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Urban Organics expands at Schmidt Brewery site

St. Paul aquaponics firm Urban Organics just finalized the purchase of an 80,000-square-foot building on the redeveloped Schmidt Brewery site, according to Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. The site will likely house an aquaponic (“aquaculture”) system that produces lettuce and other greens year-round without soil or fertilizer.
 
Though decision-makers are mum on the details, Urban Organics also appears to be deepening its already robust partnership with Pentair, an MSP-based corporate giant that builds innovative water filtration and recycling systems. (The company is responsible for Target Field’s thrifty irrigation infrastructure, among other highly visible projects.) Pentair designed and built the aquaponics system in Urban Organics’ Hamm’s facility.
 
According to the Business Journal, the Schmidt Building’s actual buyer is a newly formed entity called Urban Organics Pentair Group. Urban Organics Pentair Group shares an address with a Pentair satellite office, suggesting that the larger firm is playing an active role in Urban Organics’ new project.
 
It’s unclear whether the Schmidt purchase presages a series of collaborations between Urban Organics and Pentair. In previous conversations with The Line, Urban Organics co-founder Fred Haberman has expressed optimism that aquaponics systems as large as 500,000 square feet — several times the size of the planned Schmidt facility — would be technologically feasible and profitable within a decade.
 
Regardless of its implications for Urban Organics’ future, the Schmidt transaction adds a second historic brewery location to Urban Organics’ expanding corporate footprint, following the company’s flagship facility at the old Hamm’s Brewery. It’s also a huge win for MSP’s booming urban agriculture scene, and proof that small-scale, sustainable food production systems can play a role in fixing what Haberman calls “the [United States’] broken food system.”
 
Business is “innovating at the wrong end of our food system,” says Haberman, pointing to heavily processed snack foods with little resemblance to naturally occurring, nutritious ingredients. “The real need is for innovation to create more sustainable modes of production.”
 
Urban Organics’ food production system is definitely sustainable. According to Haberman, aquaponics uses just 98 percent less water than traditional irrigation. Since much of the United States’ fresh produce is grown in the water-starved Southwest, Urban Organics’ water-sipping, locally operated technology is a huge advantage.
 
And since Urban Organics uses fish to clear waste from its tanks, the growing process doesn’t produce industrial quantities of harmful runoff — another advantage over non-organic, soil-based agriculture.
 
“By itself, aquaponics won’t solve the problems facing modern agriculture,” says Haberman. But Urban Organics’ ambitious vision for a more sustainable agricultural future is nonetheless worth celebrating — and the new Schmidt space marks a major milestone on the company’s journey.
 
 
 

Brazilian muralist paints Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis

Last week, city music fans and cultural mavens were abuzz about news that Eduardo Kobra, an internationally acclaimed Brazilian muralist, would begin working on a five-story mural of Bob Dylan on the west façade of the 15 Building at Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. As the painting commenced, passersby marveled at the color and artistry — as well as the speed with which Kobra and his team materialized the mural.
 
Kobra is reportedly renowned for his bright color palette and bold use of line. His work also often pays homage to people with a particular association with a city or place, which is why he selected Dylan. (Kobra is also a fan.) Three Brazilian and two Minnesota-based artists helped with the production.
 
“Eduardo Kobra’s new mural will add an invigorating and colorful international artwork to the downtown Cultural District and Hennepin Avenue,” says Tom Hoch, president and CEO, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis. The mural is a project of the Hennepin Theatre Trust. “At the same time, it celebrates Bob Dylan, who is not only one of Minnesota’s most admired native sons, but also a former owner of the Trust’s Orpheum Theatre.”
 
Dylan owned the Orpheum Theatre from 1979 to 1988 with his brother David Zimmerman. The 74-year-old icon from Hibbing has performed frequently at the Orpheum including three consecutive shows last fall. The Orpheum, located on Hennepin Avenue, is just down the street from the mural site, so its presence has particular resonance for Hennepin Avenue and for Hennepin Theatre Trust, which currently owns the Orpheum.
 
“Kobra was collaboratively selected for this project,” Hoch says. “Various people and muralists were under consideration, and Kobra soon became the obvious choice because he is renowned internationally, has a wonderfully colorful palette and great street credentials.”

The 15 Building is currently owned by R2 Companies and AIMS Real Estate, a business unit of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which was involved in Kobra’s selection. The 15 Building is an historic Art Deco office tower constructed in the 1920s. More recently, it has become home to many creative loft-office users including Channel Z, Hunt Atkins, Bloom Health and Assemble.
 
 

Highlight Center brings new synergy and office space to "white hot" Northeast

“Northeast is white hot right now,” says Scott Tankenoff, managing partner, Hillcrest Development, about the Minneapolis neighborhood. Hillcrest redeveloped the historic Frost and Crown Center buildings adjacent to Broadway and Central avenues, and will officially open the Highlight Center (a former GE Mazda light bulb factory, and more recently workshops and administrative offices for the Minneapolis School District) on Tuesday, September 15.
 
“The job and labor markets are unbelievably tight,” Tankenoff continues. “People are looking for commercial, office and retail space that’s high quality and durable. If you can add bicycle storage, showers for commuters, common areas lots of people can use at one time, a distinctive micro-brewery that tenants and visitors will use, rooftop garden areas and patios, lots of free parking and retain the building’s character within the existing fabric of the neighborhood, you’ve got a good mix.”
 
