A North Loop tot lot is coming.
The project has been chosen as this year’s National Recreation and Park Association’s community service project, an annual activity that coincides with a traveling national conference that Minneapolis will host this fall.
Often times, community service projects involve tree plantings or similar activities. But the main goal is to serve a community need, parks Planning Manager Jennifer Ringold said, and North Loop residents have been asking for a playground for years. The number of residents in the neighborhood has grown to 5,000 from about 1,500 a decade ago, and there are many more young families there now than before. A playground currently doesn’t exist on parkland along the west side of the Mississippi River.
As proposed, the North Loop tot lot would be built at 4th Avenue North and James I. Rice Parkway. The style would fit into a growingly popular trend of playgrounds that interact with their natural surroundings, and there also would be several nods to the history of the site. Early renderings show a play river, along with a number of play logs. (The location used to house a sawmill.)
“We’re trying to give kids nature play and an opportunity for historic role playing,” Landscape Architect Andrea Weber said.
Funds will need to be raised to move the project forward. If enough come in, there’s a possibility the community service project will expand to include a river cleanup, buckthorn removal and some tree planting.
A public hearing on the tot lot is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at Park Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. Fundraising will begin after the board approves the plans.
The conference will be Oct. 25–29.
Local company chosen as new solar partner
The city has a new partner in its quest to install a large solar array atop the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The City Council on Jan. 29 voted unanimously to authorize a solar services agreement with Best Power International, a locally based company that has handled about a fifth of all solar installations in Minnesota. They are expected to build what would be the largest installation in the upper Midwest.
The city had hoped to do the job with Colorado-based EyeOn Energy. But after months of issues largely related to responsiveness, the council voted last summer to cut ties. EyeOn and the city had been set to share a $2 million grant, but that arrangement won’t be repeated with Best Power. Instead, the city currently is petitioning the Office of Energy Security and the Public Utilities Commission to designate Minneapolis as the grant’s sole recipient.
Before approving the Best Power agreement, several council members cited their disappointment in the outcome with EyeOn. After that relationship deteriorated, Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) said, it took a while for the city to regroup on what had been a much-touted project.
Staff had to move carefully, said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), chairwoman of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee. Best Power was ultimately chosen for its successful track record and “financial wherewithal” — plus, having a local company do the work actually creates several side benefits, Glidden said. For example, Best Power will use local workers for the installation, and the project could be used for future training.
“I’m more excited and hopeful than ever,” Gordon said.
City, county get $150,000 to tackle chronic offenders
The Downtown Improvement District is using some of its second-year budget to directly tackle the issue of chronic offenders, sending $150,000 in grants to the city and Hennepin County attorney’s offices.
The city’s grant, worth $85,000, will fund an additional prosecutor position. That person is expected to specifically target the caseload of 50 chronic offenders in Downtown who have repeatedly committed livability, property, drug and sex crimes.
Hennepin County’s grant is $65,000 and will fund a full-time, Downtown-based probation officer. The officer’s job will include active supervision of as many as 50 chronic offenders and keeping watch over the caseload related to the Downtown 100, a project targeting the area’s 100 most chronic offenders.
“For the first time, chronic misdemeanants will be subject to rigorous supervision, a comprehensive assessment and active connection to services,” according to a city staff report.
Parties set to caucus Feb. 2
The election season kicks into high gear this month.
On Feb. 2, most political parties in Minnesota are hosting meetings to begin the selection of candidates and issues to push ahead with this year. Voters this fall will be weighing in on a number of races, including who will succeed outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty and outgoing Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
Most parties will caucus in the evening. For specific locations, go to sos.state.mn.us.
If it seems early to be caucusing, that’s because it is. Both caucuses and conventions were moved to earlier dates from when they were held in years past. Also, a new federal law could force the state to reschedule the September primary to August — or earlier — to allow for a 45-day absentee balloting period.
For now, here are some notable dates to keep track of:
Feb. 2: Caucuses
July 6–20: Candidates file for office (would change if the primary is moved up)
Sept. 14: Primary (could change)
Nov. 2: Election Day