’re facilitating connections between all the parties to a typical real estate transaction,” adds Ley, “including community members directly and indirectly affected by the project. Basically, we’re taking a model that hasn’t changed in 50 years” — commercial real estate development — “and making it much more efficient, while also creating opportunities for businesses and ideas that might not have access to other sources of funding.”
 
Though the platform hasn’t yet provided direct funding for any nascent businesses, the founders follow the well-worn model used by other successful crowdfunding platforms: taking a five-percent cut of users’ contributions and passing the rest along to entrepreneurs.
 
Hoodstarter’s database includes vacant sites across the Twin Cities, from expansive, high-visibility spaces like the unoccupied retail level at St. Paul’s new West Side Flats to abandoned churches and petite storefronts along community corridors like Chicago and James avenues in Minneapolis.
 
In addition to listings with detailed information about the property, including its price per square foot (when publicly available), leasing agent and amenities, Hoodstarter has a social function that supports lively debate over user-generated ideas, posted properties and urban life in general. The community is largely self-policing: A recent post suggesting that a prime Chicago Avenue storefront be left vacant was met with swift, if polite, criticism.
 
Less than a year and a half since its initial launch, Hoodstarter is already gaining traction across the Twin Cities. “When you see a vacant lot or storefront, there’s an intrinsic desire to envision its potential,” says Ley, especially if it’s in your neighborhood. “You can’t help but wonder, ‘Why has that place been vacant for so long?’ It’s a frustrating feeling.”
 
The South Minneapolis resident speaks from experience. His commute takes him past the same vacant space every day — a retail storefront empty for so long that no one quite remembers what it used to be.
 
Ley’s “pet” storefront crisply illustrates the problems Hoodstarter seeks to remedy. The property sits on an otherwise busy corner, near Angry Catfish, the Baker’s Wife and other popular businesses. It has obvious assets: space for indoor and outdoor seating, corner visibility and a floor plan tailor made for a restaurant or cafe.
 
But before Hoodstarter approached him, the owner had legitimate concerns about developing the property, says Ley, or even finding a temporary tenant for the space. According to Ley and Berglund, even well-meaning property owners who care about their neighborhoods can be overwhelmed by the cost, time investment and risks associated with finding a commercial tenant or developing a space on their own.
 
And, counterintuitively, many owners prefer to leave their properties empty as commercial land values rise, in the hopes of cashing out as the market peaks. Hoodstarter’s success will depend on its ability to convince property owners that they stand to gain from filling vacancies now, not waiting to sell later.
 
If all goes well, the owner of the vacant South Minneapolis property may soon have a new tenant or buyer. Last fall, Hoodstarter held a Better Block event at the site itself, continuing the conversation that began online.
 
According to Ley and Berglund, this hybrid model — using in-person events to publicize vacant properties and build support for the best usage ideas — could be a big component of Hoodstarter’s model going forward. But first, they need to fill some vacancies.
 

Pillsbury A Mill transformed into 21st-century hub for artists

More than a decade after Minneapolis’ historic Pillsbury A Mill closed, capping the city’s reign as the country’s flour-milling capital, the four-building mill complex—which includes the iconic limestone A Mill—is once again becoming a hub of innovation and industry, this time driven by artists. The developer Dominium, which recently transformed St. Paul’s 1890 Schmidt’s Brewery into Schmidt Artists Lofts, is completing the adaptive reuse of the milling complex with BKV Group into the A-Mill Artist Lofts.
 
The first phase, Warehouse 2, a four-story, wood-frame building next to The Soap Factory, has been open since December and includes 43 living units, says David Lepak, community manager, A-Mill Artist Lofts. The 1881 A Mill designed by architect Leroy Buffington, the south A Mill cleaning house, and the 1910 elevator known as the “red-clay-tile building,” will be open for occupancy in August.
 
