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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.

 

GYST gets it together for new fermentation bar

A new gastronomic trend hits Minneapolis’ Eat Street area later this year. GYST Fermentations, a first-of-its-kind fermentation bar from foodie sisters Mel and Kylene Guse, will be “a celebration of all things fermented.”

GYST is a lot more than just wine and cheese—although the sisters, along with partner Jill Mott (an internationally certified and widely respected sommelier), plan to introduce plenty of rare wines and cheeses to the Twin Cities. The bar will feature everything from kombucha to charcuterie, beer and coffee, chocolate and yogurt creations and more. If fermentation is involved, and you can eat it or drink it, you’re likely to find it at GYST.

“We really want to try and bring in products that people haven’t necessarily seen here in Minnesota,” says Mel Guse.

Natives of Sioux Falls, S.D., the sisters’ experienced their fermentation initiation while living in the food-forward San Francisco area. While there, Mel also became a certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild. Both sisters worked for Bi-Rite Market—a progressive local foods market started by esteemed chef Sam Mogannam.

Looking to return to their Midwestern roots, the sisters moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 and Mel Guse helped get Broders’ Terzo Vino Bar up and running in Minneapolis.

GYST will feature a 14-person bar as well as table seating. Guse says they hope to cultivate a casual atmosphere reminiscent of friends hanging out with a good bottle of wine in their home kitchen.

“We just want to be welcoming and comfortable,” she says. “A place where people can come in and hang out and learn.”

GYST will offer a healthy dose of education along with fermented delicacies. Knowing what goes into what’s going into your mouth adds to the experience—whether that means stories from the farmstead where the cheese on your “motherboard” originates, or the science behind the kombucha you’re swilling at the bar. GYST will also have a spacious backroom for tasting events and classes.

“We really want to feel connected to what we’re eating and drinking,” she says. “I think you’ll enjoy [our offerings] more with the stories behind it.”

The lease is signed. Build-out plans are in place. Permits have been submitted to the city. All the sisters need now is about $40,000 to make their fermented dream a reality. More than 100 backers have already pledged almost half that amount through a Kickstarter campaign that closes July 25. Once the Guses’ raise the dough and the permits are approved, they’ll embark on a 15-week renovation of their space.

 

Made Here/Parklot activate Hennepin Avenue

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis continues to become more pedestrian-friendly and arts-oriented. Made Here, an outdoor urban walking gallery featuring dozens of unique art installations in vacant storefronts, launched last week alongside Parklot, a colorful pop-up in the surface parking lot next to the Orpheum Theatre. Both are part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s 10th annual Summer in the City event.

Joan Vorderbruggen, Hennepin Theatre Trust’s cultural district arts coordinator, directed Made Here. Her Made Here showcase is the largest storefront- gallery initiative in the country. The current Made Here is the third and most ambitious show. It includes more than 50 artists and arts organizations from diverse disciplines, which have created 36 unique storefront displays across 15 city blocks.

Both projects are part of the Trust’s ongoing initiative to revitalize a cultural district that includes the historic Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century theaters, as well as other arts and cultural institutions such as First Avenue and The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

On paper, the area seems a vibrant and walkable downtown district. But it suffers from a perceived “unevenness,” says Tom Hoch, Trust president, citing a 2010 survey and strategic planning session. Contributing to that unevenness are blocks of vacant storefronts and surface parking lots interspersed among the cultural institutions.

“No Vacancy,” a poignant Made Here installation by artist Robin Schwartzman, speaks directly to this issue. The work spans 18 windows across the second floor of the recently vacated Chevy’s building at 701 Hennepin Avenue. Blank paper covers the windows during the day while a neon sign reads “Vacancy.” Once the sun sets, the sign changes to “Sorry, No Vacancy,” and the windows come alive with animated silhouettes depicting scenes of people dancing, someone getting their hair cut, and other activities.

“When a space is vacant, it’s a void, and when it’s not, it’s vibrant,” Vorderbruggen explains, describing how “No Vacancy” relates to the overall project.

Similarly, Parklot activates an otherwise dormant space. A brightly painted checkerboard pattern covers the parking lot’s surface, extending on to the sidewalk and up the walls of adjacent buildings. Lush planters and configurable park furniture made from wooden pallets make the pop-up public gathering space tough to miss. Programming includes improv comedy from Brave New Workshop, break dancing and musical performances.

Four additional pop-up parks are planned for this year. The current Made Here installations are on display through October, and include a work from the Somali Museum of Minnesota—the only such museum in the country—that incorporates two authentic huts shipped from Djibouti, as well as other artifacts and art demonstrating traditional nomadic life.

