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Greening the Green Line with POPS

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) recently released “Greening the Green Line,” a comprehensive report on the state of green space, and plans to improve it, along the Central Corridor. “Greening the Green Line” outlines a vision for a “charm bracelet” of parks and green corridors within a half-mile of the Green Line, including fresh public parks and privately owned public space (POPS) near new housing and retail construction. Pockets of parkland and public space would be connected, where possible, by bikeways and parkways.
 
The report has been in the works since 2012, when the Central Corridor Funders’ Collaborative tapped TPL to “lead a collaborative project that would build a shared understanding of how to integrate green space and common public gathering space in the corridor as development occurs,” says Jenna Fletcher, program director, TPL.
 
“Both the public and private sectors have a role in greening the Green Line,” writes Fletcher on TPL’s website. “The public sector needs to ensure that additional public parks are developed to keep pace with the demand from new residents and new workers…[and] private developers should play their part by incorporating high quality POPS into their developments.” 
 
“Greening the Green Line” outlines several changes that would significantly improve Green Line residents’ access to parkland and public space.
 
First, “city and public agency leaders must take a leadership role in pursuing a connected parks system,” says the report. A program of outreach, education and demonstration projects may encourage developers to pursue POPS, especially if the connection between POPS and higher property values can be made clear.
 
“Greening the Green Line” also encourages city and agency leaders to work with developers to incentivize the creation of new public spaces, through “stacked function” stormwater management (which uses creative landscaping and planters to alleviate flooding during rainy periods) and “value capture” approaches that can extract revenue from parkland and public squares.
 
Fletcher stresses that the Green Line’s “charm bracelet” will fit the area’s character and scale. “POPS can serve as complements to public parks, offering open spaces in varying sizes and forms where it may be difficult to develop public parks,” she says. “Open spaces do not need to be large, publicly owned, or even "green" for them to be beneficial for residents, workers and transit riders.”
 
The Twin Cities has successfully experimented with POPS already; Fletcher cites the MoZaic Building and Art Park in Uptown, which has a half-acre space connected to the Midtown Greenway and Hennepin Avenue.
 
The first Central Corridor POPS since the Green Line’s opening aren’t far off. Fletcher is particularly excited about Hamline Station, a mixed-use development between Hamline and Syndicate that will feature street-level retail, 108 affordable housing units and a central, open-to-the-public “pocket park.”
 
Green Line residents and neighborhood associations can encourage changes in existing and planned developments, too. “Sometimes doing something temporary, like parklets or painting the pavement, can be helpful first steps that serve as a spark that can create momentum for community members to coalesce around bigger ideas,” says Fletcher. “This can set the table for later, bigger investments.”
 
Though “Greening the Green Line” lays out a vision for years to come, Fletcher stresses that there’s a real urgency around the issue of green space in the Central Corridor. About 15 percent of the total land area of Minneapolis and St. Paul is parkland, but the Green Line is less than 5 percent parkland and public space. If nothing is done now, she says, the problem could get worse as more people move into the area and convert its remaining public land to housing, retail and office space.
 

St. Paul Bicycle Plan widens its scope

The City of St. Paul recently revealed the latest draft of the comprehensive St. Paul Bicycle Plan, which proposes adding more than 200 miles of bikeways to the city. Incorporating public input on a previous draft of the plan, the latest manifestation takes a wider look at bicycling in the city. The plan now addresses bicycle parking, traffic signals, bicycle counting programs and other topics.
 
“This is a very significant effort,” says Reuben Collins, transportation planner and engineer, St. Paul Department of Public Works. “This is the first time the city has had a stand-alone vision for bicycling across all the city departments and the first time that we’ve really looked at the neighborhood level to ask what are the bicycle connections.”
 
St. Paul residents voiced feedback on the plan at a series of open house events and through Open St. Paul, as well as in personal emails and letters. Much of the community input called for addressing questions around wayfinding, trail lighting and zoning codes that would require bike parking in new developments, and encourage the incorporation of locker rooms and shower facilities to better accommodate bike commuters. The plan was revised to include much of that community feedback, according to Collins.
 
In development since 2011, the plan’s major aim is to complete the Grand Round trail system originally envisioned in the late-1880s as a figure-eight loop encircling both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The plan would also add a 1.7-mile loop in downtown St. Paul, which has been a notable void in the city’s bicycling infrastructure.
 
There is currently a recognizable disparity in the geographical layout of bikeways throughout the city, as well. While bicycling facilities are relatively abundant in the western half of the city, historically, there has not been equal investment in bicycling infrastructure on the East Side of St. Paul, according to Collins.
 
“I think there are a lot of reasons for that (disparity), but it’s something we are very aware of and looking to change,” he says. “We are looking to address that and reach some sort of geographical equity throughout the city.”
 
While city-specific numbers are hard to come by—something the plan seeks to address with bike counting protocol and programs—regional studies show a steady incline in the number of people riding bikes throughout the Twin Cities.
 
