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Lake Street utility boxes to be turned into works of art

The Lake Street Council hopes to spruce up Minneapolis's Lake Street by turning its utility boxes into objets d'art.

ZoeAna Martinez, who is the council’s outreach and services manager, explains that the project will help deter graffiti while also making “ugly boxes look better," as she puts it, adding, “We want to help our street look better."

The initiative is similar to ones in the Kingfield and Corcoran neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods used different methods to cover up the utility boxes; one way was to paint right on the surface of the structures. The boxes can also be covered with colorful shrink-wrap that has designs on it, Martinez explains.

To set the project in motion on Lake Street, Martinez is reaching out to local businesses. “We’re just trying to get feedback from businesses,” she says, adding that the council is hoping that the stakeholders will pitch in by sponsoring local boxes. 

The more utility boxes it can cover up, the better, she says, adding that sponsorship means a price break for the council as well.

Right now, the project's budget is still being determined. It’ll be based on how many boxes the council decides to do. “We’re still at the beginning of the process,” she says.  

The council is also working with the city on a project that’s titled Minneapolis Art Wrap, whose purpose is to make the process smoother for others who want to decorate their local utility boxes.

“In the last two years, the City of Minneapolis has seen increased interest by community groups in wrapping City-owned utility boxes with artistic designs,” council materials state.

Soon the city will be sending out a request for proposals to artists to design 12 pre-approved wrap covers to go on utility boxes all over the city.

It'll help streamline the city process, in that applicants won’t have to go through the art-related city committee to get designs approved. They can simply choose from one of the pre-approved designs, she says. “It makes it easier for groups to get city-owned utility boxes wrapped."   

Although the details are still up in the air at this point, the council hopes to complete it this year, Martinez says.

Source: ZoeAna Martinez, outreach and services manager, Lake Street Council
Writer: Anna Pratt

High hopes for redevelopment at vintage Fire Hall

Lately, a number of community members in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood have been contemplating the future of the historic Fire Hall.

The 1872 building, which is considered to be the oldest fire station in the city, has been vacant for a couple of years, according to architect John Yust.

The building, which was previously known as Hope Engine Company No. 3, has unique features, including the remains of a bell tower on the second floor, he says.

To start spurring possible redevelopment plans, a design class at the University of Minnesota came up with plans for a restaurant to go into the space.

Yust provided original drawings of the building along with other reference material to the students, who worked in 11 teams of three as a part of Prof. Abimbola O. Asojo’s “Lighting Design and Life Safety Issues” class.

As a part of the assignment, students paid special attention to lighting needs in the brick building, but they also thought more broadly. Many of the students had plans that involved family-friendly restaurants in the daytime that would transition into more romantic settings at night, according to Yust, who attended the class critique last month.

Students came up with everything from sushi to New Orleans-style cooking. “It was fun. There was a huge variation and lots of great ideas,” Yust says, adding, “My hope is that somebody might find this an amazing opportunity [to redevelop].”

“We want the city to know how important it is to the community,” he says. “It would be appropriate to save this site as a part of the historic fabric.”

Source: John Yust, architect
Writer: Anna Pratt

Walkability survey to help make areas surrounding light rail stations more pedestrian-friendly

St. Paul’s District Councils Collaborative (DCC) is kicking off a “walkability survey” for the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit stations on May 6.

It involves group walks from various neighborhood spots to coming light rail stations in St. Paul and Minneapolis. The walks will take about 20 minutes or so; combined with the survey, it's less than an hour-long commitment, according to DCC staffer Anne White.

The walks will also have a cultural component; urban activist Charles Landry, who is an advocate for walking, will be taking part in the event on Sunday, she says.

Landry will also have a number of speaking engagements around town on the theme of "Creating 21st Century Intercultural and Creative Cities," as a part of a week-long residency with the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative through May 11. (For a full schedule of events, go here.)

Walkability surveys can be turned in any time until May 28 at the DCC website, which also has a map for making notations. The DCC is hoping to collect 1,500 surveys, or 100 for each of the 15 stops.