The Highlight Center does all that. Sport Ngin, which makes software for managing sports league websites, is one of the building’s main tenants, occupying about 30,000 square feet. Other tenants will include a law firm, Internet radio company, furniture rep and MyMeds, a cloud-based web and mobile application that helps users manage their medications.
 
“Space is moving fast,” Tankenoff says. “Many creative class-type companies would have looked in the North Loop but they like the price better here, and there are parking lots and other amenities nearby.”
 
In an adjacent building, also redeveloped by Hillcrest, Able Seedhouse and Brewery is setting up operations. “Able will have unique large taproom, and produce and distribute their product, but will also source locally grown ingredients like hops,” Tankenoff says, putting the new micro-brewery in good company alongside the likes of Bauhaus Brew Labs (in Crown Center) and Sociable Ciderwerks (down the street).
 
“The synergy creating by the tenants is critical to creating buzz and a community within the building and in the adjacent neighborhood,” he adds. “People want to be part of a collective.”
 
They may also want to work in what Tankenoff calls “the last great building in Northeast near downtown.” The brick and timber frame structure, built in the 1920s, “was a disaster” when Hillcrest took over, he says, as it had been used for storage, and for plumbing, key, maintenance, carpentry and electrical shops. The former 807 Broadway is “right on top of good, future mass transit, and is a large building that allows for patios, rooftop gardens and gathering spaces.”
 
The Highlight Center includes a common room for the community to use and will eventually incorporate solar panels for generating electricity. RoehrSchmitt Architecture and Tanek Architecture and Design collaborated with Hillcrest with the project.
 
“The process was all about retaining the character of the buildings, while adding a whimsical twist with materials inside,” Tankenoff says. “Our goal is to express the classic nature of historic buildings while making them relevant, modern, appropriate and fun for today. Both those architecture firms clearly understand that.”
 
 

Midway Murals and Little Africa celebrate Snelling redo with arts festival

After moving to and buying a house in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood five years ago with his wife, Jonathan Oppenheimer was inspired to create “a dream project.”
 
“I thought: ‘Wouldn't it be awesome to transform Snelling Avenue, then highlight the changes to transform the public’s perception of it,’ ” he recalls. He had in mind a half-mile stretch of Snelling, the visible and highly traveled portion from I-94 over the Green Line and north toward the State Fair.
 
“The area suffers from rampant graffiti,” Oppenheimer says, “and the business owners in the area, many of them immigrant business owners, would like to change people’s perception of that stretch of Snelling. I also wanted to help bridge the stark divide between immigrants and residents, economic classes and race, by doing something creative and productive.”
 
So Oppenheimer founded Midway Murals and in 2014 received McKnight Arts Challenge to complete the project. A launch party in February brought 300 people into the Turf Club “to show folks it’s really happening and get them excited about it,” Oppenheimer says.
 
On Saturday, August 29, the Midway Art Festival, co-hosted by Midway Murals and Little Africa, celebrates the murals’ completion, from 12-6 p.m., at Hamline Park on the corner of Snelling and Thomas avenues.
 
The event includes live and interactive art projects from Rogue Citizen, Dim Media, Streetcorner Letterpress, the Poetry Mobile, and Fluid Ink; music from Superbrush 427 and River Beats Entertainment; and an overall celebration of the newly reconstructed Snelling Avenue. Also on the docket are tours of the four murals created by four local public artists: Lori Greene worked in mosaic; Greta McLain in paint and mosaic; Eric Mattheis in spray paint; and Yuya Negishi in traditional and spray paint.
 
“Each artist created a separate mural, while working over several months with area business owners to craft an idea,” Oppenheimer says. “The murals reflect the changes in culture, residents, infrastructure and imagination that are forever occurring in the city, as well as the promise and struggles that the community navigates over time.” All of the artists worked with a central theme: starting anew.
 
“I always wanted to be involved in neighborhood activism, to take stock of what was wonderful and the places needing improvement,” Oppenheimer adds. “And I wanted to start a conversation around a public art project, as public art has the unique ability to bring people into contact with things they wouldn’t otherwise see.”
 
Oppenheimer is also thrilled that the completed murals, and Midway Art Festival, will occur just as renovations to Snelling Avenue are completed, including new decorative lighting and sidewalks. “People are excited because Snelling has a fresh look,” he says. “We’re hoping the arts festival and mural projects will also better unite the neighborhood, spark conversations and inspire people to continue improving the area.”
 
According to the Midway Murals website, the initiative “will serve as the cornerstone for a new public art workgroup housed in the Hamline Midway Coalition, the neighborhood’s non-profit district council. This group will bring together community members of diverse backgrounds to meet regularly to brainstorm new ideas and locations for public art; ensure upkeep and maintenance of existing pieces; and curate and oversee the expansion of this art corridor in future years.”
 
 
 
 

North Loop's lumbersexual vibe gets boost with conversion of Jackson Building into Hewing Hotel

After months, even years, of speculation, the historic Jackson Building in Minneapolis’ North Loop, most recently home to the IPR (Institute of Production and Recording) College of Creative Arts, is slated to become a boutique hotel. “The neighborhood is spectacular,” says Tim Dixon, owner of Fe Equus Development, LLC, which is taking on the project. “It’s rocking. Empty nesters are moving back to the city. Millennials are embracing the area. The food scene is spectacular. We’ll add value to the neighborhood with an experiential hotel that will bring in the locals.”
 
Based in Milwaukee, Fe Equus is best known for transforming a 200-year-old downtown building into the Iron Horse Hotel. “The Iron Horse Hotel fulfilled the growing demand for experiential hotels and the need for additional rooms generated by its neighbor, the Harley-Davidson Museum,” according to the Fe Equus website. “Unlike any modern luxury hotel today, this brand new concept pairs high-end accommodations with special amenities for motorcycle enthusiasts.”
 