Bicycling rates increased 78 percent in the metro area from 2007 to 2013, according to a report from Bike Walk Twin Cities, a program of Transit for Livable Communities.
 
While Minneapolis is consistently ranked amongst the top bicycling cities in the country, St. Paul has struggled to keep up with its bike-friendly sibling to the West. “Certainly we can say anecdotally we know there are a lot more people riding bicycles [in St. Paul],” Collins says.
 
The St. Paul Bicycle Plan looks to solidify that growth in ridership by cementing an official citywide vision for bicycling. Planners hope to have the plan incorporated into the St. Paul Comprehensive Plan; one of the plan’s goals is St. Paul becoming a world-class bicycling city.
 
Sources of funding for the long-range plan will be “many and various,” Collins says. One significant potential source is the 8-80 Vitality Fund proposed by Mayor Chris Coleman. In his budget address this summer, Coleman earmarked $17.5 million to rebuild “key portions of our streets,” including completing Phase One of the downtown bike loop as laid out in the Bicycle Plan. He dedicated another $13.2 million towards completion of the Grand Rounds.
 
“It will be a very sizable investment to really get the ball rolling to implement the recommendations in the plan,” Collins said of the Mayor’s funding priorities with the 8-80 Vitality Fund.
 
The plan will next go before the Saint Paul Planning Commission October 17 where another public hearing will likely be set. After that, it goes back to the transportation committee, back to the Planning Commission, then on to the City Council for a final vote and hopefully adoption. Collins says the earliest he expects the plan to be put up for a vote is February of 2015.
 
 
 
 

Conflict brewing over warehouse next to Schmidt Artist Lofts

Conflict is brewing at the Schmidt Brewery site in St. Paul. Proposals to redevelop a warehouse structure adjacent to the new 247-unit Schmidt Artist Lofts on West 7th Street include an enclosed self-storage facility. Many community members feel the proposed reuse would be a wasted opportunity.
 
The warehouse, a relatively modern structure at 547 James Ave., overlooks the Mississippi River Bluffs. Its proximity to the artist lofts makes the warehouse is a prime destination for more housing or another use that would compliment the new $130 million artist housing development, says Ed Johnson, executive director, Fort Road Federation, which serves as the neighborhood’s District Council.
 
The 67,000-square-foot warehouse was previously used as storage for the brewery, but has been vacant. It’s the only structure on the property not owned by Dominium, which developed Schmidt Artist Lofts, or by the Ford Road Federation.
 
The Federation successfully advocated for the rezoning of the entire Schmidt Brewery site in 2008 to allow for housing and mixed-use development. The current proposal would require a non-conforming use variance that would essentially bring the parcel back to its previous zoning designation as light industrial.
 
Last month, the St. Paul Planning Commission narrowly approved the variance request. The Fort Road Federation is now appealing that decision before the City Council.
 
“Our argument is basically, ‘How can you give up on a rezoning effort that was done several years before these developments got in place and how can you give up so soon after Dominium put [130 million] bucks into that area’,” Johnson says. The Federation is also opposing the proposal on the grounds that it does not conform to the St. Paul Riverfront Master Plan and St. Paul Comprehensive Plan, both of which include references to West 7th Street.
 
After a previous deal with a potential developer for the Schmidt Brewery complex fell through in 2008, Fort Road Federation stepped up to purchase all the structures on the property except for the main building, which was developed into housing by Dominium. They bought all but the remaining warehouse from long-time owner Bruce Hendry.
 
The Federation is currently in the process of selling off the keg house building to a developer who plans to put in retail. The organization is also working to cover a small budget gap to redevelop the historic Rathskellar: the plan is to put offices on the ground floor and turn the basement--which was formerly an iconic beer and meeting hall, and still retains many historical characteristics and flourishes--into a community event center. The Federation has already secured state and federal historic tax credits for that project.
 
The redevelopment of the Schmidt Brewery site in the West 7th neighborhood has been ongoing. The Schmidt Brewery celebrated its glory days as one of the most iconic brewery operations in the Midwest. It then had a much-contested and controversial life as an ethanol plant. In its current manifestation, which includes 247 units of affordable artist housing, the brewery is a story of urban rejuvenation and community revitalization.
 
The neighborhood has been slow to recover after Hwy 35E took out a third of its population, and is still struggling to overcome a reputation for violence and crime. The tide seems to be turning, thanks to projects like the Schmidt Artist Lofts and other efforts to revitalize the area.
 
 
 
 
 

Heirloom Project introduces native plants to South Minneapolis garages

The heirlooms appearing in the back alleys of a South Minneapolis neighborhood are not diamond rings or other family treasures. But the drawings artist Rachel Breen is installing on garage doors and walls, in many ways, represent something even more valuable—native heirloom plants and seeds at risk of extinction due to modern commercial farming practices.
 
With a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the permission of homeowners in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis, Breen has been installing her Heirloom Project—ephemeral drawings of native heirloom plants—on six of her neighbor’s garage doors and walls.
 
