Feed aggregator

Twin Cities suburbs diversify; City Councils remain white

StarTribune Mpls News - Fri, 2014-10-24 23:05
Leadership in metro cities doesn’t mirror diversity.

MCTC culinary arts program is on the chopping block

StarTribune Mpls News - Fri, 2014-10-24 22:56
Culinary program closing because grads find only low-paid jobs

911 response times to improve in Minneapolis, officials say

StarTribune Mpls News - Fri, 2014-10-24 19:43
Minneapolis will add four dispatchers and new call processing software.

Courtroom escapee sentenced finally in attempted murder trial

StarTribune Mpls News - Fri, 2014-10-24 19:22
Michael David Henderson, who escaped from a courtroom last month after being found guilty of attempted murder, has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison.

Minnesota Housing awards $162 million

StarTribune Mpls News - Thu, 2014-10-23 22:38
This year, state awarded $162 million to provide nearly 4,000 affordable housing units.

Corps urged to lock out carp at local dams

StarTribune Mpls News - Thu, 2014-10-23 22:04
Advocates want more limits on Mississippi lock operations to stop carp.

Hmong International Academy parents demand a principal, stability

StarTribune Mpls News - Thu, 2014-10-23 18:55
A dozen fed-up parents take their grievances and march to district headquarters.

Man indicted in July 4th weekend homicide

StarTribune Mpls News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:24
Ryan Jambone Pettis was charged with shooting two women, one fatally, at a house party.

Jordan Area Community Council celebrates 50 years improving community

Margo Ashmore North News

Fifty years ago, parents and other community members rallied to save a library, and in the process founded one of the longest-enduring organizations in the city, what is now Jordan Area Community Council.

Back then, the library was a tiny branch contained within Jordan Junior High, at 29th between Irving and James. And about that time as yet other libraries were short on funds, the idea was floated of merging with the Hennepin County system, which became reality 40-some years later. But I digress. They lost the Jordan branch and the North branch, but eventually gained North Regional, and the Webber Park branch was allowed to stay.

In 1964, the Jordan Area Action Committee, as it was organized a few months after the first library scare, concerned themselves with the area from Broadway and its natural extension along Golden Valley Road, to Dowling, the Mississippi to the city limits. That was the attendance area of Jordan Junior High, said J.S. Futcher, an organizer of the first group who recently wrote a book on the intertwined stories of the library and JACC. He presented slides and commentary at JACC’s 50th Anniversary event October 16. He noted that at the time, there were no other geographic or community groups that they would be stepping on.

Right: J.S. Futcher accepts a token of recognition from current Executive Director Cathy Spann.

While waiting for and watchdogging the administrative wheels turning on the library front, this band of residents who paid dues of a dollar or two put energies toward addressing dilapidated housing. Finding out that the city had no mechanism for dealing with it, they approached their legislators. Their efforts led to the city having an Office of Hazardous Buildings, and a way to not have taxes rise automatically when property is improved.

Back then, the streets weren’t paved, they were oil and sand. The carrot was federal money to help with 90 percent of the street paving costs, the stick was the city had to inspect every residence inside and out, for code compliance. JACC welcomed that challenge and established a neighborhood conservation district.

JACC archives show other sweeping efforts, from “garbage days” renamed Clean Sweeps, to sending out flyers in 1965 asking people to commit to certain home fixup activities such as picking up litter, fixing sagging fences or porches, tearing down dilapidated sheds, planting shrubs, flowers, and grass seed. First National Bank of Minneapolis’ West Broadway office sponsored the activity and said to watch for local business’ ads for specials on cleanup products. Neighbors were to post their yellow flyer in their windows; if they could see that at least 50 percent of the block was committed, they could call in and receive special recognition.

Left: “Needles” sign from anti-drug marches in the early 1990s. Right: Then Aldermen Van White, Sandra Hilary, Alice Rainville and Mayor Don Fraser at a JACC event in the mid to late 1980s.

