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Dead Media enlivens community around vinyl, books, tapes

Are 8-track tapes, vinyl records or even books anachronisms? Not at Dead Media.

The new shop, which recently opened in Southeast Minneapolis, was started by famed punk rocker Paul Dickinson (of the band Frances Gumm) with Paul Pashibin, John Kass and Joey Franklin. Together they’ve curated a collection of rare, sometimes valuable and occasionally quirky media relics.

“Come in with an open mind and I bet we have something cool for you,” Dickinson says.

Dead Media isn’t just another record store catering to the digital generation rediscovering its parents’ music—though Kass has put together an extensive selection of original press and rare vinyl. Serious collectors and bargain hunters looking to establish collections will find plenty of stock to sift through.

Dickinson’s eclectic collection of books for sale is equally intriguing and expansive. In addition to being able to pick up another copy of The Sun Also Rises, shoppers will also find rare and first edition books from literary icons like Roald Dahl or Phillip Ross, along with more obscure finds like the Sociology of the Salem Witch Trials or old yearbooks featuring Vikings super stars.

Pashibin is also plastering the store with out of print and rare posters, whose artfulness defies the disillusionment of passing generations. Other formats of “dead” media for sale include cassettes and 8-track tapes. Dead Media even operates a VHS rental club.  

“It’s kind of our way of laughing in the face of technology,” Dickinson says. “Everyone thought we would just be downloading everything on a computer…people have been predicting the death of books for 30 years, but people still love books.”

“We’re a store that takes it for granted that its patrons are thinking, cultured beings and not just animals programmed to buy things because they saw them on TV,” says Franklin, who helps manage the store.

Dead Media has an unmistakable anti-corporate mentality that hints at Dickinson’s punk rock roots. He used to own the all-ages rock club and arts venue Speed Boat Gallery from 1988-94, which hosted acts like Green Day and Bikini Kill before being shut down by the city. Dead Media is a more subdued endeavor, with an anti-establishment vein running through it nonetheless.

“It has the same kind of independent spirit I guess” as Speed Boat, Dickinson says of Dead Media. “We’re just trying to have fun with it and be spontaneous.”

Dead Media hopes to help cultivate community that naturally forms around the mutual appreciation of cultural objects forgotten by the “mainstream.”  The store is hosting regular poetry readings from local writers and hopes to offer even more events in the future.

While the space is a bit small for large-scale music events, Dickinson says he and his partners are looking to collaborate with a to-be-announced music venue in the Loring Park area to host shows.

Field guide explores Green Line's natural history

Hidden in the urban jungle of concrete and steel is a whole natural world waiting to be rediscovered and explored, says local artist and botanist Sarah Nassif. The new Green Line light-rail stations, she adds, are a great place to start.

Nassif’s new project, The Other Green Line, supported by Irrigate Arts, asks participants to start thinking of Green Line stations as not only jumping off points to previously unexplored businesses and restaurants, but also as trailheads leading to underappreciated natural beauty and history.

“The more you look, the more you see, and it happens really fast,” Nassif says of taking time to notice the natural world along the Central Corridor.

The Other Green Line is a field guide for amateur urban naturalists. Nassif organized the book into eight, themed nature “forays” along the Green Line.

One follows the path of a wayward black bear that took itself on a walk through the Frogtown neighborhood in 2012. Another explores the Kasota Wetlands near the Raymond Station, which are a remnant of a 1,000-acre backwater once fed by the free-flowing Mississippi.

The forays take participants through several different biomes—less identifiable today than they were 100 years ago. Lowertown was once dense forest, for instance. The area around the Victoria Station used to be prairie.

Tower Hill in Prospect Park is one of many glacial hills that once dotted the Minneapolis landscape before most were mined for gravel. Tower Hill still stands because neighbors bought the site and turned it into a park to keep it from being mined.