The process she uses embodies the fragility of biodiversity in the modern ecosystem and the delicate place many vital heirloom plants currently occupy within it. Using an unthreaded needle and sewing machine, she “draws” plants like milkweed onto large sheets of plastic. She then paints over the stencils with an air brush, leaving a whispy dotted image of the plant in different stages, from its fruit bearing or flowering manifestation to when the blooms die and the seeds can be spread.
 
Breen was inspired by the practice of seed saving, where average citizens can play a role in preserving vital heirloom plants for the future. “Seed saving is this really revolutionary act that we all could be doing and it’s important for so many reasons,” Breen says.
 
Pesticide use in modern commercial farming has caused significant loss of habitat for pollinator insects like bees and butterflies. The loss of habitat for these insects, due in part to pesticide use, has led to drastically decreasing populations in recent years. But there are other reasons preserving diversity in flora is an essential practice, Breen says.
 
For instance, the great Irish potato famine in the 17th century was caused by a single strain of potato blight. Because the entire country was essentially growing one type of potato, the blight spread quickly and almost wiped out the entire country’s supply of potatoes—the main source of food at the time.
 
“You actually have strength when there’s more diversity,” she explains. “We’ve lost a lot of biodiversity by only growing certain plants because seed companies are only selling certain kinds of genetically modified seeds,” Breen explains.
 
There’s a metaphorical message in Breen’s Heirloom Project as well: How do we conceive of things passed down through generations from family and community that aren’t necessarily physical objects?
 
Whether it’s music, language, or customs and traditions, she asks, “How do we think about what it is we’ve inherited from the past and what do we want to pass on?” “Considering that we’ve inherited many wonderful things from our culture and our community that are not objects, what is it that we would also then like to pass on to the future?”
 
Breen is also moving ahead with plans to establish a seed library at a local park where neighbors will be able to exchange and preserve rare but important seeds of native heirloom plants.
 
 
 
 

Herbivorous Butcher plans first meatless “butcher” shop

Following a successful summer at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Herbivorous Butcher is moving ahead with plans to open a brick-and-mortar location to sell its “meatless meats.”
 
From ropes of “pepperoni” hanging from the ceiling to the black-and-white tile lining the walls, the new butcher shop envisioned by Aubry Walch and scheduled to open next year will have all the hallmarks of an old-time butcher—except the meat.
 
The Herbivorous Butcher cleared the coolers during its June opening weekend at the Market. Despite consistently upping production, Walch says she’s sold out her inventory every weekend since.
 
“We keep making more batches and we just can’t keep up with demand,” says Walch, who started the business with her business partner and brother Kale Walch.
 
To better feed the demand, the siblings plan to open the Twin Cities’ first meatless butcher shop in early 2015. They’re currently working with Studio M Architects, which designed the Wise Acre Eatery, to replicate the idyllic atmosphere of a traditional butcher shop. “We hope to take people back in time when they come in,” Walch says.
 
Aubry Walch’s been a strict vegetarian for 18 years. Her brother Kale is vegan. After wearying of available meatless options—which are often frozen, and contain loads of sodium and long lists of unrecognizable ingredients—they began concocting their own meat alternatives from locally sourced whole food ingredients.
 
They decided to put their culinary acumen to the test and enlisted 10 test groups that included vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters for an eight-week stint of food testing. The results, Walch says, were resoundingly positive.
 
It’s not just vegetarians and vegans gobbling up the inventory. Walch estimates that at least 60 percent of their customers are full-blooded carnivores discovering healthier meat alternatives for the first time.
 
The main ingredient in almost all of the products is vital wheat gluten sourced from Whole Grain Milling Co. in Welcome, MN.  Even though the product is 95 percent protein, it’s extremely low in carbohydrates and fat, and is cholesterol free.
 
“We have people who come to us because they have heart disease or diabetes…and they can’t eat meat anymore,” Walch says. “We’re the perfect alternative for them and they seek us out.”
 
There’s no shortage of meat-free protein alternatives on co-op shelves in the Twin Cities, but the Herbivorous Butcher has uncovered a serious hunger for handmade and locally sourced meatless meat. Every item sold at the Herbivorous Butcher is made fresh by hand in small batches from locally sourced whole food ingredients and is never frozen.
 
Thus far the meatless mainstays at the Herbivorous Butcher include pepperoni, Italian sausage, barbecue ribs, deli bologna and teriyaki jerky. Once the new shop is up and running, other market specials including Mexican chorizo, maple sage breakfast sausage and beer brats will be available.
 
Finding the right investors has been somewhat of a struggle, Walch says. The problem isn’t a lack of interest; it’s that many see a lucrative opportunity and want the meatless butchers to automate all their production, freeze their products and distribute nation-wide. Walch isn’t willing to sacrifice the artisanal approach and reliance on local ingredients that going so big would require.
 
Instead, the Herbivorous Butcher is taking the crowd funding approach, and will launch a campaign later this fall.
 