Even early efforts stressed fixup/cleanup and did not call for tearing down. Later campaigns, such as in the late ‘80s-early 90s “Dirty Thirty” and “Block Out Drugs” were aimed at cleaning out bad behaviors and rectifying code violations. The group went to great lengths to move houses off the new Jordan School site; an effort that moved fewer homes than anticipated and did not produce the home ownership expected, rather high-quality rentals, according to their report to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

Current president Jeff Skrenes, in his report, stated that the organization had worked a lot this past year on re-starting housing programs such as downpayment assistance for new buyers, fix-up loans and emergency repair loans, needed as the depressed housing market had made it tough to borrow against non-existent home equity.

JACC was one of the first neighborhood groups to receive large amounts of funding through NRP in the early 1990s. At the anniversary program, Fourth Ward Council Member Barb Johnson noted that all the organizations now north of Lowry formed because of NRP. JACC’s current boundaries are Broadway on the south and west, Lowry on the north and Emerson on the east.

Fifth Ward Council Member Blong Yang’s home is in Jordan, and he was a soccer coach with Jay Clark. Clark was JACC Director from 1988 to 1993 and now works through an organizer/volunteer training program at the University of Minnesota. He works with youth soccer in what are largely Hmong and Latino communities. Clark popped in toward the end of the meeting after a soccer game. As did they all, he commented on the festive tables and lovely party atmosphere.

Both council members spoke of JACC’s having had some bumps along the way, an understatement, understandable in light of the overall celebratory mood.

During the one bit of annual meeting business they needed to conduct, a bylaw change, Dennis Wagner brought up the history of why the bylaws were written the way they were, to prevent board stacking. The matter was eventually tabled, and will require a special meeting to resolve, attempting to come into compliance with city funding requirements. Those requirements which allow attendance tests for running for the board, but prohibit charging money or an attendance standard in order to vote.

During the festivities, in addition to Futcher’s talk, Ed Enstrom spoke on behalf of a table full of people who were active in the 1980s including Bette Luick and her daughters, and Delores Petersen.

Mayor Betsy Hodges spoke and gave the organization a recognition plaque.

Polly Peterson, active for 20-plus years, received special recognition as she prepared to take “a sabbatical” encouraging others to step forward: “it’s a great education.”

Left: Polly Peterson encourages others to step forward and get active in JACC.

JACC is in need of additional board members; anyone interested may be elected to the board by the existing members since there were no nominations at the annual meeting.

For more information about the organization, go to the Facebook page, Jordan Area Community Council, or call 612-886-4539. Offices are in the St. Olaf Lutheran Church at 2900 Fremont Ave. N. Cathy Spann is Executive Director, Joann Osgood, Administrative Coordinator, and Faith Xiong, Outreach Coordinator.

(Archive photos courtesy of JACC, current photos by Margo Ashmore)

Fifty years ago, parents and other community members rallied to save a library, and in the process founded one of the longest-enduring organizations in the city, what is now Jordan Area Community Council.

Back then, the library was a tiny branch contained within Jordan Junior High, at 29th between Irving and James. And about that time as yet other libraries were short on funds, the idea was floated of merging with the Hennepin County system, which became reality 40-some years later. But I digress. They lost the Jordan branch and the North branch, but eventually gained North Regional, and the Webber Park branch was allowed to stay.

In 1964, the Jordan Area Action Committee, as it was organized a few months after the first library scare, concerned themselves with the area from Broadway and its natural extension along Golden Valley Road, to Dowling, the Mississippi to the city limits. That was the attendance area of Jordan Junior High, said J.S. Futcher, an organizer of the first group who recently wrote a book on the intertwined stories of the library and JACC. He presented slides and commentary at JACC’s 50th Anniversary event October 16. He noted that at the time, there were no other geographic or community groups that they would be stepping on.

Right: J.S. Futcher accepts a token of recognition from current Executive Director Cathy Spann.

