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Renovated Palace Community Center a new nexus of neighborhood activity

In the 1970s, the Palace Community Center in the West 7th area of downtown St. Paul was “a very popular place,” recalls Christopher Stark, architect for the St. Paul Department of Parks & Recreation. “But it was also very heavy and dark and closed in, without any windows, like a lot of community buildings of the era.”
 
Last May, the center closed for a much needed expansion and makeover. With help from LSE Architects in Minneapolis, the renovated Palace Community Center opened January 30, its new glass façade gleaming in welcome to visitors. “We really wanted a new front that was opening and inviting, and communicated how we’re accessible to everyone,” Stark says. “All of the glass brings in natural light and connects all of the spaces inside to the outside.”
 
After LSE noted that the existing building had “four backs to it” and no real front, the design team used glass to “engage all sides of the building with the outdoors,” Stark says. “We didn’t want any visual connections to be lost, and the building is now connected with the streets, the softball and baseball fields, and the playground.”
 
Approximately 5,000 square feet of the building—almost the entire structure—was demolished; only the gym remained. Expanding the building to 16,5000 square feet allowed the center to expand its programming, as well. “Instead of only targeting youth and physical activities, we created a place with opportunities for all ages, from kids in after-school programs to seniors who can use the center as a gathering place for forging social connections,” Stark says.
 
LSE kept the building entrance at the corner of Palace Avenue and View Street, and inserted a new central commons area inside that shows off a new wood structure. Off the commons at the center of the building is a new community room (the old one was on the second level, accessed only by one staircase—no elevator) with a kitchen. The community room and adjacent senior room are separated by a flexible divider, which can be opened to create a larger space. “Another one of our goals was to ensure our renovated building included a lot more flexibility,” Stark says.
 
A new awning and porch on the east facing the ball fields are for anyone wishing to relax in the shade on summer days and watch the kids play. In the winter, the ice rink outside now has a warming room with an operable wall that can be opened to the indoor fitness room for more space. The warming room and adjacent bathroom can also be kept separate and open when the rest of the building is closed.
 
The renovated center is a Buildings, Benchmarks & Beyond (B3) project. B3’s guidelines for sustainable building were “developed for and are required on State-funded projects in Minnesota, however they are easily applied to any project,” according to the B3 website. The sustainable-design strategies incorporated into the Palace Community Center include a storm-water retention pond on site, daylight sensors throughout the building and energy-efficient mechanical systems. 
 
“We had a popular facility people had been visiting for years,” Stark says. “But it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It wasn’t meeting its potential. Now we have an inviting, environmentally sound community center with programming that provides activities for everyone, and with the flexibility that will allow the Palace Community Center to evolve over time.”
 

Little Box Sauna heats up Como Park with Nordic-style group sweats

After successful runs at IKEA in Bloomington, next to a hair salon at 38th and Nicollet, and on Nicollet Mall, Little Box Sauna (LBS) is making the moving to St. Paul—Como Park, on Como Lake next to Como Dockside, to be precise.
 
A “mobile hot spot,” as its founders and designers Molly Reichert and Andrea Johnson describe it, LBS was conceived, designed, built and deployed in 2015 as an experimental Creative Placemaking project “that generates vital and embodied social space in the contemporary city,” according to the LBS website.
 
One needn’t be Finnish, Swedish or any other Nordic nationality to join in a LBS group sweat. “Little Box Sauna is at once a beacon for quality and equality in the built environment,” the website proclaims.
 
The all-wood, portable sauna opens at Como Park on Friday, February 5. But the free 90-minute sessions, available only by reservation, are already booked for the opening weekend. The City of St. Paul will release new sessions for each weekend on the Monday prior (so the morning of Monday, 2/8 sessions will be released for 2/12, 2/13, and 2/14.) Sauna hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays 12 to 4:30 p.m. A private dressing room for sauna users is available at no charge.
 
“The vision for an inclusive and vibrant community in St. Paul includes new and exciting ways to activate public spaces,” said Mayor Chris Coleman in a press release. “This unique opportunity is a great way for residents to connect with each other and it maximizes the recent growth in activity at the lake and in Como Regional Park.”
 
The sauna’s designers—Johnson and Reichert—teamed up with 612 Sauna Society to bring the project to neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities. The City of St. Paul, through support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Warners’ Stellian and Como Dockside, joined forces with Little Box Sauna and the 612 Sauna Society to offer the sauna experience to city residents.
 
LBS will remain on Como Lake through February, after which the sauna moves to various businesses, parks, cultural institutions and festivals throughout the Twin Cities. Register for sauna sessions here or by calling (612) 567-7502.
 