 

Goodwill targets millennials with Gina + Will concept

Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota is giving itself a millennial-friendly makeover with its new Gina + Will concept resale store in Dinkytown, located at 1324 5th Street Southeast on the ground floor of the new Venue at Dinkytown apartment complex.
 
With the recent surge of new student housing developments near the University of Minnesota, Goodwill is going after the college-aged crowd, which is more concerned with style than brand recognition—though name brand apparel is featured prominently in Gina + Will’s collection.
 
For the time being, Goodwill seems to be well positioned in the Dinkytown market where the only other clothing retailer is Goldy’s Locker Room, which only carries University of Minnesota Gopher’s merchandise.
 
“Dinkytown is not just a place where you go for entertainment or a night out,” says Mary Beth Casement, a spokesperson for Gina + Will. Dinkytown “is increasingly a place where people live, and if it’s where they live it’s where they’ll be shopping.”
 
Gina + Will isn’t the typical thrift store bargain-hunters would recognize from the more than 35 other area Goodwill locations—mostly located in the suburbs. In fact, the nonprofit Goodwill is looking to move away from the “thrift store” label altogether, says Casement.
 
Shoppers won’t find household appliances, sporting goods or furniture at Gina + Will, but rather a carefully curated collection of fashionable apparel and accessories at bargain prices, says Casement.
 
Nothing about the new shop looks like a thrift store, either. The color palette consists of turquoise, lime green and purple. Chandelier-like light fixtures give the shop a notably more upscale atmosphere than exists at traditional locations.
 
Armed with a team of college social media mavens supplied through the local social marketing agency Social Lights, the new store is relying heavily on social media to get the word out about its new Shop + Share concept, which encourages shoppers to share their finds with their online networks.
 
A selfie wall with four interchangeable background panels sits right outside the dressing rooms. A large screen in the store displays filtered posts to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with the hashtags #GWFinds and #GinaPlusWill.
 
“Our perspective is that information is already being shared…we wanted it to be front and center,” Casement says.
 
At 2,700 square feet, Gina + Will is almost one-tenth the size of a traditional Goodwill store and costs about 30 cents on the dollar more to build out. The store currently stocks about 70 percent women’s apparel, but that could change depending on sales demographics in the early phases, Casement says.
 
The Gina + Will concept doesn’t skip the altruistic aspects of shopping at Goodwill. The Minnesota-based Goodwill-Easter Seals is one of 160 Goodwill agencies nationwide that specializes in preparing disadvantaged people for the workforce.
 
“By finding a second use for stylish items, Gina + Will contributes to a sustainable environment,” said Debbie Ferry, senior vice president of real estate and new store development in a prepared statement. “Since sales will support our mission of preparing people for work, customers know their purchases have a purpose.”
 
 
 

The Shed adds unique green space to Crown Center

The latest phase of development at Crown Center at 1227-1331 Tyler Street Northeast in Minneapolis—The Shed—is setting a new standard for incorporating green space into rundown industrial complexes being repurposed for a creative modern use.
 
The Shed is a partially enclosed, 16,000-square-foot, public-private garden and park designed by RoehrSchmitt Architecture. The project demonstrates that, with a bit of creative vision, vibrant green spaces can bring new life to archaic industrial complexes being reinvented for modern use.
 
Hillcrest Development has been reinventing Crown Center, a formerly decaying iron works, into a modern commercial center that houses an abundance of creative firms, offices and the newly opened Bauhaus Brew Labs, as well as the Shed.
 
“We wanted something that would be compatible with, and would both frame and contrast with the gritty, urban, hard edge masonry environment that [the Shed] was in,” says architect Michael Roehr.
 
Housed in a bunker-like structure formerly used to manufacture tanks and armaments during World War II, the Shed incorporates preexisting architectural features to bridge its past and present lives. A large yellow crane remains suspended from the ceiling near the end abutting Bauhaus. Several metal sheet panels were removed from the roof to let in sun and rain for the plants.
 
Large metal tanks will eventually collect rainwater from surrounding roofs to irrigate vegetation in large concrete planters. After searching throughout the Midwest for reservoirs to incorporate into the garden, Roehr found the perfect tanks in a salvage yard only a couple miles away. It turns out they were salvaged only two years before from another building in the Crown Center that previously housed a linseed oil factory.
 
The Shed was already in development when Bauhaus Brew Labs announced it would open in the building at the east end of Crown Center. The Bauhaus beer garden, Roehr says, helped crystallize the architects’ vision. Lighting features add an enchanting ambiance after dark, and plans to incorporate a stage for performances and special events make sense, he adds.
 
Roehr says he sees untapped potential for finding creative ways to incorporate green space into similar industrial property renovations throughout the Twin Cities. “There is a lot of room, we think, to take the spaces in between [buildings] and create a continuity that engages the outdoors,” he says.
 
“We think [the Shed] really does set a new bar for how you engage these spaces in a way.” While such outdoor spaces may not be “directly leasable,” he adds, they “raise the value and general potential of [such projects] by creating quality public spaces where people want to be.”
 