Tower Hill, Nassif says, “speaks volumes [about] how much the landscape changes because we’re here, and how people coming together and being aware together about nature can have a powerful effect on what’s here for future generations.”

In addition to the eight self-guided forays in the book, Nassif is leading a series of three tours. The first began at Bedlam Theater last Saturday and explored the white sandstone cliffs along the Mississippi River once used as natural refrigeration for kegs of beer, as well as pirate safe keeps and hideouts. Tour goers also noticed stones mined from area quarries and used in the Endicott Building at 141 E. 4th Street.

“It’s just interesting to stand there and realize you’re standing on what used be an ocean, that’s why the sandstone exists—it used to be the bottom of a sea,” Nassif says.

Also in the field guide are lists of area businesses for excursion supplies, and suggestions for where to cozy up to a beer and a meal when you’re finished. “There are tons of new places to explore both in the landscape and in the humanscape,” Nassif says.

Nassif’s field guide contains blank pages to draw and record what you find. You can also share your findings, sketches and stories on The Other Green Line website, where there is a list of area businesses carrying the book and information on upcoming guided tours.


Potter's Pasties emulates Tube station eatery

Potter’s Pasties, which started out with a food trailer and then a food truck, recently opened a storefront space at 1828 Como Ave. S.E. in Minneapolis.

The basement-level place, which specializes in an English-style pastry, is reminiscent of a food stop on the Tube, London’s underground train system.  

In the past, the space had been used as a delivery and take-out location for Broadway pizza, according to Potter’s owner Alec Duncan.

Potter’s doesn’t have street access, but bright signage helps show people the way, he says. Duncan sought out a brick-and-mortar location after demand for the pasties “shot through the roof. People wanted to take and bake the pasties and we were selling out all the time,” he says.

Although seating is limited in the space—it’s geared more for take-out—the location works well, especially with the number of students in the area who are always on the go, he says.

The place is decorated with pictures of England and other related paraphernalia that’s personal to Duncan and his wife and relates to their travels. Everything is British-themed, with a lot of red, white, and blue and a giant chalkboard, he adds. Additionally, his mother, a local artist, is working on a canvas to go in the space, and an exterior mural will soon be redone.

Duncan hopes the place helps to revive the small business scene in the area and can be “part of every part of the community,” he says.

Source: Alec Duncan, owner, Potter’s Pasties
Writer: Anna Pratt

Learning the ABCs on the light rail

An exhibit that highlights various sights along the Central Corridor light rail line and promotes literacy at the same time opened this month at the St. Anthony Park Branch Library in St. Paul.

The interactive exhibit, called the Alphabet Place, which first appeared at the Rondo Community Outreach Library this past summer, includes photos of letters that artist Amy Unger took while exploring the area around the light rail line. She used some of the “found” letters to create board games and a treasure hunt.

Some people might recognize certain letters she shot at local stores, offices, construction sites and elsewhere, along the light rail line.

Many of the letters are visible from Metro Transit’s number 6 bus route. In the library, children can search for the letters, which have been hidden here and there, throughout the children’s section.

“I can probably look at most of the letters and tell you where they’re from,” she says, adding that she almost got arrested a couple of times, snapping shots of letters from the street.

Unger, who is also a licensed elementary school teacher and a skilled typographer, has collected thousands of images of letters. Q’s and Z’s were among the most challenging letters to find.

Some letters are more whimsical or dynamic than others or new or old. “Some have a center like a face,” she says. “You get excited about the beauty and lines and shape of each letter.”  

It takes a lot of visual discernment to find the letters, which she says can help children strengthen eyesight and learn about the alphabet. “I find it lovely and fun,” she says. “I think letters and the alphabet should be endlessly charming and entertaining.”  

She also used nails and wires she found along the way, to form letters. The project has turned out to be an interesting way to see the area on foot, something she’d never done before. “I found the whole experience extremely moving,” she says.

Unger landed a $1,000 Irrigate grant to pursue the project, which she started in March.

