COMMUNITY NOTEBOOK // Volunteers step up to help North Side

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June 6, 2011
By: jeremy zoss, michelle bruch and sarah mckenzie
jeremy zoss, michelle bruch and sarah mckenzie

There’s been a strong outpouring of community support for people impacted by the May 22 tornado in North Minneapolis. Thousands of homes have been destroyed or are in need of serious repairs because of the twister.

The city of Minneapolis organized an official North Side Volunteer Clean-up Day on June 4. City officials were working to recruit 2,000 volunteers to help with light debris cleanup.

In the days after the tornado, food trucks have been providing free food, several fundraising efforts have been launched and a benefit concert, “Northside: A Twin Cities Community Benefit,” is set for June 12 at the State Theater, 824 Hennepin Ave. S. Several musicians have committed to playing, including Sounds of Blackness, Soul Asylum and Sara Renner, among many others.

Renner, a Northside homeowner, said: “I believe it is a powerful statement for those of us who benefited from North Side churches, schools, programs and people to now partner with those outside our North Side borders to help rebuild and recover from this disaster.”

As of May 27, more than $486,000 was raised for tornado relief at

For updated information on the city’s recovery efforts in wake of the May 22 tornado in North Minneapolis, go to For information about volunteer opportunities, call 311.

Where to donate:
•  The Minneapolis Foundation has established the Minnesota Helps–North Minneapolis Recovery Fund to assist with short-term and long-term housing and recovery efforts. You can donate online at or send checks to The Minneapolis Foundation, 80 S. 8th St., Suite 800, Minneapolis, MN 55402. The Minneapolis Foundation and Greater Twin Cities United Way are providing up to $200,000 in matching funds.
•  The American Red Cross is helping people impacted by the May 22 storms. Go to to donate. Follow the local Red Cross on Twitter @redcrosstc. Text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Checks can be sent to the American Red Cross–Twin Cities Area Chapter, NW 5597, PO Box 14505, Minneapolis, MN 55485
•  The Salvation Army is also helping storm victims. Financial donations can be made online at, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or by sending a check to The Salvation Army, 2445 Prior Ave., Roseville, MN 55113.

Bike Walk Week underway

Hide the car keys and get ready for some fresh air: Twin Cities Bike Walk Week is back with a full nine days of events running June 4­–12.

The annual event challenges Twin Cities residents to use their vehicles less and their legs and lungs a little more. Begun as a one-day event in 2007 and expanded to a week the next year, Bike Walk Week grew in 2010 to include more than 7,000 registered participants, the most ever.

The main event is Bike Walk to Work Day on June 9, when people across the metro area join their neighbors and coworkers on a walk or ride to work. Participants can stop at celebration points like Hennepin County Government Plaza for various rewards, such as free coffee or coupons to area retailers.

A two-hour Women’s Wednesday Bike Ride through Downtown sets off 6 p.m. June 8 from the Downtown Minneapolis YWCA, 1130 Nicollet Mall. The YWCA is also offering a pre-Bike Walk Week bike cleaning and tuning workshop 6 p.m.–8 p.m. June 1 to get riders ready for the week ahead.

Other opportunities to participate in Bike Walk Week include: the American Heart Association’s 2011 Twin Cities Heart Walk at Target Field, starting 7:30 a.m. June 4; Grand Old Day in St. Paul June 5; and Yoga on the Greenway 10:30 a.m. June 11. For more information on times in locations for these and other Bike Walk Week events, visit

The event website is also where you can register to officially participate and pledge to make at least one trip by bike or on foot instead of in a car. Teams from workplaces, schools and organizations can earn prizes for getting their coworkers to join them.

Southwest hosts the huge closing celebration for Bike Walk Week on June 12 when the Minneapolis Open Streets event takes over 20 blocks of Lyndale Avenue South.

The Twin Cities’ first ever “cyclovia” will close Lyndale to motor vehicle traffic between 22nd and 42nd streets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so that bikers, walkers and skaters can cruise, shop or meet up with friends and neighbors on a car-free street. For more on the event, and the history of the cyclovia movement, visit

June 12 also happens to be the seasonal debut of the Uptown Market 11 a.m.–4 p.m. at the intersection of Lyndale and 29th Street. And the Kingfield Farmers Market, 4310 Nicollet Ave., will be open 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m., as usual.