The Jackson Building will be renamed the Hewing Hotel, in a nod to the area’s milling history, which began with lumber. To “hew” is to cut or to fell. Think axe to tree. Which will fit right in with the area’s growing lumbersexual vibe apparent at Marvel Bar, Spoon and Stable, and Askov Finlayson.
 
In the late 1880s, many Minnesota trees were hewed to create the sturdy timber frame of the Jackson Building, which also has exposed brick walls and wood floors. Built on spec by Henry George Andrews (in collaboration with John Pillsbury, Thomas Andrews and Woodbury Fisk, Dixon says, the building initially had two floors. But as the area boomed, ceilings were ripped off and floors added. An addition was made to the building, as well.
 
“We thought about calling it the Convolution Hotel,” Dixon says, with a laugh, “because of the build out. On nearly every floor, it’s clear they took the roof off and put new floors down, over and over again. In the basement, which has really high ceilings, they used to pull a train in.” In previous lives, the building functioned as farm implement showroom and a warehouse.
 
The Aparium Hotel Group of Chicago will work with Fe Equus on the building’s conversion into a 120-room hotel with a restaurant and bar. “We start with the history and the building, then investigate the neighborhood and the city,” Dixon says, “to create food and beverage services that embrace the community and attract the locals. As we’ve proved with other projects, once you bring in the locals you become part of the fabric of the community.”
 
Dixon is currently living in North Loop, were he’s soaking up the ambience 24/7 in preparation for the historic building’s redesign. “It’s no fun going into the middle of a cornfield and coming up with something creative and beautiful,” he says. “It’s more satisfying, and you’re forced to be creative, when working within the barriers presented to you, from structure and materials to existing urban neighborhood. Our team at every level — operationally, design, food and beverage — will integrate it all to ensure the Hewing Hotel experience is consistent and unique.”  
 
 
 
 

Little Mekong Night Market moves and expands in August

Last summer, the Little Mekong Night Market, a project of the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) in St. Paul, debuted, introducing the Twin Cities to the vibrancy of the markets that are a common occurrence across Asia. “There’s a unique vibe and energy that happens when people are hanging out at night, in the summer, at a festive event that’s intergenerational and family friendly,” says artist organizer Oskar Ly, who helped coordinate last year’s night markets.
 
In fact, MSP’s first night market, Ly recalls, was such a hit that “people kept coming back with their families and friends to check out all the night markets in Little Mekong. People have said they felt as though they were transported into a different country for the evening.”
 
This year, the Little Mekong Night Market will be held Friday, August 7, from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday, August 8, from 4 p.m. to midnight. The location, however, has changed. “We’re moving the night market from the parking lot behind Mai Village to the street, and closing off Western Avenue from Charles to Aurora,” says Jeffrey Whitman, event manager, Little Mekong Night Market, AEDA.
 
“We’re also moving the main stage across the street into a parking lot, so we have more space to spread out,” he adds. “Last year, we were really tucked into a nook. Surveys showed that people needed more room, and also wanted to have greater exposure and catch more passersby off the Green Line. We listened.”
 
This year’s vendors will include Dangerous Productions (a nonprofit performing arts group), the fashion truck Style A Go-Go, novelty accessories by Designs by RedFireFly, Luce Quilts, Nuclear Nectar’s hot sauces, Pho-Ger’s kimchee fries, Lilly Bean Ice Desserts, LolaRosa's Filipino-inspired food, RedGreen Rivers’ traditional Hmong fair trade crafts, and Silhouette Bakery’s sweet and savory Japanese buns.
 
Also, Ly says, “We’re expanding the diversity of arts that will be showcased. We have 100 groups of artists, art activities, and traditional and contemporary performances planned.”

Performances by Mayda, Str8 2th, Hmong Breakers Leadership Council, Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, Capoeira Fitness Academy,
Hmong Cultural Center Qeej Troupe, Xibaba Brazilian and World Jazz are scheduled. The arts activities will be spearheaded by Humans of Night Market by Hmongkee Business, Greetings from Night Market by Hmongkee Business, SparkIt,
Chicks on Sticks, Hoop Jams and other groups.

The Little Mekong Night Market was started last year as part of AEDA’s mission to help small and micro-businesses take off and flourish. “The night market is really about buying local, from people who live in the neighborhood,” Whitman says. “Some of the vendors come from outside the community, but the majority of them live and work right here. The market supports the neighborhood and brings in people to see what Little Mekong has to offer.”
 
In addition to functioning as an economic development initiative, Ly adds that the market is also a “placemaking effort for Little Mekong. It’s part of our rebranding of the district, in order to further revitalize the area, bring in new visitors, and entice people to come back—again and again.”
 

Fort Snelling's historic Upper Post to be transformed into workforce housing

If the criteria of marketable real estate — “location, location, location” — still holds true, then a prime parcel in the Twin Cities has it all. Open space. River views. Recreational fields. Historical resonance. Old-growth vegetation. It’s minutes from light rail and freeways, and is adjacent to a state park with a lake, bicycling and x-county ski trails, hiking paths and an interpretive center.
 
