Community notebook // Vikings block parties in Warehouse District up against state law

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November 5, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Journal staff
Journal staff

Warehouse District bars have been working this fall on a plan to close off traffic on two city blocks to allow for Vikings game day parties, where patrons can go from bar to bar without tossing their drinks.

But Minnesota state law is preventing that idea, at least for now. State law does not allow patrons to bring a drink from one bar to another, a central part of the plan.  

The idea is to close off 1st Avenue between 4th and 6th streets. For bar geographers, that means the streets with Brothers Bar and Grill, Loon Café, The Imperial Room, The 508 Bar & Restaurant and others. 

Joanne Kaufman, executive director of the Warehouse District Business Association, said patrons would be able to buy commemorative cups and use them at participating bars, where the cups would get them drink specials. 

Kaufman said the idea formed after the city began allowing “railgating” closer to the Metrodome, where food trucks now line up on game days. 

Kaufman said the block parties aren’t likely to happen this season, because changes are needed to state law. She’s not sure if it ever will come to fruition. 

“The purpose of it was to encourage people to visit businesses in the Warehouse District as the start of the Purple Path, because to be perfectly honest, the railgating close to the Metrodome has had a negative impact to some of our businesses on game days,” she said. 

The Purple Path Kaufman speaks of is a new idea brought forth by Mayor R.T. Rybak in September. That was when he announced the railgating plan, and said he wanted a path to connect the west side of downtown with the Metrodome, and later, with the new Vikings stadium.

Accent Signage employees back at work 

BRYN MAWR — Accent Signage Systems employees “will never get over” the Sept. 27 shooting that left five of their coworkers and UPS delivery driver dead, but they want it known they are back at work, said Shereen Rahamim.

Rahamim spoke Oct. 22 outside of Accent Signage Systems, the company her husband, Reuven, founded.

Reuven, 61, died in the rampage. Thirty-six-year-old Andrew Engledinger of Minneapolis opened fire on the day he was told he’d lost his job, and was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the company’s basement.

Rahamim and company spokesperson Wendy Khabie expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of community support following incident, one of the worst instances of workplace violence in the city’s history. Mayor R.T. Rybak, Police Chief Tim Dolan and company employees joined the two as they read from prepared statements on the street outside the business, located at 2322 Chestnut Ave. W.

“A eulogy at one funeral concluded with the following line: ‘I will never get over this and I don’t have to.’ That is exactly how we feel,” Rahamim said. “But while we will never get over this, together we will get through it.”

Rybak said “virtually all” of the company’s employees returned to work after the shooting, many of them as early as Oct. 8. He said the company, a manufacturer whose signature product is a Braille sign system used around the world, was “even more important” to the city after the shooting, and pledged his support.

Rybak praised the work ethic at the business, noting some Accent employees worked over the previous weekend to fill a large order.

“Accent gets work done,” he said.

They are doing so after the loss of several key employees. Besides Reuven Rahamim, those killed included Rami Cooks, 62, of Minnetonka; Ronald Edberg, 58, of Brooklyn Center; Jacob Bruce Beneke, 34, of Maple Grove; and Eric Rivers, 42, of St. Paul, who died of his injuries Oct. 10 at Hennepin County Medical Center. Also dead is UPS driver Keith Baskinski, 50, of Spring Lake Park, who had pulled into the Accent Signage loading dock moments before Engledinger opened fire.

Engledinger’s parents, Chuck and Carolyn, have said publicly they believe their son was suffering from a mental illness, and that despite their efforts to get him help he grew estranged from his family in recent years.

With the police investigation into the incident concluded, Khabie said, “our focus is on healing and getting back to work.”

Rahamim said those who still wish to help should consider contributing to a Wells Fargo bank account established for the victims and their families. A link to more information on donating to the fund can be found on the business’ web page, accentsignage.com.

OutFront planning 

post-election day events to harness energy of Vote No campaign 

LGBT advocacy group OutFront Minnesota is planning two post-election events designed to build on the momentum of efforts to fight the marriage amendment regardless of the outcome on Election Day.

