Thursday, January 8, 2015

Early Notification about Demolition Permits

There have been a number of concerns expressed in the last few months about private property owners' plans to demolish a house on their own property. Some of the demolished homes are on the National Historic Register and some are not. As one tool to simply provide better information, Councilmember Tolbert introduced a City Council resolution to require advance notice of applications for demolition permits. That resolution passed, and today the first early notification (ENS) listing demolition permit applications was sent out to anyone signed up to receive them.

So, now you are asking yourself: "How do I sign up for that?"

Go the the City of Saint Paul website at Over on the right hand side, you will see a box that says "E-Subscription." Click on this box. A new window will open that asks you for your e-mail address. Since these notices are sent to your e-mail, you will not receive them without providing your e-mail address. Once you hit submit, a new window will open that offers you a cornucopia of choices of e-mails you can receive from the City. About half-way down is Early Notification System (ENS). You can choose "all" so you will receive e-mails from all over the city, or you can check your own district council by number and then you will get only the notices that pertain to that neighborhood. Please be aware that you may be signing up for a LOT of e-mail if you check "all."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Buckthorn Getting Your Goat?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has come up with a novel way of eradicating buckthorn, that pesky non-native invasive tree that is taking over everywhere. According to the League of Minnesota Cities, "Grazing goats are taking a chomp out of invasive buckthorn as part of a DNR project." DNR used goats instead of harsh chemical treatments in Red Wing and in Houston County during the summer of 2013. Apparently the goats find buckthorn a delightful culinary treat, and in their enthusiasm for the robust flavor of buckthorn, kill the plant by stripping off all the bark. The best part is that the goats are cheap. According to DNR, it costs $300 to treat an acre of land with grazing goats, versus $2,800 for cutting the trees and chemical treatment of an acre.

Click here to read a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) program about ranchers Keith Hill and Lanette Nadeau's buckthorn chomping goats.

Monday, December 15, 2014

September--October Update 2014

Marathons, half-marathons, fun runs, and races on Shepard Road & Summit Avenue
The Ward 2 Office has received an increasing number of complaints about the number of marathons, half-marathons, fun runs, and races on Shepard Road and Summit Avenue.  Residents have expressed a waning interest in “vitality.”  The people at Upper Landing are tired of being trapped in their condos or townhouses twice a month for nine or ten months of the year.  People on Summit Avenue are tired of having their street completely blocked off twice a month.  And everyone is really tired of “cheer stations.”  Thune has been working with DSI, the police, and the Mayor’s office on a new set of ordinances for 2015.  Please drop us a line, especially if you are interested in either testifying or contacting a City Councilmember to let them know how you feel.

Block club problem properties
Ward 2 has been working with several neighborhood block clubs on problem properties.  Two in West 7th Street, and three on the West Side.  Special shout outs to Saint Paul Police Officers Matt Toupal, Mike Polski, Shawn Campbell, and Natalie Davis.  Police Chief Tom Smith even attended a crime prevention event on the West Side because he lives in the block club neighborhood.  One of the block clubs requested information on classes offered by the City Attorney’s office on how to be a better landlord.  Those classes are great for everyone involved, with the landlords often learning tips and hints that improve their businesses substantially. 

Urban farm at 76 Baker
Pat attended a meeting with WSCO, NeDA, Youth Farm, Humboldt High School, and Other World Learning to discuss the purchase of 76 Baker Street for use as an urban farm.  Dave Thune committed to helping them get a STAR grant for 30% of the cost.  Humboldt and Other World Learning both committed to raising 18% each.  Which would leave WSCO to raise about 34% of the cost, with WSCO being the owner of the urban farm.  Youth Farm & Market committed to helping WSCO raise their portion of the needed funding.  Saint Paul’s HRA made a commitment to wait until May of 2015 before they listed the property for sale to give the partners time to raise the needed funds.  The project is back on track again!

Opus chosen as tentative developer for 7 Corners Gateway
Pat also participated on the 7 Corners Gateway RFQ review committee with staff from PED, and several outside economic development partners, such as Visit Saint Paul.  The committee ended up recommending the bid from Opus Development for tentative developer status.  The HRA formally designated Opus as the tentative developer on October 22nd.