While waiting for and watchdogging the administrative wheels turning on the library front, this band of residents who paid dues of a dollar or two put energies toward addressing dilapidated housing. Finding out that the city had no mechanism for dealing with it, they approached their legislators. Their efforts led to the city having an Office of Hazardous Buildings, and a way to not have taxes rise automatically when property is improved.

Back then, the streets weren’t paved, they were oil and sand. The carrot was federal money to help with 90 percent of the street paving costs, the stick was the city had to inspect every residence inside and out, for code compliance. JACC welcomed that challenge and established a neighborhood conservation district.

JACC archives show other sweeping efforts, from “garbage days” renamed Clean Sweeps, to sending out flyers in 1965 asking people to commit to certain home fixup activities such as picking up litter, fixing sagging fences or porches, tearing down dilapidated sheds, planting shrubs, flowers, and grass seed. First National Bank of Minneapolis’ West Broadway office sponsored the activity and said to watch for local business’ ads for specials on cleanup products. Neighbors were to post their yellow flyer in their windows; if they could see that at least 50 percent of the block was committed, they could call in and receive special recognition.

Left: “Needles” sign from anti-drug marches in the early 1990s. Right: Then Aldermen Van White, Sandra Hilary, Alice Rainville and Mayor Don Fraser at a JACC event in the mid to late 1980s.

Even early efforts stressed fixup/cleanup and did not call for tearing down. Later campaigns, such as in the late ‘80s-early 90s “Dirty Thirty” and “Block Out Drugs” were aimed at cleaning out bad behaviors and rectifying code violations. The group went to great lengths to move houses off the new Jordan School site; an effort that moved fewer homes than anticipated and did not produce the home ownership expected, rather high-quality rentals, according to their report to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

Current president Jeff Skrenes, in his report, stated that the organization had worked a lot this past year on re-starting housing programs such as downpayment assistance for new buyers, fix-up loans and emergency repair loans, needed as the depressed housing market had made it tough to borrow against non-existent home equity.

JACC was one of the first neighborhood groups to receive large amounts of funding through NRP in the early 1990s. At the anniversary program, Fourth Ward Council Member Barb Johnson noted that all the organizations now north of Lowry formed because of NRP. JACC’s current boundaries are Broadway on the south and west, Lowry on the north and Emerson on the east.

Fifth Ward Council Member Blong Yang’s home is in Jordan, and he was a soccer coach with Jay Clark. Clark was JACC Director from 1988 to 1993 and now works through an organizer/volunteer training program at the University of Minnesota. He works with youth soccer in what are largely Hmong and Latino communities. Clark popped in toward the end of the meeting after a soccer game. As did they all, he commented on the festive tables and lovely party atmosphere.

Both council members spoke of JACC’s having had some bumps along the way, an understatement, understandable in light of the overall celebratory mood.

During the one bit of annual meeting business they needed to conduct, a bylaw change, Dennis Wagner brought up the history of why the bylaws were written the way they were, to prevent board stacking. The matter was eventually tabled, and will require a special meeting to resolve, attempting to come into compliance with city funding requirements. Those requirements which allow attendance tests for running for the board, but prohibit charging money or an attendance standard in order to vote.

During the festivities, in addition to Futcher’s talk, Ed Enstrom spoke on behalf of a table full of people who were active in the 1980s including Bette Luick and her daughters, and Delores Petersen.

Mayor Betsy Hodges spoke and gave the organization a recognition plaque.

Polly Peterson, active for 20-plus years, received special recognition as she prepared to take “a sabbatical” encouraging others to step forward: “it’s a great education.”

Left: Polly Peterson encourages others to step forward and get active in JACC.

JACC is in need of additional board members; anyone interested may be elected to the board by the existing members since there were no nominations at the annual meeting.

For more information about the organization, go to the Facebook page, Jordan Area Community Council, or call 612-886-4539. Offices are in the St. Olaf Lutheran Church at 2900 Fremont Ave. N. Cathy Spann is Executive Director, Joann Osgood, Administrative Coordinator, and Faith Xiong, Outreach Coordinator.