The fact that the Irrigate grant was about placemaking and collaboration seems especially apropos given that, “I’m in love with University Avenue,” she says. “It was like an urban safari adventure. I have a great sense of place from doing it.”

Source: Amy Unger, artist
Writer: Anna Pratt


The Commons Hotel reflects location with geeky-chic aesthetic

After undergoing an extensive renovation, earlier this month a hotel near the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus rebranded itself as The Commons Hotel.

Rockbridge Partners in Ohio took over the 304-room hotel that was once a Radisson, last March, according to the Star Tribune.

Although she didn’t have an exact figure, Christa Hudson, a spokesperson for the project, says millions of dollars went into converting the place into a boutique hotel.

To do so, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, the hotel’s management company, drew inspiration from the locale, she says.  

Noble House wanted to “translate more of the area and reflect Minneapolis,” she says.

The result is a kind of industrial schoolhouse look, or “geek chic,” that relates to the backdrop of the nearby University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Campus. “The whole aesthetic is about learning and discovering,” she says.  

Design aspects like an argyle pattern that runs throughout the building, leather-upholstered furniture, a library lounge, and a fire pit create a studious yet comfortable feel, she says.

Also, the hotel will be offering special events like "alchemist mixology" lessons, “Words with Friends”-themed happy hours, and promotional packages with area cultural institutions.

These include a “geek to chic makeover at the Aveda Institute headquarters, Science Buzz meeting at the Science Museum of Minnesota, personal story and book creation at Loft Literary Center and tour of the world’s largest Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the University of Minnesota,” a prepared statement reads.  

The idea is to encourage people to explore the area, Hudson says.

Additionally, the hotel’s restaurant, the Beacon Public House, which will open in November, will be a gastropub with a locally sourced drink and food menu. Besides serving hotel guests, it’ll be a draw for people who live in the area, she says.

All in all, “The idea is that it’s not just me staying at The Commons,” she says. “It’s me in Minneapolis.”

Source: Christa Hudson, spokesperson from the Zimmerman Agency for The Commons Hotel
Writer: Anna Pratt

Surly continues its 'due diligence' on Malcolm Midway site

A long-vacant industrial site in Southeast Minneapolis is a serious contender for the $20 million destination brewery that Surly Brewing Co. is planning.

Surly, which is based in Brooklyn Center, is doing its due diligence on the “Malcolm Midway site,” as it's called, near Highway 280 and University Avenue.

The site makes sense for the brewery because it’s centrally located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it’s close to biking and walking trails and public transportation, including the coming Central Corridor light rail line, a company statement reads.

Also, the site is “zoned and sized well” for the project, and it fits in with the neighborhood’s master plan for redevelopment of the area, the statement adds.

However, the site was once the home of a food processing plant and has had numerous other industrial uses through the years; it requires significant environmental cleanup.

Surly has applied for grants to cover this cost, a process it expects to wrap up in January. In the meantime, the company continues to explore other possibilities as well. “This is a 100-year decision so we are being mindful, patient, and thorough with our search,” the statement reads.  

The brewery has been well-received by many stakeholders because “it will result in jobs, it will help refresh the area, and it will be a community gathering point for generations to come,” it states.  
Dick Gilyard, who is active with the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association (PPERIA), says that the neighborhood group has endorsed the preliminary plan.

Many community members want to see a rich mix of uses in the neighborhood, which includes the industrial lot that Surly is looking at. The idea is that the arts, science, housing, an historic district, and more, could come together to “make the entire area a destination,” he says, adding that Malcolm Avenue is a gateway to the area.

PPERIA has been proactive about its vision for the area, including the positioning of the Central Corridor light rail station, something that has implications for the brewery as well. Ultimately, that vision is “based on respect for the existing historical neighborhoods,” close to University Avenue, he says.

“Our big thing is that sites need to be planned collectively,” he says, adding, “So it’s mutually reinforcing.”  

