What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

State Sen. Jeff Hayden releases statement on Community Action of Minneapolis

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: September 23, 2014 - 10:27 AM

Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) released the following statement concerning the recent audit of Community Action Minneapolis:

The Department of Human Services’ audit of Community Action Minneapolis details alarming spending irregularities and an inexcusable misuse of public funds by the CEO, Bill Davis. If these findings are shown to be true, Mr. Davis should resign and allow Community Action to move forward under new leadership.

As an elected official with a seat on a 15 member board, I shared in the responsibility for providing oversight of Community Action Minneapolis on behalf of the public. My wife, Terri Hayden, accepted an appointment to serve on the board as my designee. Terri’s professional background working with people struggling with mental illness and chemical dependency brought an important perspective to the mission of the board. She took her responsibilities on the board very seriously and was not aware of any of the questionable spending detailed in the audit.

Terri did attend the annual strategic planning retreats at Arrowwood Resort with the rest of the board, and while family members could come along, it was strictly at their own expense. As my designee on the board, the only costs that were covered by Community Action were for Terri, and I paid my own way. To be clear, neither Terri nor I accepted compensation for any cruises, spas, vacations to the Bahamas, or any other inappropriate, non-board activities.

Again, I am extremely disappointed in the audit findings. I will support the Department of Human Services as they reach decisions regarding the next steps for Community Action and plan to resign from the board.

Still standing: The last streetcar shelter

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 23, 2014 - 9:51 AM

Passersby don’t notice the wooden shack tucked away in a shady corner of Theodore Wirth Park. No placard exclaims the origin of its lonely benches or ornate peak roof, which faded into obsolescence many years ago.

This is the last streetcar shelter in the Twin Cities.

“I don’t know why it survived,” said Aaron Isaacs, vice chair of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, of the nearly 80-year-old structure. “Let alone be reasonably maintained. It’s not falling down or anything. It’s structurally sound.”

The only comparable structure is the much-larger streetcar station in St. Paul’s Como Park, which Isaacs said has always functioned as more than just a shelter.

The Wirth shelter, located off Glenwood Avenue just across the Minneapolis border in Golden Valley, was constructed as a Works Progress Administration project in 1937. The streetcar stopped there largely to pick up picnic-goers waiting near Wirth Lake at the tail end of the Glenwood line, which was extended into the park in 1916.

Above: The Glenwood line stops at the shelter in 1952, a year two years before Minneapolis streetcar operations halted. Courtesy of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.

Unlike modern day bus shelters, streetcar shelters were somewhat rare. Isaacs, who co-wrote “Twin Cities By Trolley,” said there were probably about a dozen of them altogether. “They were just simple wood structures and they were just torn down when they took the streetcars out,” Isaacs said.

Larger than some of its contemporaries, the Wirth shelter has caught the attention of Park Board project manager and landscape architect Andrea Webber, who was suprised by its interior architecture. “The roof structure is like a little Japanese temple,” said Webber, adding that the shelter is “definitely is on my radar to try to get some more TLC.”

Despite its public anonymity, carvings in the wood show the site has had some visitors over the years: “Esther + Joseph 4 Ever,” “Ryan 94,” “Lazy 03,” “Kal-e Yani ’94-5,” “R.I.P. Joe / Thank You,” “Marquise + Deanna,” and “PAWK.”

Another indicator? Empty bottles of Vodka and Prozac lying nearby.

The MPLS blog learned of the structure while searching for "Thomassons," an architectural phenomenon recently described in the podcast 99% Invisible. Thomassons refer to obsolete components of the built environment that are nonetheless maintained.

Precisely how the shelter has been maintained over the years is relatively unclear. But it was saved from harm several years ago when the rapidly widening trunk of a Cottonwood tree started inching into the foundation. The Park Board had to rent a special piece of equipment to have it removed.

Webber said it needs a new roof and perhaps a paint job, not to mention some interpretive signage explaining its history.

The Minnesota Streetcar Museum asked to move the shelter to the Lake Calhoun stop of its historic Como-Harriet streetcar line several years ago. But the state historic preservation office denied the offer, saying it would take the structure out of its historical context. “We’d be happy to take care of it, but not where it’s sitting,” Isaacs said.

The building is not historically designated, but Webber said it would be a contributing feature of the Grand Rounds – which has been nominated. “It deserves a little more attention than it’s gotten in the past,” Webber said.

Two other old-fashioned train stations around the city are actually relatively new. The "Linden Hills" station beside the Como-Harriet line is a reconstruction based on original plans. And the "Linden Yards" building beside the Cedar-Lake Trail was constructed when that trail was built in the 1990s.