Vorderbruggen says she intentionally ensured the Made Here art and artists reflect the diverse Twin Cities population that would encounter the work. More than 40 percent of the artists represented come from communities of color, she says.

She and Hoch also hope art installations in vacant storefronts become commonplace. “This is not a one-time thing,” Hoch says. “This is the way we hope all vacant storefronts in downtown Minneapolis are handled—that they are always programmed and that we have this connection with art, artists and space.”

“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” he adds. “We’re providing opportunities for everybody to be here.”

 

Alchemy Architects adds third prefab module to school

At Cornerstone Elementary School on the Montessori Center of Minnesota's (MCM) campus on St. Paul's East Side, innovative architecture and design are creating a unique learning environment that fits a holistic curriculum serving the school’s 160 students.

A 157,000-pound hydraulic crane recently dropped a new modular classroom into place, completing a 3-year, 25 percent expansion of the public charter school that is part of the MCM program. Total cost of the expansion is $1.45 million, including landscaping and a greenhouse.

The 1,500-square-foot prefabricated classroom is the third to be installed on the property and will house one of the school’s two upper-elementary classes (grades 4-6). The other upper-elementary classroom and one lower-elementary classroom are housed in two other modular classrooms installed during previous years. The other lower-elementary classroom is housed in the main structure on campus.

Lining the property’s natural wetlands, the three modular classrooms were designed by St. Paul-based Alchemy Architects whose weeHouse design and construction system specializes in prefabricated energy-efficient structures.

The unique classrooms support MCM’s philosophy of providing the best for the smallest in developing students rich in “character, will and spirit,” according to Liza Davis, special programs coordinator at the school. The classroom structures feature large windows that bring the natural setting directly into the learning environment.

“The response of the children—when they can sit and watch the change of the seasons or ducks laying their eggs—from the windows in their classroom has been pretty remarkable, especially for the urban children,” Davis said.

A teacher training organization since 1973, MCM wanted to expand its outreach and elementary education, which led to the relocation of the center to its current site in 2008 and the addition of Cornerstone Elementary in 2011.

The school is focused on providing excellence in education and youth development to diverse communities that often face barriers to quality education. More than 60 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, according to Davis.

The use of modular classrooms has practical advantages, as well. They provide a financially savvy way to gradually expand facilities as the school grows over time.

“The charter school very quickly needed to have more space to really serve the number of children it needed to serve,” Davis said. “We needed to expand the campus and have beautiful spaces but still be financially responsible.”

Being able to expand in an affordable way that adds a valuable layer of education makes MCM’s expansion unique. The modular classrooms incorporate all facets of the curriculum in the same space with science facilities, and even a kitchen built into the structures.

“You really feel like you are in a living community space, not just a classroom that is separated into sections,” Davis says.

As with the previous installations, students and their families watched the new structure get hoisted 30 feet into the air and set in place. Davis says the design and installation process give students a sense of ownership over their learning environment.

As an example, the patios off the classrooms needed a good bit of shoveling during winter. Davis says the students were eager to pick up shovels and get to work taking care of their space.

“Seeing that something is intentional, that it’s beautiful, and that there are natural materials involved…helps communicate the same philosophy that drives our work with the children,” she adds.

 

Is LoHi East the new old Uptown?

With the recent surge of new boutique businesses opening along and near Lyndale Avenue just south of downtown Minneapolis, the Lowry Hill East area is beginning to look a lot like the Uptown of yore. That is, before national chains like Apple and Urban Outfitters showed up and ran many of the mom and pop establishments out town—or a little down the road.

LoHi East, the area just south of downtown Minneapolis containing the Loring, Wedge and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods, has long been Uptown’s beloved, disheveled sibling. Now, some local businesses are seeking to rebrand the area with a catchy name referencing Lowry Hill East (just as the North Loop is colloquially called NoLo).

“There are some awesome businesses that have just opened up. It’s exactly what Uptown used to be,” says Carter Averbeck, owner of Omforme Design. He’s leading the grassroots rebranding effort.

With a new name, and a new crowd of residents and businesses settling in, the area seems to be shedding its somewhat granola vibe for a trendier, modern-day hipster character. As Averbeck says: “We’re trading in our Birkenstocks for tattoos.”

At least nine new shops and restaurants opened in the area within the last year. LoHi East also seems to be riding the recent wave of development storming the Uptown area. A whole host of new luxury apartments like Blue on Bryant and the Murals of Lynlake, among others, are attracting a new generation of residents.

“Of course, it’s all 20- and 30-something-year-olds and the new shops are right up their alley. If you’re 27 and have a new pad, you want to fill it up with cool stuff,” Averbeck says.