Black Coffee & Waffle Bar to join Heirloom on Merriam Park corner

Black Coffee & Waffle Bar, which opened in 2014 on Como Avenue in Minneapolis, is expanding. In March, Black will open its second coffee and waffle shop on Marshall Avenue in St. Paul next to Heirloom, chef Wyatt Evans’ new “hipster farmhouse” restaurant in Merriam Park. Shelter Architecture in Minneapolis is helping Black with its build out.
 
"Black Coffee & Waffle Bar’s first location [on Como] is a huge success,” says Kurt Gough, founding partner, Shelter Architecture. Black’s partners Andrew Ply and Brad Cimaglio “have developed a brand identity that is hip, simple and minimalist. Their second location plans to expand upon that identity.”
 
While the partners took a DIY approach to the Como location, “in this second iteration they asked Shelter to embrace the current brand aesthetic and create a space with more finish and refinement,” Gough says.
 
Black serves waffles with fresh ingredients and in-house-made toppings. Local roaster Dogwood Coffee provides the coffee beans. “When we started out, we were a coffee shop that server waffles,” says Heather Feider, general manager, “but we’ve turned into a waffle shop that serves specialty coffee!”
 
The clientele is mostly students from the University of Minnesota, she adds. “In the evenings, students hang out and study with a coffee. They’re also our brunch crowd for waffles. But even people from Stillwater come to Black’s. So want to have a place in another part of town.”
 
The new location in St. Paul will appeal to commuters from Wisconsin and the eastern parts of the metro area, as well as the University of St. Thomas crowd, Feider continues. “We were looking for a place with a similar feel to Como. Merriam Park is close to St. Thomas, a nice family neighborhood and a vibrant community.”
 
The new Black will have a similar aesthetic and utilize the same branding. “The building itself has some challenges as far as meeting ADA compliance and parking requirements, but we have creatively and effectively resolved them,” Gough says. According to Feider, the Shelter design team will be adding “cool new features.”
 
Together, Black and Heirloom are turning the corner at Marshall and Cretin into a destination for local cuisine. “Together we’ll be able to offer the Merriam Park community a couple of great choices for dining and gathering,” Feider says. “While two small places may not change the community, we will create a nice little corner there.”
 

Heirloom brings "hipster farmhouse" feel and food to Merriam Park

When Wyatt Evans decided to leave his long-time position as executive chef at WA Frost and Company to open his own restaurant, scouting out neighborhoods was key. “First and foremost,” he says, “I wanted to have a neighborhood restaurant, a gathering space for the neighborhood.”
 
Next, he wanted to offer an ambience “that’s refined, but that shouldn’t read as stuffy. I wanted to create an environment like Grandma’s house without looking like Grandma’s house. Cool, but not too cool. Welcoming and comfortable.”
 
Of course, the food and the ethics behind it were essential to the new culinary endeavor. The cuisine, Evans explains, would be “inspired by the farmhouse, with elements of frugality and the total utilization of product. That’s the ethic I’ve been doing with food. In my new space, I wanted to amplify that idea and take it on in a way where we honor the past in the present by looking toward the future.”
 
Heirloom, located at the intersection of Marshall and Cretin avenues in St. Paul, is the result. Last July, Wyatt began renovating the former bakery and photography studio into his ideal restaurant. Studio M Architects in Minneapolis did the design and architectural work. According to Greta Johnson, a designer at Studio M, “the words he gave us were hipster farmhouse.”
 
“He came to us wanting to express a simple, old-fashioned feel,” she adds. “Heirloom vegetables, old seed packets and Audubon prints were our inspiration.” Friends of Evans’ provided graphic design, artwork and tables for the 2200-square-foot restaurant. Objects with a “Depression-era simplicity” added to the décor, Johnson says: “Things from the past resembling family heirlooms, that might have had meaning to a family at the turn of the century.” Adds Evans: “Mismatched antique chairs portray the humble aspect of how we’re trying to approach the business.”
 
Local and seasonal are a given at Heirloom, Evans says. “At this stage of the game, if you’re not using the fantastic local products we have, you’re not a player. We’re not trying to beat anyone over the head with local and seasonal; It’s just what it is. This is just how I cook. The menu changes based on availability. So the food and atmosphere reflect that.”

As for Heirloom’s location in the Merriam Park neighborhood, “Dozens of factors play into why you pull the trigger on one space versus another,” Evans says. “The deeper I dug into the neighborhood and got to know it, the desire to have a restaurant here like this began to unfold. In my opinion, this neighborhood has a strong demand for this kind of restaurant. The neighborhood people we met with expressed a desire for it.”
 
