Community notebook // New I-35W Remembrance Garden vandalized

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August 15, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch and Laura Prosser
Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch and Laura Prosser
Only two days after its dedication, the memorial to the victims and survivors of the I-35W Bridge collapse was defaced. More than two dozen stainless steel letters were removed from the wall of the memorial.

Mayor R.T. Rybak denounced the vandalism at a press conference Aug. 3. “When the bridge collapsed and people were suffering, hundred of thousands of Minnesotans surrounded them with compassion. Now one or more individuals, through a single act of remarkable ignorance, are prolonging that suffering,” he said. “That can change: I call on those responsible to immediately return the stolen letters. It’s beyond description how wrong this act is, but it does not change the thousands of acts of compassion and support that this community has shown.”

A stone wall lists the names of those who survived, as well as a dedication and inspirational quote, and it is this quote that is now missing letters. Prior to the vandalism, it read: “Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.”

Police are investigating the vandalism, and anyone with information about this act is requested to call the police department’s 1st Precinct office at 673-5701 and ask to speak to the property crimes division.

Earlier in the week, loved ones of the 13 people killed in the bridge collapse read tributes to their deceased relatives and friends at the memorial’s dedication — the fourth anniversary of the tragedy.

The memorial, designed by Oslund and Associates, features 13 pillars with the names of the people who died in the tragedy Aug. 1, 2007. The columns our illuminated at night with LED lights. The garden also has a wall listing the names of 171 survivors of the collapse.

Mayor R.T. Rybak called the memorial “our common ground.”

“On that terrible day four years ago, we made a promise that we would build this memorial so that we would never forget,” he said at the ceremony. “Today, this Remembrance Garden becomes a part of the fabric of our city and ensures that we will always remember.”

The memorial dedication event concluded with a moment of silence at 6:05 p.m. — the exact time the bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River.

Local groups raise funds to battle famine in Somalia

The United Nations has declared a famine in drought-stricken southern Somalia, the first time the agency declared a famine in the 20 years since a drought last struck Somalia. Conditions in Somalia have
been described as devastating, with dehydration and disease running rampant and food prices skyrocketing.

Minneapolis-based aid organizations and corporations are doing what they can to help.

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) and American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), both based in Minneapolis, are calling on residents to pitch in and help. “The conditions are pretty dire,” said Therese Gales of the ARC. “Children are literally dying in their mothers arms.”

Minneapolis-based General Mills has pledged up to $100,000 to the ARC for famine relief. An initial donation of $50,000 has already been made, with another $50,000 available to match contributions by other corporations.

“As a food company in the metro area with the largest Somali population, General Mills is uniquely positioned to do one of the things we do best, which is provide hunger relief to children and their families,” said Ellen Goldberg Luger, vice president and General Mills Foundation executive director in a statement. “As the famine in Somalia reaches historic proportions, we encourage other Minnesota companies to support the critical relief work being done by the American Refugee Committee to address this devastating crisis.”

Before last month’s concert at TCF Bank Stadium, U2 frontman and co-founder of the anti-poverty group ONE met with local Somali leaders about the famine. In a statement, he called on everyone to help.

“The crisis in the Horn is going to be solved by Somalis taking control, taking charge. I’m here, and ONE is here, to listen and learn and to serve their efforts,” said Bono. “We’re here to sound the alarm bell in the United States, where there has been very little media coverage of the food crisis — and now a famine which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of 12 million. This is monstrous. Pay close attention, this is a defining moment for the world. History will be very harsh if we don’t move quickly.”

Donations to famine relief can be made to the American Refugee Committee, 430 Oak Grove St., Suite 204, or at ARAHA is taking donations at ARAHA, 2111 Central Ave. NE, or at

Hillcrest wants to demolish Totino’s building

EAST BANK — Northeast-based Hillcrest has been studying the former Totino’s Italian Kitchen site at 523 Central Ave. NE for several months now and still does not know what might happen at the site, but rehabbing the existing building will probably not be part of the plan.

“It cannot be saved,” said Hillcrest’s Managing Partner Scott Tankenoff.

