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Night market debuts June 14 in Saint Paul's Little Mekong

The vibrant blend of sights, smells, sounds, and people milling together at Southeast Asian night markets can be a vivid sensory and cultural experience. This summer, the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) is bringing a slice of that life to the Twin Cities.

Throughout the summer, AEDA will hold five outdoor night markets in the Little Mekong business and cultural district of Saint Paul, between the Mai Village and Little Szechuan restaurants on the 300 block of University Avenue. The first market will be held June 14, the same day the Green Line’s light-rail service begins.

The Little Mekong district is home to a high concentration of Asian residents and businesses. Of the almost 80 establishments on the five-block stretch of University between Mackubin and Marion streets, about 75 percent are Asian-owned according to a 2013 AEDA study documenting the impact of Central Corridor Light Rail Transit on the area.

Many of these small businesses were hit hard by light-rail construction over the last several years, according Theresa Swaney, AEDA’s communications coordinator. AEDA hopes to bring needed visibility, and customers, to businesses still reeling from the disruption. Swaney also hopes the night markets will help breathe new life into the area as a nighttime destination. “It’s sort of shifting the idea of what’s acceptable, and possible, at night,” she says.

Like farmers markets, the Little Mekong night markets will host local farmers selling fresh produce, but also up to 30 different vendors selling specialty food, art, and crafts. “It’s sort of this mix between a festival and a farmers market,” says Swaney. “It’s going to be a little more entertaining and a little more exciting than just getting your vegetables.” Artist organizer Oskar Ly is planning live performances, art, and activities as part of the market.

Organizers are currently looking for businesses and vendors located from throughout the Twin Cities to participate. Unlike many markets, applicants don’t have to be established. “We’re pushing toward new vendors,” Swaney says. “We want these people to have an opportunity to sell their stuff, and if they do well, maybe draw them into opening a brick-and-mortar business in the district or along University.”

AEDA also hopes the night markets will help lay ground for a new public plaza and community gathering space at the site. A rundown building used mostly for storage currently sits in the middle of the plot. The organization recently held a series of workshops and community meetings to gather input on redeveloping the site.

Source: Theresa Swaney
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Victoria Theater to become a cultural center, once again

Several years ago, Saint Paul’s historic Victoria Theater was nearly demolished. Now, after sitting vacant for 14 years, the place is getting a new lease on life. The Twin Cities Community Land Bank is closing on the purchase of the theater, according to Tyler Olson, the project coordinator. Olson is working with the volunteer-driven Victoria Theater Arts Initiative (VTAI), which will take over the building’s ownership in the future. 

Basically, the land bank is “holding” the property for the group. “The fear was that we would do the work upfront and the owner [of the theater] would get an offer that couldn’t be refused” from someone else, Olson says. 

A kickoff event, which includes building tours, begins at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, January 16.

VTAI, which began meeting a year ago, is comprised of representatives from various local organizations including the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, Historic Saint Paul, Dangerous Productions, and the New Victoria Theater Project. “We started saying, ‘Let’s make something happen here. It feels like now is the time, especially with the light rail coming,’” he says.   

That kind of grassroots effort is typical in Frogtown, where a "trend of organic growth" has taken hold, he says, citing the development of the nearby Frogtown Farms. 

Together, the consortium “intends to revitalize the building, transforming it into a community-owned and -managed center for arts engagement, education and performance,” a prepared statement reads. Irrigate, Springboard for the Arts, and the City of Saint Paul helped to make the project happen.   

What are the next steps? As it is, the building is a shell that needs to be renovated. “We really need to figure out all of the things that need to happen to make it workable and usable,” he says. The group is also “getting out into the community,” to find out what people are interested in seeing happen at the theater, he says. “People are excited about its potential.”
 
The theater will be “a huge boon to the community, a landmark destination,” he says. “The hope is that people will come to see something here they wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else in the Twin Cities."  


Source: Tyler Olsen, project coordinator, Victoria Theater Arts Initiative 
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Frogtown Farm invites community to help with its design

Community members can get involved in the design process for the Frogtown Farm and Park at a workshop on Oct. 12 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Rondo Library

The 13-acre park in the works for St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood includes a recreation area, a nature preserve, and a demonstration farm. 

The upcoming workshop deals specifically with the design of the park's farm portion, which will take up nearly half of the site. Over the summer, the park pulled in the San Francisco-based Rebar Art and Design Studio to lead the farm's design process. 

