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Roundtable: Incubator roaster for craft coffeepreneurs

As the craft beer boom and local food movement have shown, the Twin Cities has developed a palate for artisanal and locally produced fare. Shawn Person, of Moonshine Coffee Co., is now looking to expand our developing taste for specialty roast coffee. In early March, he’s opening a new storefront location in the Creative Enterprise Zone next to the Green Line in Saint Paul. Roundtable Coffee Works, he says, is a “coffee roasting manufactory.”

Inspired by craft guilds and modeled after collaborative workspaces, Roundtable Coffee Works will house an array of local businesses endeavoring to create their own unique Twin Cities’ flavors of specialty coffee. “It’s really about sharing knowledge and helping each other out—establishing that kind of community,” Person says.

It might not make financial sense for a local coffee shop to purchase and maintain personal roasting equipment. But being able to rent a roaster by the hour to make a one-of-a-kind specialty roast? That’s an opportunity Person is confident coffee entrepreneurs will jump at.

After six years in the Twin Cities’ roasting scene, Person is an industry veteran, he says. He already has several local coffeepreneurs on board and a surprising number of home roasters have approached him about utilizing the space. Due to rising interest, he also plans to have dedicated hours for hobbyists to come in and roast their own beans.

“There’s a growing awareness of specialty coffee in general,” Person says. He’s also noticing “differences in ways of selling coffee. By that I mean Starbucks, Dunn Bros., and Caribou all sell coffee a certain way, and it works. But then there’s another way to sell [it], and that’s small and local, with a neighborhood focus, as well as quality focus.”

Just as people are flocking to taprooms to taste local microbrews, so are they increasingly interested in how their morning java tastes—and is made. They want to feel connected to the process, he says. “People want to see the roaster... At Thanksgiving, they want to brew some coffee in the morning and tell their family, ‘Yeah, my buddy Shawn roasted this.’”

Roundtable will have a retail component though don’t look for tables to sit at with your laptop while you leisurely sip a breve hazelnut latte. The roaster will only offer drip coffee and espresso to go, along with beans. The Roundtable brand of coffee won’t be wholesaled either.

For Person, his start up is more about serving residents of and visitors to the neighborhood. Still, eager customers can purchase Roundtable Coffee beans, mugs, t-shirts and other gear for a limited time through an online pop-up shop and similar pop-ups he’ll schedule annually.

Source: Shawn Person
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Rock Star Supply Co. in chapter development with 826 National

Rock Star Supply Co.’s busy location, in the Creative Enterprise Zone at the corner of Raymond and University in Saint Paul, is about to get busier. The educational nonprofit—its dedicated volunteers tutor elementary- and secondary-school children on writing, algebra, and other subjects—is working with San Francisco-based tutoring company 826 National to bring one of that organization’s signature “stores” to the Twin Cities.

Rock Star is currently a lively tutoring workshop that offers “a range of programs, all free of charge…[that] focus on project-based learning, homework help, [and] extra-curricular reading, along with spectacular writing prompts and smaller writing workshops,” according to its website. This summer, Rock Star’s headquarters, as part of 826’s new franchise-style expansion initiative, will be rebranded as the “Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute.”

What? The name does make sense. Here’s why. In its 10-plus years, 826 National has developed a clever, family-friendly approach to branding. Each tutoring center (it currently has eight, mostly in major Northern cities) doubles as a store with an unmistakable “angle.” For instance, Boston’s “Bigfoot Research Institute” sells cryptozoology books and paraphernalia.

Chicago’s “Boring Store” doubles as a “Spy Supply Store.” (The “boring” part is meant to throw passers-by off the trail.) Seattle’s “Space Travel Supply Company” sells rocket equipment, space suits, and other accessories to “freelance space travelers.” Each store plows its merchandise earnings back into its tutoring operations. So how did the Twin Cities become home to the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute?

“We went through an extensive ideation process to arrive at Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute,” says Jeremy Wang, chair of Rock Star’s Executive Board. “We’re playing off the idea that, to most of the country, we’re a ‘fly-over’ state, hence the Mid-Continent. And while we have a lot of coastline, none of it is oceanic.” Wang’s thrilled at the prospect of opening a “sub shop” that doesn’t sell anything edible.

The expansion also comes with challenges. “Our biggest hurdle is to be financially stable enough to build out the storefront and sustain our current programming,” says Wang, noting that the organization has traditionally relied on donations from individuals and foundations. Razoo and upcoming Kickstarter campaigns are providing a crucial shot in the arm.