Most likely, you’ve sped past it en route to MSP International Airport or the Mall of America. Or maybe you’ve played ultimate Frisbee, baseball, soccer, golf or polo on the site. Or even, having taken a wrong turn, found yourself in a ghost town with crumbling houses, grand dilapidated structures and overgrown thoroughfares that begin and end seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
 
Welcome to the Upper Post of Fort Snelling. Home to buff- and red-brick buildings — including an imposing headquarters with a grand clock tower, rows of barracks, and a lane of once-stately officers’ homes with columns and porches — the Upper Post is a National Historic Landmark, and part of a larger National Register District that includes portions of the Mississippi River and its environs.
 
For years, however, the buildings have languished. Owned by the State of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Upper Post has been largely used for parks and recreation. But in 1998, the DNR hired Miller Dunwiddie Architecture, Minneapolis, to access the buildings’ structural integrity and potential for reuse.
 
By 2006, a Save America’s Treasures grant secured by Hennepin County paid for the buildings’ stabilization. Work included re-roofing buildings, patching holes in the walls, sealing up windows and doors with plywood, and covering up porches.
 
But the structures’ only hope of long-term survival rested in their adaptive reuse. Many developers floated ideas. But only Dominium’s recent proposal to transform the structures into an affordable–housing community has generated true excitement.
 
“We’ve taken on similar adaptive reuse projects with lots of challenges,” says
Russ Condas, development associate, including St. Paul’s Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh Street and the Pillsbury A-Mill in Minneapolis—both of which have been developed and designed as affordable artist housing in conjunction with BKV Group. “But, as always, the Upper Post will pose its own unique challenges.”
 
Hennepin County, the DNR and other stakeholders “have done a good job of protecting the buildings,” he says. “They’re in decent shape because they were well constructed and feature strong architectural features from the late-1880s. But they’re old, weathered and in need of attention.”
 
The approximately $100 million project will be financed through a combination of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal and State Historic Tax Credits, and other sources. “These tax credits make the project feasible from our perspective,” Condas says. Dominium specializes in affordable and workforce housing, as well as the adaptive reuse of historic structures.
 
“Projects like this one take an incredible investment from a construction cost standpoint, in order to make them work,” Condas says. “Without that stack of tax credits, the project wouldn’t be do-able.”
 
The project includes 26 buildings on the site, “which we’ll treat as one apartment community,” Condas says, with approximately 190 units of affordable housing. “While most buildings will provide housing, we’re also looking at other structures for amenities.”
 
According to Dominium, the Upper Post redevelopment “will meet a strong demand in the market; research…shows that in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, there are only 34 apartments that are affordable and available for every 100 residents making less than $20,000 a year.”
 
With the site’s location near the Mall of the America and international airport, the need for workforce housing is acute. The site is a half-mile from the Blue Line light rail. “We feel there will be a strong demand for these apartments, which will offer a great opportunity for people to live affordably in a beautiful location and easily commute to work.”
 

St. Paul planning its own version of NYC's High Line along the river


A river runs through St. Paul; one of best-known rivers in the world actually — the Mississippi. Yet, city planners remain concerned that visitors don’t even know the Mighty Miss is there; that residents craving for greater access still don’t have enough options; and that current railroad tracks and roadways are the biggest barriers dividing the city from its river heritage.
 
The solution? A “river balcony” or elevated path akin to New York City’s High Line that’s dedicated to public use, says Lucy Thompson, principal city planner in the Department of Planning & Economic Development for the City of St. Paul. The river balcony is part of the Great River Passage Master Plan, which passed in 2013 in order to put forth “recommendations for orienting the city toward the river.”
 
What’s triggering interest in the river balcony right now is the Custom House project. Designed by BKV Group, Minneapolis, and developed by Exeter Group, The Residences at Custom House, slated for completion in 2016, is a 202-unit complex created in the historic downtown Post Office, which sports unique architectural detailing from the Art Deco to post-modern styles.
 
The new river balcony will wind through the Custom House, similar to “where the High Line goes into Chelsea market, where you have pleasure of being on the High Line but it opens up into large public market space,” Thompson explains. Elsewhere “the balcony would be a continuous pathway looking at the river; an elevated path with ongoing activities and dedicated to public use.”  
 
“We’ve been doing riverfront visioning work for almost 20 years,” she continues. “From the beginning people have said they want to be near the river whether they’re watching wildlife or the floods rise. It really resonates with people. We’re excited to give people new opportunities to visually connect with the river and valley.”
 
An interdepartmental team from the City is current planning the river balcony, with help from the St. Paul Design Center and the Metropolitan Design Center at the University of Minnesota. “Right now we’re planning how to design the balcony from Robert Street to Union Depot, in order to figure out how to connect to the Custom House. They want to use the balcony to activate their second floor annex building.”
 
Even though the balcony will be open air, with unobstructed views of the river, the elevated pathway will travel through buildings from time to time, and may incorporate arcades and awnings for weather protection. The completed project will, however, “be available for programming all months of the year,” Thompson says.
 
“Giving people more ways to relate to the river is significant and will contribute to St. Paul’s livability,” she adds. “A high-amenity, high-quality design will ensure the balcony becomes a destination for activities. We don’t know the breadth of what we can do on the balcony yet, but we want it to be super distinctive, with elements of beauty and wow, so it gets put on people’s gotta-see lists as a destination.”
 
 

Dance, law and beer grow on the Green Line

Along the Green Line light-rail corridor, which opened in June 2014, business continues to grow as arts organizations, breweries and small offices either set up shop or expand along University Avenue. In St. Paul, they include the multi-cultural modern dance company TU Dance; the Mendoza Law Office, which specializes in nonprofits and cable/telecom communications; and Lake Monster Brewing, which joins the brewery boom in the Creative Enterprise Zone. Here’s what they have to say about being an invested part of the Green Line community.
 
