Community notebook // Westminster purchases neighboring office building

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October 8, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss and Sarah McKenzie
Jeremy Zoss and Sarah McKenzie

NICOLLET MALL — Westminster Presbyterian leaders have announced plans to expand the church’s presence on Nicollet Mall with the purchase of 1221 Nicollet Mall, an office building next door.

“We see this as an opportunity for Westminster to serve the people of this city for the next 100 years,” said Westminster Senior Pastor Tim Hart-Andersen, in a news statement, adding the church is “entering an era of growth.”

The 1221 Nicollet Mall building had a former life as a Wells Fargo business center. Westminster also purchased the Marimark apartment building, 1226 Marquette Ave. S., earlier this summer, and announced it plans to fund 150 new units of affordable housing in the downtown area.

Church leaders will engage in a long-term planning process to determine what to do with the 1221 Nicollet Mall property. 

“Westminster has a legacy of leadership in this city,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, in a prepared statement. “As a founding member of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, they’ve helped hundreds of people who were living in shelters and on the streets.”

Anticipating continued residential population growth downtown, Westminster is looking at expanding its ministries for families and children, and is exploring new intergenerational initiatives as well.

Church leaders plan to engage downtown neighbors and the faith community in 2013 about how to proceed with its expansion plans.

Founded in 1857, Westminster has 3,000 members.

Talking shop with Little & Co.’s Joe Cecere

Joe Cecere, one of the city’s most astute experts on shopping trends, would like to see more unique retailers downtown catering to the thriving creative community — shops more likely appeal to Millennials, an increasingly important demographic in the marketplace. 

Cecere is president and chief creative officer for downtown-based Little & Company, which he refers to as an “insight-driven design firm.” The company recently came out with a shopping study tied to the 40th anniversary of the landmark study on consumer behavior by Dr. Edward Tauber.

“A lot of the motivations for shoppers haven’t changed much, but how we meet those motivations have changed a lot,” Cecere said. “Shoppers are much more savvy than they ever have been.” 

Consumers have an array of digital tools at their disposal to compare prices and search for deals. They also want useful and relevant information from retailers when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

“Good customer service is super important. It can make or break it,” Cecere said.

The Little & Co. study identified six types of shoppers in its recent report: inspiration seekers who value creativity; shopping socialites who love developing a sense of community; treasure hunters who chase great deals; brand worshippers; pampered guests who appreciate extra perks; and self-expressionists who want to show off their personal style.

Since women do the vast majority of shopping, Little & Co. recruited four groups of Millennials and Generation X female shoppers for its study.

“At a time when women buy approximately 80 percent of all household goods, the new study supports the existing fundamental research but provides the critical ways in which design-thinking can strategically help marketers better respond to shoppers’ motives — leading to better sales, deeper engagement with the brand, repeat customers, and a strong sense of loyalty,” Cecere said.

For more details on the study, go to

Minnesota Orchestra management cancels fall performances

The Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) has announced plans to cancel fall performances through Nov. 25 as a result of the breakdown in contract talks between the MOA and musicians.

Contract talks between orchestra management and the members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union (Local 30-73) started in April and failed to produce a new collective bargaining agreement before the Oct. 1 deadline.

The latest proposal offered musicians an average salary of $89,000 and 10 weeks paid vacation, among other benefits, according to a news release from the MOA.

“We have great respect for our musicians’ talents, and today is a difficult day,” said MOA Board Chair Jon Campbell, in a prepared statement. “Our organization, however, cannot keep performing on borrowed time. … We cannot continue on this course, and our Board is united in the belief that, in order to protect the Minnesota Orchestra for the long term, we must address our financial challenges now, rather than push them forward and allow them to multiply.”

Orchestra musicians, meanwhile, are planning to hold their own concerts for ticket holders. Go to for details.

Twin Cities Horror Festival descends on the Southern Theater

You might not know what to expect from the Twin Cities Horror Festival, which runs from Oct. 25–Nov. 3. It is not a gathering of cult horror movie actors, nor is it a collection of scary movies. However, film is involved, as is live theater, music and dance. According to Ryan Lear of Four Humors Theater, the Twin Cities Horror Festival (TCHF) is a bit like a darker take on one of the area’s best-known theatrical events.

