Community notebook: A winter race with a twist

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February 13, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch

Editor's note: After the Journal went to press, organizers of the Abonimable Snow Dash cancelled the race.  

THEODORE WIRTH PARK — Minneapolis has hosted plenty of outdoor winter activities, but the Abominable Snow Dash proves there are still novel ways to get people out into the cold.

Planned for Saturday, Feb. 25, the Abominable Snow Dash is a multi-part winter race featuring running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snow tubing. There will also be music, coffee, beer and even appearances by the Abominable Snowman.

“We were looking for something new, something innovative,” said organizer Nate Harrington. “We thought this would be up the alley of many people.”

The race begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Chalet area of Theodore Wirth Park with festivities planned until noon. The running, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing portions of the race are each 5K, and participants will snow tube down to the finish line in the final leg of the race.

Registration for the race is available for individuals or teams, or for just the running and tubing portions of the race. Entry fees vary based on the chosen option. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Bolder Options, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that helps at-risk youth achieve goals and boost self-esteem through physical activities with a mentor, such as 5K races.

As for the Abominable Snowman, Herrington said that he’s come to town in search of quality winter activities and has been spotted around town throughout the month of February.  

“He’s been scoping out town, getting a feel for what’s going on in Minneapolis in the winter,” Herrington said. “He’s been getting a great reaction wherever he goes.”

Apartments planned for Grain Belt site

SHERIDAN — A housing developer is poised to take over the Grain Belt office building and adjacent lot at Marshall Street and 13th Avenue Northeast, pending city approval.

Everwood Development, a firm that’s acquiring townhomes in Oakdale, Minn. and creating apartments in downtown Minneapolis, plans to build 150 market-rate apartments and rehab the old Grain Belt office building.

City staff originally hoped to sell the office building for an architecture firm’s headquarters. The firm pulled out of consideration, however, and Everwood was the city’s second choice.

“This is perfect; it’s fine,” said Jenny Fortman, president of the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization. “It’s not using any public money, so that should mean it should go a lot quicker.”

Apartment construction would start next winter. The office rehab would begin in the spring of 2013.

Sheridan neighbors hope Everwood aims for a lighter presence on 13th Avenue, which would help tie the neighborhood to the riverfront, rather than provide an imposing barrier.

“The design is not our favorite, but it sounds like they are willing to work with us,” Fortman said.

Sheridan neighbors would also prefer to see owner-occupied housing, so they are encouraged that this project could transition into condos if the market shifts over time.

New retailers coming to Lowry

MARSHALL TERRACE — The founder of DJR Architecture is planning to bring new storefronts to 201 Lowry Ave. NE, the former home of Little Jack’s Steak House.

The city is in the process of finalizing the site’s sale to DJR owner Dean Dovolis.

Dovolis said he is talking to a couple of restaurateurs, and a restaurant could either become a boutique spot or spread along several storefronts.

Three-story market-rate apartments would stand behind the retail, he said.

“The back will be developed a year or two later, once we have the front looking active and lively,” Dovolis said.

When asked about the apartments’ design, Dovolis pointed to his recent project at 26th and Nicollet, home to the indoor rock climbing facility Vertical Endeavors.

“This will have that quality of finish,” he said.

Wes Butler, the city’s multifamily housing manager, said he doesn’t expect the project to require any city assistance.

“This will go back on the tax rolls,” he said.

Art-A-Whirl planning precise head count

Art-A-Whirl organizers know the event draws thousands of people each year, but they’re going to get scientific about that number this year.

The Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute will conduct sample surveys to give the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) a better of idea of the crowd count. With more than 60 Art-A-Whirl locations spread throughout Northeast, NEMAA has only a vague idea of how many people attend.

“It’s crucial for funding purposes,” said NEMAA Executive Director Alejandra Pelinka, explaining that the numbers can be used when applying for grants and netting sponsors. “We would be able to sum up the social and economic vitality.”

Tracking the economic impact of art

CENTRAL AVENUE — The economic impact of the Northeast arts district could soon come into brighter focus.

Pop-up galleries, market studies and artist seminars are some of the big ideas coming out of a first-ever collaboration between the Northeast Community Development Corporation, Northeast Chamber of Commerce and Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association. The agencies are applying for city grant money to fund the projects.

The market study would track artists’ buying power to help “make the case for arts and the economy,” said Christine Levens, Chamber executive director.

Another project would install artwork into empty spaces on Central Avenue, an attempt to help deal with vacancies along the avenue.

“It’s a great idea and we’re all excited, we’re just trying to find funding to kick-start it,” said Jamie Schumacher, executive director of the Northeast CDC. “The area could really use something like this to add some vibrancy to Central.”

The agencies also want to accelerate the arts district’s outreach, using an aggressive social media campaign.

New seminars would teach the “art of business,” offering technical assistance and business forums for artists. The classes would teach skills like grant-writing and the ability to sell art outside the traditional gallery model.

The city will award $50,000 “Business District Support Grants” in April.

“This would be really big and meaningful if it was approved,” Levens said.

Alatus considers more options for Block E

HENNEPIN —  With the fate of a proposed downtown casino project still undecided, Block E owners Alatus have started talking about alternate proposals for the property. While plans are still vague, Alatus is considering reworking Block E into office space.

The developer stated that any alternate use for Block E would be an improvement for downtown, but they still believe the casino proposal is the best option.

“Nothing is going to transform or change downtown the way we believe the casino will,” said Alatus Principle Phillip Jaffe. “A casino brings a $100 million annual payroll, creates more than 2,500 new jobs, increases tourism — all which means people are downtown seeing shows, eating out, enjoying music — everything downtown has to offer. We believe if we went to Plan B, it will be something we’re proud of and a nice improvement to the city, but it’s not going to change downtown.”

The early proposal for Block E office space would gut the interior of the building and divide it into 75,000-square-foot office space. Alatus is considering adding another floor to the building. One of the unique benefits to the Block E office spaces is that tenants would be able to advertise themselves on Block E’s exterior electronic signs — something disallowed in most other areas of downtown.

A recent court decision will force the AMC theater out of Block E in September. Once it leaves, Kieran’s Irish Pub, Shout House, Jimmy Johns and  Starbucks will be the only remaining tenants.

Spring Ale Fest coming to NE

SHERIDAN — Recent changes in city and state ordinances have made craft beer one of the most rapidly growing industries around, and a new event in April will celebrate the latest batch of upstart brewers.

Spring Ale Fest will be held on April 7 at The Ritz Theater and will highlight 10 young brewing companies from Minnesota (and Wisconsin).

“We’re all big fans of local beer, but the big guys like Surly don’t need marketing,” said Spring Ale Fest co-founder Conner O’Meara. “This is a platform for small brewers to introduce themselves to the public.”

O’Meara and co-founders Bryan Dallman and Kate Heilman conceived of a small, all-local craft beer fest after attending a meeting of the West Bank Brewing Association. They found a home for the festival at The Ritz and started approaching brewers. Before long, eight had committed to the festival: Barley John’s Brew Pub, Brau Brothers, Dangerous Man, Flat Earth, Harriet, Lucette, Lucid and Staples Mill. They expect to add two more brewers to the list soon.

“This is a boom time for beer,” said Dallman.

Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. The organizers expect to have more than 30 beers at the festival and presentations by the brewers. All attendees will receive a souvenir glass, and the festival will also feature live music, prize raffles and food trucks. For more information and tickets, visit