Heirloom’s location between Minneapolis and St. Paul, three blocks from the Mississippi River and near St. Thomas University, were pluses. Moreover, Evans adds, “There’s a really nice mix of people in this neighborhood in terms of age groups, and a good foodie contingent here in Merriam Park. Our goal is to be affordable and approachable, create top-notch quality food for less, and in doing so create a new place for neighbors to gather and eat.”
 

Oulmans open The Sheridan Room in Northeast and ramp up capacity at Como Dockside

“I didn’t intentionally get into this business; it just kind of happened,” says Jon Oulman.
 
He’s referring, of course, to his restaurant business with son Jarret Oulman and collaborator Josh Mandelnan. The business has grown quickly, starting with the 331 Club (“contemporary music,” Oulman says) and expanding to include Amsterdam Bar and Hall (“contemporary music, entertainment, an imbibing environment and more food”), Como Dockside (“entertainment and more food”) and now The Sheridan Room—which is next door to the 331 Club.
 
“The food aspect just keeps ramping up,” Oulman says.
 
The original owners of the 331 and the neighboring 337 (The Sheridan Room’s address), Oulman explains, had kids who ran the venues—“one of their children had the bar, the other had the diner,” he says, “so we put it back together again.” Moreover, a local chain wanted to move into the former Modern Café, and “it’s too soon for this neighborhood to have a chain in it—even if the chain is local. It’s a great corner and a great neighborhood.”
 
The restaurant is named for its neighborhood: the Sheridan Neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis.
 
“Midwestern Americana” is The Sheridan’s Room theme, Oulman says. The restaurant’s signature dish is a beer-can roasted chicken using local Bauhaus beer. “The gravy is made with the beer drippings and we serve the gravy in a beer can,” Oulman says. “A little kitschy there.”
 
The cover of David Bowie’s album Hunky Dory is featured prominently at the new bar, because “What is the first song on the album? ‘Changes’,” Oulman says with a laugh. A vintage hi-fi plays vinyl. “Collecting vinyl is a hobby of mine,” he says. While the kitchen is unchanged, the restaurant floor has a penny-size tile mosaic and new banquette seating.
 
Meanwhile, over at Como Dockside, the team is busy building a prep kitchen in the basement “so we can do banquets,” Oulman says, “and we’re going to upgrade the concession window down by the dock. There will be a grill and fryers outside, and a point of sale on the promenade, so we’ll be able to keep up with demand and do a better job of delivering food and beverage when the crowds come back in the spring.”
 
 

Alatus releases drawings for Mpls' second-tallest residential tower

Alatus LLC is inching closer to breaking ground on 200 Central, a 40-story residential tower in the heart of St. Anthony Main. At 467 feet, 200 Central would be Minneapolis’ second tallest all-residential structure after The Carlyle — the distinctive sandstone tower immediately across the Mississippi River. If all goes according to plan, major site work could begin as early as spring 2016.
 
According to plans filed with the city of Minneapolis last year, early plans for 200 Central called for 325 residential units. The unit count has since been scaled back. Alatus is leaning toward condominiums, rather than rental apartments, though a final decision isn’t expected until closer to groundbreaking. The most recent renderings show a soaring glass tower, topped with a gently sloping crown that occupies about half a three- or four-story podium footprint.
 
200 Central replaces Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel, the St. Anthony Athletic Club and some surface parking. The 900-stall St. Anthony Falls Ramp will remain open and operational, according to the proposal, although it’s the subject of separate development murmurs.
 
The project will have more than 300 dedicated parking spaces, including about 100 tandem stalls for residents. Plans call for a spacious outdoor pool and deck area several stories above street level, plus a high-end fitness center, day spa and multi-use community meeting rooms. It’s not clear whether the structure will have first-floor retail or restaurant space.
 
The tower is the latest in a parade of announced and in-progress construction projects in the St. Anthony Main-Marcy Holmes corridor.
 
A few blocks north, Lennar is beginning preliminary work on the 5.45-acre Superior Plating site, the future home of a two-phase, mid-rise mixed-use development. To the northwest, Shafer Richardson’s proposal to replace Nye’s Polonaise Room with a 30-story apartment tower met fierce resistance from neighborhood groups and preservationists, but a scaled-back version so far appears on track. A stone’s throw to the south, the A-Mill Artist Lofts have breathed new life into one of Minneapolis’ most historically significant blocks. Other projects, some rivaling Alatus’ proposal in scale (if not height), are planned or proposed for 200 Central’s immediate environs.
 