Averbeck’s business—a home décor shop that specializes in reviving vintage items with singular panache—is being joined by other unique boutiques like Serendipity Road and the Showroom. The latter bills itself as a place “where fashion, jewelry, accessories, furniture and art cooperate.”

New eateries and bars like Heyday and World Street Kitchen are also help generate a livable, vibrant neighborhood where people walk and meander, instead of simply passing through.

“Every storefront that had been vacant for years is now getting snapped up,” Averbeck says. “Right now the revival is in its infancy but it’s moving fast.”

Looking to capitalize on the momentum, Averbeck says he and other business owners are putting together an event this summer that would close off Lyndale Avenue for a big runway fashion show and festival. They haven’t secured the permits to do so yet, but he says the tight-knit business community is meeting regularly with the neighborhood and other business associations to keep the renaissance rolling.








 

Public Art St. Paul transforms gravel pit into flower field

From luggage store to barren gravel pit, to the future site of what could be downtown St. Paul’s largest park, the land parcel at 10th and Robert streets is an urban space in transition. For the next two years, it will be home to Urban Flower Field—a public art project from the nonprofit Public Art St. Paul.

With 96 plots of bio-diverse flower beds arranged in a fanning pinwheel shape and a public plaza at the center, Urban Flower Field seeks to transform what might otherwise be a lifeless void downtown into a lush community gathering space.

Amanda Lovelee, City Artist in Residence with Public Art St. Paul, is heading the project. She explains it’s a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of art, civic process and science in a way that re-imagines how we conceive, develop and utilize urban space.

She hopes to have a full slate of programming in the field over the next two years, including regular movie nights, free yoga and more. “The city is letting artists use these spaces to make something the community can enjoy during the time between what the spaces will be and what they currently are,” Lovelee says.

The Pedro Family of Pedro luggage, which previously occupied the site, donated the land to the City in 2009 with the condition that it be made a public park. The City is considering several designs for the forthcoming Pedro Park, the most ambitious of which would require the acquisition of more land and cost upwards of $10 million, according to Brad Meyer with St. Paul Parks and Recreation.

Urban Flower Field is more than an artistically crafted temporary community gathering space, though. Students and faculty with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of St. Thomas are lending their expertise and time to conduct a comprehensive soil remediation study at the site.

They are studying whether a diverse selection of flowers can be more effective at cleansing and replenishing soil. Led by professor Adam Kay, students are on the ground at Urban Flower Field every day, planting and tending the flowerbeds, as well as sampling and documenting the soil quality. They hope to publish their findings in scientific journals at the end of the two-year period, according to Lovelee.

This intersection of art and science led Lovelee to create the flower field’s pinwheel form. The form is based on the Fibonacci sequence (also known as the Golden Mean)—a mathematical pattern that occurs everywhere in nature, including at the center of sunflowers, which will be planted in the plots.

The Fibonacci sequence is also commonly considered the scientific basis for the abstract concept of beauty. “In my mind, that was when science and beauty kind of come together,” Lovelee said. The Fibonacci sequence is also the basis of a large mural painted by Ed Charbonneau on the back wall of the Police Annex building that borders the space to the north.

The $45,000 project is being funded in large part by the city, which put $30,000 toward the project. In addition, a $15,000 grant from ArtPlace America is going toward  the efforts, as well as in-kind and monetary support from businesses and organizations including Lund’s, Black Sheep Pizza, Keys Café and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Members of the surrounding community have also stepped up to plant, weed, water and program, according to Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul.

Urban Flower Field will officially open June 28th when community members and neighbors will be invited to paint field stones that will line some of the beds, Lovelee said. The flowers will be in full bloom by August.

 

Open Streets debuts proposed greenway in North Minneapolis

The 2014 season of Open Streets Minneapolis kicked-off during the last weekend in May with festivities along a proposed three-and-a half-mile greenway in North Minneapolis. Roads were closed from West Broadway to North 42nd avenues along North Girard and Humboldt avenues for residents and cyclists to experience first-hand how a new bike/walk route would look and feel.

“The proposed greenway could provide a recreational and community route for bicyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorized travelers,” said Sarah Stewart, senior public health specialist with the City of Minneapolis, who is working on the project. “The route would serve as a north-south connection for bicyclists who are more comfortable on bikeways” than on the streets.

Sponsored by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, the event hosted vendors, performances and bike advocates from across the Twin Cities, giving riders a festive environment to roam the streets sans vehicles.

Turf was laid down on either side of the street at one point in the route to show a full linear park greenway. At another point, half the road was partitioned off, turning the current two-way street into a one-way road with a protected bike lane.

