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Floating Library makes its 2014 debut on Cedar Lake

For the second year in a row, artist Sarah Peters has launched her singular Floating Library on Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. Patrons need to arrive via flotation device, kayak, canoe or paddleboard. But, yes, you can check out the books--many of which are encased in waterproof wrappers. Or you can enjoy reading them on right there, on the raft, on the water.

After putting out a call for books, Peters accumulated her library. The Floating Library is a wooden raft, eight feet square, stocked with about 80 titles--mostly handmade artist books. Peters has four drop-off boxes on land, for those who don't want to paddle out again to return their books.

Peters is a book-maker herself and teaches at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. She also works with Northern Spark and participates in the Art Shanty project every winter. Describing the impetus behind the Floating Library, she told the Star Tribune that, “Art books are not a widely known art form. And so there’s an element of delight and surprise."

"First of all, canoeing along and coming across a library. And then having it stocked with books that are totally unique. It’s like this double whammy of inventiveness. It can expand people’s ideas of what art is."
 


 

Wander North brings more micro spirits to Minneapolis

Wander North Distillery recently became the latest micro-distillery to open in Minneapolis, when owner Brian Winter cut the ribbon at the new location in Northeast Minneapolis with City Councilmember Kevin Reich.
 
Thanks to legislation passed in 2011 that significantly lowered a $30,000 annual permit fee for distillers in Minnesota, Winter says he was able to turn his long-time interest in the history of spirits and drinking in America into a viable business.
 
“Liquor production is tied hand-in-hand with the rise of the United States,” Winter argues. “Unlike brewing and beer, there hadn’t been the resurgence of locally produced spirits yet.” Minneapolis’ first micro-distillery, Norseman, opened last year.
 
Wander North’s first spirit, Outpost Vodka, is made from 100 percent Minnesota grown corn sourced from a supplier in Rosemount. Referencing the mutually supportive craft brewing community in Northeast, Winter says he is also pursuing plans for collaboration with local craft brewers, including Northgate Brewing, which recently expanded into a new space in the same building.
 
He hopes to take the wort (liquid extracted during the mashing process prior to adding yeast or hops) from Northgate’s Maggie’s Leap stout, ferment it, distill it and then age it in oak barrels. He would then hand the barrels back to Northgate to age the same beer in. “Then, sit and taste the whiskey and beer side by side,” he says. Winter is pursuing a similar collaboration with Sociable Cider Werks.
 
The state also passed legislation this past spring that allows for distilleries to have paid tasting rooms. The wait now is for Minneapolis to change its ordinance to allow for it, which Winter says is in the works.
 
Once the regulations are in place, Winter plans to launch a cocktail lounge on site. The lounge will feature two or three seasonal mainstay cocktails, along with several others that change on a weekly basis. “We’ll be limited to what is made at the distillery. But vodka is a pretty versatile starting point,” he says.
 
Wander North will donate at least 1 percent of its profits back to the community with an emphasis on veterans programs. Winter has served in the U.S. Military since 1993. Twelve of those years were on active duty, including as a platoon leader in Baghdad in 2004 and as a company commander in 2007. He currently serves as an assistant engineer officer with the Minnesota National Guard one weekend a month.
 
“A small business like Wander North is local. We pay local taxes, sell to people in the community and live in the community,” he says. “Why, if my business is successful, would I not want to give back to the community that helps me succeed?”
 
 
 

Turf Club reopens with grit--and racing mural--intact

One of the most popular music venues in the Twin Cities, the Turf Club, reopens Thursday, August 28. Now owned by First Avenue, the Turf Club, which is located on University Avenue near Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, underwent renovations this summer. Still, great lengths were taken to preserve the iconic character that’s made the Turf Club an institution for the last 50 years. The venerable music venue will kick off its new life with a sold-out show featuring Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee and Erik Koskinen.
 
Nate Kranz, First Avenue’s general manager, says the reborn Turf Club will have a little less grit than it did before, as the team preserved as much of the club's character as possible.
 