HRA approves $3.3 million tax levy for 2015
The Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA) approved its 2015 tax levy at $3.3 million on September 10th.  This amount pays for the City Planners and some of the Administration.  All economic development subsidies must come from other self-supporting sources like TIF, federal historic tax credits, state housing finance grants, or contamination clean-up grants.  

Highland Park Ravine
The Ward 2 Office is still trying to get its hands on a Capital Region Watershed publication from February of 2011 that described water run-off problems from a ghost park in Highland Ravine. This relates to a complaint from a sweet elderly woman that her basement is constantly flooded and she is getting too old to keep cleaning it up. We are working with Ward 3 on this one. Can we crowd source this?

1950s era retro neon sign on West 7th
On September 17th, the City Council approved a STAR grant of $7,000 to the Liquor Barrel on West 7th & Saint Clair to restore the retro 1950s era neon sign on their property. These pieces of Americana are rapidly disappearing.

Bedlam Theatre funding
Bedlam Theatre in Lowertown received $90,000 in loans, $50,000 in CDBG grants, and $50,000 in the Mayor’s STAR to complete their construction project at the September 24th City Council meeting. With earlier cultural STAR funding, this brings the total of their City support to $340,000.

Joe & Stan's funding
Also on September 24th, the City Council approved a $105,000 CDBG loan and grant to Joe & Stan’s for their major renovation at 949 West 7th Street.  In addition, Historic Saint Paul provided $5,000 as part of their Restore Saint Paul program.  You need to see how beautiful this renovation is; Joe & Stan’s looks like a completely different place, and more historically accurate.

West 7th Community Center annual spaghetti dinner
Dave, Sue and Pat all attended the West 7th Community Center annual spaghetti dinner.  Every year this is like a great West 7th neighbors’ reunion.  Thanks to Greg and all the volunteers in the kitchen.  Thanks to Laurel for her fantastic sauce and to Lois for her phenomenal bars.  

New tool for problem convenience stores
The Ward 2 Office continues working with the Department of Safety & Inspections to amend the penalty matrix on its tobacco licenses to include revocation, with a provision that no tobacco license could be awarded at that address for a period of 5 years.  Thune met with the Mayor and an Assistant Police Chief to get advice on the concept and to iron out some minor differences.  The police are supportive of the concept as another tool to address neighborhood crime.  The ordinance will now include a proviso that this 5-year moratorium could be waived upon proof that a new, clean owner is an arms-length purchaser and not a family-member or former problem owner.  This will go to the City Council for public hearings sometime early in 2015 and will require a lot of support and testimony from the West Side, especially from Central Block Club.

Grotto Street retaining wall
Tony Vavoulis called about a retaining wall at the top of the Grotto Street stairs that was damaged and then demolished almost a year ago by a drunk driver.  It is at the end of a dead-end street in front of a steep slope, with traffic safety implications.  Public Works and HPC had ongoing discussions about replacement, even though it wasn’t even in an historic district. Public Works finally agreed with Tony that it was a traffic hazard and replaced the wall.

Skyway Pedestrian Rights-of-Way
The new DSI Skyway Governance Committee staff person and the new Real Estate staff person called about skyway easements  Both have looked at skyway easement contracts and realized: (a) that the filing system at Real Estate was not a model of efficiency, and (b) there is no consistency at all in the terms of the contracts.  Pat told them that she has always dreamed of getting our easements recorded on the property deeds so everyone can have easy access to the information about what is and what is not in the ROW easement that the City owns.  They had independently come to the same conclusion.  So, Pat called the City Attorney to discuss it with her.  She said that made a lot of sense, but she wanted to talk to building owners and managers about it.  She did that one Tuesday and the conversation did not go well.  There are a lot of unfounded fears out there. 

Without recording the deeds, if there ever is a legal dispute, like there would have been had the Chris Lollie case gone to court, the City would have to go to court to have the judge declare that our understanding of our easement is one that we have been exercising for 40+ years and have legally established by practice.  Our attorneys take the position that we would win that case; and they are no doubt correct.  Why would we depend on a system that requires us to expend legal resources to defend ourselves in court when we could simply record the easement with Ramsey County?  DSI management has gotten involved and started a “mapping” project to physically determine how much of each skyway hallway the City owns (it varies from less than 12 feet at the Cray Plaza Building to over 15 feet at other buildings – again no consistency). 