These are two of several models being considered for the new route. A third would keep two-way traffic, but designate the streets as bike boulevards—adding signage and other traffic calming measures friendly to bicyclists.

The City of Minneapolis, which became an official partner of the Open Streets initiative last year, is currently gathering public input about the new route, which has yet to be finalized or funded.

In addition to providing a centrally located route for commuters, connecting them to the northern suburbs via the Cedar Lake Trail and the downtown area via the Plymouth Avenue and 7th Street North bike routes, Stewart says the project would also create a space for people to be physically active.

“This is important because statistics show North Minneapolis residents are more likely to have chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and they are less likely to be physically active…People who live closer to parks and green spaces are more physically active,” Stewart says.

The proposed route would also connect several destinations that serve area youth like parks, schools, a YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and a library, Stewart added.

Most of the roads along the proposed route are relatively low-traffic, residential streets that see between 400 and 900 cars daily, according to Stewart.

Several residents along the route expressed concern about losing street access to their homes should the streets be converted to a full linear park greenway. Stewart says alley access to residences along the route would be maintained. Input via an online survey indicated the proposed greenway is a potential draw for new residents, visitors and investment in North Minneapolis.

People can provide input on the proposed project through June 15 by filling out an online survey. The City will analyze the input and report the results in early fall. Feasibility studies are also underway.

This Open Streets event was the first of six planned for this summer in Minneapolis. The next will take place June 8 along Lyndale Avenue South.

LOT-EK proposes North Loop project using shipping containers

A proposed mixed-use development in Minneapolis could bring new meaning to the phrase “green building.” The 16,500-square-foot rhomboidal-shaped structure would be made of 60 identical 40-foot up-cycled shipping containers. The containers are painted green.

Planned for the North Loop neighborhood, the building at 506 4th Street North is being designed by New York-based architectural and design firm LOT-EK, with input from Snow Kreilich Architects in Minneapolis.

LOT-EK is widely known for using shipping containers and other up-cycled objects—like truck bodies and airplane fuselage—in architectural projects all over the world.

The North Loop structure would be erected diagonally on the corner lot where 5th Avenue North meets 4th Avenue North, leaving a surplus of green space on either side, according to a project description submitted to the city.

“The site, with its special corner condition…offers the opportunity for the building to establish a significant presence and to create a meaningful public space in this rapidly changing area,” the plan says.

In addition to the large lawn space, plans show a partially covered open-air public plaza in the center of the donut-shaped structure that would house a restaurant, clothing store and other retail.

Local marketing firm Akquracy, which is behind the project, would be housed on the top levels of the three-story building, as would a smaller suite of shared small-business “incubator” spaces.

Half of the uniquely shaped building would sit atop an existing parking garage. Given the underground wetland condition of the site, measures will be taken to minimize “foundation piling,” according to the plan.

A number of sustainable features would also be considered in the design, including solar energy options, LED light fixtures and automatic lighting control systems.

The plan was discussed at the Minneapolis Planning Commission Committee of the Whole in March. Senior City Planner Janelle Widmeier said committee was intrigued by the plan and didn’t have major initial concerns. The developers have not submitted a Land Use Application for commission to review yet.

Akquracy founder Scott Petinga said feasibility studies are underway for the project. “We are waiting to see the feasibility and how it is priced-out,” he said.

Petinga also told the Star Tribune in March that building with shipping containers can make securing financing for a project like this a challenge—something that caused a similar plan for the building to fall through after it had been approved by the Planning Commission in 2013.

“It’s almost impossible to get funding to build something that’s not status quo,” he told the paper.

 

Artspace Jackson Flats opens to families in Northeast Mpls

Last weekend, with the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District abuzz with Art-A-Whirl—the largest annual open-studio art tour in the country—the scene was set for the grand opening of Artspace Jackson Flats. The $10 million, 35-unit, live-work artist apartments in Northeast are the first affordable artist housing project in the city from the Minneapolis-based national nonprofit, Artspace.
 
With a large lawn and playset on the property, which is located in the Logan Park neighborhood, Artspace is billing the new property as family-friendly—something president Kelley Lindquist says is something of a rarity in the city.
 
“It’s a little more challenging for young parents to have kids in intense downtown projects…it’s just much easier when the residence is neighborhood-based,” Lindquist says.
 
Children can often lend to the creative and collaborative environment Artspace seeks to foster. Kids are often the first to break down communication walls, running through the halls and forming relationships with other children in the building.
 
“Eventually the parents start hanging out and start sharing their different artistic skills and coming up with new creative projects—and they may never have done so without their children paving the way,” Lindquist says.
 