“It’s one of our favorite places to hang out and see bands and we’ve been going there forever,” Kranz says of the First Avenue management team. “There’s just so much character and history in that room that it was important to us…to keep the vibe and character intact.”
 
Notable upgrades to the space include major improvements to the sound system; a higher ceiling (the Art Deco features spanning the room remain intact); similar but new furniture and tabletops; and new bathrooms. Most of the physical improvements were structural in nature, such as a new roof and upgraded HVAC system.
 
The most visible change to the space also required the least amount of work. On the first day of renovations, Kranz says he tore down a curtain behind the stage to reveal a fully intact mural of racing horses dated 1981.
 
“I think it makes a great backdrop for the stage so we’re going to leave the horse mural exposed,” he says.
 
Perhaps the biggest change to the club is the addition of a full kitchen. The menu probably won’t be ready by opening day, according to Kranz. But soon after, the club will feature a full menu for lunch and dinner everyday, with brunch on the weekends. Kranz says they will serve traditional bar food along with some Southern-inspired entrees.
 
Food will be served on the main level as well as in the repurposed Clown Lounge on the lower level. Like the rest of the club, Kranz says the Clown Lounge looks pretty much the same as before the upgrades, with the addition of a few more pieces of quirky clown regalia. The hope is for the Clown Lounge to be a reliable destination with regular hours for diners and drinkers.
 
Whenever possible, Kranz says they hope to offer patrons the option to access the Clown Lounge without paying a cover when there’s a show upstairs. It will also be available to rent for private parties.
 
Because the Turf Club is known as a rock club, first and foremost, Kranz (who booked many of the shows at the Turf Club for 10 years) says the team plans to keep the general booking trends the same, but maybe throw in a few bigger acts here and there like the Jayhawks, which will play a sold-out show September 4.
 
Beyond that, the club’s primary booker is staying on staff, as are all but one of the 11-12 previous employees. New hours and a new business model do mean added staff, though. The new Turf Club will have 40-some employees.
 
 

CREATE: The artful meal and "food system intervention"

On September 14, 2,000 people will join artists and food activists at a half-mile long table down the center of Victoria Street in St. Paul as part of “CREATE: The Community Meal”—a public art project headed by artist Seitu Jones. Designed as a creative “food system intervention,” the project aims to lower barriers to healthy food access in some of city’s most densely populated and culturally diverse communities.
 
While a lot of work is being done in cities to address issues surrounding healthy food access, CREATE is taking a new approach. “We’re making this an artistic experience from the minute 2,000 people walk through the gate,” says Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art Saint Paul, which is orchestrating the project.
 
Everything will have an artistic touch, from the movements of the servers and hosts, which will be choreographed by Ananya Dance Theatre, to the blessing by poet G.E Patterson, right down to the 2,000 placemats handcrafted by paper artist Mary Hark using only bio-matter collected from the yards, alleyways and parks of the Frogtown neighborhood.
 
Spoken word artists including TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laureine Chang, Nimo Farah and Rodrigo Sanchez will perform original pieces with youth from Frogtown and Cedar-Riverside. Their work will investigate food traditions of the various cultures that make up the community.
 
Artists Emily Stover and Asa Hoyt are fabricating several Mobile ArtKitchens to demonstrate healthy food preparation around the city. They will be hosted by youth from the Kitty Andersen Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Youth Farm.
 
Chef James Baker, of Elite Catering Company and the Sunny Side Café—regularly voted best soul food restaurant in the Twin Cities —will prepare the meal with local ingredients grown specifically for the event by area farmers.
 
Guests will be presented with a healthy, locally sourced spread that includes 500 free-range chickens from a farm in Northfield, several vegetable dishes like collard greens and salad, an Ethiopian Bean dish from Flamingo Ethiopian Restaurant’s menu, corn bread and more.
 
Many of the growers, including those from Minneapolis-based Stones Throw Urban Farm and the Hmong American Farmers Association, are based in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. The Minnesota Food Association is overseeing all the food production and sourcing.
 