Fulton Street Neighbors v. Tav on the Ave
Five or six Fulton Street neighbors attended an October meeting called at Fort Road Federation to discuss bad patron behavior at Tav on the Ave bar on Jefferson Street.  The meeting included the owner and two managers from the bar, as well as two liquor control staff from the City.  A copy of the police call sheet for the bar was obtained.  It ran to 4 pages.  It was a productive meeting with the bar owner agreeing to some common sense changes at closing time to be more respectful to the residential neighborhood in which he is located.  The parking lot will be monitored both by cameras, and by security personnel hired by the bar, from 11 pm until 30 minutes after bar closing from Thursday thru Saturday; and from 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after bar closing on other days.  Also the bar must give last call at 1:30, with no sale of alcohol after 1:45.  All new employees will be required to attend alcohol server training.  And the illegal muzak on the patio must be permanently turned off.  The formation of a 22-member block club was a good thing that came out of this shared experience.

Saints Ballpark Gets New Sign Ordinance
The City Council passed changes in the sign ordinances to assist the new Saints ballpark on October 1st.  The main sign on the new ballpark will now protrude above the roof line and be reminiscent of the vintage ballparks we remember from our childhoods.

Lowertown Arts Community Center
Brendan Kramp has spearheaded a feasibility study to create a Lowertown Arts Community Centerm with a grant from the Bremer Foundation.  They are exploring both short-term capital costs as well as long-term operating cost feasibility.  Brendan said they have toured the OMF with Met Council staff, who are still not ready to offer it for lease because of the on-going lawsuit.

Fate of TPT Mural in Building Renovation
Thune met with JoAnne Hawkins, Jim Pagliarini, Jim Miller, Joe Spencer, and Caprice Glaser about the TPT mural.  Some progress was made toward incorporating Glaser’s artwork into a new addition to the HRA-owned entrance to the TPT Building in Lowertown.  On a related note, the City Council accepted a $9 million State of Minnesota bonding grant; amended the ground lease and use agreements between the City and TPT, and amended a prior cultural STAR grant on October 15th.  This funding is for the new additions. 

Snow Plowing Changes on Crocus Place
Cat Thompson on Crocus Place initiated discussions with Public Works Maintenance Operations about snow plowing changes on Crocus Hill.  Public Works called to let us know they will be using her ideas.

New Art Stop Signs
The Ward 2 Office received one complaint about the new flower posts on stop signs on Woodbury Street on the West Side.  Click here for a great explanation about the stop sign art project.

Walk Signal Across West 7th Street at I-35E
Frank Caruso called to let us know that there is no button to push to get a “walk” signal at the northbound exit from I-35E across West 7th Street.  He feels this is dangerous.  Pat contacted Tonia Nicholie who verified that it is dangerous; made even more so by the slight bend in the off-ramp that makes it hard to see pedestrians.  Pat referred it to our best minds in Public Works Traffic Engineering and heard back that they are working on some short-term fixes and some ideas for a longer term plan.  No time line yet.

Summit Hill Association Annual Meeting
Pat attended the Summit Hill Association annual meeting and board election on October 9th.  Great meeting; great desserts as usual.  Congratulations to all new and returning board members.

Dorothy Day Re-Vision Expansion
Pat attended a meeting between West Enders, Irvine Park residents and Catholic Charities about the new Dorothy Day expansion.  A lot of questions were answered.  They all agreed that it would be helpful to meet with the architect -- Marit Brock and Catholic Charities agreed to set that meeting up. Pat also attended, along with Debra Padgett and Lori Harris from the West End, a monthly meeting of all social service agencies dealing with homelessness hosted by Assumption Church. There was a report of collaboration between Central Library and People Inc. to handle problems in the library. There was also a discussion about financial problems with South Metro Regional Services (a street outreach organization) caused by state budget cuts and reaching the end of a set number of years of funding from a foundation.