Head down to Open Streets and bike home with a basketful of local produce.

— Dylan Thomas

Loring Park to hold inaugural Acoustic Music Festival

LORING PARK — Fans of acoustic music would do well to head to Loring Park on June 11. From noon–8 p.m., the park will be home to the first Acoustic Music Festival, a showcase of performers inspired by folk, bluegrass and American roots music.

Performers include Jack Klass & and The Cat Swingers, Town Hall Stompers, Ruby Magpie, headliners The Roe Family Singers and more. All performers work, live or otherwise have a connection to the Loring Park neighborhood, and an open house will be held during the event to unveil the Loring Park land use masterplan. There will be food vendors such as Taco Taxi on site and admission is free. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket.

Apartment project proposed

EAST BANK — The little parking lot at the corner of 1st Avenue and 2nd Street Northeast could give rise to a 10-story apartment building.

The new Corner Apartments would include about 95 market-rate units with brick and cement board exteriors. Dan Hunt, the fee developer working on behalf of CA Apartments LLC, said the building would stand about as high as the Village at St. Anthony Falls condominiums down the street. Residents would park at the existing three-story ramp next door.

Hunt said the building would have a handful of basic amenities, but its big selling point would be the corner itself.

“It’s a great location,” he said. “It’s near the grocery store and a dozen restaurants, and it’s a block from the river.”

The project hasn’t received city approval yet. The Heritage Preservation Commission provided general feedback on the design in a meeting on May 17.

— Michelle Bruch

NE food shelf collecting produce from community gardens

LOGAN PARK — A food shelf in Northeast is looking a little more lush this summer —produce gleaned from community gardens is making its way to the shelves to sit alongside all the traditional canned goods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are now arriving at the Little Kitchen food shelf at 1500 6th St. NE. The pilot project was launched by the Emergency Foodshelf Network and Gardening Matters.

“Through this project, we hope to eliminate the barriers for donation so people can receive quality garden-grown produce who could not otherwise afford or access it,” said Kirsten Saylor, executive director of Gardening Matters. Improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables is critical to overall health, she said, and it counters an increasing trend toward obesity.

Little Kitchen accepts donations of produce on Sundays from 3–5 p.m., Thursdays from 1–3 p.m., or by appointment.

— Michelle Bruch

NE teacher heads to D.C.

HOLLAND — A writing teacher at Edison High School appeared on Capitol Hill last month to discuss her experience teaching immigrant students and English language learners.

Teacher Sharon Ornelas was one of four panelists that offered recommendations to policy makers and educators on how to better serve the immigrant population. The congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. was hosted by the College Board, a national advocacy group that works to help students of all backgrounds succeed in college.

Ornelas has worked in Minneapolis Public Schools for 13 years, with four years at Edison and the remainder at Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis. She has taught children from countries including Liberia, Mexico and Thailand, some of them raised in refugee camps and others trilingual and academically advanced.

“It’s important to know what different cultures value, but it’s also important to know that every kid in that culture does not fit into that mold,” she said in a recent College Board report. “If you really want to help kids learn, you have to see them as individuals, not as members of a group.”

Ornelas advocates for small classrooms to provide each student with plenty of one-on-one attention and individualized teaching strategies.

— Michelle Bruch

Hillcrest Development eyes Totino’s site

EAST BANK — The empty Totino’s Italian Kitchen might have found a solid buyer.

The restaurant at 523 Central Ave. NE closed in 2007, when the owner decided to move to a smaller location in the suburbs. A series of developers considered converting the site into housing or a new Holiday gas station, without success.

Now, Northeast-based Hillcrest Development wants to buy the Totino’s building and parking lot, and it’s canvassing the neighborhood to talk about it.

What exactly Hillcrest might develop remains to be seen; Managing Partner Scott Tankenoff said the options could combine housing, rental or office uses. But he is far from making a decision on that point, he said.

“That’s step No. 25,” he said.

Instead, Hillcrest has conducted soil tests, a fungal analysis and a hazardous material analysis — the big contingency that could derail the land sale is the environmental review. Tankenoff said the building has seen a tremendous amount of flooding. Apartments on the upper floors are in rough shape, and they appear to have been vacant for decades.