The interdisciplinary agency, which works with numerous Twin Cities-based experts, was a good fit for the project because much of its work lies “at the intersection of art, design and ecology,” farm materials state. That includes experience with community farms and gardens.  
 
Betsy Schaefer Roob, a spokesperson for Frogtown Farm and Park, says next week's workshop will give community members a chance to share ideas and hear about the possibilities for the farm. That feedback will continue to drive several related meetings in the coming months. The idea is “to gather input and eventually responses to different concept designs,” she says, adding that the goal is to have a final design by early 2014.

Community members will consider how to facilitate programs at the farm centering on food production, education, and gardening, she says.  

After the design process wraps up, infrastructure will go in, while cover crops will be planted in 2014, she says. The farm will be up and running the following year.

The surrounding park is undergoing a separate community process. 

The idea for Frogtown Farm came from a handful of longtime neighborhood residents, and community involvement is something the farm aims to continue every step of the way. “Community is really the core of who we are and what we value,” Roob says.  

She hopes the result will be a “community place, a place to gather, to learn, to work, to play, and to share knowledge and, of course, food,” she says. “We really need the wisdom and diverse perspectives of the Frogtown community to build that place.”  

Source: Betsy Schaefer Roob, Frogtown Farm and Park 
Writer: Anna Pratt 

St. Paul parks enter into development plan with Frogtown Gardens and Farms

In April, the St. Paul City Council gave the go-ahead to the parks department to enter into a development agreement with Frogtown Gardens.

The agreement lays out the next steps to make the five-acre urban agriculture demonstration site a reality. Frogtown Gardens “will encourage residents to start their own backyard gardens and will promote healthier eating habits,” a prepared statement reads.

The land for the garden once belonged to the Wilder Foundation, which has since moved its offices. St. Paul is working with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the property this year, according to St. Paul information. In the meantime, the trust is trying to raise the $3.45 million needed to buy the land and to jumpstart development and programming.

Mike Hahm, who leads the parks department, says the development agreement with Frogtown Gardens helps flesh out those details. “It’s the next important step to bring this thing to life,” he says. Frogtown Gardens speaks directly to a need for parkland in the neighborhood, a need that the parks department identified a while ago.

As a part of the project, more than half of the property will become public parkland. “We’re super excited about the project. It hits on so many priority issues for Frogtown and St. Paul as a community,” Hahm says. It goes without saying, he adds, that parkland “is important for the community for so many reasons.” Parkland contributes to sustainability and livability, both of which are big goals for the city, he says.

Another part of the acreage will be used for growing fruits and vegetables. “The city is facilitating the partnership between the Frogtown Gardens group and the public, which will own the land,” he says.

Frogtown Gardens is an example of a community-driven effort. “It was the community that raised its hand repeatedly and said it had a vision for this property as a park and an urban agricultural center,” Hahm says, adding, “It caught the attention of various officials and captured the imagination of others in the community.”


Source: Mike Hahm, director, St. Paul Parks
Writer: Anna Pratt

With $3,000 in startup funds, Our Village Gardens helps transform a former brownfield site

This spring, Frogtown Gardens got to work on a new community garden at a former brownfield site in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.

It took $3,000 to set up the 30-plot community garden, called Our Village Gardens, according to Patricia Ohmans, who is a spokesperson for Frogtown Gardens.  

Frogtown Gardens is a nonprofit organization that’s in the process of establishing a demonstration farm park and sanctuary in the neighborhood.

Financial support for the water, materials, compost, and mulch at Our Village Gardens came from Terry and Margie Commerford, who own the land, she explains. The couple runs the River of Goods home decor shop and Terrybear Urns and Memorials out of a new development on the site.

A combination of neighborhood volunteers and employees of the Commerfords’ businesses cultivate the plots, she says.   

The gardeners are a diverse group, including Hmong, Somalis, Latinos, Vietnamese, African Americans, European Americans and others. “There's lots of energy and cross-pollination among them,” Ohmans says.

“We still need to do a lot of beautification around the communal spaces of the garden,” including the butterfly garden, rose border, and raspberries, “but the garden is already a great success and a truly diverse stomping ground.”  

Frogtown Gardens also sponsors Amir's Garden, a permaculture demonstration garden on a vacant, privately owned lot, along with the Pop-Up Tree Park, which is a temporary tree nursery on a city-owned lot in the neighborhood.

Amir's Garden's excess produce will go to the local food shelf, according to Ohmans.