Other Artspace projects like the Frogtown Family Lofts in St. Paul—the organization’s second project ever, completed in 1991—are also good examples of children spurring collaboration in creative environments.
 
Artist and Jackson Flats resident April Barnhart, who launched her Aprilierre jewelry line in 2009, says she is already benefitting from the artist community developing in and beyond the building.
 
“It’s really not an easy decision when you decide to commit your life to the arts,” she says.  “Having the right resources and the right workspace are important to cultivate creativity.”
 
Being in close proximity to other creative people has advantages as well. Barnhart experienced these benefits first hand when she ran into a neighbor in the building who heard she was a jeweler. He happened to have a set of glass display cases he no long needed and thought she could put them to good use.
 
“They were exactly what I’ve been looking for in antique stores for years,” she said.
 
As much as Jackson Flats was built for artists, it was also a product of the artist community to begin with. When former Northeast Community Investment Cooperative Executive Director John Vaughn sat down with the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association in 2004, the organization’s goals were specific: First, to create and arts district, and second, was to build artist housing.
 
“We took that heart and that became our mission,” Vaughn says. He brought in architects from UrbanWorks Architecture to a neighborhood meeting where he talked with artists and residents of the area about what they wanted from the building that would become Jackson Flats.
 
As residents threw out ideas, the architect drew them into a design. At the end of the hour-long meeting, the sketch had taken shape. “This building very much looks like it was originally envisioned,” Vaughn said. “It comes very much out of the arts community and out of this community here.
 
The opening of Jackson Flats was part of Artspace’s “Breaking Ground” celebration, which began with a creative placemaking symposium featuring grantees from the St. Paul Companies Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods program at the new multi-family residence.

The celebration concluded Monday at an event at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts (another Artspace project) during which Artspace presented numerous awards. The awardees included Catherine Jordon of Minneapolis, recipient of the Paul Brawner Award for Support of the Arts.
 
 
 

Tin Whiskers Brewing "electrifies" downtown St. Paul

Craft brewing continues its march into St. Paul. Tin Whiskers Brewing Company opened its doors to the public last Friday. Located on the ground floor of the Rossmor Building in Lowertown, Tin Whiskers is the first brewery taproom to open in St. Paul’s urban core.

“You have this really cool historic warehouse building with this amazing space—you have artists, you have great food, you have everything you need for a great craft brewing experience,” says Jeff Moriarty, president and one of Tin Whiskers’ three founders. Restaurants like Keys Café, Sawatdee and Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza are also housed in the Rossmor.

Moriarty is one of Tin Whiskers’ three former electrical engineers turned craft brewers. He met George Kellerman, who heads branding efforts, and Jake Johnson, the head brewer, at the school of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

That common bond is evident throughout their branding and operations. In the electrical engineering world, the term "tin whisker" refers to a soldering error that leads to a short circuit on a printed circuit board. In the craft beer realm, it now stands for technically excellent beer, brewed with an attention to detail and process one would expect from a group of engineers.

They aren’t bashful about the nerd-factor. Everything from their robot logo, to beer names like Flipswitch IPA and Beta Batch stout evoke the trio’s engineering background, which Moriarty says partly drives their affection for beer.  

“Of course, being engineers, we like drinking beer—it makes us a wee-bit more social,” he says with a laugh.

It’s been a long trip from engineering school to taproom opening. Moriarty and Johnson first started homebrewing in 2006. From Johnson’s mother’s kitchen to Moriarty’s basement, they honed their craft, kept detailed brew logs and sought to perfect the science behind the brew.

They hold an open source policy when it comes to recipes and operations. They are happy to share, within reason, what they’ve learned along the way with others thinking of starting up their own operation.

When it came time for the big move from home brewer to destination brewery, Moriarty says they knew their location would have to be in St. Paul or Roseville to keep the water supply consistent.

“The biggest local component that goes into any brew is local water,” Moriarty says. “We kinda believed in that terroir of the water, so to speak.”

The brewery currently has the equipment to pump out about 1,700 barrels of beer a year. This is just phase one, though, says Moriarty. His vision is to eventually be producing upwards of 20,000 barrels a year through a satellite production brewery in the city.

Right now they are serving up both a carbonated and nitro version of their Beta Batch stout, Wheatstone Bridge (an American style wheat beer) and Flip Switch IPA. All three beers are labeled “Beta” versions, which is engineer-speak for initial batches subject to tweaks and changes.

Their full lineup of rotating beers, including an amber ale and pumpkin ale, will be available at the official Grand Opening the first week in June..

