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

Posts about Urban living

One step ahead, one back for North Side groceries

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: May 5, 2015 - 12:42 PM

Posted by Steve Brandt and Eric Roper

What’s headed for the old Kowalski’s grocery store site next to the planned Webber Park library that Hennepin County breaks ground on next year?

The leading candidate for the North Side project is another grocery.  That’s the proposal by Pillsbury United Communities, the social service agency not known for peddling groceries.

It is proposing to partner with Super Valu on the grocery aspects of the development. The grocery wholesaler and retailer would supply expertise on designing and operating a grocery and serve as its wholesaler.

Oppidan would be the developer and construction manager for the renovation of the 15,000-square-foot space at 4414 Humboldt Av. N.

Meanwhile, the fate of another North Side grocery proposal is up in the air.  Entrepreneur Glenn Ford missed a key deadline in his efforts to open a 30,000-square-foot Praxis grocery store at the corner of Plymouth and Penn Avenues N.

He didn't submit architectural plans to the city by April 28.  He met a Feb. 20 deadline for submitting a preliminary concept plan for city staff to review. He also submitted an application for $200,000 in Grow North forgivable loan incentives, and supplied preliminary, but not final, financing commitments from two investors, according to city staff.

City spokesman Matt Lindstrom said that city development officials are discussing possible next steps for the proposal, for which the City Council granted its second extension of development deadlines in January.  Area Council Member Blong Yang said then he wouldn’t support the project if it missed deadlines.

For the Pillsbury proposal, the County Board is scheduled to vote on May 12 on a staff recommendation to transfer the land from the county to its housing and redevelopment authority. Then a purchase agreement with milestones toward development would be negotiated by that authority.

That was a recommendation of Hennepin County staff after receiving six proposals to develop the site that’s surplus property from assembling the library site. Webber-Camden neighborhood sentiment favored restoring grocery services to an area that lacks a full-service store. The closest is the Cub on Broadway Avenue W. after the closing of a Rainbow store in Robbinsdale.

Also envisioned within the building is a wellness center with a medical professional providing nutritional counseling and diagnostic service. North Side residents suffer from higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity than the rest of the city.

The store would create about a dozen full-time jobs, but that’s a conservative estimate, according to Thatcher Imboden, a principal planning analyst for the county. In contrast, the 20,000-square-foot store that Seward Co-op is developing on E. 38th Street on the South Side estimates it will create about 90 jobs, with about two-thirds of them full time. Ford’s Praxis proposal calls for about 75 full time employees in 30,000 square feet.

Activists plan rally in Minneapolis to support Baltimore protesters

Posted by: Updated: April 28, 2015 - 1:01 PM

After throngs of residents rioted in Baltimore following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody, activists in Minneapolis announced Tuesday their plans to hold a rally in support of the demonstrators.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said on its social media accounts that the group plans to hold a rally at 5:30 p.m. at Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis to "show the people of Baltimore that we stand in solidarity with them and with their resistance because their resistance is for justice and their justice is our justice."

The announcement came as National Guardsmen took up positions across Baltimore and volunteers began cleaning the streets in the wake of Monday demonstrations, which lead to at least 15 officers being injured, more than a hundred vehicle or structure fires, and nearly 200 arrests.

The riots broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray, 25, who died April 19 of spinal cord and other injuries sustained while in police custody. Gray's case is the latest to trigger a national debate over police's use of deadly force against black men.

"The media will continue to paint the people of Baltimore as rioters and looters but people forget that the City and Police of Baltimore loot and destroy Black and Brown communities of Baltimore every day of the year," said organizers on the Facebook page for Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.

Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said the department routinely discusses events with demonstrators. 

"We work with them to ensure safety," Elder said. "We really do recognize people’s right to demonstrate lawfully."

Elder wasn't immediately able to confirm if protest organizers reached out to police about Wednesday's rally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii; Black Lives Minneapolis held an MLK march from Snelling and University in St. Paul to the Capitol . They "died in" on an I94 overpass along the way.

More on the Grain Belt office stickup

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 27, 2015 - 12:34 PM

An item published in this space 10 days ago about the redevelopment of the final building in the Grain Belt complex included a coda about the big stickup there in 1941.

Because the Star Tribune has lacked a working machine to read its own microfilmed archives, it took a trip to the library by reference librarian colleague John Wareham to corroborate some of the details.