What can kids, parents, and shoppers expect from Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, née Rock Star Supply Co.? “I think nearly everyone involved at Rock Star Supply Co. has been inspired by the 826 model,” says Wang. “So we don't really see our programming changing a whole lot as we transition.”

That said, Wang does expect Rock Star to add more writing workshops as the transition date approaches. And there’s the issue of merging educational programming and retail activities. “Unlike other 826 sites, we started without a storefront,” says Wang. “They mostly started their programming at the storefront, then worked their way into schools.”

For now, the folks at Rock Star are working to retain their core mission without neglecting the coming transition. For Wang and the rest of the board, this means seeking help wherever they can find it. “We are always looking for tutors in any subject, especially algebra,” he says, “as we have a whole group of students that comes in for Algebra 2 on Tuesdays.” Rock star math tutors: Take note.

Source: Jeremy Wang
Writer: Brian Martucci

Victoria Theater to become a cultural center, once again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megabus comes to St. Paul

Last week, Megabus, which offers low-cost intercity travel by bus, rolled out a St. Paul bus stop.  

The stop, which can be found in the Midway Shopping Center’s parking lot, is only blocks away from the coming Central Corridor light rail transit station on Snelling Avenue.

Mike Alvich, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA, says St. Paul is a natural connection for the bus service. “We always felt that St. Paul was a place where we should have service,” though the company began conservatively, he says.

Megabus, which began in Britain and expanded into the U.S. in 2006, also has a downtown Minneapolis bus stop, near the Metrodome and a Hiawatha light rail transit station.

Megabus operates in 100 U.S. cities out of a dozen hubs nationwide, with Chicago being its first. “It’s been very exciting,” Alvich says, adding that the company just reached a milestone of 25 million customers.

In general, Megabus attracts an interesting mix of people, including small groups taking day trips, businesspeople and seniors, with students and young professionals accounting for the largest group of riders. “St. Paul fits the mold for us,” he says, adding, “The community fits the demographic.”  Additionally, Greyhound buses have discontinued service in St. Paul, he says.

While the Megabus service helps connect the city to other areas across the Midwest, “For those traveling into the city, it adds to the city’s economy,” he says. Part of the draw of Megabus is that fares can be as low as $1, while the buses are “state-of-the-art double-decker buses with wifi outlets and electrical outlets.".

Something he’s found from the company’s social networking activity is that “we provide more than just transportation. We provide the ability for people to do the things they love."

Source: Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA
Writer: Anna Pratt

Gremlin Theatre looking for a new home in St. Anthony Park neighborhood

St. Paul’s Gremlin Theatre is looking to relocate to another part of the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, an area it has called home for the past five years.

Peter Hansen, the theater’s artistic director, says Gremlin wants to stay nearby because “It’s a great location. We love the businesses and the contacts and we feel that patrons have gotten used to coming here.”

Gremlin will also probably keep its aesthetic and 115-seat house, about the same. “The whole theater is built on the idea of intimacy and closeness to the stage,” he says.

This way, the audience “feels involved in what’s going on,” he adds.  

At the same time, the theater hopes to find a way to improve its situation, in some respects.

For example, the theater has to contend with outside noise on occasion. This has partly to do with other activities happening close to the theater, including the Central Corridor light rail transit construction that’s underway, just beyond the entryway.

Hopefully, a new space won’t have those kinds of sound issues. The idea is, “We want to be able to give our patrons and artists a better experience,” he says.  

Additionally, the building the theater is housed in could be redeveloped at some point, as well, making for an uncertain future for Gremlin.

The building’s lease goes through July, so that’s when the theater will move out. Although signing up for another lease, in the short-term, was an option, “We figured that treading water wasn’t the best option,” he says.

In the meantime, Gremlin is exploring the possibilities for a new venue. “If we determine that a place we’re looking at doesn’t meet the needs or needs more time, then we’re looking at a situation where we need to regroup and mobilize,” he says.

That could lead to more site-specific work in the meantime, he says.

Considering that the theater has gone through this process twice already, “We’d like to be in a place longer, while still keeping the same sorts of values in terms of how we produce shows,” he says.

Source: Peter Hansen, artistic director, Gremlin Theatre
Writer: Anna Pratt

"The Community Meal" to move forward with Joyce Award

As its name suggests, The Community Meal, a public art project from St. Paul artist Seitu Jones, centers on a huge feast.

In this case, the meal, for which Jones is working with Public Art Saint Paul, will span up to three-quarters of a mile along the Central Corridor light rail transit line. It will happen in September of 2014. Jones wants to see the project's table make it into the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest.