If Surly does come to the area, it could demonstrate “what transit-oriented development can be like, with high-density attractions and uses and workplaces and living spaces [near] the line,” he says. “We’re very optimistic about this evolving in a way we’re all pleased with.” 

Source: Dick Gilyard, PPERIA
Writer: Anna Pratt

After receiving nearly $12,000 in grants, 'gateway mural' in Como neighborhood nears completion

In the past, a busy railroad underpass in Minneapolis’s Como neighborhood was dimly lit. Often its shadowy retaining walls were vandalized.

Today, the underpass is an attraction, with a colorful mural that conveys the neighborhood's vibe. 

A group led by representatives of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus's student and community relations office created the "gateway mural." It welcomes people to and from Como and campus, explains Ryan Pusch, who works for the university’s student and community relations office.

The mural’s design was inspired largely by feedback from the neighborhood, he says. It includes bright colors, bicyclists, joggers, a train and local landmarks such as the Stone Arch Bridge and Bunge Tower. Children’s illustrations are also incorporated onto one wall.

For example, one child’s work shows the earth, with a pair of hands around it. “It symbolizes caring about the world and the larger community,” Pusch says. 

Local artists Sara Udvig and Carly Schmitt, who came up with the design, have also worked with dozens of volunteers who’ve shown up for community painting days in recent weeks. “I’m glad we got to work with them and that they’ve stuck with it,” he says.    

Although the final touches are still being added, “It feels good to see it on the walls,” he says, adding that the creation of the mural has been a lengthy process. That has to do with the fact that the nearly $12,000 in grant money trickled in sporadically.   

The Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA), the fiscal sponsor of the mural, and the Student's Coop have helped bring in funding for the project and volunteers.  

“I’m proud of what we were able to cobble together over the past year,” Pusch says.

It's already a success, according to Pusch. “A lot of people are drawn to it,” he says, adding, “All of the responses we’re getting to it are ecstatically positive.”  

Source: Ryan Pusch, student and community relations, University of Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

Cycles for Change expands with $30,000 grant

Last month, Cycles for Change, a nonprofit bike shop, celebrated its expansion along University Avenue in St. Paul.

The shop, which has been around since 2001, strives to increase bike access for low-income and underserved populations in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to its website.

It has grown a lot over the past few years, and it needed more space to accommodate that, according to development and outreach director Jason Tanzman.

To carry that out, recently the shop, which was formerly known as the Sibley Bike Depot, received a $30,000 grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative

As a part of the project, the shop added 600 square feet to its existing 3,000 square feet, he says.

Through the project, the administrative area and workshop (where customers can work on their bikes), got more space, he says. The retail section moved to the storefront area while the walls got a fresh coat of paint and the floors were refinished.   

The shop has also been able to get improved signage for better street-level visibility, which is especially important considering the challenges of Central Corridor light rail transit line construction, he says.

Prior to the expansion, the bike shop was a bit out of the way in the building, he says.

Besides the phsyical changes, the place was able to increase its retail hours.   

All in all, the changes “enhance our ability to be a community organization and promote biking as a way to get around in combination with public transit," he says. 

Despite the momentum around biking right now, it can still be cost-prohibitive, especially for minorities and low-income people. “We need a level of intentionality about it so it’s not an upper-middle-class white thing, and that we’re able to expand the circle of who has access,” he says.   

Source: Jason Tanzman, development and outreach director, Cycles for Change
Writer: Anna Pratt

A sophisticated system to green up the Central Corridor

Running parallel to the construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line is a $5 million project to improve the quality of stormwater runoff along University Avenue in St. Paul.

It includes funding from Clean Water, the Capitol Region Watershed District, the city of St. Paul, Ramsey County, and the Metropolitan Council, according to project materials. 

The existing drainage system “conveys untreated stormwater runoff from paved surfaces to the Mississippi River, which is impaired for turbidity, nutrients and bacteria,” project materials state.