BOMA Meeting on Skyway Rights and Responsibilities
Pat attended a BOMA meeting at which City Attorney Sara Grewing gave a talk about the rights and responsibilities of building managers who have skyway ROWs through their building.  She re-iterated that whatever actions security takes with one class of skyway visitor, they must take that action with all skyway visitors no matter what the status or appearance of the two groups might be.  She also re-iterated that the police are there to arrest people for illegal activities; and not there to enforce rules of conduct that do not rise to the level of a crime.  DSI reported that they are doing a mapping project to visually show what the City’s ROW thru each skyway building actually is.

Historic Use Variance
The Historic Use Variance Study resolution passed the City Council on October 22nd.  Ellen Mueller from PED called a meeting with Tom Schroeder, John Yust, Amy Spong & Christine Boulware from HPC, Lucy Thompson & Donna Drummond from the Planning Commission, and Pat in Dave’s office to talk about a timeline for getting this study completed.  We are hoping for very early summer 2015.

Busy Day - 8-80 Vitality Fund and Graff Dry Goods Store
October 22nd was a busy day for Ward 2.  The City Council also approved a $16,000 STAR grant to renovate the historic classical revival Herman Graff Dry Goods Store at 953, 955, and 957 West 7th Street.  The Avenue is really looking good these days.  After much deliberation at earlier budget hearings, the City Council approved a new 8-80 Vitality Fund that is a major initiative of Mayor Coleman’s.  Click to find out what in the heck an 8-80 Vitality Fund is

Little Bohemia in Inspiring Communities Auction
HRA staff completed work on the RFPs for Little Bohemia properties.  The Little Bohemians wanted: (a) neighbors to be able to bid on two properties that are narrower than a standard lot (which is City policy anyway), (b) for the RFP to list a preference for a resident owner of the duplex, and (c) some historic design standards for the Civil-War-era house.  Joe delivered!  The two narrow properties will be offered first to the next-door neighbors.  The RFP for the duplex says that preference will be given to a resident owner application, and the RFP for the Civil War house says any renovation must follow the best practices as outlined in Dayton’s Bluff historic design standards.  Our HRA staff rock!  

Crime Prevention on the West Side Flats Commercial Strip
Thune and Pat played tag team in attending a meeting at the Girl Scouts Building called by Gilbert DeLaO to address the increasing crime problems in the triangle between Cesar Chavez, Robert Street and Clinton Streets on the West Side.  The proximate issue was a shooting the previous weekend that involved multiple parties.  Tom Smith and Dave Mathison were there from the police.  The meeting was moderated by Gilbert.  Several young people expressed an interest in being police ambassadors.  The group decided to hold ongoing meetings.  Pat suggested that the police CPTED unit explore putting up a light in the parking lots shared by many businesses on Robert Street. 

Rayette Building Grand Opening
Thune and Pat attended the historic Rayette Building grand opening ribbon cutting, and had a chance to meet two descendants of Raymond Lee, the founder of Rayette. As well as Tim Niver, owner of a great steak house – and of course take a photo with Marilyn. Pat scored a photo with Elvis. All the apartments are named after 1950s and 1960s film and music stars. The HRA awarded Rayette $921,000 in DEED and Met Council contamination clean-up grants this year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Custom House Renovation Gets Underway, But First a Little History

On November 12th, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) authorized a $5.8 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District for Jim Stolpestad’s Custom House project at 180 East Kellogg Boulevard. Many of you will remember this as the old downtown post office.

Originally constructed in 1933-34, this art deco style 750,000 square foot building is now on the National Historic Register. The original 1934 building is 17 stories high, with a 6-story annex at the rear built on in 1961. The 1934 building is clad in smooth ashlar Kasota limestone, with dark gray granite bulkheads above the window bays. Narrow bands of limestone near the top of the tower are carved with a stylized vine motif. The 1961 building has a base of dark gray granite with unornamented Kasota limestone above, and is considered as compatible in design and materials with the art deco main building. None of the current windows are historic, having been replaced in 1985. In 1978, two skyway penetrations were made to connect the annex to the Kellogg train deck. Those skyways have been removed.