Know of another Thomasson in Minneapolis? Tell us in the comments.

Man slain in NE Minneapolis shooting identified

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: September 22, 2014 - 2:25 AM

A man who was shot and killed late Saturday night has been identified as Earl Lee Malone, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Authorities said that Malone, 18, of Edina, was gunned down about 11 p.m. Saturday on the 2600 block of Knox Avenue in the North Side’s Jordan neighborhood.

Officers responding to a shooting call in the area found Malone and later arrested one person in connection with the killing, police said. It’s unclear when charges will be brought.

Malone died of a single gunshot wound, according to the medical examiner’s office. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A few hours after the incident, another man was fatally shot in northeast Minneapolis.

The man, who relatives identified as Eulalio Gonzalez Sanchez, 37, of Minneapolis was shot about 6:25 a.m. Sunday at the corner of 22nd Avenue NE. and 7th Street as he walked home from the bus stop. No arrests have been made in that case.

The deaths are the 25th and 26th homicides in the city this year. Police believe they are not connected.

Mobile parking payment likely coming in 2015

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 19, 2014 - 1:13 PM

Pay-by-phone parking meters are coming soon to Minneapolis.

Several months after the city requested proposals from companies willing to provide the service, city staff are recommending Georgia-based Parkmobile USA.

If approved by the City Council, the technology will be rolled out in 2015. That's following a limited field test later this year.

Mobile payment systems allow drivers to easily add more money to their parking meters using a smartphone app or through a phone call.

Some additional benefits envisioned by city staff include using text messages to alert users their space is about to expire and allowing users to pay for a parking space while inside their car during inclement weather.

Other cities, including Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Houston, already have similar systems.

Implementing the system is expected to have "minimal to no cost," according to a staff report. They expect it may reduce parking capital costs, since there may be less need in the future for physical pay stations.

Other companies that submitted bids include CALE, IQA, MobileNow, Pango, Parkmobile, Passport, Software for Good.

Parkmobile's website shows they already provide services for a number of private lots in Minneapolis. See the map at left.

The city's transportation and public works committee will discuss the contract on Tuesday.

Minneapolis approves Ryan Cos. for downtown east development

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 19, 2014 - 3:52 PM

Ignoring a last-minute offer from the Minnesota Vikings, the City Council voted to give Ryan Companies the right to develop a key parcel of land in downtown east Friday.

If Ryan completes the apartment building they have proposed for the site, the developer would pay the city $3 million for their use of the parcel tucked beside a new, publicly-financed parking ramp. That's $2.6 million less than they promised this spring, before a more complex deal including a hotel fell through.

Hoping to win the rights away from Ryan, the Minnesota Vikings offered $8.1 million in a modified proposal distributed to council members during Friday's meeting. That's up from a previous offer of $4.6 million.

The council did not acknowledge the Vikings' new offer during Friday's deliberations, however.

Precisely how much is garnered from the air rights is important for city officials, since that money is needed to fund a great deal of the downtown east park across the street. That park will cost between $6.3 and $10.5 million, only about $2.1 million $1 million of which is accounted for without the development rights money.

“We want to build something as big as we can and as fast as we can to generate these benefits for the city," said Council Member John Quincy.

The parcel in question sits on 4th Street between Park and Chicago Avenues (see diagram below). That site is now occupied by a building formerly owned by the Star Tribune. The block will eventually be home to a parking ramp required by the stadium legislation.

Ryan still faces hurdles ahead, such as reaching a deal to build an extra level of parking above the stadium ramp for its tenants. The Vikings have expressed concern about how that will impact game day traffic, though the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority -- which will own the ramp -- is optimistic that it won't kill the deal.

"Although this was an important milestone, it's still the first part in a very complex project," said Ryan vice president Tony Barranco after the vote. "And we still have to get to work tomorrow with all the same stakeholders involved."

Ryan had previously hoped to use some of the 1,600 spots in the stadium parking ramp for its tenants, but was told this was not legally possible. Those spots are expected to accommodate stadium attendees as well as Wells Fargo employees.

How often the stadium ramp gets used is important, since its parking revenues are committed to paying back the city's debt on the project. Ryan has backed any shortfalls for the first 10 years.

The Vikings said in a statement that the city missed an opportunity, but it will work to make the multi-faceted downtown east project a success.

“In the team’s view, our proposal provided the City and its taxpayers with the best bargain and certainty of performance,” said Vikings stadium project executive Don Becker. “The City’s decision today to move forward on the developer’s proposal will not alter the Vikings steadfast commitment to working with the City and other stakeholders to ensure that the Ramp is built without delay and in a manner that protects the significant public and private investment in the stadium, its operations and the City Park.”

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