 
 
 

Broadway Flats: North Mpls' largest mixed-use, workforce housing project in a decade

Four years after a tornado damaged dozens of homes and businesses in the district’s heart, North Minneapolis is experiencing a development resurgence. At the intersection of Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road, the Commons at Penn mixed-use project is nearing completion; it’s slated for occupancy in early spring.
 
Less than a mile north on Penn, at the busy five-way intersection of Penn and Broadway, an even more ambitious mixed-use property is taking shape: Broadway Flats, North Minneapolis’ largest workforce housing project in more than a decade.
 
Rose Development, a North Minneapolis company owned by a prominent local family, is taking the lead on the project with help from a $1.4 million pay-as-you-go TIF grant. ESG Architects designed the building. Broadway Flats sits squarely in the track of the 2011 North Minneapolis tornado, which damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
 
“In the aftermath of the 2011 tornado, a vibrant future is taking shape on the corner of Penn and West Broadway avenues,” said Dean Rose, principal at Rose Development, in a recent post. “Broadway Flats...[is] bringing new vitality and opportunity to West Broadway.”
 
Broadway Flats’ plans call for 103 units of workforce housing and “a level of quality and amenities not previously available in the community.” Renderings show an oblong, four-story structure that fronts on Broadway and occupies most of an irregularly shaped block.
 
Broadway Flats will have nearly 20,000 square feet of first-floor retail. About half of that space will be occupied by an expanded and redesigned Broadway Liquor Outlet, which is also owned by the Rose family. The store was extensively damaged in the 2011 tornado and is currently located in a smaller structure across Broadway. Rose Development hasn’t announced tenants for the rest of the first-floor space, but has previously indicated an interest in attracting a high-end restaurant or locally owned retail.
 
According to Broadway Flats’ website, residents can look forward to a host of high-end amenities that wouldn’t look out of place in the North Loop or Uptown: a high-tech business center; a fully outfitted fitness center; conference, community and party rooms; and heated underground parking.
 
Plans also call for a partially covered, heated transit platform serving the popular 19 bus. If Metro Transit stays on track with plans for the bus rapid transit C Line, currently slated for a late-decade opening, the Penn Avenue platform will receive an upgrade and/or new signage.
 

Commons at Penn: Workforce housing and food co-op to open in North Minneapolis

The Green Line corridor isn’t the only area of MSP experiencing a boom in community-driven development. Two miles northwest of the Green Line’s Target Field terminus, at the heavily trafficked Penn Avenue/Golden Valley Road intersection in North Minneapolis’ Willard-Hay neighborhood, an ambitious mixed-use project is taking shape: The Commons at Penn Avenue.  
 
A four-story, block-long structure, Commons at Penn will house 45 units of workforce housing, a host of community amenities and the 4,000 square foot Wirth Cooperative Grocery Store — MSP’s newest grocery co-op. Watson-Forsberg and LHB Corporation are co-developing the project.
 
Building Blocks, a North Minneapolis nonprofit founded and overseen by native son (and former NBA star) Devean George, designed and financed Commons at Penn. Wirth Co-op is financed independently, thanks in part to a $500,000 federal grant, and will lease space in Commons at Penn’s ground floor.
 
If the current schedule holds, Commons at Penn and Wirth Co-op should open in spring 2016 — well in advance of the planned Penn Avenue BRT (C Line)’s debut later this decade.
 
“We’re shooting for an Earth Day opening for the co-op,” says Miah Ulysse, Wirth’s general manager.
 
The development will join nearby Broadway Flats in providing affordable housing and locally run retail along North Minneapolis’ densely populated Penn Avenue corridor.
 
According to Building Blocks, Commons at Penn’s residential component will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with touches common in downtown lofts: hardwood floors and nine-foot ceilings. Amenities include community rooms, an onsite fitness center and three laundry rooms.
 
Commons at Penn’s first floor will include a Northpoint Health & Wellness office. Though the Northpoint office won’t be a full-service clinic — the focus is on “community outreach with space for events and health education classes,” according to Building Blocks — the design does include two “flexible-use exam rooms.” Building Blocks will office in an adjacent suite.
 
Wirth Co-op’s arrival is another boost for the area, often considered a food desert: The closest full-service grocery store is the Cub Foods at Broadway and I-94, well over a mile to the east. Corner convenience stores and gas stations stock essentials and plenty of snack foods, but rarely fresh fruits, veggies or non-processed foods. According to TCYIMBY, about 40 percent of Wirth’s fresh food will be certified organic or natural; that proportion could increase as the co-op establishes itself in the neighborhood.
 
“Locally sourced items will be a huge focus for us, in addition to organic and natural,” says Ulysse.
 