In early pioneer days, Saint Paul developed as a shipping gateway to the Minnesota and Dakota frontiers. In 1858, 1,068 steamboats docked in Saint Paul bringing goods and people up the river. By 1873, Saint Paul had constructed its first post office and custom house. By the 1890s, the railroad had surpassed the river as the shipping venue, and Saint Paul’s J.J. Hill made the city the center of the great Northwestern system. The post office, custom house and court house moved into what is today Landmark Center in 1902. By 1903, the city had already established a commercial post office station near Union Depot. By 1929 plans were being made for a larger post office and custom house facility that would include the commercial post office.

The architect chosen was Lambert Bassindale of Racine, Wisconsin, who also designed Chicago’s City Hall, the Chicago Northwestern Terminal, and Union Railway Terminal in Kansas City. Bassindale worked as an associate architect in the firm that designed Saint Paul’s Union Depot and the Great Northern Station in Minneapolis. The 1934 construction was partly funded through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program designed to keep people employed during the Great Depression. The post office occupied the first five stories, with floors six thru eleven housing various federal government agencies, including U.S. Customs.

The U.S. Customs Service dates back to President George Washington who signed the Tariff Act of 1789 which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods to pay for the Revolutionary War. Four weeks later, Congress established the U.S. Customs Service at all ports of entry. For over 100 years, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of funds for the entire government. Since Saint Paul’s upper and lower landings were important points of entry for goods coming up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, it needed a Customs House. A great deal of money changed hands at the Customs House, often making it a center of business activity in a community. Several early Customs Houses included private clubs for the business leaders of the community. The photo below is of the London Custom House long room where customs duties were paid from ca. 1750.

Getting back to the November 12th HRA action, the total construction cost is estimated at $44.9 million, with total project costs approaching $77 million (including things like acquisition, architects fees, pollution clean-up, building permits, sidewalks, etc). The renovation will include 202 market rate rental housing units on Floors 6 thru 16 of the main building. Floors 2 thru 4 will be sold to a hotel operator for a 150 room hotel. The first floor lobby will serve both the apartments and hotel, as well as having space for another commercial use such as a restaurant. The basement floors will be a parking ramp. Major funding for the project comes from state and federal historic tax credits, as well as commercial loans taken out by Ironton Development (Stolpestad’s corporation).

Ironton has already received $850,000 from the Metropolitan Council thru their Tax Base Revitalization Account (TBRA) and $725,000 from DEED for pollution clean-up, demolition, which includes asbestos removal, and half the cost of a new sewer lift station. The $5.8 million in TIF can be used for any of the following $10.4 million worth of redevelopment work:
  • Demolition - $3.45 million
  • Sewer lift station (half) - $325,000
  • Utilities relocation - $1.355 million
  • Roads and sidewalks - $1.15 million
  • Flood mitigation - $225,000
  • Entryways remodeled to HPC standards - $332,000
  • Parking improvements - $3.575 million

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ward 2 Crime Stats for 2014

It may not seem like it from the ground, but Ward 2 does not have the highest crime rates in Saint Paul; in fact, we aren't even in the top 3 or 4. Most of the crime issues we hear about are drugs and quality of life issues. But we thought you might like a recap of crime stats put out by the Saint Paul police department for January thru November of 2014.

They report the crimes of (1) auto theft which is the theft of a vehicle, (2) residential burglary which is defined as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft, (3) robbery which is defined as taking or attempting to take anything of value from a person or persons by force, threat, or violence, and (4) theft which is defined as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away with property from the possession of another. This fourth category is where breaking a car window to steal a laptop, cell phone, or purse comes in, although it could be the theft of other things like lawn furniture too.

The tables present how many months that particular crime was committed in the police grids in that particular neighborhood. For instance, the police grid #148 in Summit Hill experienced 1 to 2 auto thefts in 6 separate months of 2014; but in no months were 3 or 4 to 5 auto thefts written up in a police report. Similarly, police grid #148 experience 1 to 4 thefts a total of 4 separate months; 5 to 8 thefts a total of 3 separate months; and 9 to 12 thefts in one month. By the way, that month was January of 2014.