“This is an opportunity for folks to meet their farmers,” Jones says. “Most of the funds are going into the pockets of farmers and artists. So this is an effort also to really pay attention to the local economy.”
 
Jones was inspired to put on this massive community meal while sitting in his storefront studio in Frogtown. He noticed an endless parade of people walking to the local convenience store and returning with bags of groceries. “Many times those bags would be filled not with fruits or vegetable, but with pre-packaged food,” he says.
 
Along with a group of local food activists, he received a grant from the USDA to do a food assessment of Districts 4, 5, 7 and 8 in St. Paul. He expected many of the obstacles the group found preventing residents from making healthy food choices, such as cost and convenience. One finding came as a surprise though.
 
“People don’t know how to make a healthy meal,” Jones says. “While we intuitively know what a healthy meal is, there are some folks that have lost the ability to prepare [one]…it wasn’t passed on.”
 
Jones began hosting small healthy community meals in residents’ homes, backyards and driveways more than a year ago, collecting “food stories” along the way. One story, told by Va-Megn Thoj, of the Asian Economic Development Association, chronicles his family’s journey across the Mekong River while fleeing oppression in Laos.
 
On arriving at a refugee camp in Thailand, he encountered a bright red fruit he had never seen before at a vendor’s stand. The vendor cut him off a chunk to try. The tart sweetness of every apple he has eaten since brings him back to that day, he says.
 
“We all have these food stories, and these stories are written in fats, carbohydrates and nutrients,” Jones says. “These stories go back for generations.”
 
Podas-Larson says Public Art St. Paul is also helping create community meal kits to help communities around the country host their own healthy meal events. Visit the CREATE website to donate, learn more, read more food stories and sign up to host your own table at the community meal.
 
“Food is so universal. Food is something that we all share, and most importantly…food defines us,” Jones says. “In many cultures, the way it’s prepared can be this act of love, and that’s what the community meal is. It is an act of love.”
 

Urban Forage seeking to start Midwest's first urban winery

Urban Forage Winery & Cider House is looking to join the abundance of local beverage startups in the Twin Cities. With the recent arrival of cider brewers and micro-distilleries, Urban Forage’s Jeff Zeitler is asking “Why not an urban winery?”
 
The answer is complicated due to national, state and city regulations. But Zeitler is forging ahead with renovations to the future home of the Midwest’s first urban winery, in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.
 
Zeitler has been making wine, cider and mead with fruit and other ingredients foraged in the Twin Cities for two decades. Whether shaking mulberry trees in Como Park or plucking donated apples from a neighbor’s tree, his process leads to a product with the unmistakable terroir of the Twin Cities. His latest dandelion lilac wine was a big hit at his block’s National Night Out party, he says.
 
To scale the operation up to a commercial level (he wants to produce almost 6,000 gallons of product a year), he hopes to supplement what he can forage with produce past its shelf life—but still good for making wine—from local grocery stores and warehouses. He also plans to use surplus fruit from area orchards and farms. He’s going to have to clear some regulatory hurdles first, though.
 
To protect and promote Minnesota’s fledgling rural wine industry, the State Legislature passed the Farm Wineries Act in 2012. The statute gives farm wineries special status under Minnesota liquor laws, with a number of special allowances such as Sunday sales, self-distribution and the ability to operate a full restaurant.
 
The law also specifies farm wineries must be located on agricultural land—a sticking point for Zeitler’s “urban winery,” which would be located at 3016 East Lake Street in Minneapolis. He would be able to operate under a previous winery law still on the books, but wouldn’t have the many advantages allowed to farm wineries.
 
Zeitler spent the last year lobbying the State Legislature to even the playing field between farm and urban wineries. “Right now rural wineries have a lot of advantages…and I was trying to get urban wineries put on the same level, but there were a lot of people opposed,” he says.
 
If Zeitler were to mix a certain percentage of barley malt in with cider while brewing, as other cider makers in the area do, he could operate with a brewer’s license and enjoy the benefits offered to brewers under recent state and city legislative changes that have lead to the brew boom in the Twin Cities. But he’s unwilling to do so, which leaves him with a winery designation in the eyes of the federal government.
 
