Community notebook: Historic preservation takes center stage this summer

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May 23, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
Over the next few months, Minneapolis’ past will come back to life. Multiple organizations are at work to preserve the historic buildings in the city and educate the public about their cultural significance.  

On May 14, Preserve Minneapolis kicked off its summer tour season, which leads the curious through historic buildings and neighborhoods. On May 12, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota unveiled its list of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state at its “Anti-Wrecking Ball” fundraiser.

The Preservation Alliance’s list included two sites in Minneapolis: the Howe School in South Minneapolis and the Pillsbury A Mill complex, 301 Main St. SE.

Built in 1927, the Howe School is not listed as a historic property and is being considered for demolition. Two separate real estate developers are working to transform the A Mill complex into apartments. While both developers have pledged to retain the site’s historic character, the Preservation Alliance is concerned that many of the site’s most significant aspects, such as the hydropower infrastructure, will not be reused in the development.

Scheduled to run through Sept. 17, the Preserve Minneapolis tour season includes both walking and biking tours of some of Minneapolis’ most historic buildings and neighborhoods.

All tours are hosted by experts in preservation and architecture and require a small fee. The nonprofit organization is asking $5 for most of the 31 scheduled tours. Tour locations include the Grain Belt Brewery, Red Cedar Lane, The Mill City Museum, Nicollet Island, the Hennepin Theater District and many more.

Pre-registration online is encouraged for all tours. Sign up at

Information about the Preservation Alliance’s most endangered historic places can be found at

— Jeremy Zoss

Bike Walk Week begins June 4

Between June 4–12, pledge to take at least one trip you would have made by car on foot or bicycle instead. That’s the goal of Bike Walk Week, a Metro-area effort to get residents to think differently about their transit options.

According to the Bike Walk Week website, the average household spent $5,477 on gas and automotive expenses last year, a larger amount than most households spent on groceries or utilities.

On Sunday, June 12, Bike Walk Week concludes with Ciclovia Minneapolis, during which Lyndale Avenue between 22nd and 42nd streets will be open to bicycle traffic only.

— Jeremy Zoss

Construction begins on 35W bridge memorial

With the fourth anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse looming, work on the memorial to the tragedy has begun at the West River Parkway site across from Gold Medal Park. According to the memorial’s designer Tom Oslund, crews will be working full time at the site for the next six weeks, with the memorial scheduled to be complete in mid-July. The anniversary of the collapse is Aug. 1.

The memorial is known as the Remembrance Garden and will feature 13 illuminated beams signifying each of the individuals that perished in the disaster.

— Jeremy Zoss

New NE community garden

BELTRAMI — This season marks the Beltrami neighborhood’s first shot at planting its new community garden at 1213 Spring St. NE.

Beltrami was the first Minneapolis neighborhood to take advantage of a city program that helps convert vacant lots into green space and gardens. The neighborhood spent much of last summer preparing the beds for planting.

Gardeners who won a lottery for the $20 beds earlier this spring are looking forward to a harvest celebration in September. Beltrami will host a party that features teas from different cultures in the neighborhood, such as the Russian samovar service, British high tea service and the Chinese tea ritual.

— Michelle Bruch

Bottineau surveys residents about Gasthof’s events

BOTTINEAU — Residents living within two blocks of Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit, 2300 University Ave. NE, have taken a survey on the business’s outdoor “tent events,” such as Oktoberfest.

The Bottineau Neighborhood Association created the survey, and it will share the results with the Gasthof management.

While some residents said the business is good for the neighborhood, several others complained about patrons urinating in their yards and leaving broken glass on the street.

Out of 150 addresses, 23 people responded to the survey.

“While this is far from a statistically significant sample, the responses do seem to represent what the Bottineau Neighborhood Association has come to understand over the years as the general feeling of the community regarding these events,” stated the survey summary.

Now that the results are in, the neighborhood will start a dialogue about how to address the two biggest stated concerns: “the disruptive behavior of customers after they leave” and “the ‘mess’ left the mornings after the events.”

— Michelle Bruch

Windom Park residents upset about new recycling center

WINDOM PARK — A couple of neighborhoods have written to the city about the new recycling center coming to 1712 Broadway St. NE, wishing that city officials would have discussed the proposal with the community before approving the plans.  

Waste Management will collect truckloads of appliances and electronics every day at the site, and the materials will be separated and processed inside the facility.

“At this point, it is about process,” said Gayle Bonneville, a staff member of Windom Park Citizens in Action, explaining that there should have been a better opportunity for public input. “It’s a pretty egregious mistake on the city’s part.”

Windom Park endorsed a letter of complaint sent by the adjacent Southeast Como neighborhood.

James De Sota, neighborhood director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the neighborhood wants to make sure it stays in the loop in the future. But after the city turned down its request to reconsider the project, the neighborhood isn’t going to take further action, he said.

“It really is out of our hands,” he said.

— Michelle Bruch

Solar panels provide education and savings for schools

WINDOM PARK — With new solar panels installed seven months ago, Pillsbury Elementary School is embracing green technology while also providing students with a new learning opportunity.