The project recently received a Joyce Award for $50,000. “It has a lot of different layers to it,” he says. “It’s more than just a meal, though the meal will be the high point.” The meal will follow a yearlong “listening project that explores traditions, attitudes, and the presentation of food, with a specific focus on the Central Corridor,” he says.

This year, he’ll visit homes, restaurants, urban farms, and various gathering places along the line to hear people’s food stories.  

“What started me thinking about this was just being blown away by the urban agriculture initiatives happening along the Central Corridor,” including urban farms and community gardens, he says. He wants to celebrate these green ventures. “I thought of a meal that could be prepared from the bounty from the city,” to get people thinking about making healthy food choices.

The idea is also an outgrowth of a food assessment that Afro-Eco, an environmental group he belongs to, helped produce. It found that many people feel intimidated by the topic of healthy eating.  

To help show people how to cook and eat better, he came up with mobile kitchens that could be pulled by bike or pushed on a cart, which could be set up in parking lots, parks, and other community sites.
This naturally led to the idea of providing one big meal, using mobile kitchens. “One legacy that will be left behind are these mobile kitchens,” Jones says.

The table and its place settings will also be works of art, while spoken word artists will perform during the meal, he adds.

Jones hopes the project gives people “the tools to begin to place themselves in the food system and do interventions in their food." On top of that, “This is an awesome opportunity for 2,000 to 3,000 people to sit down and break bread together at a common table and talk about issues that generally drive dinnertime conversations,” he says.

Source: Seitu Jones, artist
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

Envision Minnesota hosts placemaking forum

An upcoming forum from Envision Minnesota, a sustainable land use nonprofit organization, will highlight cutting-edge public art initiatives underway in St. Paul.

The event, called, "Spotlight on Saint Paul: A Creative Placemaking Forum," is happening on Sept. 18 at the Wilder Foundation in St. Paul.

For example, the city has an artist-in-residence program, something that Public Art Saint Paul funds, according to Jill Mazullo, communications director for Envision Minnesota.

Through the program, an artist, in this case, Marcus Young, works alongside city officials. One project he's leading brings poetry to city sidewalks. (See The Line story here.)

"It's a unique public-private partnership," she says.

Also, a city ordinance calls for artists to be members of planning teams related to development, while one percent of capital building budgets are to go to public art, she explains.  

Separately, through a partnership with Springboard for the Arts and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (TC LISC, a sponsor of The Line), Irrigate Arts sets in motion short-term artist-led projects about “humanizing the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit construction.”

“I’m struck by the insight of the Irrigate project,” she says. “I’m glad the corridor is becoming more connected, but this placemaking initiative is all about the full of the community.”

The programs bring together the “whimsy of art and bricks and mortar of construction,” she says.

The event’s speakers include Regina Flanagan from Public Art Saint Paul and Jun-Li Wang of Springboard for the Arts. They’ll talk about the city’s ongoing public art programs and offer how-tos for replicating them elsewhere. “Hopefully people go away with good ideas to take back to their own communities.”

Envision Minnesota’s new executive director, Lee Helgen, who helped author the city arts ordinance when he was a City Council member, will moderate the discussion.  

Source: Jill Mazullo, communications director, Envision Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

Temporary writing room fills vacant storefront

An empty storefront space on University Avenue in St. Paul, along the coming Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, will soon be transformed into a contemplative writing room, temporarily.

The installation, from artist Rebecca Krinke, is part of a collaborative project with the Starling Project and the St. Anthony Pop-Up Shop, which has filled the storefront with all kinds of creative activities this summer.

Krinke’s writing room, titled “What Needs to Be Said,” will occupy the space from August 15 to 19.

She’s trying to provide a public yet private forum for what often goes unsaid, she explains.

Krinke invites visitors to jot down whatever is on their minds, which they can display or hide away in the room. At the end of the run, the writings will be burned.     

In some ways, the room is a retreat from the daily grind. It has a smoky cedar smell, while the doors are made out of charred wood, crumpled paper, and Mylar.

This lends “an atmospheric feeling to the room--of secrets, pain, joy,” and more, she says.  
Although the room has a see-through quality, outside observers can only see the movement of shadow and light, while “inside has a very different feeling.”

The idea is that speaking up can be cathartic, especially in person--and in a meditative spot--as opposed to online, via blogs or message boards. “This is more random, physical, and visceral,” she says.

Beyond that, Krinke hopes that the project helps draw people to the area, which is known for its creative community.