“We are also closely tracking the production of that garden, to get a sense of how much food can actually be grown on a household lot,” she adds.


Source: Patricia Ohmans, Frogtown Farms
Writer: Anna Pratt

Little Mekong brand helps draw people to the Central Corridor

In recognition of the unique Asian businesses and other cultural institutions along University Avenue in St. Paul from Galtier to Mackubin streets, the area is being branded as Little Mekong.

It’s an initiative that the local Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) launched on Feb. 25.

The name references the Mekong River, which is a major river in Southeast Asia, according to Va-Megn Thoj, who heads the AEDA. “Most businesses in the area have a connection to the river,” he explains.

In his view, “By giving a name to a destination which has existed for a long time, we can draw more people into the area.” This is especially needed during Central Corridor light rail construction, he says.  

Already, as a result of construction obstacles, many of the businesses are seeing less foot traffic, he says.

With the Little Mekong branding, “We want to build on what we have,” which he describes as “an attractive destination for people to get introduced to Asian cultures and cuisine.” Although the district has been around informally for a long time, not too many people are familiar with it, he says.

Besides improving the streetscape and putting up district-related signage, Little Mekong will host a number of events, including family-friendly festivals.

AEDA is also working with businesses to create incentive programs to bring in more customers, including coupons and other deals, and to handle increased traffic. “We’re working with businesses to strengthen their operations and customer service,” he says.

The coming Central Corridor represents “a tremendous opportunity to create something of benefit to the neighborhoods and city and region," he adds.

Source: Va-Megn Thoj
Writer: Anna Pratt

Little free libraries come to St. Paul

After reading about the idea, St. Paul-ite Paul Rogne was inspired to build a little free library in his yard.

The lending libraries, which resemble a cross between a mailbox and a birdhouse, offer books for passersby to exchange.

All over the globe, the Little Free Library movement, which started off as a two-person project, is taking off.

When they introduced the first little free library a couple of years ago, the movement’s originators, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, who are based in Madison, Wis., probably had no idea it would spread as it has.

It turned out to be a relatively easy, grassroots way to encourage reading and community. Today, they have a goal of establishing at least 2,510 little free library boxes worldwide. To register or find the lending libraries, people can search a map on their website. 

In St. Paul, Rogne put the finishing touches on the literary lawn ornament this week.
 
The little free libraries have a slogan, “Take a book, leave a book,” which appealed to Rogne, and his wife, Barb, both of whom are avid readers.  

“We love to share good books,” he says via email, adding, “Used bookstores pay so little that we would rather just give them away to others who want to read them.”

The little free library is also a fun way to connect with neighbors, he says. Plus, his neighborhood gets plenty of foot traffic. A couple others are close to his house, too. “We think having this little library along our sidewalk will get good use.”

Also nearby, a group of students and educators constructed a number of the little free libraries in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood as a part of the 23rd annual National Service-Learning Conference and youthrive PeaceJam Leadership Conference that took place on April 14, according to a recent Pioneer Press story.

The libraries that they decorated have been planted in the neighborhood's various community garden spaces.

“Maybe this will catch on and spread,” Rogne says. “Wouldn’t that be terrific?"

Source: Paul Rogne
Writer: Anna Pratt

Irrigate Arts trains 200 artists to do public art along Central Corridor

This past winter, over 200 artists trained to do collaborative public art projects as a part of Irrigate.

It's a creative placemaking initiative for the coming Central Corridor light rail transit line. 
 
The workshops have seen more than double the level of participation that was anticipated for their first year by Springboard for the Arts, which is administering the initiative, according to Laura Zabel, who leads the organization.
 
“It’s a demonstration of the demand and interest in artists engaging the community,” she says, adding that emerging and established artists from a wide variety of disciplines have gotten involved.
 
Once artists go through the training, they can apply for grant money to do collaborative projects along the Central Corridor. Already, a number of mural projects have come out of the project, along with a concert series and more. “We’re really starting to feel the momentum,” she says.
 
For example, Leonardo’s Basement in Minneapolis is working with the Avalon School in St. Paul to create something it’s calling “sculptural mobile units,” which will travel to various events. 
 
A new business at Frogtown Square in St. Paul, which isn’t ready to go public yet, worked with Irrigate to organize a workshop called, “Make it Mysterious.” Artists designed temporary murals for the space. It led to “really cool visual pieces that animate that corner,” and the business is building on it, says Zabel. 
 