According to Tankenoff, the building would need $100,000 in mold abatement alone. Sitting vacant since 2007, the building has consistently flooded due to sewer issues, and with no one in the building to clean it, the problems simply compounded over time.

Hillcrest will file for a demolition permit for the site, and Tankenoff is quick to point out that the developer has leveled properties it purchased only a handful of times before. It is always the company’s preference to restore buildings when possible, but he does not believe the Totino’s building can be saved.

The parking lot at the site, currently leased by the Red Stag Supper Club for customer parking, will be resurfaced and improved regardless of what happens to the building. The Red Stag will continue to lease the lot.

Hillcrest is continuing to explore options for future uses of the site. Tankenoff says it will likely become some mix of retail, housing or office spaces. He isn’t concerned that it will be hard to find a uses for the site.

“This is a nice neighborhood,” he said. “People want to be here.”

City Council adopts bicycle master plan

A new Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan that sets a goal of adding 183 miles of bikeways over the next 30 years was adopted July 22 by the City Council.

The 226-page document outlines steps the city will take to reduce bicycle thefts and cycling injuries while at the same time expanding the bicycling infrastructure with new facilities and parking and increasing the proportion of city residents who travel by bicycle. Other goals include doubling the number of Nice Ride bicycle-sharing locations by 2015 and ensuring every Minneapolis resident lives within 1 mile of a bicycle trail by 2020.

It took several years to develop the plan, beginning with a June 2008 community meeting attended by about 150 people. Additional community meetings were held two years later, in August and September 2010, to review a draft of the plan, which was then opened to a 45-day public comment period.

The document identifies a number of potential future on-street and bicycle-only paths. It would cost an estimated $270 million over the next three decades to complete all the projects, including $134 million to construct the final link of the Grand Rounds.

The plan also includes a 19-page chapter on the history of bicycling in Minneapolis that notes the first dedicated bicycling trails were built by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 1895.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge won’t be drivable for another year

ST. ANTHONY WEST — All of the money is now secured to fix the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, but repairs won’t be complete until the late summer of 2012.

The project will cost about $6 million, with most of the money coming from the state, said Project Manager Jack Yuzna. About $4 million was secured during the special legislative session this summer.

“It appears that we’re in very good shape,” Yuzna said.

Inspectors discovered last fall that water had long been seeping into the bridge, causing cable corrosion. Repairs will revamp the bridge’s water drainage system so water no longer enters the bridge box. The nature of the work doesn’t allow for a winter break, so work will begin next spring.

NE crime prevention specialist leaves post

The man behind Northeast’s new Court Watch group is leaving to become police chief in a Wisconsin town.

Tom Thompson, a crime prevention specialist in the 2nd Precinct, resigned last month to take a position in Balsam Lake, Wis.

Crime Prevention Specialist Nick Juarez will take over Thompson’s area and will serve as the community liaison for the entire 2nd Precinct.

Thompson will not immediately be replaced.

“Because of the budget, everything is on hold right now,” said 2nd Precinct Insp. Bryan Schafer.

During Thompson’s short time in Northeast, he helped create a new Court Watch group that started analyzing arrests for crimes like burglaries and graffiti tagging.

In a July city committee meeting, Crime Prevention Analyst Luther Krueger noted that Thompson recently hosted a very successful block club meeting. He brought in three rental property owners to the Audubon Park Recreation Center to talk about problem tenants and standards of behavior. Krueger said the meeting attracted at least 30 people, and they reached an agreement in a single hour.

Police are returning more focus to block clubs in the city. They are trying to free up crime prevention specialists’ time to do more door-knocking and find new block club leaders.

New cameras installed on Central

HOLLAND, WINDOM PARK — Police have installed a portable camera on Central Avenue near 22nd and 23rd avenues.

“We’re continually asking for more [cameras] when they become available,” said 2nd Precinct Insp. Bryan Schafer.

The camera started recording around-the-clock in late July, and it’s one of hundreds of cameras located around the city.

Police are using the camera to help combat a summer spat of robberies on Central between 20th and 27th avenues. Schafer said he is already seeing an improvement on Central, however, perhaps thanks to new beat patrols and increased enforcement.