“I want to show and support the potential for used storefronts in the area,” she says, adding that it demonstrates what artists can do to help revitalize spaces and cities.

University of Minnesota graduate students Michael Richardson and Emily Lowery are assisting Krinke with the installation, especially by exploring the possibilities for an audio component in a future installation, she adds.

Source: Rebecca Krinke, artist
Writer: Anna Pratt

Wayfinding art bikes inspire people to explore the neighborhood on foot or bike

To motivate people to get out of their cars and to explore the area surrounding the Central Corridor by bike or on foot, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood in St. Paul is getting nearly a dozen "wayfinding bikes."

As a part of the project, the artfully decorated bikes/public art pieces will be strategically placed here and there, with signage that conveys travel times and distances to certain local destinations, according to council materials.

The St. Anthony Park Community Council (SAPCC) set the project in motion, which local artist and environmental designer Carrie Christensen took on. Her focus is on sparking “awareness of place and to create more ecologically, socially, and economically functional spaces,” according to council materials.

Irrigate Arts helped make it possible with $1,000 in funding for the collaborative project.

SAPCC, which held a bike painting party in mid-July, is hosting another one today from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Hampden Park.

Amy Sparks, who leads the council, says that besides promoting more physical activity, the place-making project helps to mark the neighborhood’s in-progress Creative Enterprise Zone. “This also meets some of our goals in terms of increasing foot traffic and bringing vibrancy to the zone,” which is about cultivating creativity in the area, she says.

She's impressed with how Christensen took the concept and made it her own. Each of the bikes, which were donated, is getting a makeover.

One bike looks like it could be from the 1930s or 40s, with fin-like lines that resemble an old Cadillac car, she says.

Bikes will be adorned according to various themes, creating a mermaid, garden, rainbow and yarn bombing, among others. 

Also, the bikes will be chained to a signpost, so they’ll be fixed in place. Each of the bikes will be on view through Nov. 1, to avoid snowplows, she says.

Source: Amy Sparks, St. Anthony Park Community Council
Writer: Anna Pratt

Aerial photography shows a unique view of the land

A twofold event dubbed “exp-Air-iment” offers participants the opportunity to see the neighborhood from a new perspective--literally.

The St. Anthony Park Community Council Pop-Up Shop is hosting an aerial photography “open lab” and separately, a workshop, from Aug. 1 to 5.

The pop-up shop, which temporarily fills an empty storefront space on University Avenue, is among the numerous creative initiatives to come out of Irrigate Arts. The initiative is funding all kinds of place-making projects along the Central Corridor light rail transit line.

Kristen Murray, a co-founder of the Starling Project, which is helping to program the pop-up shop, is leading “exp-Air-iment.”   

In the “open lab,” visitors will get a chance to try the special aerial photography rig in the shop and see the images that come from a custom-built 3D printer, which was designed by Will Janicke, a local maker.

The workshop takes it a step further; people will learn the basics to get started with aerial photography, which involves sending digital cameras into the air with balloons, she says.

Also over the coming week, Murray is doing aerial photography with the Teen Tech Crew at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where she previously led hands-on technology-based programs.

Recently, she worked with teens from the nearby Skyline Tower housing complex. “We took a couple of cameras, rigs, and a bunch of balloons over to Dunning Field and captured some great shots,” she says, adding that they also suspended cameras from kites.  

The playing field’s wide-open spaces worked well for the balloons, which hovered overhead about 50 feet high. The group also got views of Marshall Avenue, Central High School, the St. Anthony Park community garden along with other local landmarks--and the photographers themselves.

“I enjoy seeing broad views where you can recognize the place easily, as well as more accidental angles and perspectives that catch interesting patterns,” she says.

The images show that “The railyard is just an impressive site--amazing that so much activity happens in a place that is smack-dab in the middle of the city but yet mostly out-of-mind and out-of-sight,” the website reads.  

The images can be seen on the website and hanging in the pop-up shop this week.

Source: Kristen Murray, Co-founder, Starling Project
Writer: Anna Pratt

University Avenue corridor to be called 'Little Africa'

Too often, people pass by the businesses on Snelling Avenue, near University in St. Paul, without stopping.

As one way to change that, the African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) group is leading an effort to brand the district that spans Snelling Avenue between University and Minnehaha avenues as “Little Africa.”

Soon, the Central Corridor light rail transit line will run through the area, but in the meantime, the construction has decreased foot traffic in the district and beyond.

Bruce Corrie, who is a business professor at Concordia University in Saint Paul, explains that the branding campaign comes out of the broader, nonprofit-driven World Cultural Heritage District. This emerged as a way to help businesses stay afloat during the light rail construction on University.