The taproom and brewery is currently open to the public Wednesdays and Thursdays 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Fridays 3:00pm to 11:00 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 11:00 p.m.

 

Cycles for Change bikes into underserved neighborhoods

The bicycling renaissance in the Twin Cities is in high gear. Minneapolis and St. Paul are both working to expand already respectable bicycling infrastructures, and more residents than ever, from all walks of life, are getting around town on two wheels. But, as Jason Tanzman of Cycles for Change in St. Paul is quick to point out, “the reality is the bike movement is a white movement.”

That’s something Cycles for Change, a nonprofit community bike shop bordering the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods, is looking to change.

“Our vision is to build a diverse and empowered community of bicyclists,” says Tanzman, the director of development and outreach for the organization.

In addition to a full service retail and mechanic shop, Cycles for Change offers a host of programming designed to build a resilient and diverse community around bicycling—and it is quickly gathering momentum.

In 2013, the organization lent out 290 bikes from their Bike Library by partnering with community and civic organizations from around the metro to pair eager riders from low-income areas with new sets of wheels for 6-month leases. Riders in the Bike Library program also get a complimentary helmet and lock, and training to be confident and safe on the roads.

The Build a Bike Class brought in 120 area youth who constructed their own bikes from the ground up, learned how to maintain their bikes and mastered the rules of the road before riding out the door, according to Tanzman. Cycles for change also mentored 12 youth apprentices last year—many of them now help design and run the organization’s programs and retail shop.

Many of the people joining Cycles for Change represent populations Tanzman says are not adequately represented in the bicycling movement. The fastest growing groups of bicyclists nationwide are people of color, according to a report by the League of American Bicyclists.

From 2001 to 2009, the percent of all trips that are by bike in the African-American population grew by 100 percent. Trips by Asians-Americans grew by 80 percent and Hispanics took 50 percent more trips by bike during that period, while whites saw a 22 percent increase, according to the equity report.

When it comes to making decisions about where new bike lanes will go or advocating for how new bike trails are designed, people of color and people of low socioeconomic status aren’t adequately represented at the table, Tanzman says.

“No matter how many people of different racial groups ride bikes, there is an underrepresentation of people from low-income communities and people of color in the decision-making bodies,” Tanzman said.

In many ways, these are groups that would particularly benefit from improved bicycling infrastructure. “A bike is a way to save money,” he says. “A bike is a way to live a healthy life.

According to Tanzman, 25 percent of the households in the Cycles for Change neighborhood don’t have access to a car. “Then of those other 75 percent that do, they might have one car in the household, and maybe it’s not that reliable, maybe it costs a lot of money to gas it up every week,” he says.

“There are so many natural opportunities to build alliances and really make the bicycling movement a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement that it’s not right now.”

Cycles for Change is hosting a Spring Celebration Monday May 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 pm at the shop, 712 University Avenue East.

Filson + Shinola moving to North Loop

A pair of high end American manufacturing retailers are moving into the North Loop in Minneapolis later this spring. Seattle based Filson, known for its rugged outdoor gear and apparel will be sharing a storefront with Shinola, a company out of Detroit gaining recognition for its handcrafted watches, bicycles and leather goods.

“Shinola and Filson are like-minded brands that…share many of the same core values,” said Daniel Caudill, creative director at Shinola. “It was a natural fit for both brands to share the same space.”

The Washington Avenue site was previously occupied by Dunn Bros., which recently moved to a new location down the street where it expanded offerings to include beer and wine, as well as baked goods.

Filson and Shinola are part of a family of American brands under the Bedrock Manufacturing umbrella—a venture capital firm in Texas headed by the founder of Fossil Inc.

Filson, which currently has six other brick and mortar locations around the country, is looking to tap in to Minnesotan’s passion for outdoor sportd.  “Filson and Minnesota share an everlasting enthusiasm for enjoying the outdoors, which makes it the perfect location as we look to connect with more outdoor enthusiasts,” said Alan Kirk, Filson’s CEO.

The North Loop is quickly becoming one of the Twin Cities hottest districts. With a growing number of medium- to high-end restaurants, bars and retailers moving into the neighborhood, as well as new condo and apartment buildings, it’s no surprise Forbes ranked it the 12th hippest neighborhood in the country.

Filson and Shinola will be joining a growing number of men’s boutique stores like MidNorth Mercantile, Askov Finlayson, Martin Patrick 3 and even other specialty bike shops like Handsome Cycles up the street.

Both retailers say they are looking forward to tapping into the thriving community of like-minded shops in the area and look forward to finding ways to collaborate and connect.

“We are looking at all types of local companies small and large to create products we will sell in our stores,” Caudill said. Shinola is already working with Faribault Woolen Mill Co. to produce custom Shinola blankets.