It turns out that the actual amount of the heist was $46,182 in cash, or about $742,000 in today’s dollars.  That’s a lot of money.  So why did the brewing company have so much on hand at its office that day?

According to the Star Journal, the cash was to be distributed to taverns in order to cash the payroll checks of presumably thirsty workers.

Moreover, the evidence suggested that the robbers knew exactly when to strike to grab that haul, and also probably had cased the place earlier since they seemed to know the layout, according to eyewitnesses.

One of the oddities of the robbery is that portions of it were broadcast live.  It happened that an ad manager was on the line to Hibbing station WMFG, still in business today, as the robber struck. Not knowing the cause of the ruckus, he laid down the phone to close his office door when one of the attackers shoved a gun in his face and declared, “This is a stickup.” That was heard over the phone at the station, which broadcast the news even before the robbers had fled.

The entire force of 40 police detectives was put on the case, which was believed at the time to be the work of hoodlums from the infamous Depression-era gangs.

Another interesting facet of news reports suggests that life was simpler back then. The bank’s surety company paid off the loss with a check a mere four hours after the holdup.

(Photo above: Telephone operator Minnie Gillis shows the switchboard at Grain Belt's office wrecked by the robbers to prevent calls for help.)

North Star bike fest secures funding

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 24, 2015 - 11:34 AM

The North Star Bicycle Festival announced Friday that it's a go for this year after lining up six new sponsors for its race series and open ride.

The festival said earlier that the 17th running of the bike racing series was threatened by a $60,000 funding gap, which spokeswoman Jean Freidl said has not yet entirely been closed. The event was formerly known as Nature Valley Grand Prix, but is in its second year under the new name.

The event, which said it attracts about 50,000 spectators, opens on June 13 with a ride with distances of 35, 65 and 100 miles that's open to the public. It will cover terrain around Prescott, Wis.

The professional racing events, part of US Cycling's national racing calendar, open June 17 with a time trial in St. Paul, followed on successive days by a road race in Cannon Fall, a criterium in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, a road rce in Menomonie, Wis., and a criterium featuring a hill climb in Stillwater.

More information is available at www.northstarbicyclefestival.com

Camden area residents like proposed library design

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 23, 2015 - 12:47 PM

Architect Mohammed Lawal drew applause from residents in the Camden area of the city this week after presenting the proposed schematic design for the new Webber Park library that his team at the LSE firm is designing.

The exterior design for a building on Webber Parkway features a mix of Cold Spring granite, grey or green zinc shingles and wood accents. The interior is designed for flexible space. The project has a $12 million budget and is scheduled for a spring 2016 opening.

“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” area resident Sue Quist. “He’s heard everything we’ve said and nuanced it into the design.”

The planned building of about 8,000 square feet has an east-west axis paralleling the parkway, lying between Humboldt Av. N. and the Hamilton Manor senior public housing building. That axis is designed to maximize daylight for the building, but wide overhangs are planned to keep that light indirect.

The proposal also creates outdoor spaces, including an outdoor reading area east of the building where a shallow storm water retention pond is planned. There will be one plaza at the building’s northwest entrance off parkway bike-walk paths, and another at the south entrance from a 24-car parking lot. A porch with seating will from the Humboldt side.

 “We want this building to settle nicely into the neighborhood,” Lawal told about 30 residents who attended LSE’s presentation for the Hennepin County project.

LSE is proposing to use accents of cedar or fir, especially around windows, to warm the building’s exterior,, and also plans substantial use of wood inside.  It has also broken up the building’s exterior faces into more blocky modules since an earlier design, something that pleased county Commissioner Linda Higgins.

The proposed schematic design goes to the County Board later this spring for approval. Construction would begin about a year from now. The proposed library includes three meeting or conference rooms.

The proposal is the first new library built by Lawal within Minneapolis, but he’s previously designed renovations at four libraries within the city. He’s also designed new libraries elsewhere in the metro area at Elk River and at three locations in Chisago County.

One question that county library officials aren’t ready to answer is how many hours the new library will operate. That’s an important topic for area residents because the current temporary library in a shopping area is open only 24 hours week spread over three days. That opening followed two shutdowns of the old library in Webber Park.  The first occurred after city libraries ran short of funds. After city libraries merged into the county’s library system, the building was closed again when ceiling tiles fell.

Another new county library in Excelsior that’s slightly smaller than the proposed Webber Park library is open 48 hours weekly that are spread over six days.

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