After hiring a lawyer to help interpret state statutes, Zeitler is now confident state law will allow him to sell onsite and operate the winery equivalent of a taproom. Current city regulations, however, would not.
 
So as things currently stand, Urban Forage Winery can produce onsite, distribute via a distributor and sell online. For now, Zeitler says, that’s enough. He will take the fight to the Minneapolis City Council.
 
Regardless, Zeitler plans to begin production in spring of 2015. “If nothing else, we will do production in the basement,” he says. “If we never get self-distribution or sales onsite, well, who knows how long we’ll make it? But we’re going to give it a shot.”
 
 

C4ward opens doors to cultural districts along Green Line

The Green Line light-rail line opens doors to a number of emerging cultural districts along University Avenue in the Central Corridor. Throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall, C4ward: Arts and Culture Along the Green Line is inviting Twin Cities’ residents to explore six of these districts through a series of free arts-centered events occurring every other Saturday. The next event is Saturday August 9 in the Rondo and Victoria neighborhoods off the Victoria Station.

The series of events kicked off July 26 in the Little Mekong District during one of the five Southeast Asian Night Markets planned this summer. Other districts on the C4ward docket, in addition to Rondo/Frogtown, are Little Africa, Creative Enterprise Zone, Prospect Park and West Bank.

For years, University Avenue existed mainly as a thoroughfare—a place to be traveled through on the way to someplace else. The array of new cultural districts popping up is evidence that that area’s identity is already changing, says Kathy Mouacheupao, Cultural Corridor coordinator with the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which is organizing C4ward in partnership with leaders from each of the cultural districts.

“When you’re driving down University, people usually have their destination planned already—you really miss a lot of the richness, a lot of the cultural identities, the really cool things that are happening along the corridor,” she says.

Whether it’s the abundant entrepreneurs, artists and unique shopping in the Creative Enterprise Zone near the Raymond Ave. Station, or the string of African-owned businesses a short jaunt off the Snelling Ave. stop, C4ward is looking to draw new visitors to burgeoning points of cultural and artistic vibrancy that might have been previously overlooked.

“We’re trying to groove new patterns,” Mouacheupao says. “One of the nice things about the Green Line light rail is that people are starting to notice things they didn’t notice before when they were driving.”

The rich arts and creative communities that quietly thrive along the Central Corridor will be on full display at the C4ward events. From do-it-yourself letterpress printing to illuminated mask making, Mouacheupao says the artists involved are dedicated to engaging and building community. “We all live and breathe art,” she says. Art is one way in which “we communicate with each other.”

 

Dead Media enlivens community around vinyl, books, tapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field guide explores Green Line's natural history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

GYST gets it together for new fermentation bar

A new gastronomic trend hits Minneapolis’ Eat Street area later this year. GYST Fermentations, a first-of-its-kind fermentation bar from foodie sisters Mel and Kylene Guse, will be “a celebration of all things fermented.”

GYST is a lot more than just wine and cheese—although the sisters, along with partner Jill Mott (an internationally certified and widely respected sommelier), plan to introduce plenty of rare wines and cheeses to the Twin Cities. The bar will feature everything from kombucha to charcuterie, beer and coffee, chocolate and yogurt creations and more. If fermentation is involved, and you can eat it or drink it, you’re likely to find it at GYST.

“We really want to try and bring in products that people haven’t necessarily seen here in Minnesota,” says Mel Guse.

Natives of Sioux Falls, S.D., the sisters’ experienced their fermentation initiation while living in the food-forward San Francisco area. While there, Mel also became a certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild. Both sisters worked for Bi-Rite Market—a progressive local foods market started by esteemed chef Sam Mogannam.

Looking to return to their Midwestern roots, the sisters moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 and Mel Guse helped get Broders’ Terzo Vino Bar up and running in Minneapolis.

GYST will feature a 14-person bar as well as table seating. Guse says they hope to cultivate a casual atmosphere reminiscent of friends hanging out with a good bottle of wine in their home kitchen.

