Community notebook :: Church labeled endangered

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June 7, 2010 // UPDATED 8:49 am - June 7, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Downtown church on most endangered historical site list

For Wesley United Methodist Church, at 101 E. Grant St., it was close, but no seed money.

The 119-year-old church made the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s “Top Ten Most Endangered Historical Places” list, but failed to take home a grant awarded to the list’s most preservation-worthy site.  

The top 10 list was announced May 20 at the Alliance’s first-ever (Anti)Wrecking Ball gala fundraiser at the Soap Factory. Wesley United was the only Downtown site honored at the event.

Located next to the Minneapolis Convention Center, the 1891 structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. But it has no congregation, and the Minnesota Annual Conference of United Methodists has been considering selling the church, according to the Preservation Alliance.

During the gala, presenters made a case for each of the top 10 sites, and a public vote was held to determine which would win a $2,500 seed money grant. The prize marked the first time the Alliance had ever attached a grant to its list, which it has been issuing since 1993.

“It was a very close vote and Wesley Church was right up there amongst the contenders,” said Erin Berg, field representative for the Alliance. “We had over 200 people in attendance at the event, and 202 votes cast in the seed grant competition. Definitely evidence of a lot of support for [Wesley].”

The Dodd Ford Bridge, a now-closed bridge built over the Blue Earth River in Amboy, Minn., in 1901, won the grant.

For a complete list of the top 10 sites, visit the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota online at mnpreservation.org.

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Open Eye brings puppet show to the North Loop

Open Eye Figure Theater is mounting an outdoor puppet show in the North Loop. As part of the theater’s acclaimed Driveway Tour series, which brings small, pass-the-hat puppet shows to residential backyards, parks and driveways throughout the summer months, Open Eye will set up stage at the site of the future North Loop playground, located along the Mississippi River at 4th Avenue North and James I. Rice Parkway. The show happens Saturday, June 12, at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations for the performers are welcome.

The production, “The Adventures of Katie Tomatie,” tells the story of a young girl who digs too deep while planting tomatoes in her garden, awakening a funny skeleton buried underground.

The event marks the first time in its eight-year history that the Driveway Tour will stop in a Downtown residential neighborhood. Launched after 9/11 as a way to get people out of their houses and to build community with their neighbors, the Driveway Tour has mostly focused on neighborhoods more commonly associated with raising families: Bryn Mawr, Como Park and Fulton.

Susan Haas, Open Eye’s producing director, was a little taken aback by the North Loop location. “When they were talking to me about booking this, I said, ‘Well, are there any kids there?’”

That perception — that there are few families with children Downtown — is something that Anna Larsson has been trying to fight. Larsson, who arranged Open Eye’s visit to the neighborhood, formed a parent group two years ago called North Loop Kids. The group’s goal is to encourage parents to communicate with each other and to build a warm community feel for their kids.

“We estimate that there are over 100 kids in the neighborhood,” she says. “And what’s really exciting is that just in the last couple years, people who already have kids are starting to move Downtown. They’re saying we want to live that lifestyle.”

Larsson’s group began organizing weekly play dates in the summer, bringing area kids to playgrounds around the city, since the North Loop doesn’t currently have a designated place for children to play. In the winter, Larsson arranges for monthly play dates indoors, in the many party rooms in the neighborhood condo buildings.

Just this January, North Loop Kids succeeded in winning approval for the future playground, where the puppet show will take place.

Interested parties can sign up for the North Loop Kids Yahoo Group by sending a note to northloopkids-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

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Pop-up workshops to teach city cycling skills

As part of Twin Cities Bike Walk Week, June 5 through June 11, a series of brief workshops on safe city biking will be offered free-of-charge at various bike-sharing kiosks Downtown. A joint project organized by Bike Walk ambassadors, the Commuter Connection Resource Store and bike-sharing nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota, the workshops will stress the importance of following traffic laws, the proper use of hand signals and the necessity of wearing a helmet. The workshops will also provide tutorials on how Minneapolis’ new bike-sharing program works.

The workshops will be offered on a weekly basis through the first week of July at the following Downtown bike-share kiosks:

— Wednesdays, June 16–July 7, from 11:30 a.m.–noon, YWCA Downtown kiosk, 12th Street and Nicollet Mall; and
— Thursdays, June 17–July 8, from 12:30–1 p.m., 5th Street and 3rd Avenue kiosk.

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Hennepin-Lyndale pedestrian bridge closed for repairs

A set of blaze orange construction signs placed at Oak Grove St. and Hennepin Ave. sent cyclists and pedestrians on a detour through Loring Park on June 1.

But the path wasn’t the only thing closed. The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, which connects the park to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, had also shut down. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the bridge will be closed for about a month for repairs.

The work involves replacing some of the bridge’s wooden decking, as well as touching-up some paint. MnDOT expects the work will also necessitate some closures of Interstate 94 and Hennepin and Lyndale avenues, all of which converge in the bottleneck beneath the bridge.

MnDOT spokesperson Bre Magee said that Graham Construction Services had been selected as a contractor. The repair schedule calls for 20 working days, and all work should be finished by mid-July, when both Loring Park and the Sculpture Garden expect the heaviest use.

Pedestrians looking to cross from park to park are being directed to the traffic signals at Vineland Place, which allow for crossing Hennepin and Lyndale avenues.

“They’re going to be having some night time lane closures of I-94,” Magee said. “Then they’ll have some daytime closures of Hennepin and Lyndale. But they won’t close more than two lanes at a time and it will be at non rush hours.”