As of mid-October, the most recent reporting date, Wirth Co-op had about 460 committed members out of a 500-member goal. Membership is $100 (one-time) per household, payable in $25 installments, and $15 for those qualifying for public assistance.
 

Good Grocer: Food shopping for inside-out empowerment

Good Grocer, an independent grocery store tucked into a low-slung building near the old Kmart at Lake Street and I-35W, has only been open since mid-June. Yet it’s already received coverage in a half-dozen press outlets, from the Star Tribune and the Huffington Post.
 
What makes Good Grocer different? Founded by Kurt Vickman, long-serving (now former) pastor at Edina’s Upper Room Church, Good Grocer is part co-op, part nonprofit social enterprise and all good.
 
According to its website, Good Grocer stocks more than 3,000 items, focusing mostly on fresh fruits and vegetables, and minimally processed meats, dairy and baked goods. Unlike a traditional co-op, whose members pay fees on joining, Good Grocer regulars pay for their memberships by volunteering at least 2.5 hours per month at the store: stocking shelves, working checkout, whatever needs to be done. In return, they get 25 percent discounts to sticker price on everything they buy at the store that month. Good Grocer has at least 300 members and counting.
 
The goal, says Vickman, is inside-out empowerment — the inverse of the standard outside-in, or top-down, charity model. Though Vickman doesn’t keep detailed statistics on members’ economic status, the immediate neighborhood is among Minneapolis’ poorest precincts.
 
Good Grocer helps locals who “value eating well, but can’t afford the ever-increasing cost of food” to partake in a food quality experience usually reserved for Whole Foods shoppers. By giving members an outlet to give back to their fellow shoppers in a tangible way, Good Grocer is literally helping people help themselves.
 
“Low-income people aren’t helpless or giftless,” says Vickman. “We all have gifts and strengths within us. It’s [Good Grocer’s] mission to draw those gifts and strengths out of our members and empower them to define themselves in terms of their potential, not their limitations.”
 
Good Grocer also addresses its densely populated environs’ glaring lack of fresh food options. Its corner of South Minneapolis doesn’t meet the technical definition of “food desert,” but the Midtown Global Market and the Uptown Cub — the closest reliable sources for fresh food — aren’t close at hand.
 
“We thought we’d get some positive feedback about our choice of location,” says Vickman, “but we were really taken aback by the number of people who came in to say, ‘Man, thank you for opening a grocery store here.’”
 
Then again, Good Grocer isn’t a straightforward charity. The blocks to the north and west of Good Grocer are economically diverse — and, in some areas, downright affluent — so a fair number of locals can afford to shop at the store without much regard to price. Good Grocer counts on those folks to patronize the store in numbers and pay full price for their purchases. Full-price customers subsidize in-need members who rely on the 25 percent discount and ensure that Good Grocer can afford to stock top-quality food items.
 
Indeed, Vickman sees Good Grocer as a low-friction way for people of means to give back in a more meaningful way than simply donating some cans to a food pantry or church around the holidays. The store’s motto is “Let us never tire of doing good,” a Scriptural reference to Christians’ charitable duties. That motto neatly summarizes Vickman’s choice to leave his relatively comfortable appointment at Upper Room and strike out as a social entrepreneur.
 
“I decided that I wanted to spend more of my time living the themes I was preaching, rather than just talking about them,” he explains.
 
Despite Good Grocer’s ecclesiastical pedigree, the store is strictly non-denominational — non-religious, actually. “No one’s handing out tracts at the door,” says Vickman, who notes that the store’s membership base is a reflection of the neighborhood’s racial and denominational diversity: first- and second-generation immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa shop and volunteer alongside the area’s established European and African-American residents.
 
“We’re not looking for help or support from outside the community here,” says Vickman. “We’re proud to be creating our own solutions.”
 
 
 

Able Seedhouse and Brewery incorporates craft malthouse

There’s something brewing next to the “white hot” Highlight Center in Northeast Minneapolis — but there’s more to it than beer.
 
Able Seedhouse and Brewery chose to open in MSP’s dense craft beer market, but Able’s concept is unusual even by Northeast’s ambitious standards. Able, which occupies an historic brick structure adjacent to the Highlight Center (just off busy Broadway Street), isn’t only a new Minneapolis craft brewery with a 20-barrel brewing capacity and 100-plus-patron taproom. It’s also a craft malthouse.
 
Able officially opened its doors in early November and malts its own small grains on site. In other words, the Able crew cooks raw ingredients — mostly barley, but sometimes wheat and rye — in one corner of the facility, then carts the finished product over to the brewing kettles and turns it into delicious beer.
 
