| Follow Us:

Development News

601 Articles | Page: | Show All

Arcanum's secret society promises immersive experience

The storied history of the Cathedral Hill neighborhood in St. Paul includes gangsters, Prohibition, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Gatsby, and of course W. A. Frost. The restaurant and bar (with a summer patio no one can resist) is named for the pharmacist who opened his fabled apothecary (which sold “medicinal wines and liquors”) in the 1889 Dacotah Building. Today the creative thinkers at W. A. Frost are not only purveyors of “upscale unwinding,” as Robert Crew, director of food and beverage operations describes the iconic establishment’s vibe, but history buffs as well. And they’ve hatched an exciting new program for the likeminded.
 
It’s called the Arcanum Secret Society: a four-part series of immersive cocktail parties in historical places. Arcanum launches on November 25, and will occur again on February 7, and in April and June at “secret” locations. The first one? Not so secret anymore: The elegant Art Deco bar in the former Commodore Hotel. Once home to the Fitzgeralds and Sinclair Lewis—and reportedly a stop for bootlegger John Dillinger—the Commodore played a leading role in St. Paul’s Roaring 20s social scene.
 
That historical era will be the theme of the first Arcanum event, which is also “soft opening” for the newly remodeled Commodore. Arcanum participants, Crew says, “will be among the first to see the re-imagined space. It will truly be like stepping back in time, as though you were rubbing elbows with F. Scott and Zelda.”
 
The ticket price ($110 per person) includes classic craft cocktails assembled in part using a Prohibition era-style white whiskey from 11 Wells. Guests also enjoy passed canapes provided by W.A. Frost and live music. “For the cost of a typically upscale dinner you'll get food and beverages—plus an unforgettable experience. It's not an everyday occasion. It's a unique opportunity,” Crew says.
 
The idea for Arcanum had been brewing for a while, Crew adds, and extends W. A. Frost’s singular brand. “W.A. Frost has a reputation for facilitating ‘upscale unwinding.’ It's refined, but not stuffy. That's the exact kind of vibe that Arcanum has,” he explains. “So while the events aren't necessarily at W.A. Frost (in fact, we can't tell you where they all are!), they each exhibit that signature quality.”
 
Arcanum is working in concert with Commonwealth Properties on the series, which owns the Dacotah Building, the Commodore Hotel and other historic St. Paul properties. “Commonwealth Properties makes a point of uncovering some of the city's most iconic architectural treasures, and making them relevant to today while preserving all of the historic detail and charm,” Crew says.
 
“The Arcanum event series itself is somewhat of a throwback—the intimacy and secrecy of the events evoke the speakeasy and the Prohibition Era,” he continues. “That's fitting, since all of the Commonwealth Properties served as ‘witness’ to that time in St. Paul's history. Each Arcanum event will be held at a location that has historical significance and each event will feature an immersive cultural experience.”
 

Paddy Shack brings Irish fare to Half Time Rec

Goodbye frozen pizza. Hello savory shepherds pie, Irish poutine with crème fraiche and brown bread with Kerrygold butter. Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald, who elevated bar food to an art in the kitchen of the 1029 Bar in Northeast Minneapolis as a start-up to the now award-winning Smack Shack in Minneapolis' North Loop, have done it again. This time the venture is Paddy Shack at The Rec, at the Half Time Rec in Como Park in St. Paul, best known until now for bocce ball in the basement, Irish music and dancing, and a decidedly laid-back vibe with beer prices to match.
 
Thoma and Fitzgerald teamed up with Jack Riebel, formerly of Butcher & the Boar, to build out a kitchen at The Rec and develop an Irish-inflected menu—including a lobster and cream sauce sandwich with a dash of whiskey dubbed The Dublin Lawyer that solidifies the culinary connection with Smack Shack. The dogs come wrapped in bacon with pickled green tomatoes and jalapeños or in beer cheese sauce, macaroni and Serrano pesto. Clearly, no one needs to leave hungry anymore.
 
Brothers Steve Mars and Scott Mars, who co-own The Rec, haven’t forsaken the dive-bar feeling or décor, despite the food upgrade. The Rec remains a beloved neighborhood bar—with a difference.
 
The brothers selected St. Paul native Riebel, a 2013 finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef in the Midwest, because of his credentials, ingenuity and connections with Thoma and Fitzgerald: They’re all working on a redo of The Lexington, at Grand and Lexington avenues in St. Paul, as well. Meanwhile, The Rec’s added more than a dozen full- and part-time kitchen positions to ensure the food keeps coming.
 