The survey will look at “both the physical environment and at how people feel, which isn’t strictly physical. Do they feel safe and comfortable walking?”

For that reason, the feedback will be valuable on many different levels. “It highlights the importance of a good walking environment,” she says, adding, “We’re also getting people looking forward,” in terms of getting used to the idea of taking the train.

Additionally, the walks will help identify areas in need of repair or in bad condition, as well as zones that aren't pedestrian-friendly, she says. “We’ll be helping identify priorities. Where are the greatest needs? Where should they put limited funding to work?”

Part of the survey will also include ensuring accessibility along the way for people with disabilities.  

Hopefully, related streetscape improvements can be made before the light rail is up and running because “It has potential to boost light rail ridership,” White says.

Source: Anne White, District Councils Collaborative
Writer: Anna Pratt

Public art project makes poetry pedestrian

The landscape is filled with the written word--but usually for the purposes of advertising or regulation.

Marcus Young, The city of St. Paul's artist in residence, says it's common to come across signage everyday that says things like “Buy one, get one free” or “No guns allowed.” He asks, why not poetry?

That reflection inspired him to start the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, which is now in its fifth year in St. Paul. The idea is to bring beautiful text into the public realm, he says.

Considering that the city repairs up to 10 miles of sidewalk every year, “What better than to transform something mundane, that we take for granted, like the sidewalk system?”

Through the project, which is based on one of his earlier endeavors, poets compete to have their verses chosen to be stamped in wet concrete. The sidewalk becomes a medium for reading and writing, and thus “a walk becomes an experience of reading and imagining.”  

The contest, which has an April 13 deadline, prompts people to “think about what they would like to write in this big book” that is the city.

The city is looking for short, high-quality poems “that say something about everyday life and maybe even capture the moment of reading, looking down [on the sidewalk] and reflecting.” (Read the guidelines here.)

A handful of winners will be chosen in May, and the poems will be stamped onto various residential sidewalks around the city. Winners will also be awarded a cash prize of $150 apiece.

Young hopes that the poems take some people by surprise, and make their walk more enjoyable.

Also, winning poets get to be a part of the process of stamping the concrete slabs with their verses. “We all have the desire to stick our finger into wet concrete,” Young says. “This is that impulse glorified and sanctioned.”
 
One of his favorite poems to go into “circulation” reads: “A dog on a walk is like a person in love. You can’t tell them it’s the same old world.”

He expects that by the end of the year, 42 poems will be appear in and around the city, many repeatedly.

Source: Marcus Young, artist in residence, St. Paul  
Writer: Anna Pratt

$200,000-in-progress Forage Modern Workshop to help revitalize East Lake Street

A former carpenters' union office on East Lake Street in Minneapolis is being re-imagined as the Forage Modern Workshop.

Brownsmith Restoration is redeveloping the building, which will house its offices along with a furniture store and a brand/idea workshop, according to Brownsmith partner James Brown.

It’ll take nearly $200,000 to turn it around, he says. (Check out its progress here.)

Forage will feature local furniture makers who specialize in modern and vintage designs, he says, adding, “It’ll be kind of like Design Within Reach but on more of a local scale.”

Small manufacturers and designers will sell new and existing lines in the store. Certain home goods, such as specialty wallpaper, will also be available. “It’ll be a curated store, with stuff that we think is really cool,” he says.

Inside, there will also be a café, which will be furnished with tables and chairs from the shop.

The redesign of the 1951 building will reflect its roots with a mid-century modern aesthetic. Reclaimed oak paneling is just one way that Brownsmith will create that, he says.

Forage’s store will launch online first, within the coming weeks, while the café will be ready within six months, according to Brown.

Already, Brown is thinking about ways to make the place, which sat vacant for a year, a destination.

In the future, the building could also be a drop-off location for community-supported agriculture (CSA). It's already hosted various performance art activities. “We’re trying to make ourselves culturally significant,” he says.

East Lake Street is “an important commercial part of the city,” he says. “We want to help redevelop it,” and that, he adds, will “help the surrounding properties a ton.”