Able isn’t a totally self-sufficient operation, at least not at the outset. Casey Holley, co-founder and co-owners, anticipates the brewery’s initial batches — the first of which started brewing on October 9 — will contain up to 5 percent “in-house malt.” The balance will come from larger, more established malting houses, like Shakopee’s Rahr Malting. Over time, Holley hopes the proportion of house-made malt will increase.
 
“Producing an entire batch of beer using only our own malt would be something spectacular,” he says.
 
Holley is particularly excited about Able’s budding relationships with small-time Minnesota farmers. He’s reaching out to family farmers across the state and offering to pay a premium for their barley, which typically commands far less than the corn and soybeans that dominate Minnesota’s agricultural industry. Even though Able’s product is liquid and strictly adults-only, the brewery’s efforts help support long-depressed market for small grains.
 
“We’re doing our part to rebuild the local food supply chain,” says Holley. “We thought it would be super interesting to tell this story in beer.”
 
For the time being, the Able team is focused on navigating the opening rush. Eventually, Able’s malting operation could win out. Holley and his cofounders have contemplated serving as a small-scale “maltster” for other MSP breweries, offering an alternative — possibly with a more experimental bent — to major players like Rahr. He’s also game for helping smaller-scale packaged food producers with time-consuming, labor-intensive and frequently expensive R&D work.
 
“We could be someone that [packaged food producers] come to and say, ‘Can you play with this in the malter and see how it turns out?’” says Holley.
 

St. Paul's Legendary Commodore Bar to Reopen

Just as two high-profile restaurants in Minneapolis are saying adieu—La Belle Vie and Vincent—a St. Paul institution, long removed from the public eye but operating as a banquet facility, is about to say bon jour! The Commodore Bar, an Art Deco legend once haunted by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis—who also stayed in The Commodore’s apartment hotel—reopens to the public on October 27.
 
“We recently purchased a piece of property adjacent to the Commodore that we can use for a banquet room,” says owner John Rupp. “So it was time to reopen the bar, as we need both of those income streams to make the properties work financially.”
 
Rupp is also the founder and chief executive officer of the Commodore’s parent company, St. Paul-based Commonwealth Properties Inc. He’s also developed and owns other local St. Paul landmarks in the area, including W.A. Frost, The University Club, the St. Paul Athletic Club, and opening in 2016 Watson’s Manor, a boutique hotel.
 
“Restoration of a 1920s Art Deco bar? We felt the market would be receptive to that kind of place for a variety of reasons,” Rupp says.
 
For one thing, there’s the space itself. Meticulously restored, the Commodore Bar exudes luxury, glamour and glitz. “It’s an iconic interior in a building with great social and cultural history, in a historic neighborhood where the founders of many MSP institutions built their homes,” Rupp says. “It’s a real place.”
 
Because the Commodore historically was a cocktail lounge, “we created a craft-cocktail menu using product from local distilleries” in MSP, Rupp says. “We have deep experience in our talented bartenders at Frost and the University Club, who have contributed to our cocktail list.” Adds Bob Crew, Commonwealth’s director of food and beverage operations, “We want to be the Twin Cities showcase for the best in locally and regionally distilled spirits.” The food will be “creatively re-imagined” American cuisine, Rupp says.
 
As for entering an ever-shifting restaurant market, Rupp is confident. “Our experience says if we’re in a place that’s very special, we won’t have any problem getting people from a broad geographic area. Just as Frost is much more than a neighborhood bar, drawing people from throughout the metro area, so will people want to experience the Commodore Bar once again—or for the first time!”
 
 

Hub for local food production adds The Drafthorse deli and café

Mention the FOOD BUILDING and eyebrows invariably rise in concert with the reply, “At the state fairgrounds?”
 
But as butcher Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co., and cheese maker Rueben Nilsson of The Lone Grazer Creamery continue to gain traction—both are housed in Kieran Folliard’s latest venture, the FOOD BUILDING in Northeast Minneapolis—that’ll change.
 
Plus, in November, the opening of a new deli and restaurant, The Drafthorse (formerly The Workhorse), which will showcase the meat and cheese being produced down the hall, will bring people in to taste just how fine and fast MSP is growing as a hub for urban food production.
 
The Drafthorse, says chef Luke Kyle (also chef and co-owner of Anchor Fish and Chips), will be a cozy 40- to 45-seat restaurant specializing in slow-roasted meats and potpies. “I’m originally from Ireland,” says Kyle, who as a teenager moved to the Twin Cities with his family, “and one of my favorite things is to sit down with family and friends at the end of the night over comfort food made with good ingredients prepared well.”
 