(Archive photos courtesy of JACC, current photos by Margo Ashmore)

© 2014 North News

WEQY-FM 104.7, the 'Voice of the East Side'

carla riehle Dayton's Bluff Forum

Not long after this newspaper reaches your mailbox, WEQY-FM, the Voice of the East Side, hopes to be “riding the signal,” which is what radio veterans call the test phase of the new station. Although a major obstacle arose at the last minute that seemed like it might delay the start for a few months, that cloud turned out to have a silver lining. Despite the best efforts of Sonia Ortega, owner of Plaza del Sol on Payne Avenue, construction delays were not able to be overcome in building the radio space that she had generously offered to the station at no cost. However, the offer of new space in a historic building came along at just the right moment, with the added bonus that a storefront studio will be possible. WEQY Station Manager Kathryn Harris can't reveal the address yet, but says it looks about 99% sure.

We are happy to report that Barry Madore's radio-novela project is one of the finalists for several Knight Foundation grants to be awarded in October. Kathryn Harris is also in discussion with two cultural umbrella groups about an innovative idea for combining station underwriting with radio programming and fundraising for the member organizations.

Volunteer positions are still open at the station, ranging from answering the phone and staffing the front desk to acting as a “traffic” engineer. If you want to contribute to the community in an innovative way, contact Station Manager Kathryn Harris at WEQYKathryn [at] gmail [dot] com.

Related stories:

Not long after this newspaper reaches your mailbox, WEQY-FM, the Voice of the East Side, hopes to be “riding the signal,” which is what radio veterans call the test phase of the new station. Although a major obstacle arose at the last minute that seemed like it might delay the start for a few months, that cloud turned out to have a silver lining. Despite the best efforts of Sonia Ortega, owner of Plaza del Sol on Payne Avenue, construction delays were not able to be overcome in building the radio space that she had generously offered to the station at no cost. However, the offer of new space in a historic building came along at just the right moment, with the added bonus that a storefront studio will be possible. WEQY Station Manager Kathryn Harris can't reveal the address yet, but says it looks about 99% sure.

We are happy to report that Barry Madore's radio-novela project is one of the finalists for several Knight Foundation grants to be awarded in October. Kathryn Harris is also in discussion with two cultural umbrella groups about an innovative idea for combining station underwriting with radio programming and fundraising for the member organizations.

Volunteer positions are still open at the station, ranging from answering the phone and staffing the front desk to acting as a “traffic” engineer. If you want to contribute to the community in an innovative way, contact Station Manager Kathryn Harris at WEQYKathryn [at] gmail [dot] com.

Related stories:

© 2014 Dayton's Bluff Forum

GOP presses Hayden during ethics inquiry

StarTribune Mpls News - Wed, 2014-10-22 21:35
Both sides claim victory as committee votes to continue to investigate.

Minneapolis won't sue NFL team to shed the Redskins nickname

StarTribune Mpls News - Wed, 2014-10-22 20:04
The city attorney decides Minneapolis lacks the legal standing to mount a challenge.

Making transit-oriented development great at Lake and Hiawatha

Sam Newberg

There is room for improvement at the transit-oriented development proposed at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue. It has been a long time coming, but the latest version of the project (shown above) has Hennepin County acting as master developer, working with a private design and development team led by BKV Group. A Hennepin County service center will be the primary tenant of a mixed-use office/retail building on the 6-acre site, which will also include an approximate one acre public plaza that will be home to the Midtown Farmers Market, as well as around 500 housing units. The county has indicated a short timeline to get the county services building up and running, and I fear in their haste urban design and public realm issues won’t be properly vetted.

This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Streets.MN. Check out the links below for other recent Streets.MN stories:

I was part of the BKV Group design team that started working with the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization (CNO) in 2009 (five years ago!) to push forward on design ideas for the site. I’m no longer on the BKV team, but have been asked by CNO to weigh in on matters of design, particularly the public realm and plaza. So here goes.