Auto Thefts has two columns: one for number of months that grid experienced 1 to 2 auto thefts, and another column for the number of months that grid experienced 3 auto thefts. And so on. There is a black dividing line between the four different categories of crimes on the table. You can click on the photo to enlarge. Hopefully it will be clear to our readers.

Let's start with Summit Hill. I know it may not seem like it when you are affected, but these are relatively low crime numbers. It is always good, however, to be on the alert for suspected auto thefts and garage break-ins if you live in this neighborhood.

Fort Road, also affectionately known as the West End, posted some extremely low crime numbers in 2014. I hope that all the active block clubs can take credit for that great showing. We are still getting complaints about thieves breaking into cars to steal electronics. Please, please, please don't leave any electronics in your cars.

The West Side too often gets undeserved negative publicity about their crime rate, which is not really all that bad. Robbery seems to be more of a problem on here than in other Ward 2 neighborhoods. Be careful out there while walking around at night. Also there seem to be more thefts of cars. I had to bump up the numbers of robberies and the number of auto thefts shown in the chart. On the bright side, there are far fewer residential burglaries and a relatively low number of plain thefts (except in Grid #194) on the West Side as compared to other Ward 2 neighborhoods.

Downtown generates a lot of complaints about those irritating quality of life crimes that can sometimes make it seem like there is more actual crime than there is in reality. It is good to see that auto theft is down, but beware in Grid #133 in Lowertown. Also Grid #133 had so many reports of plain thefts in May that I would have had to create a new column for it. I just added that month into the last column (9 to 12 incidents resulting in a police report, even though the actual number was over 21). If you see something unusual happening, it won't hurt to stop to talk to the people involved and find out what they are doing. You are artists; make sure to memorize their description while you're talking. It may come in handy later.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Distortions and Fear-Mongering from the Chamber of Commerce

On November 5th, the Fort Road Community, that went thru a multi-year, thoughtful process to rezone the property formerly occupied by the Schmidt Brewery and an ethanol plant, appealed a split 9-8 decision of the Planning Commission to grant re-establishment of a nonconforming use as a warehouse to Premier Storage. The property was rezoned to TN3 in 2008, a zoning classification that allows mixed commercial, retail, and housing uses, but specifically prohibits warehouse and other industrial uses. The Schmidt property is also in the Great River Passage Plan that encourages better connections to the river and more green spaces that fit into the Mississippi River National Recreation plan, which also impacts properties along the river.

The community did a fantastic job of presenting the hard work they have done before and since 2008 to encourage density, transit-oriented development, and better use of high-valued land. The argument on the other side was that, since that building was built as a warehouse and used as a warehouse until 2009, they couldn't imagine any other use. It's lucky that we had Dominium who had a much more active imagination and they could imagine a brew house and a bottle house being a gorgeous home to 260 artists and their families, with about a dozen studios to help them create their art.

The City Council voted 7-0 in favor of the community and in favor of higher and best use of that land.

So imagine our surpise when we opened our e-mail and found this over-wrought and fear-mongering missive from the Chamber of Commerce, written by a former employee of the very expensive, and high powered law firm that the owner of Premier Storage hired to be his mouth pieces. Double click to open the photo and read their hyperbolic letter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

July--August 2014 Update

Jefferson Avenue bike boulevard and sidewalks
Public Works completed the sidewalk on the south side of Jefferson, streetlights on that street segment, and the rest of the Jefferson Avenue bike boulevard construction to make Jefferson truly work for the West End population from age 8 to age 80. Thanks much to Mike Weber for the photos, and for his advocacy for pedestrian safety.

Al Carlson retired from PED
Al Carlson retired from PED. Al has been a great partner in all the housing and mixed-use commercial development we have seen in Ward 2 in the past 20+ years. Al was always patient with Dave’s moods and always worked very hard behind the scenes to find creative funding sources for a great project. Al also never hesitated to tell Dave that a pet project was just a non-starter. He will be greatly missed in Ward 2.

Pedro Park sign went missing
James LaFaye called to let us know that the sign in Pedro Park (with the names of the Councilmembers) is missing. Pat sent an e-mail to Parks & Rec Director Mike Hahm asking him when the sign will be put back up. Photo is from “unveiling” day in 2011.