Source: James Brown, Brownsmith Restoration
Writer: Anna Pratt

Sculpture designs sought for $400K Sheridan Veterans Memorial Park project

Soon, a memorial honoring veterans will have a spot on the south end of Sheridan Memorial Park in Northeast Minneapolis, which has views of the Mississippi River.  
 
The $400,000 public art installation has been in the works for five years, according to Deborah Bartels, a project manager from the Park Board.
 
Local veterans collaborated with the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO) to enhance the new park, which eventually will hook up with the regional trail system along the river, with various amenities, including picnic areas, playgrounds, and more, she says.
 
University of Minnesota designers came up with a concept for the site. The plan for the memorial was presented at a Feb. 21 open house at Park Board headquarters. Soon, the board will select an artist for the sculpture through a competitive application process.   
 
A sculpture that speaks to “memorial and sacrifice” will go into the middle of a circular plaza, the Park Board’s website states.
 
Surrounding the sculpture will be vertical markers that speak to the nine conflicts that Minnesotans have fought in. They’ll give some background on the wars, including personal anecdotes.  
 
An “empty” marker will “represent the precarious nature of peace,” according to Park Board information.   
 All along the way will be paths, benches, and green space; trees will ring the outer edge. 
 
As for the sculpture, “We’d like to see what people come up with,” says Bartels. “We don’t want it to be representational.” The idea is to do something that’s “contemplative in nature,” she says.
 
Site work will wrap up by Veterans Day this year, while the main sculpture will be finished in time for Memorial Day in 2013.
 
Source: Deborah Bartels, project manager, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Writer: Anna Pratt
 

Videotect 2 picks winning videos with sustainable transportation theme

Videotect 2, the second annual video competition from Architecture Minnesota magazine, got people thinking in many different directions about sustainable transportation.
 
The 39 submissions included everything from an old-timey PSA about the benefits of walking to a Super Bowl-commercial-inspired video about getting around in the future.
 
The grand prizewinner, "SaddleBag," which won a $2,000 prize, was announced at the competition’s March 1 screening at the Walker Art Center. (Watch it below.)
 
Gaardhouse and Shelter Architecture teamed up on the video, which was tongue-in-cheek yet informative. “I hope more outfits take a cue from it,” Hudson says. “It had a great story line with lots of facts and it was easy to read and understand the diagrams.”   
  
The most popular video among viewers, which also received a $2,000 check, was “Twin Cities Trails,” by Steven Gamache, Matt Herzog, Ben Lindau, Chris Lyner, and Mike Oertel. It showed a 1980s hair band that sang about the Twin Cities’ unmatched trail system. “It spoofed Queen amazingly,” he says, adding, “It was inventive and funny.”   
 
The $500 honorable mention awards went to the “Church of Automobility,” by Michael Heller and Ryan O’Malley, “A Fistful of Asphalt,” by John Akre, “Over/Under,” by Daniel Green, and “Sustainable Transportation,” by Ryan Yang. 
 
In general, guidelines for the 30- to 120-second videos were pretty open-ended. The pieces just had to “present a point of view on transportation choices, their impact on the environment and human health, and the role that design can play in enhancing them,” according to a statement about the competition.
 
Why is the magazine doing it? “The crux of it is, trying to bring more voices and creativity into urban design debates. It can be dry stuff, but it’s so important to the quality of our lives and how we design cities,” Hudson says. Videotect is a “great way to have fun with it, to make it entertaining to get at some of these issues that we keep debating as citizens.”

That's evident in the fact that the contest drew more submissions this year, and online voting spiked by 250 percent, he says.
 
Source: Chris Hudson, editor, Architecture Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

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Videotect 2: SaddleBag from Architecture Minnesota on Vimeo.


The Mill creates space for 'makers' of all types to collaborate

The Mill is a kind of coworking space for "makers" in the industrial arts. 

It includes a woodworking and metal shop, classroom, laser cutting and three-dimensional printing equipment, and a gallery space in its Northeast Minneapolis building, according to its website.

Previously, the 6,000-square-foot warehouse space was occupied by the Land O’Lakes company and later, a company called Hillcrest Development, according to The Mill’s founder, Brian Boyle.