The various art events draw people to the corridor, which is especially important as construction is ramping up again, she says.
 
Irrigate is open to suggestions; on its website, it has a map where people can identify spots where art is needed. “I’ve seen people saying, here’s this ugly wall or huge dead tree, or available green space,” she says. “People know that artists think of all those things as opportunities.”
 
Source: Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
Writer: Anna Pratt

Trust for Public Land to buy parcel for $2.2 million to make way for Frogtown Farm and Garden

Frogtown Farm and Garden announced on May 5 that the Trust for Public Land made a successful bid on a 13-acre parcel to help make the urban farm possible.

The Trust, a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for parks, gardens and other natural places, recently struck a deal to buy the land for $2.2 million from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, according to Frogtown Farm information.

Wilder is a nonprofit health and human services agency that was previously headquartered at the site.    
Frogtown Farm, which a number of community members have been working on over the past several years, would bring an urban demonstration farm, recreation area, and nature sanctuary to a neighborhood that the city has identified as lacking in green space, according to farm information.

Farm organizer Tony Schmitz says, “It’s exciting news. We’re extremely grateful that the Trust has stepped up and pushed the whole issue forward.”

Now, the groups are working to finalize a purchase agreement, he says.

Soon, the farm’s organizers will be focused on fundraising to come up with the money for the land, which is worth more than double the sale price.

“The sale price is significantly reduced from the appraised value as Wilder’s contribution to the community, and to ensure the property will be used in a way consistent with the community’s vision to be of benefit to the community,” a prepared statement from Frogtown Farm reads.

Over the course of the next 18 months, the group will be looking for contributions from government entities, foundations, and individual donors, says Schmitz.

There’s a lot of work to be done to engage people along the way and design the farm to fit “what exactly people want there," he says.

His sense is that “There’s a lot of support for this idea right now,” with people looking at food production with an eye to “how they can have a lighter footprint on the planet.”

It's validation for the fact that “We’ve believed all along that Frogtown kids and families need more green space to enhance their lives,” he says.  

Source: Tony Schmitz, organizer, Frogtown Farm and Garden
Writer: Anna Pratt






To green up neighborhood, Frogtown gets a $1,500 'pop-up' tree nursery

This spring, a pop-up tree nursery is coming to St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood as a creative way to get more trees planted in the area.

Part of the reason for the project, which is a collaborative effort between St. Paul, Frogtown Gardens community activists, and the University of Minnesota, relates to a 2010 tree canopy analysis of the city.

The study found that Frogtown has a lack of tree cover, according to Brett Stadsvold, who works for the city’s parks and recreation department.

Last fall, the partners worked together on a pilot project to address the issue. They involved “citizen foresters” in planting and maintaining 18 boulevard trees throughout the neighborhood.

Building on the project's success, “The next idea was to develop a citizen-run tree nursery,” but starting small, with a pop-up or temporary nursery, says Stadsvold. “We wanted to gain support and get people interested.”

The 25-tree nursery, which will include a mix of shade and fruit- and nut-bearing trees, will go on the corner of Dale and Lafond avenues--a city-owned parcel--for one growing season, starting close to Arbor Day.

Experts in the subject will help volunteers “learn how to propagate trees from seed.”

At the nursery, there’ll also be space for demonstrations and social events for which University of Minnesota agriculture students will be submitting design proposals on Feb. 27, he says.

Signage and furniture made out of repurposed materials will make the lot inviting year-round. “We’re repurposing things that may be seen as waste items, and acquiring them at low cost,” he says.  

Later the trees will be transplanted onto private properties in the neighborhood.

Although the project’s budget is $3,000, it’ll probably only use half of that amount, says Stadsvold.

In the future, the project could be expanded. “We want people to feel empowered to take care of trees and be stewards,” he says, adding that the effort has come from community members.

The city is providing support in the form of “labor with the logistics and acquiring the trees,” he adds.


Source: Brett Stadsvold, St. Paul parks and recreation, forestry unit
Writer: Anna Pratt

Frogtown Farms gets help putting a bid on potential site

For Patricia Ohmans, a proponent of Frogtown Gardens, a potential urban farmstead and demonstration site in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, the proposal is becoming more of a reality.

It's a mutlifaceted concept for a new kind of park that would go beyond a nature sanctuary, a place where people would “literally gain sustenance,” she explains. (See The Line's earlier story here.)

For those who've gotten involved in the effort, she says, “We are solidly in favor of a place to play and commune with nature and a place for food and eating,” adding that it makes sense to do it on the largest green space left in the city.