RoehrSchmitt is also working with Hillcrest to develop similar exterior amenities at the old Minneapolis School District building down the road at 807 Broadway Street NE—the developer’s latest industrial salvage project. Also at Crown Center, Hillcrest is in the process of redeveloping a factory space into a showroom for Blue Dot, the modern-furniture design firm.
 
 
 

Floating Library makes its 2014 debut on Cedar Lake

For the second year in a row, artist Sarah Peters has launched her singular Floating Library on Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. Patrons need to arrive via flotation device, kayak, canoe or paddleboard. But, yes, you can check out the books--many of which are encased in waterproof wrappers. Or you can enjoy reading them on right there, on the raft, on the water.

After putting out a call for books, Peters accumulated her library. The Floating Library is a wooden raft, eight feet square, stocked with about 80 titles--mostly handmade artist books. Peters has four drop-off boxes on land, for those who don't want to paddle out again to return their books.

Peters is a book-maker herself and teaches at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. She also works with Northern Spark and participates in the Art Shanty project every winter. Describing the impetus behind the Floating Library, she told the Star Tribune that, “Art books are not a widely known art form. And so there’s an element of delight and surprise."

"First of all, canoeing along and coming across a library. And then having it stocked with books that are totally unique. It’s like this double whammy of inventiveness. It can expand people’s ideas of what art is."
 


 

Wander North brings more micro spirits to Minneapolis

Wander North Distillery recently became the latest micro-distillery to open in Minneapolis, when owner Brian Winter cut the ribbon at the new location in Northeast Minneapolis with City Councilmember Kevin Reich.
 
Thanks to legislation passed in 2011 that significantly lowered a $30,000 annual permit fee for distillers in Minnesota, Winter says he was able to turn his long-time interest in the history of spirits and drinking in America into a viable business.
 
“Liquor production is tied hand-in-hand with the rise of the United States,” Winter argues. “Unlike brewing and beer, there hadn’t been the resurgence of locally produced spirits yet.” Minneapolis’ first micro-distillery, Norseman, opened last year.
 
Wander North’s first spirit, Outpost Vodka, is made from 100 percent Minnesota grown corn sourced from a supplier in Rosemount. Referencing the mutually supportive craft brewing community in Northeast, Winter says he is also pursuing plans for collaboration with local craft brewers, including Northgate Brewing, which recently expanded into a new space in the same building.
 
He hopes to take the wort (liquid extracted during the mashing process prior to adding yeast or hops) from Northgate’s Maggie’s Leap stout, ferment it, distill it and then age it in oak barrels. He would then hand the barrels back to Northgate to age the same beer in. “Then, sit and taste the whiskey and beer side by side,” he says. Winter is pursuing a similar collaboration with Sociable Cider Werks.
 
The state also passed legislation this past spring that allows for distilleries to have paid tasting rooms. The wait now is for Minneapolis to change its ordinance to allow for it, which Winter says is in the works.
 
Once the regulations are in place, Winter plans to launch a cocktail lounge on site. The lounge will feature two or three seasonal mainstay cocktails, along with several others that change on a weekly basis. “We’ll be limited to what is made at the distillery. But vodka is a pretty versatile starting point,” he says.
 
Wander North will donate at least 1 percent of its profits back to the community with an emphasis on veterans programs. Winter has served in the U.S. Military since 1993. Twelve of those years were on active duty, including as a platoon leader in Baghdad in 2004 and as a company commander in 2007. He currently serves as an assistant engineer officer with the Minnesota National Guard one weekend a month.
 
“A small business like Wander North is local. We pay local taxes, sell to people in the community and live in the community,” he says. “Why, if my business is successful, would I not want to give back to the community that helps me succeed?”
 
 
 

Turf Club reopens with grit--and racing mural--intact

One of the most popular music venues in the Twin Cities, the Turf Club, reopens Thursday, August 28. Now owned by First Avenue, the Turf Club, which is located on University Avenue near Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, underwent renovations this summer. Still, great lengths were taken to preserve the iconic character that’s made the Turf Club an institution for the last 50 years. The venerable music venue will kick off its new life with a sold-out show featuring Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee and Erik Koskinen.
 
Nate Kranz, First Avenue’s general manager, says the reborn Turf Club will have a little less grit than it did before, as the team preserved as much of the club's character as possible.
 
“It’s one of our favorite places to hang out and see bands and we’ve been going there forever,” Kranz says of the First Avenue management team. “There’s just so much character and history in that room that it was important to us…to keep the vibe and character intact.”
 
Notable upgrades to the space include major improvements to the sound system; a higher ceiling (the Art Deco features spanning the room remain intact); similar but new furniture and tabletops; and new bathrooms. Most of the physical improvements were structural in nature, such as a new roof and upgraded HVAC system.
 
The most visible change to the space also required the least amount of work. On the first day of renovations, Kranz says he tore down a curtain behind the stage to reveal a fully intact mural of racing horses dated 1981.
 