Kirk says Filson also plans to engage the local community of outdoor professionals through a series of unique events and experiences. “Minnesota is home to a number of great outfitters, and we look forward to sharing the experience and passion for outdoor adventures with our customers,” he said.

Shinola has other Minnesota ties, as well. Former CEO of St. Paul-based leather company J.W. Hulme Co., Jen Guarino, is leading Shinola’s leather department, which just opened a new facility in Detroit. She also set up the company’s in-house leather design and development team late last year, allowing Shinola to house design and production under one roof.

Shinola has garnered a good deal of attention lately for its commitment to revitalizing the downtrodden manufacturing sector in Detroit. Its headquarters and watch factory are located in the College for Creative Studies in the former Argonaut building, which once housed General Motors’ research laboratory.

 

Sunflower Revolution moves to St. Paul

The revolution is here in the form of renegade bands of sunflower planters strewing seeds across the Twin Cities metro. Now in their fourth year of revolt, the organizers behind the Sunflower Revolution are distributing discreet packets of seeds, encouraging the public to toss the seeds where they will.

“We want people to use this as a harmless type of graffiti that’s actually adding beauty instead of trying to destroy something,” says Minneapolis artist Karen Kasel who started the project with creative partner Marlaine Cox, a metalsmith. They call the project "a simple placemaking activity and organic participatory project." Together, they're the low tech/high joy art collaborative, which also created the Shanty of Misfit Toys as part of the Twin Cities Art Shanties project. Last year’s Sunflower Revolution was located at artist Pete Driessen’s TuckUnder Projects in Minneapolis.

For those looking to join the movement, the center of the Sunflower Revolution is an unsuspicious senior housing facility at Episcopal Homes in the Midway area of St. Paul. Low tech/high joy worked with the staff and residents of the Seabury building to stage this year’s action.

They collaborated on every aspect of the project, from designing the art on the seed packets to selecting the type of seeds, and screen printing the packets, filling the packets and distributing them, according to Kasel. Funding was provided in part from Irrigate Arts. Fellow revolutionaries can find a stock of seeds kept in an open box outside Seabury.

The revolution seems to be building momentum. This year the group is shooting to disperse 450 packets of seeds throughout the Twin Cities. In addition to the seed hub, Sunflower Revolution will be staging demonstrations and distributing seeds at two upcoming arts events in the Twin Cities. Interested activists can join the cause at SHORE in Richfield, May 10 at 64th Street and Lyndale Avenue South, and the Eco Arts Festival on May 17 on Harriet Island in St. Paul.

The movement sparked when Kasel decided to plant a crop of Russian Mammoth Sunflowers in her front yard with her two young daughters in 2010. The effect of this seemingly benign act was sudden and undeniable, Kasel says. People were immediately attracted to the 12-foot flowers with giant heads.

“Suddenly neighbors that we had never talked to before were walking by and stopping to chat with us about the flowers,” she says. “It sort of opened up the door in our neighborhood… I think there was something about the drama of the sunflower that was encouraging for conversation.”

The following year, the collaborators passed out artfully decorated packets of seeds from the previous season’s crop, and so the movement was born. It’s not without resistors, though.

“We like to push people against their boundaries and we’re finding that’s an interesting boundary,” Kasel says. “Some people don’t want to plant seeds where they’re not supposed to. It’s kind of fun to push people a little bit.”

The times seem to be fertile for this type of activism, too. From a group of renegade gardeners in Britain who declared May 1st International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day back in 2007, to current efforts to reclaim scraps of land in Los Angeles by planting gardens on them, activist gardening seems to be taking root in communities worldwide.

 

Good to Great: Placemaker Gil Penalosa visits the Twin Cities

This week, internationally renowned placemaking expert Gil Penalosa is visiting the Twin Cities during the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation’s Third Annual Placemaking Residency. The residency includes 16 events over 4 days with Penalosa to get residents and planners collaborating on how to bring the metro area from good to great in terms of its parks, transit, mobility and overall livability.

It’s not as simple as it may seem, said Penalosa, the esteemed former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation in Bogota, Colombia, at the Textile Center in Minneapolis on Monday during the opening event. “It’s much more difficult to go from good to great than bad to great,” he added.

As the executive director of Toronto’s 8-80 Cities, Penalosa’s idea is that if you create a city that’s good for an 8 year old and good for an 80 year old, you will create a successful city for everyone.

The Twin Cities is on the right track with multimodal transit infrastructure, improved green spaces and pedestrian friendly development getting special attention from planners and policymakers in recent years. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit idle, says Patrick Seeb, executive director of Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation.