To change that, the project will use something called an “integrated tree trench system,” stormwater planters, rain gardens, and “infiltration trenches,” according to project materials.

Will Nissen, who writes for Hindsight on the Minnesota 2020 blog, explains in an online post that the state-of-the-art tree trenches will use “pervious pavers and structural soils to help trees grow and survive in extreme urban conditions.”

Additionally, “Strategically installed stormwater planters and rain gardens will help capture and filter contaminated water runoff that currently goes untreated into the Mississippi River,” he says.

The tree trench idea came out of various community meetings and a workshop, according to Mark Doneux, a representative of the Capitol Region Watershed District, which handles the aspects of the project that have to do with stormwater regulations.

In conjunction with the project, trees that have been lost in construction will be replaced, and 1,000 new trees will be added, too, which adds a challenging element. "Some of the commercial areas have a lot of pavement," says Doneaux, and it's tougher to maintain them. Often, urban trees only live for seven to eight years. "The city wants to find better practices for planting healthier urban trees." 

The challenge is that along the related portion of University Avenue in St. Paul, there’s “quite the web of utilities,” and the sidewalks need to be able to accommodate emergency vehicles, he says. To create a healthy rooting medium for trees, including pathways for air and water, the group went for a system that doesn’t use irrigation. “It was a bold step to say ‘let’s make this work,’” he says.  

The idea is to create a system that can serve as a template for other parts of the city and watershed. “This is a new practice. This isn’t tried and true,” Doneux says.   

In the future, he hopes that there might be some signage to describe the project. “No one knows there’s a pretty sophisticated effort [here] to have healthy urban trees and treat stormwater,” he says.  

Source: Mark Doneux, Capitol Region Watershed District  
Writer: Anna Pratt

Student housing development coming to U of M neighborhood near Central Corridor

CPM Property Management in Minneapolis has a student-housing complex in the works for the Stadium Village area near the University of Minnesota campus.

Although design plans are still coming together, part of the project involves a 12-story tower, according to Daniel Oberpriller of CPM.

About two-thirds of the building runs six stories, he says. The development will also have 36,000 square feet of retail space.

CPM worked with the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association (PPERRIA) to put together a task force with neighborhood representatives to fine-tine the details. “We’re getting to a place where the design is headed in the right direction,” he says. “It has a lot of moving components. We want it to look right.”

Oberpriller describes the two-acre parcel as a “gateway site” that’s highly visible from the nearby TCF Bank Stadium and the coming Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line. “We want to make sure it’s a quality building that’s appealing from all angles,” he says.  

To take advantage of that, CPM is collaborating with the university to landscape the building’s entryway.

The existing Arby’s restaurant, CSL Plasma location, and commercial space on the property would be torn down to make way for the building, according to Finance and Commerce.

Oberpriller says it’ll bring much-needed improvement to the area by adding density and contributing to a vibrant streetscape. “It brings students closer to the university and adds more retail that’s needed there,” he says.

The development, which is close to several other student housing projects that are under construction, hopes to break ground in December, according to Finance and Commerce.

Source: Daniel Oberpriller, CPM
Writer: Anna Pratt

U of M students turn campus plaza into a winter light show

A light spectacle set to music, called Aurora Digitalis, is transforming a plaza at the University of Minnesota’s civil engineering building on certain nights through Dec. 23. 

Mike Hepler, who is the vice president of the student-driven Nikola Tesla Patent Producers (NTP^2), which put it together, says its name “captures the spirit of these flashing lights and what it’s like to be up north.” 

The display includes more than 75,000 blue, green, white and red LED lights that are strewn about the trees, railings and other props in the plaza.  

As a part of the show, lights blink to the beat of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra song “Wizards in Winter” and the theme music to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” 

“It lights up more for more intense parts of the music,” speeding up or slowing down accordingly, he explains, adding, “It’s an immersive experience.” 