Neighborhood STAR
On July 9th the City Council approved allocation of Neighborhood STAR grant and loan financing as approved by the citizen STAR Board. Ward 2 businesses receiving STAR funding included: (a) Insty Prints relocation to 1396 West 7th St., (b) Bad Weather Brewery’s renovations to 414 West 7th St. (the old NW Tire Building), (c) Whebbe’s Rare Books at 111 East Annapolis, (d) La Clinica’s new heating and ventilating system at 153 Cesar Chavez, (e) BC Commercial Properties at 1044 West 7th St., (f) Common Bond Communities for ADA entrances and restrooms plus better exterior lighting at their headquarters at 1080 Montreal, and (g) NeDA for about 10% of the required funding to construct a new 2-story commercial building at 430 South Robert St. The STAR Board also recommended and the City Council passed $250,000 in funding for Neighborhood Energy Connection to provide low-interest loans to homeowners for energy efficient home improvements, such as a new furnace or water heater.

New Gilbert DeLaO ballfields at El Rio Rec Center
Thune participated in the first baseball pitch at the new Gilbert DeLaO ballfields at El Rio Rec Center on the West Side. Pat had another appointment, so there shall be no photos of this historic event.

Over-serving of liquor and police reports
A Summit Hill neighbor called about over-service at a bar close to her home near Avon Street. One evening she and her husband awoke to some drunk young man sleeping naked on their couch. They called the police, who arrested him and removed him from their home. The next day she contacted the police officer who responded to find out where that young man had been over-served alcohol and the police officer told her that they did not ask that question. Thune spoke to the head of our Department of Safety & Inspections (DSI) about this on-going issue with the police not asking where a publicly intoxicated person had been over-served before his/her arrest. Thune was assured that DSI would request the police to ask this question when they pick up someone for public intoxication or DWI. We are hoping for the best, knowing full well that this has been a long-standing intractable issue.

Tour of's offices in Saint Paul
Dave was given a tour of’s offices in Saint Paul by its dynamic CEO Scott Burns. Their current location is their third in downtown; they had to move from the other two because of rapid growth. Good problem to have. Dave was very impressed with the company and their philosophy. Dave was running a few high-tech ideas past Scott on the white board. That’s our story and we’re sticking with it.

Summit Hill developer sand and silt tiring neighbors
Two Summit Hill neighbors called about the dirt and sand run-off from construction projects at 712 and 718 Fairmount all summer long. DSI has been out there several times and given the contractor tickets for not controlling rain water run-off on his construction site, which is against Minnesota State law. The contractor accepts the fines as a cost of doing business, and has never achieved compliance with the law. In the meantime, these two public service oriented neighbors have been out after every rain fall (and do you remember how many of them there were in the early part of the summer) shoveling up the dirt and sand and hauling to back up the street into the yards at 712 and 718 from whence it came. They not only did this on the sidewalks in front of their own homes, but also in front of the homes of two elderly couples who are not strong enough to do it themselves, and in the street further down the hill. They were tired and were requesting the City to take legal action.

Stone Saloon and historic use variance ordinance
Dave met with Tom Schroeder and John Yust about the wonderful renovation they are doing of the Civil War era stone saloon on North Smith. They are interested in an ordinance change to allow any structure with local historic designation to restore its original use without regard to the current zoning classification of the property. If you are interested in speaking up about this idea, please contact the Ward 2 office at 266-8621. We will put you on the notification list for future actions.

Zoning code required fence becomes elusive
Dave met with City staff from DSI and the City Attorney’s office about the fence that is required by the City’s zoning ordinances between the parking lot on West 7th Street and the residence at 311 Walnut.

More lights on Wall between 6th & 7th Streets
Pat called the City’s finance office to ask where the City gets the funding for bent straw lights. The answer: from CIB. This is related to the request for more lighting on a very dark Wall between 6th & 7th Streets. PW said that the owners would have to pay for the above-standard globe lights, but the City would put in whatever bent straw lights would cost (which works out to about 1/3 of the cost). Good item to add to the CIB list being requested of all the district councils.