OutFront leaders along with Minnesota United for All Families and other groups that have worked to defeat the marriage amendment will have a “United for Our Future” rally on the steps of the state Capitol at 5 p.m. on Nov. 7.

More than 10,000 volunteers have been involved in the campaign, and more than 62,000 people have donated money to defeat the amendment, said Monica Meyer, executive director of South Minneapolis-based OutFront Minnesota.

“This is the biggest movement our state has ever seen for LGBT equality, and that can’t be dismantled by a vote,” she said. 

The advocacy organization is also planning an event, “Equality & Justice Summit: Next Steps Forward,” on Dec. 1 at the Hilton Minneapolis to strategize ways to harness energy from the campaigns to defeat the marriage and voter ID amendments. TakeAction Minnesota and Wellstone Action are also collaborating on the summit. More than 10,000 volunteers have been involved in the campaigns.

OutFront is also being honored for its advocacy work Nov. 2 by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Minnesota Council of Foundations at its annual joint conference with the groups’ 2012 Mission and Excellence Advocacy Award. 

Phil Duran, the organization’s legal director, was also awarded the Brian Coyle Leadership award from the Human Rights Commission on Sept. 8. 

OutFront got its start in 1987 as a 24-hour crisis hotline. Volunteers took calls from people who were facing discrimination for being gay. Some were losing jobs, others facing eviction from their apartments. 

Soon the organization shifted into a systems-change, social justice organization. In 1993, OutFront helped pass an amendment to the state’s Human Rights Act that makes it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing, employment, education and public accommodation. 

“We exist to make our state a place where people can just be who they are, love who they love and not face any adversity — harassment, violence, discrimination or isolation,” Meyer said. 

After the election season slows down, OutFront will turn its focus to gearing up for the 2013 state legislative session. The organization is part of a large coalition working to require Minnesota schools to ban harassment and discrimination aimed at LGBT youth and students with disabilities. Current law bans harassment on the basis of sex, race and religion. 

Fixers wanted

Back in September, Hennepin County had its first-ever Fix-It Clinic, an event that brought together volunteers skilled in all kinds of repair work and a couple of dozen local folks with broken — but salvageable — stuff.

So, how did it go? 

“Really well,” said Nancy Lo, a zero-waste expert who works for Hennepin County.

“We had 27 people come and they had 33 items,” Lo said. “… We were able to fix 85 percent of them.”

She said most of the items that weren’t repaired at the library event could have been fixed later. Volunteers sent the owners home with instructions to complete the fix, or identified a spare part that needed to be purchased.

The handy men and women made useful again a surprising variety of items, ranging from kitchen appliances — including a coffee pot, mixer and microwave — to an antique radio. Other items repaired during the event included a paper shredder, stereo system, air mattress and tea strainer.

They didn’t see much clothing, although they did have volunteers with sewing skills ready to help, Lo said.

Fix-It Clinics are now being held around the county. An October clinic in Edina wasn’t quite as well attended, but Lo hoped to see more people at clinics in Minnetonka in November and Brooklyn Center in February.

There is a clinic scheduled to take place 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Dec. 8 at Northeast Minneapolis maker space known as The Mill, 2300 Kennedy St. N.E., Suite 130.

Lo said the success of future clinics really depends on recruiting volunteers with the skills to help, including expertise in soldering, electronics, computer repair, sewing and wood-working — or just general handiness.

“Volunteers make or break us,” she said.

To help out, contact Lo at nancy.lo@co.hennepin.mn.us or 348-9195. For more information on future Fix-It Clinics, go to hennepin.us/fixitclinic.

Ford Center nears total occupancy

NORTH LOOP — With the addition of a few new tenants, Ford Center, the renovated auto assembly plant at 401 5th Ave., is close to total occupancy. 

Adjacent to Target Field, Ford Center is currently home to advertising agency Olson, HGA Architects and Caldrea. According to John Saunders, senior vice president of acquisitions/dispositions for Ford Center owner United Properties, web development firm Agosto moved into the building two weeks ago, and leases have been signed for the remaining office parcels.

“We’ve got 550 feet left,” said Saunders. “We are 99.5 percent leased. It’s unbelievable. It’s been fantastic.”