TU Dance
 
As The Line reported in 2013, Toni Pierce-Sands, co-founder of TU Dance, rode the bus to dance classes as a child. “So when she and her husband, dancer and choreographer Uri Sands, were founding their St. Paul-based dance company TU Dance in 2004, Pierce-Sands says she ‘envisioned young kids waiting on the corner for a bus that would take them to our dance school.’”
 
Today, that school is called TU Dance Center. And the kids ride not only the bus, but also the light rail. Founded in 2011 in a rehabbed former woodworking and cabinetry shop, the professional dance school is located between a Subway and an auto-repair shop on Green Line. Since opening, the center’s programming has been steadily growing to meet the needs of students seeking out the Sands’ singular mix of creative movement/drum classes, and ballet, modern and West African dance.
 
So much so, that the TU Dance Center has added another 2,000 square feet of space upstairs. Known as TU Dance Center Studio 2, the second floor includes a new dance studio with a sprung floor, ballet barres, piano and drums, and sound system; new restrooms and changing rooms, and administrative offices.
 
“Having grown to more than 150 students in our youth programs, our current expansion to a second studio space meets a critical need for offering classes at multiple levels and techniques in the limited after-school time slot that works for families,” says Sands. Rather than move to a new location, the couple decided to remain in their current building and expand.
 
“We believe the opportunity to experience dance is transformative — for audiences, for students, for our community,” explains Pierce-Sand. “To make that opportunity real, dance classes need to be accessible. Our location on the Green Line is one key aspect of that commitment."
 
Mendoza Law Office
 
“I have a lot of optimism about the Green Line corridor and how the area is going to grow in the coming years,” says Tony Mendoza, who recently moved his law practice, Mendoza Law Office, LLC, into the 1000 University Avenue building. While looking for a new location for his growing practice, which was previously located along the Blue Line, Mendoza studied the avenue and noticed “buildings being refurbished and lots of new businesses,” he says.
 
University Avenue also offered the convenience of hopping on the train to either downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul for meetings. Then he noticed 1000 University. The 1929 building has exposed brick and timber beams, as well as spacious common areas. “We were also able to design the space we wanted,” he adds.
 
After law school, Mendoza joined Fredrickson & Byron’s advertising and entertainment group, and began working in communications. He later worked for the administration of Governor Ventura as a deputy commerce commissioner for telecommunications. Eleven years ago, he opened his own practice specializing in cable, telecom and entertainment law.
 
“There’s a lot regulatory uncertainty and change right now in the area of broadband development,” Mendoza explains. “Comcast is one of my clients. They’re spinning off their systems here to a company called GreatLand Communications, which has generated quite a bit of work in terms of getting regulatory approvals for the transfer and spin off, and franchises they have to negotiate with cities where they operate, many of which have been coming up for renewal to provide their video services.”
 
Mendoza also works with startups, small businesses and nonprofits. “We’re getting involved with the Midwest Business Association with the hopes of helping more local businesses get started and organized,” he says. “We’re looking for symbiotic relationships where we can help each other grow, especially along University Avenue.”
 
Lake Monster Brewing
 
After scouting dozens of locations for Lake Monster Brewing, which he co-owns with Jeremy Maynor and brewer Matt Lange, Matt Zanetti decided on the 550 Vandalia Street property adjacent to the Green Line. Located a block off I94, in the Creative Enterprise Zone, Zanetti was taken with the convenience of the site, as well as with the massive building itself.
 
“We’ll have a 170-spot parking lot,” he enthuses, and the brewery, which may open this fall, is also a block from the Raymond Avenue stop on the Green Line. “The building itself is historic and amazing, with red brick and steel girders.” What about all of the other new breweries in the area, including Bang, Urban Growler and Surly?
 
“The day after we signed the lease we took a case a beer and went to Urban Growler and Bang,” Zanetti says. “We’re really excited to be a part of the growing microbrewery scene in the Creative Enterprise Zone. We’re another destination people can enjoy.”
 
Lake Monster will also be the first and anchor tenant in the building (owned by First & First), which Zanetti says will create a lot of buzz. “Our tanks have arrived, but a lot of site work still needs to be done,” he says. “We’ll have two patios, as well as a 2500-square-foot taproom. We’ll have a nice big bar, soft spaces for relaxing, high tops, low tables… we want our taproom to be approachable!”
 
In addition to its two flagship beers, the Calhoun Claw Pilsener and the Empty Rowboat IPA, the brewery will also begin working on crafting some traditional beers with new twists.
 

"Architecture of well-being" on University new St. Paul gateway

 
 
Tod Elkins, principal of UrbanWorks, likens University Avenue to a “Miracle Mile,” referring to the many thoroughfares across the United States that have become bustling shopping, entertainment and cultural destinations. University was once a major retail corridor and will be again, Elkins says.
 
“In the future, University will become similar to Washington D.C.’s Orange Line. New large retail and apartment developments have reinvigorated that transit way. I’m surprised University has taken as long as it has to take off, but sometime soon it will look that way, too.”
 
A new mixed-used project at 2700 University, at the corner of University and Emerald avenues at the Westgate Green Line light-rail station, is a leap forward. Designed by Elkins and his team at UrbanWorks Architecture, for Flaherty & Collins Properties, the LEED Silver, amenity rich development broke ground Monday.
 
“Historically, we’ve learned that to create vibrant neighborhoods, you should lead with housing,” Elkins says. “You need to have households, then bring in retail and offices, so throughout the day and year, people are active and on the street.”
 