“Dominium knows there’s a need for affordable artists’ housing, and we’ve been successful with other projects in St. Paul and St. Louis,” Lepak says. The complex, which will be LEED certified, includes 255 living units designed for qualifying artists. To support artists’ work, the complex includes galleries, a performance and rehearsal space, and studios for dancers, visual and multi-media artists, photographers and potters.
 
“The neighborhood is already highly populated with artists,” says Lepak, referring to the Marcy-Holmes and Northeast neighborhoods. The transformed A Mill complex will further “drive people to the area for creative resources, and bring untapped resources to an already existing artists community with theaters and galleries.”
 
BKV Group, a Minneapolis architectural firm, has been working with Dominium on the project. The design team started by conducting laser scans of the buildings, to determine where structures and floors didn’t line up, and where components were missing. In addition to shoring up exterior masonry, structural repairs included new steel support columns (particularly in the limestone A Mill), floor decking and joist repairs, and leveling the floors.

The project was made possible through historic tax credits, because the A Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, the renovation was closely scrutinized by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Park Service. In particular, the red-tile building—a former grain elevator—doesn’t have openings on the first eight floors, and none could be created. “It’s like a crawl space and we treated it that way,” explains John Stark, project architect, BKV Group.
 
The 27 new living units, instead, are on floors 8-12, and were designed around the existing openings, “which means each unit is unique,” Stark says. In the basement, the architects created a gathering space, fitness room and connections to the two-level parking garage. New outdoor landscaping around the railroad tracks is in the works.
 
The new complex will also have a roof garden with panoramic views of the Mississippi River and downtown Minneapolis, Stark says, and the landmark Pillsbury’s Best Flour sign is being redone in LED lights for greater energy efficiency.
 
Dominium is also considering the use of a hydroelectric heating and cooling system for the complex, using water from the nearby river. The water would enter through an existing tunnel, drop into a turbine pit and generate power to operate the complex. The initiative “would make the complex largely self-sustaining,” Stark says.
 
The project has significant merit regardless. “We’ve helped put the buildings back on the tax rolls, and created a new source of industry that tells the character of what Minneapolis was and is today,” Stark says. Lepak agrees, adding that the new A-Mill Artist Lofts “will add tremendously to the further development of an economically vibrant area of Minneapolis.”
 
 

WorkHorse brews a perfect blend of art and community

Ever since she began working as a program director at the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) in St. Paul five years ago, Shannon Forney has been excited about “the energy shift happening in the neighborhood.” The neighborhood is St. Anthony Park, which encompasses the Creative Enterprise Zone, and is home to the Metro Green Line’s Raymond Avenue light-rail station, which is across the street from MRAC’s office.
 
“People have been so excited about light-rail transit, what it would bring to the neighborhood, and how it might reinvigorate the historic fabric of the neighborhood,” she says. Forney and her partner Ty Barnett participated in Irrigate artist training last year, she adds, and “we really resonated with the idea of artists and businesses working together to raise each other’s profile.”
 
So Forney (also an arts administrator and performing artist) and Barnett, who has long been in the coffee business, decided to start WorkHorse Coffee Bar. Located half a block west of the Raymond Station on the Green Line, in a space that has housed both a coffee house and MidModMen + Friends’ extra inventory, WorkHorse is scheduled to open later this month.
 
That’s not all. Outside WorkHorse’s front door is a 24”x 35” vintage fire-hose cabinet, which Forney is transforming—with help from a Knight Arts Challenge grant—into the Smallest Museum in St. Paul. Forney will curate the micro-museum’s exhibitions with help from five-member board whose members she selected from local arts organizations and community members.
 
“Ty has been in the coffee industry for a long time,” Forney says—citing seven years as manager of Nina’s Coffee Café and a stint at Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, among other establishments—and “has dreamt of having her own coffee shop. So the impetus for WorkHorse really is coming from Ty. It’s an execution of her vision.”
 
“Mine is the Smallest Museum, and how I’ll bring my personality into the business,” she adds. Inspired in part by the Little Free Library movement, Forney explains, “I decided the cabinet is the perfect little nook for showcasing artwork.” She recently sent out a request for proposals. The first exhibition will open in June.
 