Hepler says that the idea for the project came from a student who is new to the group, Taylor Trimble. He'd seen footage of other light shows elsewhere and he wanted to try it out at the university. 

NTP^2 did a little historical digging, and the group believes this to be the university's first light show, he says. 

The U's College of Science and Engineering (CSE), Parsons Electric, and 3M backed the project, according to the Minnesota Daily.  

NTP^2 designed the circuits and soldered them together. “It was a lot of work,” Hepler says. “We designed and built it and put up all the lights,” except for those at the treetops. 

To pull it off under a tight deadline, “It took the full crew and all the people coming in between classes. It was inspirational to see that and be a part of it.” 

All in all, “It brings something unique to the campus,” Hepler says. “It’s something that represents the student presence and capabilities, especially within CSE.” 

Beyond that, it’s a way to “bring everyone together to create a vibrant communal base.”   

The group hopes to do a larger-scale light show next time, he says. 

Source: Michael Hepler, vice president, Nikola Tesla Patent Producers  
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Student liaisons to Como neighborhood help plan community mural

A group of University of Minnesota student-community liaisons are calling for a new mural in the Como neighborhood as a way to improve the landscape and bring people together.

Adam Arling, a recent university graduate who works for the school's student and community relations office, says, "We've been interested in using art as a device for building community" and as "a tool to brand our community."

It's where the idea came for a mural on a retaining wall in a highly trafficked crossing along 15th Avenue Southeast. This intersection "acts as a gateway corridor to campus and to Como," he says.

The poorly lit, somewhat dangerous intersection often gets tagged with graffiti. "We thought this would be a good opportunity to get the community to work together toward a common goal that's safer and more aesthetically pleasing."  

Local artists Sara Udvig and Carly Schmitt will work together on the mural, which will span 3,000 square feet along four walls, or a full block.

His office has been working to get feedback from community members about what common themes and values should be included in the design.

Many people have brought up the area's green spaces, Dinkytown, Bunge Tower, bike-ability and history.

Arling hopes the community will also help create the mural through a handful of workshops that are being planned.

Although the student-community liaisons have already been able to secure some grant money for the project with the help of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, the group needs neighborhood and city approval.  

And more funding is needed because "The original budget didn't account for this big of a process."

Source: Adam Arling, student liaison, Student and Community Relations at the University of Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

Weisman Art Museum chooses a winning design for its pedestrian plaza

The Weisman Art Museum (WAM) in Minneapolis, which recently reopened with a new addition, wrapped up a design competition last month that re-imagines the plaza outside its front entrance.

A nine-member jury chose as its winner a proposal jointly from VJAA (Jennifer Yoos and Vincent James), HouMinn Practice (Marc Swackhammer and Blair Satterfield), and artist Diane Willow, according to WAM information.

The plaza, which overlooks the Mississippi River, stands on the eastern edge of the Washington Avenue Bridge, which links the east and west banks of the University of Minnesota campus.

Over 2,000 people cross the plaza daily, and with the completion of recent construction projects, including the Weisman expansion, that number is probably going to go up, according to museum information.

WAM spokesperson Erin Lauderman explains that the design competition was a way to “re-envision our front yard,” which, she adds, is important because “We’re the figureheads for people coming onto the campus as they cross the river.”

The idea is to make the busy plaza more of a gathering space where people will want to linger. “Right now it dumps you on the campus,” she says.

To address that, WAM's Target Studio for Creative Collaboration required that submissions come from interdisciplinary teams with experience designing public spaces.

She says that the winning team’s design helps redirect the flow of traffic to make it safer, keeping pedestrians and bicyclists separate.

It also makes way for an interactive public space with digital walls where passersby “can stop and interact, sort of like a call and response.”

For example, images of people walking across the bridge could appear on the digital walls.