House Detective produced study of historic uses of 7 Corners Hardware site
Dave met with Jim Sazevich, the House Detective, who had just completed a study of all the historic uses of the 7 Corners Hardware block, including an analysis of which uses may have involved hazardous materials so the City could apply for a DEED clean-up grant. Under contract with Greening the Avenue, Jim produced a large binder going all the way back to earliest settlement of West 7th Street. And he did discover that there were a couple of historic uses that would qualify the project for a hazardous material clean-up grant. Later Thune attended a Fort Road Federation meeting at Fire Station #1 at which the Opus Group presented the design concept for their development at 7 Corners Hardware site. They have also purchased the church next door, so the development will be slightly larger than originally anticipated.

Jim Miller, new Chair of the CapitolRiver Council
Dave met with Jim Miller, newly elected Chair of the CapitolRiver Council, for lunch. They caught up on downtown issues they are both working on. Thune also attended a Wabasha Street Block Party downtown. He sent a note to the team of downtown boosters who sponsored the party. He said, “I have never seen so much life on Wabasha!”

National Night Out on Stryker and Elizabeth
Gilbert DeLaO and the Central Block Club organized a large community gathering and pot luck at the corner of Stryker and Elizabeth for National Night Out. This is the first of several public events planned to “take back the corner” now that the Stryker Market has been closed by the State Department of Health. Thanks to everyone who was involved, especially Gilbert, Duffy, and the SPPD. This is a beautiful response to a persistent neighborhood problem.

Ordway's McKnight Theatre expansion
On August 6th, the City Council approved acceptance of a $4 million grant from the State of Minnesota to complete construction on the Ordway Theatre’s expansion of their McKnight Theatre stage. The Council also approved Bedlam Theatre’s sidewalk cafĂ© license.

Jefferson Avenue bike boulevard and Palace Rec Center
On August 13th the City Council approved additional funding for inflation-related cost over-runs on two bike lane projects on city streets (one of them being Jefferson Avenue), and also formally authorized Public Works to enter into community garden agreements with nonprofit groups. The Ward 2 office received a number of calls and e-mails about a newspaper report that funding had been taken away from Palace Rec Center’s expansion and upgrade. Thune’s complete answer is on this blog. The short response is that $91,000 was taken away from the 2014 budget, and the Mayor’s 2015 budget adds back $92,000. No net loss of funding for Palace.

Pat went on vacation
Pat went on vacation with her family, and sent a postcard. This is why there are no photos from the last few days of July and the first part of August.

Black Hawk helicopters flying low and dark
The Ward 2 office received a large volume of phone calls, e-mails, Facebook messages and Tweets about the military Blackhawk helicopters that were flying fast, low, and without lights in downtown Saint Paul and the West End one evening in mid-August. Most of them were commenting that they considered it dangerous to conduct military exercises in a densely populated area with no advance warning and with a population that would not know what to do if there were a crash or some other emergency. Again, Dave Thune hit the blog with his response.

Lowertown arts community space in the LRT train shed???
Brendan Kramp, Lowertown artist, updated us on the feasibility study the Saint Paul Art Collective is doing looking at a Lowertown arts community space in the train shed. He said ArtSpace is doing a study of what uses to put the space, but not looking at financial feasibility. Brendan will have a second phase conducted by another consultant to work out financial feasibility numbers and figure out how to pay for long-term operating costs. Much thanks to Patrick McCutchan, another Lowertown artist, for getting this whole ball rolling.

Sales of single cigars banned
On August 27th the City Council passed a ban on selling single cigars that cost less than $2. Cheap cigars must now be sold in packs of 5; the same as cigarettes. This ordinance was brought forward by a dedicated group of young people who noticed that fruit flavored single cigars are marketed to appeal to young people at the same time they are trying to educate young people not to start smoking. The ban passed 5-1.

Black Bear Crossing lawsuit settlement
Also on August 27th the City Council approved an out-of-court settlement with Black Bear Crossing for the early cancellation of its contract to operate at Como Park Pavilion. This followed a Ramsey County judge’s ruling that the cancellation was not properly done within the terms of our contract, and prior to the scheduled penalty phase of the trial originally set for January.