Located between the St. Paul neighborhood of St. Anthony Park and Prospect Park in Minneapolis, 2700 University will be a six-story building with 248 apartments, 3,000 square feet of retail space and two levels of underground parking. The project will also have a saltwater swimming pool, sundeck with cabanas, cyber café, pet grooming area, and bicycle repair station with indoor bike parking, bike stands, pumps, tools, water bottle filling station and workbench.
 
Moreover, 20 percent of the living units are designated affordable or “workforce housing,” Elkins says. “To me, workforce housing means for people who work in retail in front of the house, making $12 - $14 an hour. Or artists. Or not the lawyers, but the support staff in the office, along with recent college grads or empty nesters moving in from the suburbs. In other words, the people of the community.” Legally, affordable housing is designed for people who earn 50 percent or less of the area median income.
 
Those workforce units will also be integrated throughout the building, Elkins adds, “to ensure a healthy societal mix of residents.” The building’s transit amenities also contribute to the building’s “architecture of well-being,” he continues. “Whatever we can design in to get people out of their cars and walking, bicycling or using transit — especially when we’re designing urban infill buildings — we strive to do.”
 
UrbanWorks’ design adheres to St. Paul Sustainability Building Guidelines — the City of St. Paul is a financial partner in the project — and includes locally sourced materials, energy efficient systems, LED lighting, doorstep access to light-rail transit, and as many bicycle racks as car parking spaces.
 
While the large site sat unused for many years, the City of St. Paul kept searching for a clear vision with affordable housing and retail, as well as a landmark that could serve as a gateway building to St. Paul. To that end, the building, which amply fulfills all of the city’s criteria, will include signage spelling out “St. Paul” on the rooftop facing Minneapolis.
 
 
 
 

Cooperative real estate model goes national

Three years ago, the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) was created to allow people to collectively buy, renovate, and manage commercial and residential property. Despite a mix of restaurants and retail businesses on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, and the adaptive reuse of former industrial buildings into the immensely popular 612 Broadway and Crown Center nearby, the area has a history of rundown storefronts and absentee landlords. NEIC is changing all that.
 
With nearly $300,000 in member investments, and having transformed 2504-06 at the corner of Central and Lowry avenues into a successful building with thriving tenants, NEIC is sharing its innovative cooperative model nationally. Already, in New York City, inspired residents formed their own co-op modeled after NEIC — NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative — and more than 200 people immediately invested.
 
In February, an article in Yes! Magazine about NEIC went viral. Since then, the first commercial-property cooperative in the United States has been happily fielding inquiries from groups across the country, and board members will be speaking at conferences in St. Louis, Phoenix and Milwaukee on NEIC’s innovative business model. The appeal, explains Loren Schirber, a NEIC board member, is the opportunity to make a difference locally.
 
“People who have a vested interest in their neighborhood see the cooperative, commercial real estate model as an accessible way to make that difference and get a lot of other people involved,” Schirber says, and there’s more. “Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Facebook and other social media and crowdfunding sites have changed how we do marketing and communications, so real estate investment opportunities are becoming more localized and accessible to people. This is the next logical step, because people don’t simply donate, they see where their money goes, what it’s doing and take ownership in the process.”
 
The cooperative real estate model also takes our new cultural emphasis on the local and bespoke — whether beer, food or handmade goods — further, Schirber continues. “How you save for retirement or invest is a logical extension of trying to be more conscious of what to do with your money and the influence you have. So with NEIC, we tackled an eyesore in the neighborhood we wanted to see changed. That resonated with local people…. and word traveled.”
 
Through NEIC’s cooperative structure, any Minnesota resident could join for $1,000. They could also invest more by purchasing non-voting stock. After a year of seeking investors, NEIC purchased two buildings on Central Avenue. Aki’s BreadHaus and Fair State Brewing Cooperative opened in 2014. NEIC’s partner, Recovery Bike Shop, is located next door. In total, the project represents more than a million dollars in new investment on Central Avenue.
 
“We spent thousands of hours getting started, fine tuning our bylaws, figuring out our structures, setting things up,” Schirber says. “Sharing that information with other groups, to make the process easier for them, is a principal of cooperative ownership.” So far, groups located in places from Seattle to Silver Spring, Maryland, Northern California to Cincinnati, Ohio, Texas to Washington D.C., have contacted NEIC for information.
 
Meanwhile, NEIC is avidly seeking a second property to bring to investors, and holding three information sessions and happy hours to discuss past successes and future plans: 
June 4: Info session at Eastside Food Co-op (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
July 16: Info session at Narobi Market (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
August 13: Info session at TBD (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
 
“People have plenty of opportunities to become a minority investor,” Schirber says. “But from a tenant, investment and neighborhood standpoint, a cooperative model offers people more accessibility, control, ownership and a tangible reason for success.”
 

St. Paul bike plan begins with downtown "loop" and Grand Round

Minneapolis’ Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System is well known to Twin Cities walkers, runners and bicyclists. One of the country’s longest continuous systems of public urban parkways, the system includes the Chain of Lakes, the Mississippi River, and assorted parks, picnic areas and bridges. St. Paul has its own Grand Round, which is back in the news as a primary component of the recently approved St. Paul Bicycle Plan.
 
The plan, which the City Council passed in March, “will guide the development of a safe, effective and well-connected network of bicycle facilities to encourage and facilitate bicycle transportation,” according to the City’s website. In fact, the plan is poised to more than double the number of bike pathways and connectors through St. Paul in the next several decades. The two priorities this summer, says Rueben Collins, transportation planner and engineer for the City of St. Paul, are a new downtown “loop” and the Grand Round.
 