“It’s a little bit like a mini Fringe Festival,” said Lear. “There are lots of well-known Fringe folks [involved].”

Lear said the TCHF evolved out of Four Humors Theater’s desire to present a local production of its play “Harold.” Four Humors presented the campfire ghost story-inspired play at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2010, where it earned the Critic’s Pick Award. However, the group has yet to perform the horror/comedy hybrid in its hometown. Four Humors reached out to other local theater groups working on thematically similar material, and the TCHF was born.

It’s a very collaborative group effort,” said Lear. “We got the ball rolling, now it’s become it’s own thing.”

Along with “Harold,” the TCHF also includes the shows “Ghost Force: Searching for the Truth,” “Senseless,” “The Legend of White Woman Creek,” “Bump in the Night,” “God Damned Son of a Bitch” and an original live score for the film “Night of the Living Dead” performed by the band The Poor Nobodys. 

Lear said the lineup of shows brings a lot of variety to the stage. The shows vary in tone, style and scares. “The Legend of White Woman Creek” is a one-woman musical ghost story by Nick Ryan and Katie Hartman. “Ghost Force” by Mike Fotis involves the audience by searching for ghosts in the Southern Theater. “Senseless” by RawRedMeat Productions is visceral and bloody production in the French “Grand Guignol” tradition. The show will use copious amounts of fake blood — so much so that raincoats are suggested for patrons in the front row.

“They’re doing a lot of late night shows for that one,” said Lear.

Tickets for each show are $15 and an unlimited pass is available for $70. For tickets, search for “Twin Cities Horror Festival” on

As paper chain grows longer, so does Run to Unite

On Saturday, Oct. 20, the American Refugee Committee (ARC) will hold Run to Unite, a run/walk in Minnehaha Park to raise money for Somalia. Unlike other charitable races, the organizers can’t yet say how long the course will be. That’s because the route will be as long as a paper chain the ARC has been building one link at a time based on donations. The more donations come in, the longer the chain grows, and the longer the Run to Unite course will be. 

Every time a dollar is donated to ARC, the organization adds a link to the chain. It currently has 50,000 links and measures about a mile and a half long. ARC’s Jenna Myrland said the paper chain was created in an earlier ARC fundraising effort. 

“The world’s largest paper chain for Somalia started with our Facebook page,” said Myrland. “That was meant to create some sort of physical representation for all the actions that were happening for Somalia on the page. People asked ‘why stop building the paper chain, because it represents people coming together?’ We thought, ‘why do we stop?’”

ARC already had plans for Run to Unite and decided the run/walk would be a great opportunity to continue the paper chain project. Every dollar collected through donations or the $20 registration fee adds another link to the chain, Myrland said ARC hopes to bring in $50,000 with the race, which would double the length of the chain — and therefore the race — to around three miles. 

Should ARC meet its $50,000 goal, African money transfer service Dahabshill will donate $50,000 in matching funds to ARC for Somali community projects. 

Registration for Run to Unite begins at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20 at Minnehaha Park. The race begins at 11 a.m., with activities, music and Somali food in the interim. Myrland said one of the biggest attractions will be the chance to see the world’s largest paper chain removed from ARC’s office and laid out end-to-end. 

“It is filling our office like you wouldn’t believe,” said Myrland. “It’s literally hanging from the ceiling, overflowing cubes. It’s a lot of fun to have it in the office.”

Third Ward Neighborhoodfest returns Oct. 10.

The Third Ward Neighborhoodfest will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Nicollet Island Pavilion from 5:30–9 p.m. The event, which Councilmember Diane Hofstede was conceived as a way for Third Ward residents to meet with business and community leaders, will feature the participation of various city agencies, area businesses, organizations and projects.

“The idea is really to have an opportunity to talk to your neighborhood leaders,” said Hofstede. “It’s about networking, it’s about getting businesses established.”

Hofstede said attendees can expect to see everything from the mascots of Minnesota’s major sports teams to a presentation by the developers working at the Pillsbury A Mill site. Businesses like Clay Squared will exhibit, as will Segway tour company Human on a Stick, Body in Balance Massage and Catholic Eldercare.