“I do not know whether the building can be salvaged or not,” he said. “This will be a challenge to save.”

Nevertheless, Tankenoff said he is optimistic.

“I am very confident that we are going to be buying the property,” he said.

He said planning a new development there could take a full year, however.

“This site needs not just a monetary investment, it needs brain cells and time,” he said. “Time has really passed that property by. … That part of the neighborhood has not participated in a meaningful way in any of the Renaissance [in the area]. It’s time.”

— Michelle Bruch

Decade-long construction slump ends with neurology headquarters groundbreaking

The riverfront of Downtown Minneapolis boasts an array of walking paths, a museum built into the ruins of a world-famous flour mill, several upscale condominiums … and a vacant lot filled with mounds of dirt, excavators and skid loaders across from the Guthrie Theater.

But not for long.

The American Academy of Neurology, the world’s largest professional association of neurologists, will relocate their headquarters from St. Paul to the vacant lot on 201 Chicago Ave. The new building marks the first substantial project Downtown since the city’s economic downturn beginning shortly after 9/11.

Mayor R.T. Rybak’s speech at a May 19 groundbreaking ceremony emphasized the importance of the new project.

“There’s absolutely no downside” to the new establishment, he said.

The last major Downtown office towers were built in 2001 at 50 S. 6th St. and 50 S. 10th St., according to the academy’s builders, Mortenson construction.

The City Council in October approved building plans, which entailed a $661,000 land sale and the issuance of up to $16.5 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds.

Catherine Rydell, executive director and CEO of the academy, said the city has been “wonderful” and “very helpful” throughout the planning process. She also said the development was a “fabulous business decision for the academy.”

The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2012 and will bring 140 new jobs to the riverfront, Rydell said.

“We hope to become one of the best neighbors in the whole neighborhood,” she said.

There were several other bidders for the lot, Rydell said, but the academy’s partnership with Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides affordable space for artists, sealed the deal. She said other proposals did not fill the entire lot, an important determining factor the city required in the selection process.

The planned five-story, 62,000-square-foot building was funded using the Minneapolis Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, designed to spur capital investment.

Artspace’s new building, situated in the back of the lot bordering Washington Avenue, will cover approximately 85,000 square feet and will be used for housing and commercial purposes.

“It will be a great opportunity to provide housing in the city and affordable living and work space for artists,” said Stacey Mickelson, vice president and government relations of Artspace.

Heidi Kurtze, director of property development at Artspace, said the building would be built in tandem with green community standards.

They plan to work with the Mill City farmer’s market to build a green roof for urban farming.

“It’s a change from the Warehouse District,” Kurtze said. “It’s a cool opportunity because there’s a wonderful arts district (down by the riverfront).”

— Raya Zimmerman

ArtShare workshops for Northeast Parade

ArtShare, a Northeast-based community arts group, is organizing workshops for people interested in designing “wearable” floats for the 82nd annual parade Northeast Parade on June 21.

The free workshops will be held at Grace Center for Community Life (the old Holland School), 1500 6th St. NE, June 11 & 12, and 18 & 19 from 11:30 a.m.–
3 p.m.

At the workshops, Northeasters will make masks, banners and other materials to march with at the parade.

ArtShare was founded in 2008 and has been involved in the Northeast Audio-Guided Walking Tours and the Northeast Parade Project. For more information contact Jennifer Arave at or visit

Contest challenges Minneapolitans to show their love of East Downtown

If you love the east side of Downtown and want to share the reasons why with the world, the East Downtown Council has a contest for you. The “East Downtown Minneapolis–Can You Picture It?” contest is seeking photos, videos or other presentations about what makes the east side of Downtown great, and valuable prizes await the most creative entries.

The contest is open to anyone who feels that they can capture the vibrancy of the region and runs until Aug. 31. Prizes include a one-year subscription to Nice Ride, press box seats and pre-game field passes to the Vikings/Raiders game on Nov. 20, 2011 and $500 cash.

Prizes are courtesy of the East Downtown Council, the Minnesota Vikings and Nice Ride MN. To learn more and to enter, visit