Until recently, the idea seemed like a bit of a long shot, due in part to the cost of the 12.5-acre parcel that the garden advocates are interested in. The site is owned by the St. Paul-headquartered Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a nonprofit health and human services organization. Wilder put it up for sale through an auction, taking sealed bids on the site through late January, according to Ohmans.

Recently, the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization with a St. Paul office, partnered with Frogtown Gardens to put a bid on the land. “I think the TPL wouldn’t have decided to do it if it hadn’t see how much public support it’s generated,” Ohmans says.  

She hopes that the combination of a credible buyer and neighborhood and city support, including boosts from local institutions, will make it happen.

When the results could be in, though, remains an open question. Right now, “The ball is in Wilder’s court,” she says. Nevertheless, “It’s really a big step for us,” she says, adding, “It’s an idea whose time has come.”

On Jan. 26, the community activists hosted a cooking event at the Rondo Library to promote the project.  

In the hopes that the Frogtown Gardens will materialize, in the coming months, its advocates will be hosting meetings and design charrettes “to make sure the eventual design and creation of this park reflects as many people’s desires as it can,” Ohmans says.

Source: Patricia Ohmans, Frogtown Gardens and Urban Farm
Writer: Anna Pratt

In Frogtown, a GIS map helps make a neighborhood group more efficient

St. Paul’s Frogtown Neighborhood Association (FNA) has generated a geographic information systems (GIS) map of the 5,500-household district to help it more dynamically engage the community.

The local Flat Rock Geographics helped it build the digital map, which was released in November following a couple of years of development, according to Tait Danielson Castillo, who leads the neighborhood group. “It’s about efficiency and organizing,” he says.   

The map, which was made possible through a $20,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation, allows FNA to quickly connect with people within a specific geographic area, including everything from information about who’s interested in gardening topics to crime statistics.

Most of the databases that neighborhood groups use are searchable only by person. “What we never thought about was how to categorize people based on interest and place of residence,” says Danielson Castillo.

The GIS map helps the organization get to the bottom of questions such as, “How many people would like to garden within 1,000 feet? How many water sources are nearby? How many vacant lots are within 1,000 feet?”
 
Some of the information has been manually entered in with the help of portable GPS devices, while other data may come from the city or county.

Danielson Castillo explains that it’s not about data mining, but freeing up time to make meaningful face-to-face connections. “It’s about the follow-up after we get people connected to the neighborhood organizations,” he says. “The system is only as powerful as the relationships that we build.”

Already, the system has had an impact. For example, when the city realigned the sewer system on Thomas Avenue, FNA used the map to connect with non-native English speakers, which helped avoid a potentially disastrous situation.   

Within a 24-hour period, Danielson Castillo was able to contact the street’s residents directly, sending translators where needed.

“The best system is still the phone or direct verbal contact. That’s still what we’re shooting for,” he says, adding that although social media are useful “We’re digressing in some ways, returning back to our roots and using technology at its best.”

The project’s next phase will involve maps that the public can use to learn more about current events, developments, public art projects, or the area’s history.

“We’re 90 percent sure that nobody else has used [the technology] this way,” he says. “No one else we know is using this on the community level.”   


Source: Tait Danielson Castillo, director, Frogtown Neighborhood Association
Writer: Anna Pratt

$9.5 million Central Exchange project planned for Frogtown neighborhood

Central Exchange, a mixed-use development that's planned for St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood, will help turn around a site that has long been rundown.

Historically, the neighborhood as a whole has been under-invested in when compared with other parts of the city, according to Craig Johnson, who is the project manager for developer Model Cities.

Model Cities, which is based just a block-and-a-half away from the University Avenue site, wants to be a part of its improvement, he emphasizes.

For the project, the organization has acquired four vacant commercial properties that he describes as an “eyesore on the avenue.” It has often attracted vandalism, he says.  

Johnson says that the development will provide a boost to the area. “It’ll help make the area more attractive,” as opposed to somewhere that one would merely drive through.

Two of the buildings on the properties have been torn down, while the city will soon demolish the remaining couple of structures, he says.

Model Cities may also acquire another adjacent property, for which it’s trying to secure financing.

Central Exchange will have ground-floor commercial space along with a couple of stories of housing.

Altogether, there’ll be 30 to 45 units of mixed-income housing. Depending on its final footprint, the project could cost anywhere from $9.5 million to $13 million, according to Johnson.