First, the public plaza is in the wrong location. Second, pedestrian connections around and through the site may be less than adequate. Third, it is critically important to pay close attention to how the ground floor of these buildings (commercial and residential) relate to the sidewalk and street. Hennepin County needs to put the brakes on this project to get the public realm and urban design right.

Regarding the plaza, placing the county services building with ground floor retail frontage right on Lake Street is all well and good and follows basic urbanism principles. However, in this scenario I continue to question why the public plaza remains squished up against the rail viaduct. True, it will have good access to and from the station entrance, but it will be largely hidden from view from Lake Street and not visible at all from the adjacent YWCA. I think this is a huge mistake. Besides, it is always worth quoting Joe Riley, who says “great cities give their best edges over to the public realm.” So why is the supposed lynchpin of this site – a public plaza – not facing Lake Street? Doing so would allow all – train riders, bus riders, drivers and pedestrians on Lake Street, guests coming and going from the YWCA, and students of nearby South High School – to see and experience a high-quality public space in any season, whether the farmer’s market is operating or not (Eastern Market, below, is but one of many examples).

Furthermore, the current plan places two retail spaces facing Lake Street, but also a community room. While the preliminary designs show lots of glass and transparency (a good thing), I’m not sure that only two retail spaces will be enough to activate the Lake Street side of this project. It also feels like the community room is just filler. A third retail space faces the plaza only, which I believe is a pretty major flaw and will be a very hard space to fill. My gut says if you can’t get it right, don’t do it at all. Placing the plaza right on Lake Street, with the county building and retail space set back and essentially facing both the plaza and street at the same time, could very well assuage this problem, as it gives both public space and retail full visibility and exposure. It would allow all retail space to face both street and plaza, making them more viable. The community room should be on the second floor, not taking up potentially valuable and active retail space.

If we accept that the Hennepin County services building must be on Lake Street, then we must address the grade-level midblock passage proposed to cut through the block. In concept, this is a good idea. After all, adding streets to the grid is Jane Jacobs 101.

Adding one street increases pedestrian choices by a significant factor, and breaks up megablocks. The problem is, the current plan calls for a midblock passage that not only passes under an unnecessary second story appendage of the Hennepin County building, but next to an at-grade parking lot covered by the private rooftop amenity deck for the proposed market rate apartments. The path crosses what appears to be the retail truck loading area as well. So yes, a pedestrian can choose to take this path, but why would anyone do so?

The good urbanist in me would ask why not just take the sidewalk along Lake Street to reach a popular destination such as the YWCA? Well, one answer is they provide free parking so I just drive. I only mention the YWCA because close to 1,000 people per day pass through its doors, and the most active pedestrian door at the YWCA faces the parking lot (not Lake Street), as do a large bank of second story windows in the fitness area (eyes on the street/lot). And it is important when planning this site to acknowledge surrounding land uses that aren’t likely to change. Hoping everyone chooses to walk and use the Lake Street entrance is farfetched at best, is a case of hopeful planner thinking, and we’d all be better off if existing conditions and human nature were taken into account. Today one can see in a direct line from the light rail station entrance to the most used entrance of the Y, and vice-versa. Furthermore, a natural location for a stage, fountain or meeting place on the plaza is also in this line of sight. So why block that view with a parking lot, building appendage and private amenity space? The design team has proposed to shield the view of this parking/drive area with a bicycle storage facility, which seems like a good gesture but masks a fundamental design flaw. Regardless of where the plaza is, it is important that it be visible from both the transit station and the YWCA and that any midblock passage be dignified and humane.

Here’s why I’m concerned. BKV is the architect of The Marshall in Dinkytown, where they recently designed a midblock passage, and this is what they came up with.

While they did provide a means for pedestrians to pass through, the design is certainly lacking. This makes me bristle – an uninviting, potentially unsafe passageway with no vista nor visual attraction.