The idea is to make the area a destination for ethnic tourism. Here, “there’s a growing presence of African Americans,” he says, adding that it includes about 20 immigrant businesses.

Further, “African immigrant groups are very dynamic and entrepreneurial,” he says. “We want to capture that.”

It follows other similar branding efforts along different segments of University, including “Little Mekong” (see The Line story here) and the African American Cultural Corridor.

The districts would also relate to similar areas in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park.  As it is, “There’s not a strong cultural infrastructure in Minnesota,” he says, adding that it’s an opportunity. “We’re trying to tap into the global market.”

While encouraging more people to come to the district, another goal is to “develop the cultural capacity,” he says.

Eventually signage will come to indicate the district visually.

“One challenge is to get the attention of policymakers,” to help bring more resources to the area, he says.

Recently the district rolled out a voucher program, offering $5 coupons to district shoppers. Also, the Snelling Café will host a free book exchange through its new Little Free Library, which it’s celebrating with a July 27 luncheon.  

Source: Dr. Bruce Corrie, Professor of Business in the College of Business and Organizational Leadership, Concordia University
Writer: Anna Pratt

Minnesota Museum of American Art to settle into gallery space

After several years of traveling exhibits, the Minnesota Museum of American Art will have a regular gallery in St. Paul this fall.  

The museum is moving into a ground-level space in the vintage Pioneer-Endicott building, which developer Rich Pakonen plans to turn into a high-end housing complex. (See The Line story here.)  

In 2009, the museum moved out of the space it rented at the Ramsey County Government Center. It hasn't had a home base since then.

The 3,700-square-foot space at the Pioneer will enable the museum to do local programming, according to its director, Kristin Makholm.  

“We haven’t had any kind of regular space in St. Paul to do any kind of on-the-ground programming for over two years, so this will allow us to intersect and create a vibrant space,” and to reconnect with local artists and community members. “It’ll be populated with events and conversations.”  

At the same time, “We don’t consider this the final museum,” she says.

But the MMAA will be investigating the building as a permanent home. “That’s one of the reasons we chose this space for the gallery. It’s a testing ground,” she says.  

The museum will continue to do shows in other locations in the short term, she says.

If the museum does decide to expand in Pioneer, it’ll bring in additional exhibits, classrooms, offices, and storage areas and fill up to 45,000 square feet, according to the Star Tribune.

Besides the visibility that the space will give the museum, the building will be close to the coming Central Corridor light rail line.

“It’s really going to help invigorate that part of St. Paul that traditionally lies between Lowertown and the Rice Park districts and connect the city,” she says.

Source: Kristin Makholm, director, Minnesota Museum of American Art
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

Watertower Place, a multimillion redevelopment project, will cater to creative workers

An old industrial complex in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood could become a hub for creative workers under a multimillion redevelopment plan from First and First principal Peter Remes.

The 5.6-acre site near the Central Corridor light rail transit line consists of nine buildings, along with a watertower, hence the project’s name, “Watertower Place," according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Amy Sparks, executive director of the nearby Saint Anthony Park Community Council, says that although the group hasn’t officially weighed in on the project, it’s generally supportive of the plan at this early stage.

In many ways, it’s in keeping with the neighborhood group’s efforts to formalize the area’s brand as a Creative Enterprise Zone. The neighborhood has long been home to artists and other creative types.

“Some of the folks involved in the Creative Enterprise Zone heard about it and are excited about the potential,” and the same goes for the group’s land use committee, she says.

The plan includes installing working elevators, exposing boarded-up windows, and bringing light into the hallways, among other upgrades, she says. Her understanding is that Remes wants to introduce nonindustrial uses, such as a theater, into the place.

Besides the usual development hurdles, the city is evaluating some of its zoning ordinances related to industry, which could have an impact on the development's direction, she says.

“The question is, do we want this to be the Creative Enterprise Zone or to be more of a traditional industrial zone? Hopefully it’ll be a melding of the two,” she says. “The two uses, art and industry, have coexisted pretty comfortably in the area for the past 30 years and we hope to see that continue.”  
Right now, the building has 60 tenants, and whether they’ll be able to stay is up in the air. “We want to make sure everything is done to keep some of the remaining tenants and to keep the building in the spirit of the Creative Enterprise Zone,” she says. “We want creative uses in the area.”

Source: Amy Sparks, executive director, Saint Anthony Park Community Council
Writer: Anna Pratt
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