Union Depot muralist honored with installation and exhibition

In 2005, Atlanta-based painter Ralph Gilbert received a fellowship in mural painting from the National Academy of Design Museum. His topic was the multicultural history of Minnesota railroads. The destination for his six murals was St. Paul’s Union Depot. After Gilbert conducted extensive historical research, he spent seven months painting the panels, working on them at the same time to ensure continuity in style.
 
On Thursday, from 6-8 p.m., the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) will guide visitors from its Project Space in downtown St. Paul to Gilbert’s murals, which are on display on the west wall of the Grand Waiting Room at Union Depot. Concurrently, MMAA is showcasing an exhibition “Ralph Gilbert: Studies for Union Depot,” through December 7. The show includes selections from Gilbert’s preparatory work including 10 drawings, four watercolors, four oil sketches on panel, and nine oil paintings.
 
The niches at Union Depot that hold Gilbert’s murals are tall and narrow, measuring 16-feet high by six-feet wide, with arched tops. “The challenge for Gilbert,” according to a press release issued by MMAA, “was developing each composition within the unconventional proportions.”
 
The concurrent exhibition at MMAA’s Project Space, says Christina Chang, Curator of Engagement, MMAA, “presents a very small selection of Ralph’s extensive process, and also shows how he worked through ‘problems’ or compositional challenges. It’s a unique opportunity to see these materials so close at hand to the finished work.”
 
Gilbert’s subject matter includes the Mississippi River and the Dakota tribe that made way for white settlement; Union Depot’s historical connection to the former Rondo community; the arrival of European immigrants to Minnesota via Union Depot; and the deployment of soldiers from the Union Depot during two world wars.
 
MMAA’s collaboration with Union Depot represents a long-held desire to engage the Depot’s commitment to public art with MMAA’s dedication to strengthening its connection to Lowertown, Chang says. “The exhibition presented the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s rare to have an exhibition of preparatory work so close to the final piece, especially with public art, so we’re hopping visitors will take advantage of the opportunities to see both venues on the same trip.”
 
Chang adds that mural installation, in concert with MMAA’s exhibition, brings well-warranted attention to Gilbert and his work. “So often, artists are lost in the history behind public art.”
 
 
 

Rayette Lofts: Renovation brings historic structure back in style

Despite the prominent corner it occupies at E. 5th and Wall in St. Paul’s Lowertown, the Rayette Building has always been a bit nondescript in the public imagination—perhaps because for the last 15 years, the concrete structure was a parking garage. The Rayette Building has a storied history, however. And last Thursday, the historic structure celebrated its most recent chapter as the restored and repurposed Rayette Lofts.
 
Now home to 88 market-rate apartments, with a roof deck overlooking the Mississippi River, St. Paul Farmers Market and new St. Paul Saints baseball stadium, Rayette Lofts adds to the “critical mass of residential developments, and entertainment and cultural amenities that are the recipe for sustained success in Lowertown,” says Will Anderson, associate project manager, Sherman Associates.
 
Sherman developed the seven-story, 145,600-square-foot structure in collaboration with Kass Wilson Architects in Bloomington. Because the project was created using federal and state historic tax credits, Sherman and Kass Wilson also worked in consultation with the National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Office and St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission.
 
“We needed to make sure our modifications were done in a historically appropriate manner that complied with the historic context of the building and the neighborhood,” explains Ryan DuPuis, project designer, Kass Wilson. The preservation process also involved extensive research into the Rayette Building’s history.
 
In 1911, Joseph Strong and H.F. Warner opened their large wholesale millinery business in the building. In 1936, Raymond E. Lee, a University of Minnesota graduate and creator of a permanent-wave treatment for women’s hair, had moved into and renamed the building Raymond Laboratories. By 1951, Lee had changed his company’s name to Rayette. The company’s products were famous for creating the Rayette Wave. In 1963, Rayette introduced Aqua Net, which became the top-selling hairspray in the United States.
 
Rayette also acquired the Faberge cosmetic and fragrance company in the 1960s, but vacated the building by 1971. In 1997, the Heritage Preservation Commission approved a plan for the building to be converted into a parking garage. During the building’s recent conversion to residential units, Kass Wilson was charged with removing a ramp that wound from the first to the top floors, and replacing the cavernous opening with elevator shafts, egress stairs and vertical ductwork for new mechanicals.
 
Because the original windows had been removed or badly damaged, DuPuis says, the architects also studied historic photos, and sought out original remnants “and whatever else we could salvage to recreate the historic window openings and arrangements, and mullion patterns.”
 
In addition to floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of Lowertown, the units have polished gypconcrete floors, and corrugated concrete ceilings and brick walls original to the building. The structure’s columns were also left exposed in the living units, the spacious lobbies on each floor and in the second-level party room.
 
“All concrete is not created equal,” DuPuis says. “The Rayette Building was slowly deteriorating. We got to it just in time.” He credits Sherman with having the foresight to invest in the building and lead its adaptive reuse.
 