The two most recent tenants are web design firm Atomic Playpen and Northern Lights Broadcasting. Atomic Playpen will occupy about half of the sixth floor, while Northern Lights Broadcasting will occupy roughly 8,400 square feet of Ford Center’s retail space.

Northern Lights Broadcasting operates radio station KTWN-FM, 96.3. Starting in 2013, KTWN will broadcast Minnesota Twins games from its studio next to Target Field. 

“Their studio is right on the corner and it’s all glass,” said Saunders. “As you turn the corner at 5th and 5th you can see them broadcasting.”

Saunders said the only remaining space in Ford Center would be perfect for a small sandwich shop or other food vendor. The building currently has no such tenant.

“There will be upwards of 900 people in the building,” said Saunders. “You’d think that kind of population could support a nice sandwich shop or grab and go.”

Mill City Farmers Market Winter Market kicks off 

on Nov. 10

The Mill City Farmers Market concluded its regular season on Oct. 27, but patrons won’t have to wait long for the return of the local and organic bazaar. The Mill City Farmers Market Winter Market kicks off on Nov. 10 and runs through April 13. 

The Winter Market is held inside the Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., on the second Saturday of the month through the cold season. Each session runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features over 25 vendors of local, organic, sustainable food and gifts. While some of the summer market’s offerings may not be available, there is still plenty of local food available during the winter, including root vegetables, salads, meats, eggs, cheeses, baked goods and more.

Each Winter Market session will features special offerings. The Dec. 8th session will feature sustainable Christmas trees and wreaths. The Jan. 12th event will highlight local artisans, while the Feb. 9th session will feature gifts for Valentine’s Day. The March 9th Market will celebrate spring and the final Winter Market event on April 13th will highlight the return of the regular farmers market season. 

Run to Unite 

raises $100,000 

for Somalia

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) announced it raised over $100,000 for aid efforts in Somalia during Run to Unite, a run/walk in Minnehaha Park on Saturday, Oct. 20. Funds were generated by participant entry fees, pledges and a dollar-for-dollar match by African money transfer service Dahabshill.

Participants showed up at the park on a chilly morning not knowing how long its course would be. The length was determined by a paper chain ARC had been building one link at a time based on donations. For each dollar, another link was added. Laid end-to-end, it stretched for two miles. Hundreds of participants of all backgrounds ran or walked the length of the chain and back, bringing the course’s length to four miles.

Before the start of the race, attendees were treated to a speech and warm-up session by champion Somali distance runner Abdi Bile. The first Somali to hold the world championship for the 1,500 meter run and a two-time Olympian, Bile kicked off the actual run by leading the children in attendance through the course. 

City looking for development ideas for old factory site 

The City of Minneapolis has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the property at 115 5th St. NE, a site formerly home to a mattress factory next to the Calumet Lofts.  

The RFP is a solicitation for developers to submit plans to remake the property into housing and/or commercial space.

The property was forfeited to the State of Minnesota for nonpayment of property taxes in 2011. An earlier plan to redevelop the parcel by Clare Housing, an organization that provides housing for people living with HIV/AIDS, fell through in May. That plan called for redeveloping the site into 22 units of affordable housing. 

Developers had until Oct. 31 to submit proposals for the property. 

Give to the Max Day Returns on Nov. 15

The online fundraising website GiveMN will once again host Give to the Max Day on Nov. 15. This is the fourth year for the one-day fundraising drive, which challenges Minnesotans to raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits in 24 hours. To date, GiveMN has raised more than $50 million for over 6,700 Minnesota-based non-profits. 

Donations can be made to various nonprofits through GiveMN.org. Many charities will host special events during Give to the Max Day to spur donations. Elliot Park-based Students Today, Leaders Forever will host a 24-hour livestream of skits, challenges and other events on its website. HUGE Improv Theater will perform in a 24-hour improv marathon. For the first time, K-12 public schools will be fundraising via Give to the Max Day.

Give to the Max Day begins at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 15 and runs through midnight, Nov. 16. For more information, visit GiveMN.org.