“I think it makes a great backdrop for the stage so we’re going to leave the horse mural exposed,” he says.
 
Perhaps the biggest change to the club is the addition of a full kitchen. The menu probably won’t be ready by opening day, according to Kranz. But soon after, the club will feature a full menu for lunch and dinner everyday, with brunch on the weekends. Kranz says they will serve traditional bar food along with some Southern-inspired entrees.
 
Food will be served on the main level as well as in the repurposed Clown Lounge on the lower level. Like the rest of the club, Kranz says the Clown Lounge looks pretty much the same as before the upgrades, with the addition of a few more pieces of quirky clown regalia. The hope is for the Clown Lounge to be a reliable destination with regular hours for diners and drinkers.
 
Whenever possible, Kranz says they hope to offer patrons the option to access the Clown Lounge without paying a cover when there’s a show upstairs. It will also be available to rent for private parties.
 
Because the Turf Club is known as a rock club, first and foremost, Kranz (who booked many of the shows at the Turf Club for 10 years) says the team plans to keep the general booking trends the same, but maybe throw in a few bigger acts here and there like the Jayhawks, which will play a sold-out show September 4.
 
Beyond that, the club’s primary booker is staying on staff, as are all but one of the 11-12 previous employees. New hours and a new business model do mean added staff, though. The new Turf Club will have 40-some employees.
 
 

CREATE: The artful meal and "food system intervention"

On September 14, 2,000 people will join artists and food activists at a half-mile long table down the center of Victoria Street in St. Paul as part of “CREATE: The Community Meal”—a public art project headed by artist Seitu Jones. Designed as a creative “food system intervention,” the project aims to lower barriers to healthy food access in some of city’s most densely populated and culturally diverse communities.
 
While a lot of work is being done in cities to address issues surrounding healthy food access, CREATE is taking a new approach. “We’re making this an artistic experience from the minute 2,000 people walk through the gate,” says Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art Saint Paul, which is orchestrating the project.
 
Everything will have an artistic touch, from the movements of the servers and hosts, which will be choreographed by Ananya Dance Theatre, to the blessing by poet G.E Patterson, right down to the 2,000 placemats handcrafted by paper artist Mary Hark using only bio-matter collected from the yards, alleyways and parks of the Frogtown neighborhood.
 
Spoken word artists including TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laureine Chang, Nimo Farah and Rodrigo Sanchez will perform original pieces with youth from Frogtown and Cedar-Riverside. Their work will investigate food traditions of the various cultures that make up the community.
 
Artists Emily Stover and Asa Hoyt are fabricating several Mobile ArtKitchens to demonstrate healthy food preparation around the city. They will be hosted by youth from the Kitty Andersen Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Youth Farm.
 
Chef James Baker, of Elite Catering Company and the Sunny Side Café—regularly voted best soul food restaurant in the Twin Cities —will prepare the meal with local ingredients grown specifically for the event by area farmers.
 
Guests will be presented with a healthy, locally sourced spread that includes 500 free-range chickens from a farm in Northfield, several vegetable dishes like collard greens and salad, an Ethiopian Bean dish from Flamingo Ethiopian Restaurant’s menu, corn bread and more.
 
Many of the growers, including those from Minneapolis-based Stones Throw Urban Farm and the Hmong American Farmers Association, are based in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. The Minnesota Food Association is overseeing all the food production and sourcing.
 
“This is an opportunity for folks to meet their farmers,” Jones says. “Most of the funds are going into the pockets of farmers and artists. So this is an effort also to really pay attention to the local economy.”
 
Jones was inspired to put on this massive community meal while sitting in his storefront studio in Frogtown. He noticed an endless parade of people walking to the local convenience store and returning with bags of groceries. “Many times those bags would be filled not with fruits or vegetable, but with pre-packaged food,” he says.
 
Along with a group of local food activists, he received a grant from the USDA to do a food assessment of Districts 4, 5, 7 and 8 in St. Paul. He expected many of the obstacles the group found preventing residents from making healthy food choices, such as cost and convenience. One finding came as a surprise though.
 
“People don’t know how to make a healthy meal,” Jones says. “While we intuitively know what a healthy meal is, there are some folks that have lost the ability to prepare [one]…it wasn’t passed on.”
 
Jones began hosting small healthy community meals in residents’ homes, backyards and driveways more than a year ago, collecting “food stories” along the way. One story, told by Va-Megn Thoj, of the Asian Economic Development Association, chronicles his family’s journey across the Mekong River while fleeing oppression in Laos.
 
On arriving at a refugee camp in Thailand, he encountered a bright red fruit he had never seen before at a vendor’s stand. The vendor cut him off a chunk to try. The tart sweetness of every apple he has eaten since brings him back to that day, he says.
 
“We all have these food stories, and these stories are written in fats, carbohydrates and nutrients,” Jones says. “These stories go back for generations.”
 
Podas-Larson says Public Art St. Paul is also helping create community meal kits to help communities around the country host their own healthy meal events. Visit the CREATE website to donate, learn more, read more food stories and sign up to host your own table at the community meal.
 