“We could have lost that corner of history in Lowertown,” DuPuis adds. “By enclosing, protecting and converting the structure to a new use as Rayette Lofts, we’ve reinforced the limestone façade and historic feel of the street for another 100 years.”
 
 
 

Sioux Chef brings indigenous cuisine to Minneapolis

Minneapolis-based chef and Oglala Lakota member Sean Sherman is about to open the Sioux Chef, a first-of-its-kind restaurant that will serve locally sourced “pre-colonization” cuisine. Sherman is in the final stages of selecting a space, most likely along Seward’s Franklin Avenue or along East Lake Street. He wants to be “as close as possible to the heart of the Twin Cities’ indigenous community,” he says.
 
Depending on the condition of the space, the Sioux Chef’s doors could be open as early as December, but the first quarter of 2015 is more likely. When the restaurant opens, Sioux Chef will be the first in the country to serve a menu comprised exclusively of regional indigenous dishes that only use ingredients available prior to first contact with European settlers.
 
Sherman’s approached means no wheat, soy or other staples we currently take for granted. In addition to bison, elk, duck, perch and other fish and game species—often dried or cooked over an open flame—Sherman will incorporate such native plants as wild rice, wild turnips, chokecherries and sumac berries.
 
His flavors and technique are pitch-perfect. Though indigenous populations were decimated during the 19th and 20th centuries, there remains a strong cultural memory among older Lakota, Ojibwe and others. “People constantly tell me that my dishes taste like what their grandparents made,” he says.
 
One concession to modern realities: The Sioux Chef won’t serve wild-caught game, says Sherman, due to a lack of available processing facilities capable of satisfying health authorities. The restaurant’s bison and elk, among other species, will come from nearby ranches.
 
Nor will Sherman be dogmatic in his approach. “First contact” is a blurrier concept than many realize, he says. For example, dandelions probably arrived on the Eastern Seaboard with the first wave of white explorers and spread across the continent within 50 years, far faster than the Europeans who brought them. So Native Americans may have cooked with them long before setting eyes on the first settler—and that’s good enough for Sherman.
 
The Sioux Chef concept arose accidentally, when Sherman—then La Bodega’s executive chef—decided to write a traditional Lakota cookbook. After some digging, he realized there was very little recorded information about what the Lakota ate before Europeans arrived. Most of the recipes he found were from the Southwest. Even those “were basically Tex-Mex with some Native influence,” he says. Supposedly authentic foods from the Upper Midwest, like fry bread, only appeared after the introduction of white flour and other European staples.
 
Traveling extensively across Minnesota and his native Dakotas, Sherman eventually pieced together an exhaustive list—“too many to count”—of native plants, fungi and game species used by pre-colonial populations. He also researched traditional preparation and preservation techniques, like meat dehydration.
 
Until the restaurant opens this winter, the Sioux Chef is a mobile catering and education unit. Sherman travels to food-, health- and Native American-themed events throughout the Twin Cities and the greater Midwest, serving locally sourced dishes (some of which may appear on the Sioux Chef’s restaurant menu) and explaining his approach to pre-colonization cooking. Recent appearances include a diabetes conference and traditional medicine gathering
 
So far, Sherman says, support for the Sioux Chef is beyond what he expected. He was in Ohio last weekend for Roots 2014, a major gathering of celebrity chefs and nutrition experts, and “a huge deal for the Sioux Chef’s exposure,” he says.
 
Public enthusiasm may lead to bigger things for the Sioux Chef. “After I get the restaurant going, my ultimate goal is to hone this business model and expand with additional locations under different names,” he says. Since naturally available ingredients vary so much from place to place—“even from here to the other side of Wisconsin, the availability is totally different,” he says—the food at pre-colonization restaurants would vary widely from city to city.
 
“It’s funny that you can get food from almost anywhere in the world [in the Twin Cities],” he adds. “The only food you can’t get yet is the food that came from right here.” Sioux Chef will change that.
 
 
 

Frame by Frame shop provides gallery space in Dow Building

Within the unassuming Dow Building at 2242 University Avenue in St. Paul are studios in which more than 30 painters, woodworkers, metalworkers and photographers create their work. Now an innovative framing business with a unique model is giving the inner creativity of the Dow Building an outwardly visible face.
 
Khanh Tran opened Frame by Frame in the building’s storefront in September and plans to have his frame shop double as a gallery for artists in the Dow Building. Rather than take a commission on works that sell out of the shop, he charges artists a flat monthly rate to display their work. So far, 16 artists from the building have taken him up on the offer.
 