Most recently, the warehouse had been used to manufacture washers and dryers before it sat vacant for some time, he adds.

When Boyle started to build out The Mill, which officially opened on Jan. 21, the space had an open floor plan, “with no walls or phone. It was just a big box,” he says.

That being said, “It’s a great location with great light,” he says, adding, “One wall is all windows.”

Right now, Boyle is still in the process of dividing the space to accommodate different kinds of maker-related activities, including an area for large assembly projects. 

“Making” is a new term that literally describes making things, "something that has been going on forever," he says. Boyle, who took inspiration from similar places in San Francisco, wants to “add the capabilities that this equipment affords for whoever wants to do it.” 

In this setting, “Anyone who wants to fabricate something can collaborate with others.”

“One of the great benefits is the idea of shared resources,” he says. “It’s hard to justify the purchase of this equipment for individuals.” It’s also a way to train people to use the equipment safely and responsibly.

Further, with people who have different areas of expertise to turn to, “It expands people’s creativity and what they can do.”
 

Source: Brian Boyle, The Mill
Writer: Anna Pratt

An artistic solution to revitalizing Eat Street

Soon, a portion of the commercial corridor in Minneapolis’s Whittier neighborhood will become a temporary outdoor gallery space.

Original artwork from local artists will dress up a number of vacant storefront windows on Eat Street (Nicollet Avenue) in April, and will stay up for about six weeks.

It’s a creative way to showcase art and to advertise spaces that need to be leased, according to Joan Vorderbruggen, who is coordinating the project through the Whittier Business Association.

Vorderbruggen, who is a Whittier resident, says that local photographer Wing Young Huie, whose community-minded work has graced various storefronts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, inspired her.

After doing some digging, Vorderbruggen, who designs window displays for businesses professionally, stumbled upon similar programs in other cities across the country that had been successful. “The spaces have been leased a lot faster when they’ve participated in this,” she says.  

Seeing that, she approached the Whittier Business Association, which was supportive.

Right now, the Business Association is applying for grant money to help offset the pilot program's costs, but it'll mainly be a do-it-yourself-kind of thing, she says.

Separately, the Longfellow neighborhood has a similar project underway, which The Line covered here.

This week, the group is putting out a call for artists; artists who live, work, or go to school in the neighborhood can apply to submit work to the project. It can include paintings, sculpture, fashion, yarn bombing, and murals, or just about anything else that’s doable as a window display, she says.  

The neighborhood group will also be lining up a number of business and property owners who are willing to participate, with a goal of getting at least 6 to 10 storefronts in the mix.  

Besides giving artists a venue to show their work, it’s about revitalizing and beautifying the corridor. “It’s kind of a free staging service to property owners,” she says. “It brings foot traffic to the space.”   

When the exhibit opens up in April, the group will host walking tours of the storefront displays. “The hope is that you’ll be walking down Eat Street and there’ll be art everywhere,” Vorderbruggen says.  


Source: Joan Vorderbruggen, artist, Whittier
Writer: Anna Pratt

Indeed Brewing to go into rehabbed Solar Arts Building

Soon, a building in Minneapolis's Northeast Arts District that sat vacant for a year will become a hub for beer, art, and solar power.

It's been dubbed the Solar Arts Building, according to Nathan Berndt, a cofounder of Indeed Brewing Company, which will be its anchor tenant on the first floor.

In the past, the 1914 building had various uses, including housing a Sears Roebuck distribution center and more recently, an electrical transformer company, before it went through foreclosure stages, according to Indeed Brewing information.

Besides the brewery, artist-geared spaces, some of which have already been snatched up, will fill the building's remaining two floors.

It’s an ideal location for the new brewing company, which recently signed a lease for the space with building owner Duane Arens, Berndt says. “We’re involved in the community and we support being in a place for people to come together,” especially artists, he says. “We like being around creative people.”

Another dimension of the brewing company will be a public taproom, for which the design is still being developed.

A strong visual feature will be the building’s original wood columns, which lend a turn-of-the-last-century warehouse feel, he says.