“We just want to be welcoming and comfortable,” she says. “A place where people can come in and hang out and learn.”

GYST will offer a healthy dose of education along with fermented delicacies. Knowing what goes into what’s going into your mouth adds to the experience—whether that means stories from the farmstead where the cheese on your “motherboard” originates, or the science behind the kombucha you’re swilling at the bar. GYST will also have a spacious backroom for tasting events and classes.

“We really want to feel connected to what we’re eating and drinking,” she says. “I think you’ll enjoy [our offerings] more with the stories behind it.”

The lease is signed. Build-out plans are in place. Permits have been submitted to the city. All the sisters need now is about $40,000 to make their fermented dream a reality. More than 100 backers have already pledged almost half that amount through a Kickstarter campaign that closes July 25. Once the Guses’ raise the dough and the permits are approved, they’ll embark on a 15-week renovation of their space.

 

Made Here/Parklot activate Hennepin Avenue

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis continues to become more pedestrian-friendly and arts-oriented. Made Here, an outdoor urban walking gallery featuring dozens of unique art installations in vacant storefronts, launched last week alongside Parklot, a colorful pop-up in the surface parking lot next to the Orpheum Theatre. Both are part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s 10th annual Summer in the City event.

Joan Vorderbruggen, Hennepin Theatre Trust’s cultural district arts coordinator, directed Made Here. Her Made Here showcase is the largest storefront- gallery initiative in the country. The current Made Here is the third and most ambitious show. It includes more than 50 artists and arts organizations from diverse disciplines, which have created 36 unique storefront displays across 15 city blocks.

Both projects are part of the Trust’s ongoing initiative to revitalize a cultural district that includes the historic Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century theaters, as well as other arts and cultural institutions such as First Avenue and The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

On paper, the area seems a vibrant and walkable downtown district. But it suffers from a perceived “unevenness,” says Tom Hoch, Trust president, citing a 2010 survey and strategic planning session. Contributing to that unevenness are blocks of vacant storefronts and surface parking lots interspersed among the cultural institutions.

“No Vacancy,” a poignant Made Here installation by artist Robin Schwartzman, speaks directly to this issue. The work spans 18 windows across the second floor of the recently vacated Chevy’s building at 701 Hennepin Avenue. Blank paper covers the windows during the day while a neon sign reads “Vacancy.” Once the sun sets, the sign changes to “Sorry, No Vacancy,” and the windows come alive with animated silhouettes depicting scenes of people dancing, someone getting their hair cut, and other activities.

“When a space is vacant, it’s a void, and when it’s not, it’s vibrant,” Vorderbruggen explains, describing how “No Vacancy” relates to the overall project.

Similarly, Parklot activates an otherwise dormant space. A brightly painted checkerboard pattern covers the parking lot’s surface, extending on to the sidewalk and up the walls of adjacent buildings. Lush planters and configurable park furniture made from wooden pallets make the pop-up public gathering space tough to miss. Programming includes improv comedy from Brave New Workshop, break dancing and musical performances.

Four additional pop-up parks are planned for this year. The current Made Here installations are on display through October, and include a work from the Somali Museum of Minnesota—the only such museum in the country—that incorporates two authentic huts shipped from Djibouti, as well as other artifacts and art demonstrating traditional nomadic life.

Vorderbruggen says she intentionally ensured the Made Here art and artists reflect the diverse Twin Cities population that would encounter the work. More than 40 percent of the artists represented come from communities of color, she says.

She and Hoch also hope art installations in vacant storefronts become commonplace. “This is not a one-time thing,” Hoch says. “This is the way we hope all vacant storefronts in downtown Minneapolis are handled—that they are always programmed and that we have this connection with art, artists and space.”

“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” he adds. “We’re providing opportunities for everybody to be here.”

 

Alchemy Architects adds third prefab module to school

At Cornerstone Elementary School on the Montessori Center of Minnesota's (MCM) campus on St. Paul's East Side, innovative architecture and design are creating a unique learning environment that fits a holistic curriculum serving the school’s 160 students.

