COMMUNITY NOTEBOOK // Cultural corridor plan for Hennepin

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July 28, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
HENNEPIN AVENUE — The Hennepin Theatre Trust has received a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts through its new Our Town program, which is designed to encourage “creative placemaking.”

The Hennepin Theatre Trust will use the grant to advance a vision to transform Hennepin Avenue into a “cultural corridor” that stretches from the riverfront to the Walker Art Center.

While Hennepin Avenue has several prominent arts-based features like the Central Library, Theater District, Walker Art Center and the upcoming Cowles Center, there are also several stretches that present a far less refined experience.

The goal is to use the grant to plan ways to “knit together” the various areas of Hennepin Avenue to create a consistent cultural experience.

“Someone could be at the Walker Art Center, and walk all the way to the riverfront and have a series of art experiences along the way,” said Hennepin Theatre Trust president and CEO Tom Hoch, who also writes a monthly column for The Journal.

The difference between this grant and others, said Hoch, is that arts organizations are leading the way rather than real estate developers or other private businesses. While Hennepin Avenue businesses and residents from around the city will be invited to share their ideas on how to further improve Hennepin Avenue, Hennepin Theatre Trust and collaborators the Walker Art Center and Artspace will be in charge of crafting it all into a cohesive plan.

The planning process is scheduled to run for a year, and whatever plans emerge for the avenue are likely to be incremental. Hoch points to how previous improvements around Hennepin, such as the painted utility boxes, streetscaping and Downtown Improvement District initiative, have contributed to a gradual improvement to the area.

He foresees a future in which Hennepin Avenue is home to more theatres, art galleries, coffee shops and artist live/work spaces.

“We don’t have to fill every storefront — we have to create the environment where that takes place,” he said. “There’s a tipping point with these kinds of things. So we’re just trying to set the stage for those things to happen on their own.”

The city has embraced the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s plan for the Avenue, even adding a $50,000 grant of its own to the NEA’s funds.

“I strongly support this initiative, because a Hennepin Avenue that thrives year-round is important to everyone who lives, works and plays in Minneapolis,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak in a statement. “When Hennepin directly connects our vital riverfront to our cultural heart, downtown Minneapolis will become an even stronger economic engine and cultural destination for our entire region and state.”

Hoch hopes the plan developed by the Hennepin Theatre Trust will ultimate evolve into the city’s official development plan for the area.

Spike in robberies on Central

Central Avenue is becoming a focus for robberies in Northeast, with more than a dozen incidents near the street since June 1.

Police are requesting new surveillance cameras on Central, and they are urging witnesses to call police. Crime Prevention Specialist Nick Juarez said many of the robberies are happening in “broad daylight.”

“Somebody’s got to be seeing something,” he said.

Indeed, two witnesses helped positively identify a 16-year-old male who assaulted and robbed a victim around 3:30 p.m. on July 10 at 27th and Central.

Of 13 robberies tallied between June 1 and mid-July near Central between 20th and 27th avenues, police have made four arrests, most of them with juvenile suspects.

Along with the robbery trend, police are seeing groups of up to 20 youths roaming Central Avenue. Juarez said business owners see them stealing merchandise and scaring off customers.

“We didn’t see this last year,” Juarez said. “There is a lot more action on Central.”

He recommended that residents who are concerned about the youth call 911 for any basic offense: blocking the sidewalk, underage smoking, or riding bicycles on the sidewalk.

Northeast is hit with high property crime this summer as well. Police issued a crime alert for 21 burglaries that occurred in the 2nd Precinct over the course of nine days in April. Juarez said burglaries are still running high. He said thieves are targeting unlocked doors and windows, and they’re removing unsecured air-conditioning units to gain entry to homes. He urged neighbors to report all suspicious activity immediately.

“This is your time to step up and take ownership of your neighborhood,” he said.

Cartoonist Conspiracy releases new comic cookbook

Those who don’t follow comic books may not know it, but the Twin Cities has a vibrant comic book artist and cartoonist scene. The key organization in this community is the International Cartoonist Conspiracy, a group that started holding monthly meetings in Minneapolis in 2004. The group has since expanded to dozens of cities around the country and organizes several comic-centered events each year, including 24 Hour Comics Day and the popular annual “Lutefisk Sushi” art show. The Conspiracy’s latest project may be the most delicious yet: a comic book cookbook.

“Just Add Ink: A Comic Book Cookbook” features illustrated recipes, food tips and food-related comics from Minnesota’s comic art community. The book features pieces by such as Ken and Roberta Avidor, Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon, Danno Klonowski, Erik Nelson, Steve Stwalley and dozens more. The book will be available in both physical and digital form, and a release party will be help at Altered Esthetics, 1224 Quincy St. NE, on Friday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

NE arts advocates working on ‘Arts Action Plan’

Volunteers are working to preserve Northeast’s arts scene with a burst of new focus on its “Arts Action Plan.”