A frame shop needs artwork to frame and display, while artists need a clean, sleek space to show and sell their work. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Tran says. He designed the space with crisp white walls and professional grade track lighting.
 
As a tenant of the Dow Building for several years, Tran had been watching the storefront space for some time. He previously rented a small studio in the building to store his framing equipment while pursuing other interests. He developed relationships with many of the artists and makers in the building during that time, making the new gallery arrangement a natural fit.
 
Tran credits his entrepreneurial spirit to his parents. His father was a tailor, his mother a seamstress. Together, they built Tran’s Tailors, a chain of tailor shops throughout the Twin Cities. “They worked hard for it,” Tran says. “It’s not easy to open five businesses from nothing. That’s where I get my drive.”
 
The Trans’ family story of success in the face of adversity began on a boat in the Pacific Ocean in 1978. Looking to escape war-torn Vietnam, Khanh’s father saved what little money he could and bought a 30-foot boat. He boarded his 4-year old son and 20 other children and 10 adults to set out for a more prosperous life. “He wanted to escape Vietnam for the better,” Tran say.
 
The boat arrived in Japan and the passengers were moved to a refugee camp, where eventually they were given entry visas to the U.S. The family again packed up their belongings and headed for Bloomington, Minnesota, where Khanh’s uncle lived. Khanh Tran went to college and discovered framing as a potential profession. He stopped into a local gallery and asked if they needed help. “They hired me on the spot, taught me how to frame and taught me how to sell art,” he says.
 
Tran went on to open his own frame shop and gallery space in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis in a storefront across the street from the Northern Clay Center. He then moved to Montana with his wife. There he opened a successful automobile detail shop.
 
Now, back in the Twin Cities, Tran feels he’s landed in the right place to pursue his first passion: framing and selling beautiful original art. “The reason I continue is I like to see the art and I like to have a hand in making that art look even better,” Tran says.
 
 
 

Greening the Green Line with POPS

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

St. Paul Bicycle Plan widens its scope

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

Conflict brewing over warehouse next to Schmidt Artist Lofts

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

Heirloom Project introduces native plants to South Minneapolis garages

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

Herbivorous Butcher plans first meatless “butcher” shop

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

Goodwill targets millennials with Gina + Will concept

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

The Shed adds unique green space to Crown Center

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

Floating Library makes its 2014 debut on Cedar Lake

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

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

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

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


 

Wander North brings more micro spirits to Minneapolis

Wander North Distillery recently became the latest micro-distillery to open in Minneapolis, when owner Brian Winter cut the ribbon at the new location in Northeast Minneapolis with City Councilmember Kevin Reich.
 
Thanks to legislation passed in 2011 that significantly lowered a $30,000 annual permit fee for distillers in Minnesota, Winter says he was able to turn his long-time interest in the history of spirits and drinking in America into a viable business.
 
“Liquor production is tied hand-in-hand with the rise of the United States,” Winter argues. “Unlike brewing and beer, there hadn’t been the resurgence of locally produced spirits yet.” Minneapolis’ first micro-distillery, Norseman, opened last year.
 
Wander North’s first spirit, Outpost Vodka, is made from 100 percent Minnesota grown corn sourced from a supplier in Rosemount. Referencing the mutually supportive craft brewing community in Northeast, Winter says he is also pursuing plans for collaboration with local craft brewers, including Northgate Brewing, which recently expanded into a new space in the same building.
 
He hopes to take the wort (liquid extracted during the mashing process prior to adding yeast or hops) from Northgate’s Maggie’s Leap stout, ferment it, distill it and then age it in oak barrels. He would then hand the barrels back to Northgate to age the same beer in. “Then, sit and taste the whiskey and beer side by side,” he says. Winter is pursuing a similar collaboration with Sociable Cider Werks.
 
The state also passed legislation this past spring that allows for distilleries to have paid tasting rooms. The wait now is for Minneapolis to change its ordinance to allow for it, which Winter says is in the works.
 
Once the regulations are in place, Winter plans to launch a cocktail lounge on site. The lounge will feature two or three seasonal mainstay cocktails, along with several others that change on a weekly basis. “We’ll be limited to what is made at the distillery. But vodka is a pretty versatile starting point,” he says.
 
Wander North will donate at least 1 percent of its profits back to the community with an emphasis on veterans programs. Winter has served in the U.S. Military since 1993. Twelve of those years were on active duty, including as a platoon leader in Baghdad in 2004 and as a company commander in 2007. He currently serves as an assistant engineer officer with the Minnesota National Guard one weekend a month.
 
“A small business like Wander North is local. We pay local taxes, sell to people in the community and live in the community,” he says. “Why, if my business is successful, would I not want to give back to the community that helps me succeed?”
 
 
 
601 Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
0
Email
Print
Signup for Email Alerts