The next phase involves public meetings. “It needs to be vetted for what’s realistic and what the community wants it to be,” Lauderman says.

Source: Erin Lauderman, spokesperson, Weisman Art Museum
Writer: Anna Pratt

Following $14 million expansion, a 'new' Weisman opens its doors

After a $14 million project that nearly doubled its gallery space, a renewed Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus has opened its doors.

Erin Lauderman, a spokesperson for the Frank Gehry-designed museum, says the Weisman added another 8,100 square feet, which it did without “any more ground to build on.”

In a Finance and Commerce story, Brett Dunlap, a project manager with JE Dunn of Kansas City, Mo., the project's general contractor, says that it "required the galleries to be built atop and cantilevered over huge concrete columns."

A fifth gallery space, which has been dubbed the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, “had to push the walking bridge out,” according to Lauderman.

There’s also a new canopy and bridge skirt. More of the signature metal of the façade was used on one side of the building, while another part of the exterior is mainly brick. “It completed the building inside and out,” she says. “Now you walk in a loop inside.”  

Another challenge was to fit the work in with the plans for the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, which will span the Washington Avenue Bridge. “It’s a limiting site but it’s a fantastic location,” Lauderman says.

All in all, the museum has the same feel as it did before, although the recently installed skylights create an openness that literally sheds new light on the works. “That makes every space look different,” she says.  

The Weisman now has more room to showcase its 20,000-piece permanent collection, which includes ceramics, American art, and works on paper. The fifth gallery area is geared to interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Now [the museum] is a better resource,” she says. “You can come back and see the same piece multiple times.”

Admission to the museum is still free and, says Lauderman, “it doesn’t take long to get through. We have a nice, thoughtful collection." 

Source: Erin Lauderman, Weisman Art Museum
Writer: Anna Pratt

Big Picture Project aims to focus affordable housing possibilities for Central Corridor

Last month, the Big Picture Project kicked off with a public meeting at the Profile Event Center in Minneapolis, themed around equitable transit-oriented development in Seattle.

It'll help inform future affordable housing projects along the planned 11-mile Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line that is to connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Big Picture Project is an effort to come up with a comprehensive affordable housing strategy for this key stretch.

Ryan Curren, a special projects coordinator for the city of Seattle's Office of Housing, who spoke at the meeting last month, says of the project, "It's smart to set affordable housing targets along the corridor and stations years ahead of when the line is running.".

"It gives something to aim for and a way to orient policy proposals toward those goals, with inclusionary goals or new sources of funding or existing sources of funding," he says.

To meet those goals, Seattle has found that "It takes more targeted public subsidy and a tool or policy that requires market-rate developers to create some level of affordable housing in their development," on-site or off-site.

TC LISC, a local branch of a national organization that helps leverage resources for community development, is leading the Big Picture Project in partnership with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, with the support of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, according to TC LISC program officer Kristina Homstad.  

As it is, over 30 plans envisioning future affordable housing developments near the line have been put together, but there's no "coordinated plan that brings synergy to this wide range of effort," the project's website reads.

The idea is to "move beyond projects to placemaking."

A "big picture" strategy can help attract investment to the area, stabilize existing housing stock, preserve affordable rentals, and ensure that any new developments are in the best interests of community members, the website explains.

To carry out the project, a team that includes government, finance, community, and development representatives is studying the various affordable housing plans, maps, national case studies, and more.

Based on their findings, the group will come up with some recommendations and policies, which the public will be able to weigh in on in a series of community forums and neighborhood meetings that are underway through September.

In November a final plan will go before various project partners, including the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the Metropolitan Council, and Minnesota Housing, according to Big Picture Project information.

Ultimately, the group hopes that the plan will lead to "better coordinated housing that helps create a sense of place along the Central Corridor and improves residents' lives," the website states. 

Source: Kristina Homstad, program officer, TC LISC, Ryan Curren, city of Seattle
Writer: Anna Pratt

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