Tackling trash

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August 31, 2009 // UPDATED 8:38 am - August 31, 2009
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch
The yellow-shirted ambassadors hired to roam Downtown picked up 62,000 pounds of trash in the month of July.

The ambassadors are working on the dime of 650 commercial properties that are paying extra taxes for the new Downtown Improvement District.

The district’s new staff addressed more than 250 panhandling incidents in July, as well as 50 “aggressive” panhandling incidents — aggressive panhandling is a citable offense. The ambassadors also help monitor SafeZone cameras until after bars close. They will soon patrol Downtown via segway, keeping an eye out for incidents and calling police on request. They have removed more than 3,500 graffiti tags and pressure-washed 59 block faces. Over the last couple of weeks, vacuum sidewalk scrubbers have arrived to further polish Downtown.

“I don’t think Hennepin Avenue has ever looked better,” said Michael McLaughlin, an administrator of the district. “It’s so clean.”

The Downtown Improvement District is operating under a $3 million budget for six months of 2009, and a public hearing coming up on Sept. 22 will review the $6.2 million budget for 2010, which involves greening up Downtown.

The ambassadors’ operations center is based in Elliot Park at 9th & Portland. The center has a hotline people can call if they see trash spill, for example, or spot graffiti. The number is 332-1111.



Reports of larcenies going down

Commuters’ cars are looking a little safer this year than last.

Larcenies became increasingly problematic last year, particularly in surface parking lots. In the Downtown West neighborhood, the number of larcenies increased by 26 percent in 2008 over 2007, driven largely by thefts from parking areas.

But this year, police have seen a reduction in larcenies across the board Downtown, according to Crime Prevention Specialist Luther Krueger.

“One week we only had four car break-ins, a phenomenal drop from years ago when we averaged probably 30 per week at times,” Krueger said.

To combat the thefts, police and parking facilities keep tabs on the top 25 larceny offenders in the area.

Thefts from parking lots are a recurring problem, and Krueger said police considered taking more drastic action to combat larceny around 2002. They floated the idea of requiring at least one staff member onsite for ramps with more than 100 stalls, or two staff people for parking facilities with more than 1,000 stalls.

That idea was tabled, but as larcenies rose again last year, police considered discussing similar ordinances to make parking facilities more “target-hardened.”

Now that thefts are falling again, police are optimistic that voluntary efforts to combat thefts will do the job.


Elliot Park

Cleanup time

Elliot Park’s fall cleanup is scheduled for Sept. 19 from 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

Volunteers can sign up individually or as part of a team. Lunch and refreshments will be provided to all participants.

The cleanup is sponsored by Minnesota Teen Challenge and North Central University.


Nicollet Island/East Bank

Third Ward Summit

Council Member Diane Hofstede is hosting a Third Ward Summit discussing economic development and the Mississippi Riverfront on Sept. 23. Participants will tour local landmarks, see a panel discussion and enjoy food and live entertainment.

The summit will take place at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 40 Power St., at 7 p.m., with food and registration beginning at 6 p.m.


Hennepin Avenue Theatre District

Honoring Twin Cities theater stars

Artists are literally rolling out the red carpet for this year’s Ivey Awards at the State Theatre on Sept. 21. The award ceremony that honors Twin Cities theater professionals will usher them down the red carpet to add a Hollywood hint of glamour to the event.

The Iveys will also pay special attention this year to high school students involved in theater. An exclusive party for high schoolers from across the state will take place at the
Illusion Theater, with live entertainment and actors that greet the students.

“They will become the next generation of theater-goers,” said Scott Mayer, founder of the Ivey Awards.

This year’s hosts are Claudia Wilkens and Richard Ooms, a married couple that has acted in the Twin Cities for 28 years.

At the Iveys, “creativity is not a competition,” so there are no nominees or award categories. Instead, winners are derived from evaluations completed by more than 100 theater critics, as well as the general public.


Loring Park

District 202’s programs will continue

District 202, a community center for GLBT youth, is closing down its headquarters at 1601 Nicollet Ave., but the program is still alive.

District 202 decided to shut its doors after noticing that utilization of the center had slid in recent years.

That’s a huge change from the mid-90s, when District 202 needed to relocate its storefront to handle a swelling number of visits that reached 10,000 per year.

Staff attributed the recent attendance drop to growing acceptance of GLBT youth in larger society, as well as the formation of new GLBT youth groups. Nationwide, the average cost to run youth centers are about $9–$12 per visit, but even on busy days, per-visit costs at District 202 were twice that average.

Starting July 1, District 202 staff entered a temporary “cocooning phase” to choose new leadership and plan future programming. The organization wants to provide social networking for GLBT youth across the state and start up a new mentorship program in the fall.

Party in the park

A party at the Loring Park pond featuring free canoe rides and a bluegrass band is scheduled from 1–4 p.m. on Sept. 26.

At the party, the Friends of Loring Park will dedicate a new stained glass window they commissioned for the park’s Community Arts Center.

“This is really great and unusual public art,” said Lee Frelich, the president of Friends of Loring Park.

The $6,500 window was designed by Minneapolis artist Reynaldo Diaz. Glass artist Connie Beckers built the installation. She owns “The Goddess of Glass” studio and teaches stained glass classes.

Chess garden on its way

Loring Park is getting its very own New York-style chess garden.

Two concrete chess tables have arrived to stand outside the park’s Community Arts Center near 14th Street and Willow. The Friends of Loring Park spent several thousand dollars to not only purchase the tables, but reinforce the concrete they stand on. The project was delayed about a year when they discovered a large hollow space underneath the concrete and decided to pour a new concrete deck.

The tables are coming from a New Jersey-based company that first built chess tables for New York’s parks department 60 years ago.

Later this fall or next spring, the chess garden will also feature a large board painted onto the concrete with 2-foot-tall chess pieces.

People can check out chess games with an ID at the community center during its public hours.  

Send neighborhood news to Journal editor Sarah McKenzie at smckenzie@mnpubs.com.