“It has appeared to calm down a little bit,” he said.

Central Avenue also hosted a surveillance camera earlier this year near 26th Street to address issues related to loitering and narcotics. The camera was later moved to Jackson Square Park in response to issues with juveniles. The camera is one of a handful of portable devices that moves around the city in response to need.

Chute Square Park in line for makeover

UNIVERSITY — Chute Square Park is set to get significant upgrades.

The Friends of Chute Square Park, an informal group of Northeast Minneapolis neighbors who live across from the park, have been working on a plan since October 2007 to renew the parks benches, tables, lighting and sidewalks.

Working with the staff of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the plan gained approval from NIEBNA and MPRB in 2009, and then Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission in 2010. Now all that stands between them and proceeding onward in the approval from the Minneapolis Park Board and funding.

Cuningham Group Architecture have worked out the drawing and created preliminary bids for the renewal project. The budget, based on these bids, is about $120,000. A fundraising campaign focused on major donors has already received commitments of approximately $60,000.

If funding and approvals are secured, construction could start in spring 2012 on improvements for the park.

Twin Cities selected for $1 million in grants for historic preservation

Partners in Preservation, a 10-year project of American Express, has selected the Twin Cities for a $1 million grant project to support historic preservation projects.

The seven-county metro area is the sixth region in the country to be part of the program. American Express’ partner on the project is the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

There was a “Celebration for Preservation” march on Nicollet Mall on Aug. 2 to promote the initiative.

From Sept. 20 to Oct. 12, people can vote for their favorite projects from a list of 25 selected to receive grant money at Partners in Preservation’s Facebook page.

Bonnie McDonald, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, said she’s thrilled that the Twin Cities has been selected for the initiative. She said historic preservation projects have been shown to create more jobs than new construction projects.

“Historic preservation is an excellent investment for our community,” she said.

Minneapolis’ official website has a new URL

The city of Minneapolis has rolled out a new address for its official website: The new address replaces the clunky former URL

“We wanted a URL that’s easier to say,” Minneapolis spokesperson Matthew Lindstrom told The Journal. “And only government entities can use the dot gov extension. Anyone can buy a dot us address. A dot gov address more reassurance that it’s an official government site. So it’s about both ease of use and security.”

All Minneapolis employees now have new email addresses with the format “” Both the current web address and email addresses will continue to work indefinitely.

Architect leads ‘community walkabout’

LORING PARK — Local architect Marcy Schulte will lead two tours for a “community walkabout” on Aug. 18 in the neighborhood.

The tours at 3 and 6 p.m. are part of a Walker Art Center Open Field project called The Living Classroom.

Walkabouts are inspired by old Australian Aboriginal rituals of traveling along ancestral pathways, according to a Walker Art Center news release on the event.

Schulte will lead a “meandering conversation that highlights physical art and cultural programming in public spaces” during the tour, according to the release.

She will also explore the role of citizen participation in developing a healthy community.

The Citizens for a Loring Park Community and Friends of Loring Park are collaborating with the Walker on the event.

Each tour will take about 45 minutes. It will start at the south entrance of the Sculpture Garden off Vineland Place, circle through Loring Park and then end at the Walker Open Field.

Green jobs program claims success

Mayor R.T. Rybak claimed success for a federally funded green jobs training program that enrolled more than 580 Twin Cities residents in a July 27 event at Dunwoody College of Technology.

That was just one of the locations where the RENEW (Renewable Energy Networks Empowering Workers) enrollees trained for jobs in emerging green industries, including green construction and manufacturing and solar power. Administered by the city and Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, it was funded by a $4-million federal stimulus grant through the U.S. Department of Labor.

The city reported the program exceeded its goal of training 500 workers. Of those enrolled, 350 earned industry credentials and 240 found employment in living wage jobs in fields related to their training.

Southwest-based ReGo Electric Conversions, a business that converts hybrid vehicles to plug-in electric hybrids, was one of the area businesses that worked with RENEW trainees.

— Sarah McKenzie and Dylan Thomas contributed to this report.