The eatery will also have a deli showcasing products from Red Table and Lone Grazer, and grab-and-go food. “We'll be doing classic European-style baguette sandwiches with meat, cheese and butter,” Kyle says. “No frills, just letting the ingredients shine through.”
 
The Drafthorse takes its name from the building’s original use: as a stable and veterinary clinic for the horses that hauled kegs of beer from the local breweries to pubs and stores. “Each horse had its own window on the side of building, for fresh air and to look out, which are still here,” Kyle says.
 
The horse ties were still on the wall when Kyle and his team—including Geoff King of Scratch Food Truck, who will head up the kitchen, Katie Kyle, who recently left her Spyhouse Coffee Roasters operations and management position, and Anne Saxton, who currently works for Kim Bartmann's restaurants—moved in and started construction. “The Drafthorse is a good strong name for the restaurant and relevant to the building,” Kyle says.
 
If all goes according to plan, the FOOD BUILDING may be welcoming another tenant soon: a flour miller. “So ideally, if they move in, the baguettes, meat and cheese will all be produced in the building itself, which is super local,” Kyle says. “That’s the whole idea behind the FOOD BUILDING,” which bills itself as a “destination food production hub.”
 
According to Saxton, the FOOD BUILDING is built on foundation brands bound together by a shared purpose: “to handcraft exceptional foods close to the source because food tastes best when it has a ‘taste of place’.” The venture also gives new meaning to “farm to table movement,” Kyle says. “It’s about getting to know where your food comes from, the farmers and animals who make it, and what you’re eating—with no blind spots.”

Tattersall Distillery enlivens craft cocktail scene with local spirits

The bourgeoning craft booze scene in MSP isn’t all about microbreweries, in case you were wondering. Ever since the Minnesota Legislature dropped the fees required to open a craft distillery, then allowed for cocktail rooms in which to serve the liquor produced onsite, distilleries have been popping up around the metro.
 
One of the newest is Tattersall Distillery, which is tucked into a former manufacturing/event space down a bumpy dirt road behind the Thorp Building in Northeast Minneapolis. In looking for a location, says Jon Kreidler, one of Tattersall’s co-owners, “After seeing Bauhaus Brewery,” which is off Central Avenue behind the Crown Center complex, “we knew it could be done”—meaning a hideaway location was do-able. “Then when we saw the space: wow!”
 
The cavernous room that once hosted light manufacturing, fashion shows and art sales for Midway Contemporary Art had a lot of potential, which Minneapolis designers Aaron Wittkamper and Amy Reiff fully released. Banks of clerestory windows were uncovered to light up the raw space. A glass wall was inserted between the cocktail room and production area, where the Tattersall logo curves across the back wall.
 
In the cocktail room, a carved wood mantel anchors the bar against a wall of plywood panels with painted reveals. The chandelier over the bar contrasts with a long cement high-top table, but adds pizzazz to a space also furnished with comfy club chairs. “We wanted to create a fresh and unpretentious space,” Wittkamper says.
 
In fact, the eclectic furnishings were sourced from 1 King’s Lane and Restoration Hardware—as well as “Craig’s List and the in-laws,” Wittkamper says. Reiff worked on the branding, using the Tattersall plaid not only in the logo but also on the bottle labels and “in subtle ways by using similar menswear fabrics throughout the space,” she says.
 
As for the booze: Tattersall’s lineup includes vodka, gin, white whiskey and aquavit. The cocktail room’s topnotch bartenders—trained by co-owner Dan Oskey, award-winning bartender formerly of Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul and Hola Arepa in Minneapolis, and partner in the bitters company Easy & Oskey—readily whip up an assortment of drinks with house-crafted infusions.
 
“When we started designing the space, we knew things weren’t quite right,” Kreidler says. “Then when we brought in Aaron, he totally flipped the plans upside down and suddenly we knew how the space would work.” With a spacious cocktail room overlooking the production area, foodtrucks at the ready outside, an outdoor area for eating and drinking during warm weather, and fresh craft cocktails, Tattersall has set a new standard for the craft distillery movement in MSP.
 
 
 

Frogtown Farm: A community vision comes to fruition

For more than seven years, Frogtown Farm has been a community vision slowly manifesting into an authentic project: A 12.7-acre parcel of public land that will include 5.5 acres developed as an urban farm. On Saturday, October 3, at 10:30 a.m., the Frogtown Farm officially opens.
 
“Our grand opening signifies a herculean effort by community members,” says Eartha Borer Bell, executive director, Frogtown Farm, St. Paul. “I’ve been involved with the project for a year now as paid, full time staff, and it’s constantly humbling how much time and effort, heart and soul, for over almost a decade, the community has put into the project. Our opening is a mark of what can be done when people get together, have a vision and see it through.”