The Downtown Loop and Spur Network, according to St. Paul Smart Trips, was inspired by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. A loose square rather than a loop, per se, the system would include a variety of off-street bikeways and paths connecting parks, attractions and other destinations throughout the downtown area. The first phase is occurring along Jackson Street to create an important commuter and recreational connection between the Samuel Morgan Regional Trail along the Mississippi River and the Gateway State Trail, which extends northeast out of St. Paul with connections to Stillwater and beyond.
 
The Grand Round, a 27-mile parkway around the city, extends from Fort Snelling to Lake Phalen via Shepard Road and Johnson Parkway, continues along Wheelock Parkway to Lake Como, then to Raymond Avenue and across I-94 to Pelham and East River Road. “Not all the parts of the Grand Round read like a parkway,” Collins says. So as city streets are slated for reconstruction, bikeways will also be put in place to offer cyclists safe, often tree-lined and dedicated lanes.
 
This summer, as Raymond Avenue in the Creative Enterprise Zone is under reconstruction, so will that portion of the Grand Round be redesigned and implemented. “Wheelock is also scheduled for reconstruction in a few years,” Collins adds, “so we’re already looking at transforming it into a place that prioritizes biking and walking.” The City of St. Paul is also working at branding the Grand Round “to make it more attractive for bicyclists,” he says.
 
While the bike plan will be “implemented piecemeal,” Collins continues, “eventually the entire system will tie together into a single network. The new bike plan gives us the vision and blueprint for where we want to be in the future. It’s an overall, top down, bottom up, across the board plan for the entire city co-authored by many departments and partners.”
 
The bike plan is part of Mayor Chris Coleman’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, which was based on the work of internationally known urban designer Gil Penalosa who keynoted the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation’s Third Annual Placemaking Residency last year. Coleman’s 8-80 Vitality vision was designed to ensure infrastructure, streets and public spaces are accessible and enjoyable for all residents. The newly adopted bike plan is the first strategy to advance that vision.
 
As new bikeways are constructed, communities will be invited to weigh in on the types of lanes and facilities that will best serve them. “We’re always asking the question, ‘What do bicyclists want?’” Collins says. “The question sounds simple, but is actually quite complex.” Dedicated and protected lanes, and shared lanes are attractive to different types of bicyclists. Also taken into consideration are “what the existing environments allow us to build.”
 
“At its root, a systematic bike plan is an economic development strategy,” Collins adds. “We know that people want to work and live in place where they can be outdoors, connecting with nature and with the people around them. We also know bicycling is an indicator of a healthy city and healthy economy. Our goal is to be the best city for bicycling in the country.”
 

SPRC's 4th annual Placemaking Residency focuses on healthy cities

 
“The connection between place and health isn’t an intuitive one,” says Patrick Seeb, executive director, St. Paul Riverfront Corporation (SPRC). The fourth annual Placemaking Residency hosted by SPRC, May 11-15, hopes to forge that connection in the Twin Cities.
 
Titled “Moving the Twin Cities to Better Health,” the weeklong event will explore the relationship between urban design and population health through workshops, walking and biking tours, presentations and social events. Events will take place on St. Paul’s East Side, along University Avenue and in the Ecodistrict in Downtown St. Paul, as well as in the East Downtown area of Minneapolis and the South Loop of Bloomington.
 
“Well be out in the community, moving around the Twin Cities throughout the day and into the evening, in order to be interdisciplinary and so that participants — including urban planners, community activists, health experts and policy makers — can find different ways to engage,” Seeb says.
 
In past years, the residency has featured one key speaker focusing on a single topic. Last year the focus was on walkability and bikeability in the cities. The year before, the residency topic was place as a driver of economic investment. The first year, arts and culture as a strategy for place was the focus.
 
This year, three residents — all from the San Francisco area — will “enrich the conversation,” Seeb explains. Dr. Richard Jackson is the author of Designing Healthy Communities and the host of the PBS series of the same name. “He’s made a career out of studying the built environment and its impact on health,” Seeb says.
 
Gehl Studio is the San Francisco-based office of Gehl Architects. The firm’s work is cross-disciplinary, and incorporates architecture, urban design and city planning in projects around the world. “The studio focuses on changes we can make right now,” Seeb says. “Rather than thinking about long-term change, the studio specializes in immediate solutions. The Open Streets movement came out of their shop.”
 
The third resident, Dr. Anthony Iton, is senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment. “His work helps people understand geographic, racial and wealth disparities throughout the U.S.,” Seeb explains. “He’ll present data about how your zip code can predict your expected lifespan.”
 
“In the past 40 to 50 years, the focus on cars, people feeling unsafe walking or biking to work or school, and food deserts are among the concerns that have emerged relating to health and cities,” Seeb says. “There’s a whole field of thinking that says we can change all that; that we can reduce childhood obesity if neighborhoods and streets are safe for kids to walk or bike to school, where they have access to healthy fresh local food.”  
 
“With this placemaking residency focused on healthy cities, we hope to expose people to the topic and get them to look at MSP and the choices we make in our cities through the lens of health,” Seeb continues. “The question is: How can we be much more intentional about creating a safe and healthy future in our cities?”
 