A 157,000-pound hydraulic crane recently dropped a new modular classroom into place, completing a 3-year, 25 percent expansion of the public charter school that is part of the MCM program. Total cost of the expansion is $1.45 million, including landscaping and a greenhouse.

The 1,500-square-foot prefabricated classroom is the third to be installed on the property and will house one of the school’s two upper-elementary classes (grades 4-6). The other upper-elementary classroom and one lower-elementary classroom are housed in two other modular classrooms installed during previous years. The other lower-elementary classroom is housed in the main structure on campus.

Lining the property’s natural wetlands, the three modular classrooms were designed by St. Paul-based Alchemy Architects whose weeHouse design and construction system specializes in prefabricated energy-efficient structures.

The unique classrooms support MCM’s philosophy of providing the best for the smallest in developing students rich in “character, will and spirit,” according to Liza Davis, special programs coordinator at the school. The classroom structures feature large windows that bring the natural setting directly into the learning environment.

“The response of the children—when they can sit and watch the change of the seasons or ducks laying their eggs—from the windows in their classroom has been pretty remarkable, especially for the urban children,” Davis said.

A teacher training organization since 1973, MCM wanted to expand its outreach and elementary education, which led to the relocation of the center to its current site in 2008 and the addition of Cornerstone Elementary in 2011.

The school is focused on providing excellence in education and youth development to diverse communities that often face barriers to quality education. More than 60 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, according to Davis.

The use of modular classrooms has practical advantages, as well. They provide a financially savvy way to gradually expand facilities as the school grows over time.

“The charter school very quickly needed to have more space to really serve the number of children it needed to serve,” Davis said. “We needed to expand the campus and have beautiful spaces but still be financially responsible.”

Being able to expand in an affordable way that adds a valuable layer of education makes MCM’s expansion unique. The modular classrooms incorporate all facets of the curriculum in the same space with science facilities, and even a kitchen built into the structures.

“You really feel like you are in a living community space, not just a classroom that is separated into sections,” Davis says.

As with the previous installations, students and their families watched the new structure get hoisted 30 feet into the air and set in place. Davis says the design and installation process give students a sense of ownership over their learning environment.

As an example, the patios off the classrooms needed a good bit of shoveling during winter. Davis says the students were eager to pick up shovels and get to work taking care of their space.

“Seeing that something is intentional, that it’s beautiful, and that there are natural materials involved…helps communicate the same philosophy that drives our work with the children,” she adds.

 

Is LoHi East the new old Uptown?

With the recent surge of new boutique businesses opening along and near Lyndale Avenue just south of downtown Minneapolis, the Lowry Hill East area is beginning to look a lot like the Uptown of yore. That is, before national chains like Apple and Urban Outfitters showed up and ran many of the mom and pop establishments out town—or a little down the road.

LoHi East, the area just south of downtown Minneapolis containing the Loring, Wedge and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods, has long been Uptown’s beloved, disheveled sibling. Now, some local businesses are seeking to rebrand the area with a catchy name referencing Lowry Hill East (just as the North Loop is colloquially called NoLo).

“There are some awesome businesses that have just opened up. It’s exactly what Uptown used to be,” says Carter Averbeck, owner of Omforme Design. He’s leading the grassroots rebranding effort.

With a new name, and a new crowd of residents and businesses settling in, the area seems to be shedding its somewhat granola vibe for a trendier, modern-day hipster character. As Averbeck says: “We’re trading in our Birkenstocks for tattoos.”

At least nine new shops and restaurants opened in the area within the last year. LoHi East also seems to be riding the recent wave of development storming the Uptown area. A whole host of new luxury apartments like Blue on Bryant and the Murals of Lynlake, among others, are attracting a new generation of residents.

“Of course, it’s all 20- and 30-something-year-olds and the new shops are right up their alley. If you’re 27 and have a new pad, you want to fill it up with cool stuff,” Averbeck says.

Averbeck’s business—a home décor shop that specializes in reviving vintage items with singular panache—is being joined by other unique boutiques like Serendipity Road and the Showroom. The latter bills itself as a place “where fashion, jewelry, accessories, furniture and art cooperate.”