Sustainability is also an important aspect of the building’s overall rehab. On the building’s rooftop a sizable solar array will be installed. It’s also getting new energy-efficient windows and mechanical systems, Berndt says.  

The effort to go green is something that’s important to the brewing company, as well, he adds.

“This sleepy dead-end adjacent to the Northstar Commuter Rail tracks will be a bustling intersection of art, craft beer, solar power, and urban revitalization,” the brewing company’s website states.

Indeed plans to open this summer.

Source: Nathan Berndt, cofounder, Indeed Brewing Company
Writer: Anna Pratt









Historic Uptown Theatre to undergo extensive renovation

The historic Uptown Theatre, a well-known fixture in Minneapolis’s Uptown area, closed on Jan. 31 for renovations.

Its operator, Landmark Theatres, which is based in Los Angeles, plans to reopen the place this spring, according to a prepared statement from the company.

The 900-seat theater is a destination for foreign, art and cult films, including the long-running "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
 
As a part of the renovation, Landmark plans to turn the concession stand into a full bar, according to a prepared statement from the company. The theater will also get a giant new screen, luxury seats, and a digital projector. Its distinctive neon sign will remain intact, and  and so will its balcony, which is one of the few of its era in use locally.

The existing Uptown Theatre was constructed in 1939 after the 1913 building on the site burned down. Originally it was known as the Lagoon Theater.

It’s defined by a classic Streamline Moderne style employed by its designers, architecture firm Liebenberg and Kaplan, which also did the Suburban World Theatre down the street, according to the Star Tribune.

The Uptown Theater last underwent a major remodeling in the late 1960s, the Star Tribune story states.   

Alicia Garatoni, who works at Keller Williams Realty and serves as the vice president of the Uptown Association, welcomes the changes. “I’m thrilled, both as someone who loves independent and foreign films and has a business in the Uptown area.”  

“It’s in keeping with the forward movement of Uptown,” including the remodel of Calhoun Square and a number of other area renovations and development projects. “I’m glad it’s getting attention and will drive traffic into the Uptown area.”  

She says it’ll help the area be a well-rounded destination center. “So much is going on in Uptown,” she says. “There’s a lot of reasons to come to Uptown and this is just one more.”  

“I love [the theater] because it has an old-time feeling to it. It’s so charming,” she adds.   

Source: Alicia Garatoni, realtor, Keller Williams and vice president, Uptown Association  
Writer: Anna Pratt

New Butcher & the Boar restaurant mural livens up 12th and Hennepin

A vibrant mural at 12th Street and Hennepin Avenue South uniquely calls attention to the coming Butcher and the Boar restaurant while also sprucing up a previously nondescript corner.

Local artist Adam Turner, whose work also adorns Creative Lighting in St. Paul and the Surly Brewery in Minneapolis, says, "All the work the company is doing is really upping the beauty of that area. That building was kind of rundown. It’s bringing new life to it.” 

The 20-foot by 20-foot mural, which could be enlarged later, pictures a blond-haired woman who is poised with a vintage-looking bicycle. A silhouette of the Minneapolis skyline is behind her while oversized stalks of wheat frames the figure.

It's characterized by fall colors.

On the whole, the image speaks to the clientele the restaurant is planning to attract along with the area’s bike and beer culture, he says. "The mural is about the vibe [the restaurateurs] want to have."

As if to demonstrate that, a woman who resembled the figure in the mural, who had a similar bike, posed in front of the scene one night for a photo.  

The mural came together over the summer and fall months.

During that time, the parking lot that the mural faces was being redone, so he worked in the mud. Nevertheless, he’s enjoyed being in the elements.

Already attracted a lot of comments from passersby who spotted him working. “Hopefully a lot of people will see it and like it.”   

He hopes it paves the way for other businesses to do more work like this and “not be afraid to come up with a proposal that’s a little fun and expressive of its views.”

Source: Adam Turman, mural artist, Butcher and the Boar
Writer: Anna Pratt

Dominium Development surveys the arts community to help shape live/work spaces

To gauge  interest in a couple of its redevelopment projects, Plymouth-based Dominium Development and Acquisition hosted a community meeting on Jan. 9 at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.