 

Oulmans bring a "throwback vibe" to new Como Dockside

In early May, Jon Oulman and his team will open the doors to their latest restaurant and entertainment venue: Como Dockside in the Como Lakeside Pavilion in St. Paul. A 14-person selection committee, including City of St. Paul officials, approved the team’s proposal, which will “not only take full advantage of the unique space situated on the edge of Como Lake, but it will also offer services, food and recreation activities that will make it a vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in a statement. Oulman couldn’t be more thrilled.
 
“Have you been here?!” he responds, when asked why he decided to add the Como Pavilion to his impressive portfolio of businesses. “It may be the most incredible facility in the Twin Cities. It’s in the busiest regional park in the state. Only the Mall of American has more visitors annually than Como Park. It’s an incredible public asset, on a lake, with so much history. Talk to three people in St. Paul and at least two of them will have fond memories of engaging with the park and the lake.”
 
Oulman says he was also ready for a new adventure. “Personally, I felt like nobody needed me anymore!” he says, laughing. “The 331 Club has been running for 10 years now. We’re into our fourth year at Amsterdam [Bar and Hall] and that’s going really well. So last fall I was talking with my son Jarrett [who co-owns Amsterdam] about the public facilities in and around Minneapolis with food and beverage, like Sea Salt [next to Minnehaha Falls] and Tin Fish [on Lake Calhoun). The line at Tin Fish to get food! We saw potential here. And the timing is perfect.”
 
The Oulmans, operating as Como Dockside, responded to a survey of more than 1500 people who noted what they wanted in a new facility. Those criteria included a year-round place for food and beverages, a variety of entertainment options in addition to the beloved community groups, and more engagement with the park and lake. In response, the team revamped the kitchen and dining area on the main floor, and the second floor will be a lounge with comfy club furniture.
 
“We built the place out so in the summer, when you’re inside, you can see out through the large windows,” Oulman says. “In the winter, you’ll feel warm and cozy.” The menu will feature New Orleans-style po' boys, picnic baskets to takeaway, local craft beers and wine. In the evenings, for dinner, food will be plated. “It’s kind of a throwback vibe, which I’m interested in, so we’re wrapping the aesthetic around that.”
 
Because the park keeps attendance records for activities at the pavilion, the team could “see what’s been successful and supported by the community,” Oulman says. “For example, 800 people show up for the Como Players theater group. So we certainly aren’t going to get rid of them!”
 
“Our goal is just to make the entertainment offerings more diverse, with maybe some jazz, bluegrass and other Americana,” Oulman continues. “We don’t want to over-impact the neighborhood. There are a lot of people who live around the lake. So 75 percent of the community groups people really love will remain.”
 
The hours are also a change of pace from those held by the former café in the pavilion. Como Dockside will be open until 10 p.m. during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The team is bringing in a new dock system; new canoes, kayaks and paddleboards; and a 30-foot electric guided dining boat. “You can get a picnic basket, a bucket of beer and one our guys will putt you around the lake for an hour,” Oulman enthuses. “This is St. Paul!”
 
 
 

Lakes & Legends brings Belgian micro-brews to Loring Park

 
MSP’s craft-beer boom still shows no sign of slowing down. Opening this summer, in a 12,000-square-foot space in LPM Apartments — a 36-story apartment tower recently completed in the Loring Park neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis — is Lakes & Legends Brewing Company.
 
“Consumers keep flocking to craft beer,” says Ethan Applen, co-founder and CEO of Lakes & Legends. “It’s partly an extension of growing interest in local foods and peoples’ desire to know what’s they’re putting into the bodies. But for us, Lakes & Legends is also an opportunity to go deeper. We think there are brewing opportunities where we can grow.”
 
In particular, Lakes & Legends will focus on Belgian and farmhouse-style ales. The former, Applen explains, are “more improvisational. The beer goes back centuries to when monks in Belgium started brewing with what was on hand. The flavor profile has a lot of flexibility and appeals to even non-beer drinkers.”
 
The farmhouse style, he continues, “comes from farms in northern France and Belgium. Farmers would brew beers in the winter with whatever was left over from the harvest, and again that’s where the improvisational piece comes in: barley and rosemary, wheat and lavender.”
 
Lakes & Legends ingredients will be local and organic whenever possible, to find “a balance between the recipe we want to make and what’s available,” Applen says. He’s especially excited to source from MSP’s diverse ethnic growers.
 
“We’re looking at the Hmong community and culture. Ginger, citrus and hot peppers, which they grow and use in their cuisine, are all ingredients we can use in our beer. International ingredients from a local community!”  
 
Applen's father and wife, Katie Kotchka, are from Minnesota. He grew up in Southern California and has lived in LA for 15 years. His background is in startups and entertainment, and he’s worked for Disney and Warner Bros., where he innovated new businesses. He’s been traveling back and forth for the last year, and will be moving to MSP in May.
 
Lakes & Legends co-founder Derrick Taylor, Applen’s brother-in-law, is a Minnesota native and MSP resident who has managed the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in St. Paul. Lakes & Legends' head brewer, Andrew Dimery, comes to MSP by way of Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, KY, and Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis, IN. Lakes & Legends will not have a kitchen, but will partner with local restaurants and food trucks to bring local eats to the taproom.
 
“We want to be part of a community,” Applen says, which why he and Taylor selected the LPM building. They looked around Northeast Minneapolis and the Midway area of St. Paul. But they felt LPM and the Loring Park area are “a great part of Minneapolis, cool and upbeat, with tons of residents, and with breweries near by but not over served.”
 
The brewery and taproom, he adds, “will be a resource for community gatherings and events. We want it to be a comfortable space, a third space away from home and work, where people can come and hang out.”
 
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