Sculptor Nick Legeros is heading a committee that will examine potential tax credits or abatements that would benefit artists.

“I have actually been looking at this for a number of years,” Legeros said. Since he purchased his studio building about eight years ago, his taxes have jumped from $2,000 to $8,000.

“It’s one of the reasons I got involved with the Arts Action Plan — to see if anyone was doing anything about it,” he said.

He said several other cities provide tax assistance for its artists: when Denver lost state arts funding, for example, advocates created a sales tax initiative and managed to fund many cultural institutions.

Legeros said he’d like to see automatic tax abatements triggered at properties that are owned or leased by artists.

“That would make it worthwhile to buy in Northeast,” he said. “I thought that would be a pretty painless way to do it.”

The arts advocates are looking for more volunteers. In addition to researching tax strategies, they are creating a credit union for artists, investigating endowments and land trusts to preserve the arts district and creating a budget to maintain existing arts district signage.

“There is something to do for everybody,” Legeros said.

Calendar project spotlights NE neighborhoods

A new calendar under development is giving every Northeast neighborhood a turn in the spotlight.

The Northeast Community Development Corporation received more than 100 submissions for the project — oil paintings of Central Avenue bus stops, black-and-white photos of the train tracks and comic strips lampooning the city’s plan to build a household hazardous waste facility on University Avenue. Each month of the year will focus on a different Northeast neighborhood.

The organization is creating the calendar to celebrate Northeast and highlight local artwork and photography.

Online voting in July determined the winners, and the calendar is expected to be published in November.

Go green for National Night Out

The city urged block club leaders planning National Night Out events for the Aug. 2 celebration to green their block parties by limiting waste and boosting recycling.

Suggestions included asking to bring their own reusable plates, cups and utensils, buying condiments in bulk, sending invitations by e-mail instead of on paper, serving local foods when possible and setting out recycling containers for clean-up. For more green block party ideas, download the tip sheet available at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/nno/Green-Block-Party.pdf.

The really ambitious looking to reuse, recycle or compost all the waste at their block party can find tips for hosting a zero-waste event at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/solid-waste/garbage-zero-hero.asp.

Bridge collapse memorial unveiled

RIVERFRONT — There will be a dedication ceremony for the I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden on Aug. 1 — the fourth anniversary of the bridge collapse that claimed the lives of 13 people.

The memorial on West River Parkway near Gold Medal Park features 13 pillars. Each pillar, which will be illuminated at night, has the name of one of the people who died in the tragic collapse. A stone wall at the memorial lists all the names of people who survived the collapse as well.

The dedication ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. The community is invited to join family members of victims, survivors and elected officials for the event, which will feature an honor guard and reading of all names listed at the memorial.

There will be a moment of silence observed at 6:05 p.m. — the time of collapse on Aug. 1, 2007.

NE Minneapolis Bike Summit on Aug. 1

SHERIDAN — There will be a chance to learn about new bike projects in Northeast and the North Side at a bike summit on Aug. 1, 6–7 p.m., at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE.

Besides a new Bike Walk Center planned for Glenwood and the Nice Ride expansion, there will be a chance to learn about new bike paths and lanes at the summit.

For more details, check out the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition website at mplsbike.org.

Update on Scherer Brothers site cleanup

RIVERFRONT — There will be a presentation on the environmental cleanup plan for the former Scherer Brothers site at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road, on Aug. 3.

The property’s environmental assessment and the cleanup plan is on the Park Board’s website at minneapolisparks.org. Written comments on the plan will be accepted through Aug. 15. They should be directed to David Jaegar, supervisor of the contaminated lands unit at Hennepin County, at david.jaeger@co.hennepin.mn.us.

The Park Board plans to demolish buildings on the Scherer Brother sites and cleanup hazardous materials this fall. The work should be done by the end of the year or early 2012.

As part of the RiverFIRST plan, the site has been targeted for a kayak park.

Grand opening celebration for 4th Avenue Playground

NORTH LOOP — There is a grand opening party for the 4th Avenue Playground, a nature and sawmill-themed play area, on Aug. 2 before the North Loop neighborhood’s National Night Out event.

The program and ribbon-cutting ceremony starts 5:30 p.m. at the playground at 4th Avenue and West River Road.

Following the event, the North Loop National Night Out Party — one of the largest in the city — gathers near the Federal Reserve Bank area.

— Sarah McKenzie & Dylan Thomas contributed to this report