New eateries and bars like Heyday and World Street Kitchen are also help generate a livable, vibrant neighborhood where people walk and meander, instead of simply passing through.

“Every storefront that had been vacant for years is now getting snapped up,” Averbeck says. “Right now the revival is in its infancy but it’s moving fast.”

Looking to capitalize on the momentum, Averbeck says he and other business owners are putting together an event this summer that would close off Lyndale Avenue for a big runway fashion show and festival. They haven’t secured the permits to do so yet, but he says the tight-knit business community is meeting regularly with the neighborhood and other business associations to keep the renaissance rolling.








 

Public Art St. Paul transforms gravel pit into flower field

From luggage store to barren gravel pit, to the future site of what could be downtown St. Paul’s largest park, the land parcel at 10th and Robert streets is an urban space in transition. For the next two years, it will be home to Urban Flower Field—a public art project from the nonprofit Public Art St. Paul.

With 96 plots of bio-diverse flower beds arranged in a fanning pinwheel shape and a public plaza at the center, Urban Flower Field seeks to transform what might otherwise be a lifeless void downtown into a lush community gathering space.

Amanda Lovelee, City Artist in Residence with Public Art St. Paul, is heading the project. She explains it’s a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of art, civic process and science in a way that re-imagines how we conceive, develop and utilize urban space.

She hopes to have a full slate of programming in the field over the next two years, including regular movie nights, free yoga and more. “The city is letting artists use these spaces to make something the community can enjoy during the time between what the spaces will be and what they currently are,” Lovelee says.

The Pedro Family of Pedro luggage, which previously occupied the site, donated the land to the City in 2009 with the condition that it be made a public park. The City is considering several designs for the forthcoming Pedro Park, the most ambitious of which would require the acquisition of more land and cost upwards of $10 million, according to Brad Meyer with St. Paul Parks and Recreation.

Urban Flower Field is more than an artistically crafted temporary community gathering space, though. Students and faculty with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of St. Thomas are lending their expertise and time to conduct a comprehensive soil remediation study at the site.

They are studying whether a diverse selection of flowers can be more effective at cleansing and replenishing soil. Led by professor Adam Kay, students are on the ground at Urban Flower Field every day, planting and tending the flowerbeds, as well as sampling and documenting the soil quality. They hope to publish their findings in scientific journals at the end of the two-year period, according to Lovelee.

This intersection of art and science led Lovelee to create the flower field’s pinwheel form. The form is based on the Fibonacci sequence (also known as the Golden Mean)—a mathematical pattern that occurs everywhere in nature, including at the center of sunflowers, which will be planted in the plots.

The Fibonacci sequence is also commonly considered the scientific basis for the abstract concept of beauty. “In my mind, that was when science and beauty kind of come together,” Lovelee said. The Fibonacci sequence is also the basis of a large mural painted by Ed Charbonneau on the back wall of the Police Annex building that borders the space to the north.

The $45,000 project is being funded in large part by the city, which put $30,000 toward the project. In addition, a $15,000 grant from ArtPlace America is going toward  the efforts, as well as in-kind and monetary support from businesses and organizations including Lund’s, Black Sheep Pizza, Keys Café and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Members of the surrounding community have also stepped up to plant, weed, water and program, according to Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul.

Urban Flower Field will officially open June 28th when community members and neighbors will be invited to paint field stones that will line some of the beds, Lovelee said. The flowers will be in full bloom by August.

 

Open Streets debuts proposed greenway in North Minneapolis

The 2014 season of Open Streets Minneapolis kicked-off during the last weekend in May with festivities along a proposed three-and-a half-mile greenway in North Minneapolis. Roads were closed from West Broadway to North 42nd avenues along North Girard and Humboldt avenues for residents and cyclists to experience first-hand how a new bike/walk route would look and feel.

“The proposed greenway could provide a recreational and community route for bicyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorized travelers,” said Sarah Stewart, senior public health specialist with the City of Minneapolis, who is working on the project. “The route would serve as a north-south connection for bicyclists who are more comfortable on bikeways” than on the streets.