The commercial spaces will be “oriented towards nonprofits, educational institutions or small businesses,” with an eye on what’s “useful to the community,” he says.

Model Cities is planning to install green roofs that will allow for urban gardening and stormwater management, as well.

The complex will alternately rise up one and three stories in different areas, to help break it up, visually. “If we built this as one big building it might have a more imposing feeling,” he says.

The coming Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line helped make the development possible. As such, “We see this project as a part of something bigger that’s going to really help the community.”

Construction at the site is scheduled to finish up in the spring of 2014.

Source: Craig Johnson, project manager, Model Cities
Writer: Anna Pratt

Hawthorne and Frogtown neighborhoods get new youth farms

For the first time in a decade, the Youth Farm and Market Project, which develops youth leaders through urban agriculture, gardens, and greenhouses, is adding a couple of new farms to its lineup.

In recent months, it's been redeveloping a lot at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in North Minneapolis's Hawthorne neighborhood and another at the Church and School of St. Agnes in St. Paul's Frogtown.

The organization, which originated in Minneapolis's Lyndale neighborhood in 1995, also has sites in Powderhorn and on the West Side of St. Paul.

Amanda Stoelb, who is the program's associate director, says that the Youth Farm and Market had been getting inquiries for several years from the neighborhoods. During the winter months this year, the right combination of partnerships, planning, and funding came together to make it work.

As for what encouraged the neighborhoods to approach Youth Farm and Market in the first place, she says, "I think the partners are the most excited about the youth organization and community engagement component."

The farms start with a group of about 10-15 youth, who range from 9 to 18 years of age. They grow, prepare, and sell food. Farms differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, building on existing programs and individual needs. Children help assess an area's food needs and work alongside others to design and set up the farm, she explains.

In Hawthorne, a group of children chose vegetables based on "what they love," and what they were cooking, which resulted in all kinds of vegetables being planted. "It's the first year and the youth were excited to put a bunch of stuff in," she says, adding that they've even planted peanuts.

But in Frogtown, the site work is just beginning. Between the two new sites, "we're hoping to grow slowly," she says, "to engage youth and partners and meet the needs of the neighborhood as we go along."

Altogether, the organization works with about 500 youth, to whom it hopes to add another 200 in the next few years, according to Stoelb.

While they produce a sizable amount of food, "we're a youth development organization that uses food," she says. "Our greatest outcome is not farming, it's that we're engaging youth in community."  
 
Source: Amanda Stoelb, program associate director, Youth Farm and Market
Writer: Anna Pratt

 

$13.5 million Frogtown Square senior housing and retail complex transforms a long-blighted corner

In the past, the corner of University and Dale avenues in St. Paul was known as the "Red Light District," according to city spokesperson Janelle Tummel.

It's come a long way since then, thanks to the community pulling together to make the $13.5 million Frogtown Square development a go, she says.

U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan, U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, Deputy Mayor Paul Williams and City Council member Melvin Carter III, attended the development's March 4 grand opening.

The project was made possible with $6.4 million in HUD financing plus over $4 million in grants and loans from the city to buy and build on the land parcel, according to project information.

The glassy four-story building has 50 one-bedroom apartments that are geared toward seniors. They have special features such as walk-in showers and easy-to-reach pull-cord alarms to accommodate seniors' needs, according to Tummel.

All of the units, known as the Kings Crossing Apartments, filled up within 24 hours of becoming available and there's a long waiting list, according to Tummel. It goes to show that "It's definitely meeting a need in the area," she says.

The building also includes community spaces, a business center, eating areas, and first-floor retail, she says.

Best Wireless, Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant, Global Market, Grooming House, Just Church'n it Fashions, Rondo Coffee Café and Subway fill the retail spaces.  

It's highly energy-efficient and pedestrian-friendly, with accessibility to and from the future Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, Tummel says.

About the development, which was 15 years in the making, Secretary Donovan is quoted in a prepared statement, saying, "[Its] innovative approach of combining small businesses and affordable housing is exactly the type of smart planning the country needs to continue winning the future towards economic prosperity."

Episcopal Homes, Inc., owns and manages the apartments while Northeast Dale-University (NEDU), a group of community developers, is responsible for the 11,700 square feet of commercial space, according to project information.

Project partners include the Metropolitan Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Ramsey County, Bigelow Foundation and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).


Source: Janelle Tummel, spokesperson for the city of St. Paul
Writer: Anna Pratt  



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