Dominium plans to convert two historic sites--the old Jacob Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul and Pillsbury ‘A’ Mill in Minneapolis--into artist live/work spaces. (See The Line’s stories here and here.)

With the help of PLACE, a nonprofit agency that specializes in this kind of housing, Dominium has created an online survey to get additional input.

The survey asks people to weigh in on everything from possible rent prices to amenities, to help shape the common spaces and individual units in both developments.

Owen Metz, a senior development associate at Dominium, says that the company wants to “assess the market, to see what interest there is from the arts community,” adding, “We want to find out what their motivations are for living there.”

Dominium is hoping to hear from 10,000 area artists. “We’ll use the feedback to guide and drive some of the decisions moving forward, as we design units and common spaces,” which will allow for flexibility in the design, he says.

He adds that the company is reaching out to artists working in many different media.  

Depending on the survey’s results, a photography studio, for example, could be incorporated into one or both of the housing projects.  

Whatever the reaction is, “We’ll take it to heart and try to accommodate it as much as we can,” he says.

Source: Owen Metz, senior development associate, Dominium Development
Writer: Anna Pratt

New map makes navigating the skyways easier

Last winter, when Matt Forrester worked in downtown Minneapolis, he often took the skyways to get around, but, at first it was challenging to find his way.

Forrester, who then worked at Thrivent Financial, frequently used the indoor walkways to get to the Minneapolis Convention Center. It took about five tries to master his route.

“It’s a terribly confusing system if you’re not there day-to-day, or if you’re not in your own office," he says.

That's where his cartography skills came in handy. Around the same time, he and his business partner, Kate Chanba, started a map-making company, Carticulate.

The existing skyway map, which the city has been using for a long time, is “really bad. There are a few things wrong,” for starters, and it’s difficult for those who are color-blind to read.

Forrester and Chanba put together an alternative skyway map to address those issues. When they published it online, it led to a huge spike on their website, he says.  

Subway maps like Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground inspired them.

Their map shows multiple ways to get from point A to point B. Each building acts as a subway “stop” with seven different “lines,” which are color-coded.

They eliminated the background geography, such as cross streets, which helped simplify things. “Most people aren’t leaving the skyways,” he says.

Their goal is to get the map into the skyways, with some corresponding signage. “It definitely trumps any other map that’s out there,” he says, since other maps don’t clearly show connecting routes that go through multiple buildings. 

The challenge is that there’s no one entity governing the skyways.

Even though the pair moved their company to New York this month, they're staying the course. “We’d love to help out the area and benefit the city. We want to do what we can to make it better.”

Source: Matt Forrester, Carticulate
Writer: Anna Pratt

Following $500,000 build-out, George and the Dragon pub to open in Southwest Minneapolis

A new brewpub that takes its cues from old England,  George and the Dragon, is coming to Southwest Minneapolis. 

Fred Navarro, who co-owns the business with his wife, Stacy, says that the first hurdle was to get neighborhood approval. From there, the pair got to work on the financial side of things. “That’s been the long part of the process,” he says.

George and the Dragon will have about 1,850 square feet in a newly-constructed building that replaces  one that burned down a couple of years ago. It's a one-story structure with a brick facade and a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood feel, he says.

The retail shop Patina will join the pub in the building, along with a to-be-announced tenant.

George and the Dragon is starting from scratch, in terms of the build-out and equipment, he says.

Navarro and his wife worked closely with architect John Abbott to recreate the feel of a traditional English bar or “public house,” one that “feels like it’s been there a long time.”

“Ultimately a public house is a place for the community and for neighbors to gather,” he says. “That was kind of a driving factor for what we wanted the design to look like.” 

The Atwater-based company TimeWorn is creating a wood-paneled interior in the pub, using reclaimed wood. In the basement will be a kitchen, offices and storage, and cooler space.

Altogether, the project totals nearly $500,000, Navarro says. The couple hope to open the pub by April 1.

Source: Fred Navarro, co-owner, George and the Dragon
Writer: Anna Pratt
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