Sponsored by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, the event hosted vendors, performances and bike advocates from across the Twin Cities, giving riders a festive environment to roam the streets sans vehicles.

Turf was laid down on either side of the street at one point in the route to show a full linear park greenway. At another point, half the road was partitioned off, turning the current two-way street into a one-way road with a protected bike lane.

These are two of several models being considered for the new route. A third would keep two-way traffic, but designate the streets as bike boulevards—adding signage and other traffic calming measures friendly to bicyclists.

The City of Minneapolis, which became an official partner of the Open Streets initiative last year, is currently gathering public input about the new route, which has yet to be finalized or funded.

In addition to providing a centrally located route for commuters, connecting them to the northern suburbs via the Cedar Lake Trail and the downtown area via the Plymouth Avenue and 7th Street North bike routes, Stewart says the project would also create a space for people to be physically active.

“This is important because statistics show North Minneapolis residents are more likely to have chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and they are less likely to be physically active…People who live closer to parks and green spaces are more physically active,” Stewart says.

The proposed route would also connect several destinations that serve area youth like parks, schools, a YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and a library, Stewart added.

Most of the roads along the proposed route are relatively low-traffic, residential streets that see between 400 and 900 cars daily, according to Stewart.

Several residents along the route expressed concern about losing street access to their homes should the streets be converted to a full linear park greenway. Stewart says alley access to residences along the route would be maintained. Input via an online survey indicated the proposed greenway is a potential draw for new residents, visitors and investment in North Minneapolis.

People can provide input on the proposed project through June 15 by filling out an online survey. The City will analyze the input and report the results in early fall. Feasibility studies are also underway.

This Open Streets event was the first of six planned for this summer in Minneapolis. The next will take place June 8 along Lyndale Avenue South.

LOT-EK proposes North Loop project using shipping containers

A proposed mixed-use development in Minneapolis could bring new meaning to the phrase “green building.” The 16,500-square-foot rhomboidal-shaped structure would be made of 60 identical 40-foot up-cycled shipping containers. The containers are painted green.

Planned for the North Loop neighborhood, the building at 506 4th Street North is being designed by New York-based architectural and design firm LOT-EK, with input from Snow Kreilich Architects in Minneapolis.

LOT-EK is widely known for using shipping containers and other up-cycled objects—like truck bodies and airplane fuselage—in architectural projects all over the world.

The North Loop structure would be erected diagonally on the corner lot where 5th Avenue North meets 4th Avenue North, leaving a surplus of green space on either side, according to a project description submitted to the city.

“The site, with its special corner condition…offers the opportunity for the building to establish a significant presence and to create a meaningful public space in this rapidly changing area,” the plan says.

In addition to the large lawn space, plans show a partially covered open-air public plaza in the center of the donut-shaped structure that would house a restaurant, clothing store and other retail.

Local marketing firm Akquracy, which is behind the project, would be housed on the top levels of the three-story building, as would a smaller suite of shared small-business “incubator” spaces.

Half of the uniquely shaped building would sit atop an existing parking garage. Given the underground wetland condition of the site, measures will be taken to minimize “foundation piling,” according to the plan.

A number of sustainable features would also be considered in the design, including solar energy options, LED light fixtures and automatic lighting control systems.

The plan was discussed at the Minneapolis Planning Commission Committee of the Whole in March. Senior City Planner Janelle Widmeier said committee was intrigued by the plan and didn’t have major initial concerns. The developers have not submitted a Land Use Application for commission to review yet.

Akquracy founder Scott Petinga said feasibility studies are underway for the project. “We are waiting to see the feasibility and how it is priced-out,” he said.

Petinga also told the Star Tribune in March that building with shipping containers can make securing financing for a project like this a challenge—something that caused a similar plan for the building to fall through after it had been approved by the Planning Commission in 2013.

“It’s almost impossible to get funding to build something that’s not status quo,” he told the paper.

 
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