Frogtown Farm is the vision of longtime Frogtown residents Seitu Jones, Soyini Guyton, Patricia Ohmans and Anthony Schmitz. “They saw a great opportunity to increase access to greenspace in the Frogtown neighborhood,” Bell says. After the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation built its main campus on the land, then put the buildings up for sale in 2008, the property was vacant. The visionaries approached the Trust for Public Land to help them raise funds to purchase the site.
 
In 2012, the Trust, a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for parks, gardens and other natural places, struck a deal to buy the land for $2.2 million from the  Wilder Foundation. In 2013, Frogtown Farm invited the community to help design the site. “We developed a number of community engagement initiatives around what the park and farm would look like,” Bell says. “Over a six-to-eight month process, hundreds of community members became involved. Their input resulted in the design.”
 
Later that year, the City of St. Paul began discussions with Frogtown Farm about owning the property, in order to keep it accessible to the public. At the end of 2013, the land was later transferred to the City of St. Paul. In addition to the farm, the site includes play areas and maintains a historic oak grove.
 
“Urban agriculture is really booming in the Twin Cities,” Bell says. “While Frogtown isn’t necessarily a food desert, our community does experience barriers to accessing fresh local food. The farm will help remedy that situation.” The farm will also bring the neighborhood’s various populations together, to grow, prepare and share the food grown on the farm, she adds.
 
“There are plenty of anecdotes, and there’s lots of information, on how Frogtown is a diverse neighborhood,” Bell explains. “But we keep hearing that there isn’t a lot of interaction between those diverse populations. We do know that people like growing and cultivating a garden or farm, and cooking and preserving food.”
 
“So our five-year plan includes construction of a building that would serve as an incubator for fledgling food businesses in the community, an education center with cooking classes, and a community center,” Bell adds. “We hope that will provide great opportunities for people of all ages to share food traditions from their diverse cultures.”
 
The grand opening on October 3 will include a land blessing ceremony (10:30 a.m.), program (11 a.m.), and “Taste of Frogtown” event with tours and activities (noon to 2 p.m.).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Public Functionary expands its footprint and opportunities for "functional philanthropy"

When does growth mean more than increased square footage and financial opportunity? When the organization is the nonprofit art center Public Functionary. PF’s planned expansion into the building it currently occupies a portion of at Broadway and Buchanan in Northeast Minneapolis will lead to more innovative community programming, says Mike Bishop, PF’s director of operations.
 
Within the three to six months, Bishop says, the organization will move into the north portion of the building “with the mission of making art even more accessible with community events that get people into art spaces. While it’s scary to take on that rent and responsibility, we’re also looking at the expansion as a chance to further develop PF.”
 
Since opening in 2013, PF has billed itself as a nontraditional arts center with a focus on contemporary visual art, especially by rising national and local artists whose work expresses diversity in background, approach, inspiration and materiality. Exhibitions have also included dance, theater, music and performance art, as well as public participation. “Through our flexible exhibition space, multidisciplinary artwork and events, we’ve seen how important collaboration is to us,” Bishop says.
 
To further the collaborative impulse, he continues, PF has been “inviting in community groups and letting them use the space as a resource. They bring in their audience, which allows them to get to know PF and get comfortable with contemporary art.” That initiative led to another. “We started thinking about the communities we haven’t engaged with yet, including local businesses in Northeast. We decided to open our space to new and established businesses, so they could become involved with the art in a nontraditional way. We’re calling it ‘functional philanthropy.’”
 
Financial One, for instance, recently introduced its new brand to its team in PF’s exhibition area. The location “was a great way for the employees to get outside of the office and have their meeting in a creative engaging space,” Bishop says. Other meetings may include an illustrator sketching the session’s outcomes, or PF director and curator Tricia Khutoretsky providing arts-related approaches to problem solving.
 
“We’d like to help businesses work through solutions more organically using an arts perspective,” Bishop explains. “For example, Liz Miller is an installation artist who has transformed our exhibition area. She comes with an idea, but knows it will always go another way; that she’ll have to work with the space, modify her approach and those challenges will inform final product.”
 
Rather than a direct sponsorship approach, PF’s “functional philanthropy” offers businesses a way to “give back to their community and get something tangible in return that can come out of meetings and events budgets, and marketing budgets, not just community giving budgets,” Kate Iverson, PF’s development director, explained via email. “It's not only inspiring to meet and develop ideas at PF, but also to explore arts-driven approaches to problem solving, and pass on the value of art and community building to employees and clients.”
 
In other words, Bishop says, the expansion “will give us the flexibility to push our model further, and become a more fully fleshed out art center.”
 
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