“[Penalosa] will help push us to think more boldly about what the opportunities are in the Twin Cities,” he said.

Those opportunities might vary greatly across the city—from parts of the Cities that are rather advanced in thinking about pedestrian balance and mobility like downtown St. Paul, where an Open Streets event will be held with Penalosa on Thursday, to places like the South Loop in Bloomington where planners are trying to figure out how to better develop the area around the two major transit stops near the Mall of America.

Then there are places somewhere in between, such as Prospect Park. Here organizers are pushing a plan to transform the area north of University Avenue into a vibrant mixed-use center of pedestrian activity around the new Green Line station. Construction on Surly Brewing Company's new destination brewery is already underway there, providing a potential anchor for future development, said Dick Gilyard of Prospect Park 2020 while leading a walk with Penalosa on Monday.

Penalosa says there is a tendency for cities in the northern hemisphere to mistakenly plan their infrastructure around the couple harshest days in winter. “When we think this is the norm, we end up with a series of tubes above the city that sucks the life out of the city,” Penalosa said. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” he added.

One of the key goals of the residency is to pull ordinary citizens into the planning process by giving them the tools, vision and lingo to be able to participate in meaningful ways, according to Seeb.

“People want to make a difference in their neighborhood, and the more they can help shape where they live, the more likely they are to stay there and reinvent and improve the neighborhood,” Seeb said.

With the help of Penalosa and an array of partner organizations, Seeb hopes the residency will empower people all over the Twin Cities to get involved in the planning and development of their communities.

Penalosa will be making appearances at places like Central High School in St. Paul to help students and community leaders explore how the school can better connect to its surrounding neighborhoods. He’ll stop by the University of Minnesota to promote biking and walking in the University district. He’ll also lead a walking tour of downtown Minneapolis and be the keynote speaker at the 20th Annual Great River Gathering Thursday evening.

 

First & First plans creative campus in St. Paul's Midway

The innovative developer that brought Minneapolis such imaginative properties as The Broadway, Aria and Icehouse Plaza is taking on its biggest project yet with its first venture into St. Paul. First & First is moving ahead with the redevelopment of a 5.5-acre, multi-structure property at 550 Vandalia Street in the Creative Enterprise Zone to be known as Vandalia Tower—a nod to the old water tower that will become a focal point of the property.

Founder and head visionary Peter Remes says he plans to transform the property into a dynamic campus housing an array of creative tenants from woodworkers to graphic designers, artists, architects and more. He says negotiations are also underway with potential craft brewers and restaurants. One of the defining features of the campus will be what Remes describes as a “secret garden” courtyard in the center of the complex.

“It’s a big campus, a big project by almost anyone’s standards,” says Remes, who grew up less than two miles from the site—a fact he says gives the project particular personal significance.

The 205,000-square-foot property sits one block north of I-94 and two blocks south of University Avenue where the new Metro Transit Light Rail Green Line will start running June 14.  In many ways, the location speaks to another of First & First’s defining missions—to connect a place’s past, present and future; preserving it’s heritage while breaking transformational new ground.

The Midway area of St. Paul has a rich history as both an industrial center and transportation hub dating back to the end of the 19th century when James J. Hill imagined the area as a central connection point for the Great Northern Railway.

More recently, the Vandalia Tower property embodied the industrial past of the area as home to the King Koil Mattress factory. Remes plans to keep that history close to the surface as he reinvents the property as a modern mixed-use centerpiece to a neighborhood already gaining recognition as a center of creative activity and commerce.

“That’s when the magic occurs, in terms of being able to honor that past and let that history breathe, and yet infuse it with modern day amenities…and just really have this juxtaposition that occurs when you walk in that can be very thought provoking,” Remes says.

The main building is currently home to around 30 tenants including a growing community of woodworkers, artists, and other creative entrepreneurs. Some have worked out of the crumbling building for years, while others are newly recruited tenants.

Nordeast Makers moved into the building last fall. Hundreds of members use the large shared workspace—and its collection of top-of-the-line equipment—to tinker, build and create everything from art and furniture to innovative software and technologies.

Remes says these are the types of tenants he hopes to attract and cater to at Vandalia Tower. “What they bring to the table is that energy we hope to continue to build upon and to grow,” he says.

First & First hosted a meeting with current tenants last month, many of whom are worried the lofty development plans will increase rents that would price them out of their spaces. Remes says that while modest rent increases are likely, the goal is to keep as many of the creative tenants already there as possible.

“We want these people to prosper, we want them to do well, and that goes for the neighboring businesses, as well,” he said.

 
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