Pillsbury, 2250 Garfield St. NE, was among four Minneapolis schools to benefit from Walmart Foundation’s $1.2 million donation to the National Energy Education Development Project, along with South High School, Seward Montessori and Floyd B. Olson Middle School. The schools were chosen because of their strong science programs and geographic distribution throughout the city, assistant facilities director Clyde Kane said.

Kane said the solar panel installation was completed near the end of November. A celebration of the project was scheduled for early December, but a powerful storm canceled the event and it was rescheduled for May 17.

Minneapolis was among five cities across the United States to receive such funding from Walmart. Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C. were the others chosen.

The solar panels are part of a broader effort to apply classroom concepts to the real world, said Joe Alfano, K–5 science specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Students are first shown models in class, such as miniature houses with small photovoltaic cells to show how solar energy works. Then, they can use what they learned and see how the panels function in the real world.

Students can monitor the amount of energy the school is getting from the panels and see how that fluctuates over time. They also can compare the performance of their school’s solar panels to other installed on schools across the United States.

The project is part of a broader green teaching initiative that also includes information recycling, organics and rainwater collection. It is meant to promote students making a difference.

“We could teach a lot of doom and gloom about [the environment], but that builds despair and makes kids feel hopeless,” Alfano said. “Showing projects that get kids involved … is a more hopeful way to explore these challenges.”

The solar panels aren’t just an opportunity to teach kids. They’re also a money saver.

Though the panels are small — only about five kilowatts — they are already proving useful. The site at Floyd B. Olson Middle School has saved nearly $1,200 since the beginning of the year and kept around 4,300 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, Kane said. South High School has saved nearly $1,500 this year and kept nearly 5,300 pounds of emissions from being released.

The district plans to add more solar panels in the future, Alfano said. That will come when more funding is made available.

— Andre Eggert

Basilica of Saint Mary to hold third annual blessing of bikes

It’s always a good idea to wear a helmet while biking, but in case you feel that you need a little extra protection, the Basilica of Saint Mary has you covered. On June 5, the Basilica, 16th & Hennepin, will hold its third annual Blessing of Bikes, during which cyclists can have their bikes anointed with holy water.

The Blessing of Bikes event was conceived as a fun way to promote awareness bicycle transportation and will also feature vendors and exhibits, representatives from local bike shops, and a kids’ ride around the campus.

The event runs from 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The blessing ceremony is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.

— Jeremy Zoss

Uptown filmmaker releases another ‘Nate’s Word’ video

Nate Maydole, 28, of Uptown has released his fourth “Nate’s Word” video — a yearlong project where he films himself saying a word each day to string together a story for the year.  

The theme for his latest video, released earlier this month, is adventure. He captures scenes from 16 cities across the country. The highlight is a clip near the end where he gets more than 15,000 people to say a word with him in South Padre Island.

“What started as a project about change has evolved into something more,” Maydole said. “It’s about cherishing the moment and looking back at life’s accomplishments.”

The goal for his video project is to continue for another 16 years so he’s filmed each day for 20 years. His grand opus would then be about an hour long.  

“It’s truly a hobby,” he said. “I like getting people involved with it — family and friends.”

As of the first week of May, Maydole’s fourth video had attracted nearly 700 viewers on YouTube. His previous three videos have drawn more than 750,000 views on YouTube and Bing.

The theme for last year’s project was people and his other two projects focused on change and memory. For his next project, Maydole’s theme is food and a look at why we eat the things we do.

To see his videos, go to

— Sarah McKenzie

Minneapolis named Gold Star Bike City

Over the last few years, reporting that Minneapolis is a great city for biking has become as obvious as saying that the winters here are cold. Nevertheless, the city continues improve its reputation amongst cyclists. The latest honor is a gold-level designation from The League of American Bicyclist’s Bicycle Friendly America Program.

Minneapolis was the only city to earn the designation in 2011, and is now one of only 14 cities rated gold or above. The city earned a silver-level designation in 2008.

The League of American Bicyclists promotes cycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and recognizes those communities that work to support similar goals.

— Jeremy Zoss

CLPC Land Use meeting to be held on May 23

LORING PARK — Several big projects are being proposed for the Loring Park neighborhood, and residents who want to hear all about them may wish to attend the Citizens for a Loring Park Community Land Use meeting on Monday, May 23 from 6:30–8:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in Room 207 Loring Park Office Building at 430 Oak Grove.

During the meeting, representatives from Lunds will discuss the proposed grocery store at 12th and Hennepin. Other topics include the proposed Oak Grove development project and a bicycle/pedestrian gateway to Loring Park and 15th Street’s bike lanes.

— Jeremy Zoss

Golden GRRRLS drag show aims for Guinness World Record

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — Featuring 100 drag performers, June 3’s Golden GRRRLS isn’t just a party. It’s also a Guinness World Record attempt. More importantly, it’s also a charitable event. Regardless of what reason brings you in the door, the event should be a memorable one.

“Golden GRRRLS, A Night of 100 Drag Performers” will celebrate 40 years of the local drag community with plans to break the current Guinness World Record for number of drag artists in a single performance. All proceeds will benefit The Aliveness Project, which provides services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Golden GRRRLS will be held at the Epic Event Center at 501 1st Ave. N. at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 3. Tickets start at $20.