The midblock passage can work, but let’s do it some justice and make it more dignified, more urban, more like a street, and less like an underpass next to a parking ramp. Let’s make it more like Warren Place in Brooklyn…

…Tongli in Suzhou, China…

…Zakkendragerssteeg in Utrecht, Netherlands…

…or even Carrer dels Cecs de Sant Cugat in Barcelona (but straight so as not to block the views up and down the street).

Lastly, I very much applaud that residential units will have ground floor walk-out entrances. However, even the details of this must be paid close attention. Front doors must be inviting and facing the street but not overly gated off or with steps that appear to be hanging off the building. Doing it right like Vancouver…


…St. Mark’s Avenue in Brooklyn…


…or our very own Lake Street in Minneapolis, is critical.

A simple instinct is that we’ve been planning this project for so long, let’s just get it done! That would be a shame, as it risks winding up with a very average result. We’ve taken so long but still not gotten the plan right; it is even more important that we take the extra time needed now to do so. The plaza can be moved, and regardless, the public realm can be improved. (Of course the cruel irony in planning for a transit-oriented development is parking dictates so much of the design.)

I encourage councilmember Alondra Cano to risk that this project may not host its ribbon cutting on her watch, and that she work with CPED staff and Hennepin County to get the public realm right. I encourage commissioner Peter McLaughlin to step back and put urban design ahead of a tight timeline of providing county services. I encourage city and county staff and CNO to focus first and foremost on the public realm. I encourage all readers to contact elected officials and demand better urban design that benefits all.

Hennepin County wants this project done fast. We need to demand it be done right.

Related stories:

Streets.MN

Dinkytown's new alliances

Southside Pride

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

Ten months ago, Dinkytown was at one of those unmistakable crossroads of change rife with both crisis and opportunity. The businesses in Dinkytown are survivors of change, so this was nothing new, but this time, a perfect storm of factors came close together. On the plus side, the City of Minneapolis and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association were taking much more notice of Dinkytown. But at the beginning of 2014, Skott Johnson, the longtime leader of the Dinkytown Business Association, known as DBA, closed his business at 1300 4th St. S.E., Autographics, and left the Twin Cities. The old Marshall High building, UTech, had been demolished and the House of Hanson would follow close on its heels. And local developer Kelly Doran was proposing to build a hotel on 4th Street, which would entail taking out yet more old low-rise buildings housing small shops and restaurants. It’s no exaggeration to say the future of Dinkytown’s identity was up for grabs.

Despite being an off-and-on president, Skott Johnson was the full-time powerhouse behind the DBA. He was both effective and beloved; people still miss him and speak of him fondly. When he left, the organization began to flounder, mostly because Johnson held a lot of the institutional knowledge in his head. And, the other positions within the DBA were informal; the structure was loosely defined.

When the DBA tried to regroup to fight the hotel plans and other battles, they found that their paperwork was not in order and their legitimacy as representatives of the businesses was open to question. Since a new organization had to be established anyway, it just made sense to start from scratch. So the DBA was dissolved and a new DBA, now named Dinkytown Business Alliance, was formed, with a new charter and an elected and committed board. The new DBA has a built-in relationship with the city and with Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. And the new name points to its new direction—connecting and inclusive, rather than the closed and passive sounding “association.”

Read more TC Daily Planet coverage of development in Dinkytown.

An organizational development consultant was hired: Cara Letofsky, highly respected and with deep connections at City Hall and elsewhere. The City Council denied Doran’s permit to build the hotel. The development that went in mid-2014 on the old House of Hanson corner looks to be a success, as an upscale housing development also housing the first “boutique” Target Express, which provides some grocery shopping and some jobs for area students and residents. And by the early fall of 2014, the new DBA was off and running. Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney, was elected president. The organization, collaborating with neighborhood associations, won a Great Streets Grant from the city, with three development goals: 1) to grow the DBA organizationally (Letofsky’s main task as consultant); 2) to develop and implement a marketing plan for Dinkytown; and 3) recruitment and retention of businesses.