Meanwhile, Barnett has been working with contractors to renovate the 50-seat coffeehouse. The bathroom was made ADA compliant, and the kitchen, coffee bar and register area built out. They removed plaster to expose an existing brick wall and painted the tin ceiling silver.
 
“We’re restoring the space to its vintage grandeur,” Forney says. “There’s a real appreciation of history in this neighborhood, which Ty and I share.” The décor will be “vintage industrial,” she adds, “a cross between a machinist's shop and your grandfather’s workshop. We’re imagining a big, long, communal wood table down the middle of the space.”
 
Merging business, art and community is at the heart of the couple’s approach to WorkHorse, Forney says. A former colleague of Barnett’s, who now owns Voyageurs Coffee Roasters, will be roasting small-batch coffee for WorkHorse. “We have the delightful vision of two fledgling businesses helping each other,” Forney says.
 
She wants to create community in other ways. The exhibitions in the Smallest Museum will engage customers, passersby from the neighborhood and Green Line commuters. Forney hopes neighbors and commuters will become regulars, stopping by for beverages and simple lunch options. “For us, coffee and art are about community,” Forney says.
 
“We’re excited to become a part of the community synergy around transit, art and the exchange of ideas happening on University Avenue,” she continues. “‘Working together, all boats rise’ is a business philosophy we definitely live by. And it’s amazing how much support we’ve been getting already.”

 

LoHi gets another boost with pop-up Art Outlet

The much beloved Art Outlet, formerly located on I-394 (or Highway 12 for long-time residents) in Golden Valley just west of Minneapolis, is back. Carter Averbeck, owner of Omforme Design at 24th Street and Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, has teamed up with Greg Hennes, an art industry veteran and Art Outlet’s originator, for a two-week original art extravaganza at Omforme.
 
“Greg and I have banded our two small businesses together to bring back Art Outlet, and to promote original art and affordable art buying,” Averbeck says. “We’ve been hanging art throughout Omforme’s space for the last week. We’ve got artwork all the way up to the ceiling!”
 
For many years, Hennes’ eclectic Art Outlet was a prime destination for purchasing original art at discounted prices. Hennes stocked more than 1,000 original works of art in diverse media—at up to 50 percent off retail prices. In 2010, Art Outlet closed after the building was sold.
 
Hennes currently owns the Hennes Art Company in Uptown, a corporate and residential art consulting business that also offers custom framing and art brokering services. “But he has a lot of art,” Averbeck explains, “and reviving Art Outlet is something Greg’s been wanting to do for a long while.”
 
“Omforme already promotes local artists,” he adds. “So teaming to make art accessible to people who can’t afford retail price tags is something we both wanted to do.” Before opening Omforme, Averbeck experimented with several pop-up shops. So inserting Art Outlet as pop-up inside Omforme was a natural fit.
 
The pop-up Art Outlet includes works by a mix of local, national and international artists. “Name a style, a medium, a genre, and we’ve got it,” Averbeck says, from sketches, posters, prints and paintings to sculpture. A tag on each work includes information about where to learn more about the artist. Price points begin at $25.
 
The Lowry Hill East area, or LoHi, just south of downtown Minneapolis includes the Loring, Wedge and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods. In addition to Omforme—which offers a mix of vintage and modern pieces that Avebeck restores and updates with singular panache—unique boutiques like Serendipity Road and the Showroom are nearby.
 
Restaurants including French Meadow Bakery and Café, Bluestem Bar, Heyday and World Street Kitchen also generate a livable, vibrant neighborhood where people increasingly like to meet, eat and shop.
 
The temporary Art Outlet, which continues through January 30, “is another edgy, artsy, interesting small offering along Lyndale,” Averbeck says. “Slowly, LoHi is coming into it’s own.”
 
In fact, Omforme is doing so well, Averbeck is considering a move in the neighborhood to a new space up to five times the shop’s current size.
 
 
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