“Food is so universal. Food is something that we all share, and most importantly…food defines us,” Jones says. “In many cultures, the way it’s prepared can be this act of love, and that’s what the community meal is. It is an act of love.”
 

Urban Forage seeking to start Midwest's first urban winery

Urban Forage Winery & Cider House is looking to join the abundance of local beverage startups in the Twin Cities. With the recent arrival of cider brewers and micro-distilleries, Urban Forage’s Jeff Zeitler is asking “Why not an urban winery?”
 
The answer is complicated due to national, state and city regulations. But Zeitler is forging ahead with renovations to the future home of the Midwest’s first urban winery, in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.
 
Zeitler has been making wine, cider and mead with fruit and other ingredients foraged in the Twin Cities for two decades. Whether shaking mulberry trees in Como Park or plucking donated apples from a neighbor’s tree, his process leads to a product with the unmistakable terroir of the Twin Cities. His latest dandelion lilac wine was a big hit at his block’s National Night Out party, he says.
 
To scale the operation up to a commercial level (he wants to produce almost 6,000 gallons of product a year), he hopes to supplement what he can forage with produce past its shelf life—but still good for making wine—from local grocery stores and warehouses. He also plans to use surplus fruit from area orchards and farms. He’s going to have to clear some regulatory hurdles first, though.
 
To protect and promote Minnesota’s fledgling rural wine industry, the State Legislature passed the Farm Wineries Act in 2012. The statute gives farm wineries special status under Minnesota liquor laws, with a number of special allowances such as Sunday sales, self-distribution and the ability to operate a full restaurant.
 
The law also specifies farm wineries must be located on agricultural land—a sticking point for Zeitler’s “urban winery,” which would be located at 3016 East Lake Street in Minneapolis. He would be able to operate under a previous winery law still on the books, but wouldn’t have the many advantages allowed to farm wineries.
 
Zeitler spent the last year lobbying the State Legislature to even the playing field between farm and urban wineries. “Right now rural wineries have a lot of advantages…and I was trying to get urban wineries put on the same level, but there were a lot of people opposed,” he says.
 
If Zeitler were to mix a certain percentage of barley malt in with cider while brewing, as other cider makers in the area do, he could operate with a brewer’s license and enjoy the benefits offered to brewers under recent state and city legislative changes that have lead to the brew boom in the Twin Cities. But he’s unwilling to do so, which leaves him with a winery designation in the eyes of the federal government.
 
After hiring a lawyer to help interpret state statutes, Zeitler is now confident state law will allow him to sell onsite and operate the winery equivalent of a taproom. Current city regulations, however, would not.
 
So as things currently stand, Urban Forage Winery can produce onsite, distribute via a distributor and sell online. For now, Zeitler says, that’s enough. He will take the fight to the Minneapolis City Council.
 
Regardless, Zeitler plans to begin production in spring of 2015. “If nothing else, we will do production in the basement,” he says. “If we never get self-distribution or sales onsite, well, who knows how long we’ll make it? But we’re going to give it a shot.”
 
 

C4ward opens doors to cultural districts along Green Line

The Green Line light-rail line opens doors to a number of emerging cultural districts along University Avenue in the Central Corridor. Throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall, C4ward: Arts and Culture Along the Green Line is inviting Twin Cities’ residents to explore six of these districts through a series of free arts-centered events occurring every other Saturday. The next event is Saturday August 9 in the Rondo and Victoria neighborhoods off the Victoria Station.

The series of events kicked off July 26 in the Little Mekong District during one of the five Southeast Asian Night Markets planned this summer. Other districts on the C4ward docket, in addition to Rondo/Frogtown, are Little Africa, Creative Enterprise Zone, Prospect Park and West Bank.

For years, University Avenue existed mainly as a thoroughfare—a place to be traveled through on the way to someplace else. The array of new cultural districts popping up is evidence that that area’s identity is already changing, says Kathy Mouacheupao, Cultural Corridor coordinator with the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which is organizing C4ward in partnership with leaders from each of the cultural districts.

“When you’re driving down University, people usually have their destination planned already—you really miss a lot of the richness, a lot of the cultural identities, the really cool things that are happening along the corridor,” she says.

Whether it’s the abundant entrepreneurs, artists and unique shopping in the Creative Enterprise Zone near the Raymond Ave. Station, or the string of African-owned businesses a short jaunt off the Snelling Ave. stop, C4ward is looking to draw new visitors to burgeoning points of cultural and artistic vibrancy that might have been previously overlooked.

“We’re trying to groove new patterns,” Mouacheupao says. “One of the nice things about the Green Line light rail is that people are starting to notice things they didn’t notice before when they were driving.”

The rich arts and creative communities that quietly thrive along the Central Corridor will be on full display at the C4ward events. From do-it-yourself letterpress printing to illuminated mask making, Mouacheupao says the artists involved are dedicated to engaging and building community. “We all live and breathe art,” she says. Art is one way in which “we communicate with each other.”