Besides Mulrooney, the other officers or unofficial leaders and strong participants in the DBA (not an exhaustive list) include Randall Gast of Qdoba, Jason McLean of Loring Pasta Bar, Georgia, Jim and Antigone Sander of Kafe 421, Liz Johnson of Magus, Greg Pillsbury of Burrito Loco, and the one person I talked to the most, Kristen Eide-Tollefson of the Book House, now relocated on the second floor across the street from its former home in the House of Hanson. Kristen has long been active in Dinkytown and is the remaining original Book House owner out of two couples who started it in 1976. Her position on the DBA board currently is communications, editing the newsletter and other functions. She says that Dinkytown has always been a business incubator, a place where businesses start and try out new innovations. She points to the tiny Target as another example of that, even if it is backed by a big corporation. Another surprise—the trendy clothing shop Gina and Wills is actually a consignment shop run by Goodwill Industries.

With the first of their three goals underway, the attention is now on the second—marketing. A request for proposal process recently closed and the DBA is soon to choose a marketing director to implement a chosen plan. Dinkytown’s identity is the issue, along with overcoming some perhaps false conceptions about the area. Several of those I talked to spoke of making Dinkytown a “destination” for people all over the Twin Cities and over many demographics. Dinkytown is not just a student neighborhood, nor just a nostalgia trip for old Bohemians. The Book House, for instance, is legendary in the book world, and definitely worth the trip. Another challenge to overcome is transportation; drivers assume there is no parking, but although some surface lots have been lost to development, there is actually a lot more parking than in other similar business districts. Dinkytown offers a mix of bars and coffee shops; Blarney is popular all over the city, especially on game days, and the venerable Espresso Royale hosts a satellite book shop from the Book House. Dinkytown offers interesting and sophisticated shopping venues, five churches, a library, and live music at the Varsity theatre. It has a huge array of dining options, from Shuang Cheng’s highly reputed Chinese fare, to quick Japanese at Sushi One Two Three, to traditional Italian-American at Vescio’s, to international fine dining at Kafe 421 and the Loring Pasta Bar. With so much going for it, Dinkytown looks to be finally gaining the respect it deserves.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

Ten months ago, Dinkytown was at one of those unmistakable crossroads of change rife with both crisis and opportunity. The businesses in Dinkytown are survivors of change, so this was nothing new, but this time, a perfect storm of factors came close together. On the plus side, the City of Minneapolis and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association were taking much more notice of Dinkytown. But at the beginning of 2014, Skott Johnson, the longtime leader of the Dinkytown Business Association, known as DBA, closed his business at 1300 4th St. S.E., Autographics, and left the Twin Cities. The old Marshall High building, UTech, had been demolished and the House of Hanson would follow close on its heels. And local developer Kelly Doran was proposing to build a hotel on 4th Street, which would entail taking out yet more old low-rise buildings housing small shops and restaurants. It’s no exaggeration to say the future of Dinkytown’s identity was up for grabs.

Despite being an off-and-on president, Skott Johnson was the full-time powerhouse behind the DBA. He was both effective and beloved; people still miss him and speak of him fondly. When he left, the organization began to flounder, mostly because Johnson held a lot of the institutional knowledge in his head. And, the other positions within the DBA were informal; the structure was loosely defined.

When the DBA tried to regroup to fight the hotel plans and other battles, they found that their paperwork was not in order and their legitimacy as representatives of the businesses was open to question. Since a new organization had to be established anyway, it just made sense to start from scratch. So the DBA was dissolved and a new DBA, now named Dinkytown Business Alliance, was formed, with a new charter and an elected and committed board. The new DBA has a built-in relationship with the city and with Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. And the new name points to its new direction—connecting and inclusive, rather than the closed and passive sounding “association.”

Read more TC Daily Planet coverage of development in Dinkytown.

An organizational development consultant was hired: Cara Letofsky, highly respected and with deep connections at City Hall and elsewhere. The City Council denied Doran’s permit to build the hotel. The development that went in mid-2014 on the old House of Hanson corner looks to be a success, as an upscale housing development also housing the first “boutique” Target Express, which provides some grocery shopping and some jobs for area students and residents. And by the early fall of 2014, the new DBA was off and running. Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney, was elected president. The organization, collaborating with neighborhood associations, won a Great Streets Grant from the city, with three development goals: 1) to grow the DBA organizationally (Letofsky’s main task as consultant); 2) to develop and implement a marketing plan for Dinkytown; and 3) recruitment and retention of businesses.

Besides Mulrooney, the other officers or unofficial leaders and strong participants in the DBA (not an exhaustive list) include Randall Gast of Qdoba, Jason McLean of Loring Pasta Bar, Georgia, Jim and Antigone Sander of Kafe 421, Liz Johnson of Magus, Greg Pillsbury of Burrito Loco, and the one person I talked to the most, Kristen Eide-Tollefson of the Book House, now relocated on the second floor across the street from its former home in the House of Hanson. Kristen has long been active in Dinkytown and is the remaining original Book House owner out of two couples who started it in 1976. Her position on the DBA board currently is communications, editing the newsletter and other functions. She says that Dinkytown has always been a business incubator, a place where businesses start and try out new innovations. She points to the tiny Target as another example of that, even if it is backed by a big corporation. Another surprise—the trendy clothing shop Gina and Wills is actually a consignment shop run by Goodwill Industries.

With the first of their three goals underway, the attention is now on the second—marketing. A request for proposal process recently closed and the DBA is soon to choose a marketing director to implement a chosen plan. Dinkytown’s identity is the issue, along with overcoming some perhaps false conceptions about the area. Several of those I talked to spoke of making Dinkytown a “destination” for people all over the Twin Cities and over many demographics. Dinkytown is not just a student neighborhood, nor just a nostalgia trip for old Bohemians. The Book House, for instance, is legendary in the book world, and definitely worth the trip. Another challenge to overcome is transportation; drivers assume there is no parking, but although some surface lots have been lost to development, there is actually a lot more parking than in other similar business districts. Dinkytown offers a mix of bars and coffee shops; Blarney is popular all over the city, especially on game days, and the venerable Espresso Royale hosts a satellite book shop from the Book House. Dinkytown offers interesting and sophisticated shopping venues, five churches, a library, and live music at the Varsity theatre. It has a huge array of dining options, from Shuang Cheng’s highly reputed Chinese fare, to quick Japanese at Sushi One Two Three, to traditional Italian-American at Vescio’s, to international fine dining at Kafe 421 and the Loring Pasta Bar. With so much going for it, Dinkytown looks to be finally gaining the respect it deserves.

© 2014 Southside Pride

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    BADCamp: November 6-9

    Civi Blog - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:37
    BADCamp (Bay Area Drupal Camp) will take place at the Palace of Fine Arts, November 6-9. Kicking off with 6 summits, free Drupal training, and a two full days of sessions, BADCamp is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in Drupal for several days and have a blast doing it.   A number of CiviCRM developers and providers will participate in the non-profit summit on Thursday, November 6th (register now to attend!) and a CiviCRM BoF will be organized on Saturday, November 8 along with the scheduled sessions.   If you plan to attend, let us know in the comments. Based on the participation we may organize a mini-sprint or a community get-together.

    Dramatic overhaul of Mill Ruins Park is planned

    StarTribune Mpls News - Tue, 2014-10-21 21:56
    Water features, ruins and rerouted paths are featured in the first reworking of the tangled Stone Arch bridgehead area.

    Minneapolis recycling rate rises with single-sort service

    StarTribune Mpls News - Tue, 2014-10-21 21:17
    Minneapolis residents are tossing almost a third more material in blue bins since the 2013 change.

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