 

Dead Media enlivens community around vinyl, books, tapes

Are 8-track tapes, vinyl records or even books anachronisms? Not at Dead Media.

The new shop, which recently opened in Southeast Minneapolis, was started by famed punk rocker Paul Dickinson (of the band Frances Gumm) with Paul Pashibin, John Kass and Joey Franklin. Together they’ve curated a collection of rare, sometimes valuable and occasionally quirky media relics.

“Come in with an open mind and I bet we have something cool for you,” Dickinson says.

Dead Media isn’t just another record store catering to the digital generation rediscovering its parents’ music—though Kass has put together an extensive selection of original press and rare vinyl. Serious collectors and bargain hunters looking to establish collections will find plenty of stock to sift through.

Dickinson’s eclectic collection of books for sale is equally intriguing and expansive. In addition to being able to pick up another copy of The Sun Also Rises, shoppers will also find rare and first edition books from literary icons like Roald Dahl or Phillip Ross, along with more obscure finds like the Sociology of the Salem Witch Trials or old yearbooks featuring Vikings super stars.

Pashibin is also plastering the store with out of print and rare posters, whose artfulness defies the disillusionment of passing generations. Other formats of “dead” media for sale include cassettes and 8-track tapes. Dead Media even operates a VHS rental club.  

“It’s kind of our way of laughing in the face of technology,” Dickinson says. “Everyone thought we would just be downloading everything on a computer…people have been predicting the death of books for 30 years, but people still love books.”

“We’re a store that takes it for granted that its patrons are thinking, cultured beings and not just animals programmed to buy things because they saw them on TV,” says Franklin, who helps manage the store.

Dead Media has an unmistakable anti-corporate mentality that hints at Dickinson’s punk rock roots. He used to own the all-ages rock club and arts venue Speed Boat Gallery from 1988-94, which hosted acts like Green Day and Bikini Kill before being shut down by the city. Dead Media is a more subdued endeavor, with an anti-establishment vein running through it nonetheless.

“It has the same kind of independent spirit I guess” as Speed Boat, Dickinson says of Dead Media. “We’re just trying to have fun with it and be spontaneous.”

Dead Media hopes to help cultivate community that naturally forms around the mutual appreciation of cultural objects forgotten by the “mainstream.”  The store is hosting regular poetry readings from local writers and hopes to offer even more events in the future.

While the space is a bit small for large-scale music events, Dickinson says he and his partners are looking to collaborate with a to-be-announced music venue in the Loring Park area to host shows.

Field guide explores Green Line's natural history

Hidden in the urban jungle of concrete and steel is a whole natural world waiting to be rediscovered and explored, says local artist and botanist Sarah Nassif. The new Green Line light-rail stations, she adds, are a great place to start.

Nassif’s new project, The Other Green Line, supported by Irrigate Arts, asks participants to start thinking of Green Line stations as not only jumping off points to previously unexplored businesses and restaurants, but also as trailheads leading to underappreciated natural beauty and history.

“The more you look, the more you see, and it happens really fast,” Nassif says of taking time to notice the natural world along the Central Corridor.

The Other Green Line is a field guide for amateur urban naturalists. Nassif organized the book into eight, themed nature “forays” along the Green Line.

One follows the path of a wayward black bear that took itself on a walk through the Frogtown neighborhood in 2012. Another explores the Kasota Wetlands near the Raymond Station, which are a remnant of a 1,000-acre backwater once fed by the free-flowing Mississippi.

The forays take participants through several different biomes—less identifiable today than they were 100 years ago. Lowertown was once dense forest, for instance. The area around the Victoria Station used to be prairie.

Tower Hill in Prospect Park is one of many glacial hills that once dotted the Minneapolis landscape before most were mined for gravel. Tower Hill still stands because neighbors bought the site and turned it into a park to keep it from being mined.

Tower Hill, Nassif says, “speaks volumes [about] how much the landscape changes because we’re here, and how people coming together and being aware together about nature can have a powerful effect on what’s here for future generations.”

In addition to the eight self-guided forays in the book, Nassif is leading a series of three tours. The first began at Bedlam Theater last Saturday and explored the white sandstone cliffs along the Mississippi River once used as natural refrigeration for kegs of beer, as well as pirate safe keeps and hideouts. Tour goers also noticed stones mined from area quarries and used in the Endicott Building at 141 E. 4th Street.

“It’s just interesting to stand there and realize you’re standing on what used be an ocean, that’s why the sandstone exists—it used to be the bottom of a sea,” Nassif says.

Also in the field guide are lists of area businesses for excursion supplies, and suggestions for where to cozy up to a beer and a meal when you’re finished. “There are tons of new places to explore both in the landscape and in the humanscape,” Nassif says.

Nassif’s field guide contains blank pages to draw and record what you find. You can also share your findings, sketches and stories on The Other Green Line website, where there is a list of area businesses carrying the book and information on upcoming guided tours.

 
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