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

Proposal: Create new neighborhood by capping 35W

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 11, 2014 - 5:02 PM

A group of graduate students at the University of Minnesota has proposed creating a new neighborhood east of the new Vikings stadium by putting a lid on top of Interstate 35W.

A conceptual model of that concept was on display this week at the IDS Center's Crystal Court. The project area spanned a 24-block area including 35W southwest of Bobby and Steve's Auto World.

The students at the College of Design proposed capping the freeway with a green open space, then surrounding it with high-density residential buildings.

The freeway lid would also serve as a parking structure for the new district. Existing streets such as 4th Street and 3rd Street -- that were severed by 35W -- would travel through the structure.

"The lid would serve as a backbone for new development by raising local property values. Covered with a green roof, it would create a new park for Minneapolis and the neighborhood's new residents, providing year-round recreation opportunities," read a placard attached to the model. "Buildings next to it would have skyway connections directly to the LRT stations nearby."

The ideal result would be an environment "in which people would like to both live and work." There were many topographical challenges, however.

The model is hard to envision on first glance, since several of its streets do not currently exist. Click on the pushpin icons in this map to see photographs of the model from the perspective of the adjoining red arrows.


View 35W Lid in a larger map

Earplugs will soon roll out to Mpls. clubs

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 11, 2014 - 2:34 PM

Expect to see earplug dispensers rolling out at clubs across the city before May 1.

That’s the result of a new ordinance passed by the Minneapolis City Council on Friday, mandating that clubs carry the free devices. They will be paid for by a coalition of local companies: 3M, apparel maker Locally Grown, Globally Known, and the Miracle Ear foundation.

The new rules apply to about 198 businesses in Minneapolis, which have licenses that allow amplified music for things like concerts and dancing. They were authored by Council Member Jacob Frey.

The effort is intended to raise awareness about hearing loss, which is a growing problem among younger Americans.

The brainchild behind the effort, Brian Felsen, said they are putting the final touches on wall-mounted dispensers which will eventually be rolled out to bars and clubs across the city. Patrons will twist a knob to dispense the earplugs.

“There is no requirement exactly where the facilities have to put them,” Felsen said. “But they do have to be handicap accessible and in an area where people can see and get them without having to ask anyone or be embarrassed about it.”

Photo: Patrons watched Sharief perform at the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis (CARLOS GONZALEZ )

City Council creates "Somali American day"

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 11, 2014 - 1:59 PM

The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to mark July 1 as “Somali American day” in the city, which is home to many immigrants from the east African country.

The date holds significance among Somalis, who celebrate independence day on July 1 both in Somalia and the United States diaspora.

Abdi Warsame, the first Somali-American on the Minneapolis City Council, praised the resolution at a council meeting on Friday. A gathering of Somali-American men were in attendance.

“This is a very important resolution for me,” Warsame said. “And it actually came from the elders and the community leaders who wanted to highlight the contributions, the culture, the values of the Somali-American community, which is a large and growing population in the city of Minneapolis.”

The July 1 independence day commemorates when the Somali Republic was created by uniting two territories previously controlled by Italy and Britain.

Photo: Warsame hands the resolution to Osman Mohamed Ali, founder of the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, where it will be housed.

Urban League Academy wins one-year reprieve

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: April 8, 2014 - 9:32 PM

The worst-performing alternative school under contract to Minneapolis schools for completing the education of students who have failed elsewhere will get only one year to show it can improve despite a show of force for a longer trial period.

Numerous board members and supporters of the Urban League Academy urged the board to give them three years to meet new district-devised accountability standard for alternative schools. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson originally recommended that the contract be terminated, but changed that to one year.

The board defeated on a 5-4 vote a proposal to give the school a two-year contract. Voting for two years were Tracine Asberry, Carla Bates, Kim Ellison and Mohamud Noor, who proposed the longer term. Voting against two years were Jenny Arneson, Rebecca Gagnon, Richard Mammen, Alberto Monserrate and Josh Reimnitz.

The board's debate centered on the reasonableness of expecting improvement in one year and whether the district is providing sufficient assistance in making those improvements.

Johnson stood up for her staff's recommendation. She argued that alternative schools got their contracts because years ago, "They said, 'We can do it better than you can...When I get someone to do a contract for me, I don't expect to do the work with them."

"This is not the first time we've had a performance conversation with the Urban League," she added.

Urban League representatives argued that they get students who have attended multiple schools and have accumulated few credits late in their high school careers.  But other alternative schools that serve similar students show better results.

Publisher and league board member Al McFarlane pressed the board for a three-year contract with reasonable conditions built in.  Any length contract would be subject to cancelation, the board was told by General Counsel Steve Liss.

The decision came as the board has professed a desire to increase accountability throughout the district. But board member Tracine Asberry was critical that the standards of accountability are directed more outwardly at such schools than at the district's own schools.

All but one of the other alternative schools, which is expected to convert to a charter, were recommended for two of three year contract extensions.

Sidewalk sales ordinance inches forward

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 7, 2014 - 4:32 PM

A 2013 proposal to allow sidewalk merchandise displays in Minneapolis is moving forward at City Hall.

Existing ordinances require that all business activities remain within a building. Some exceptions include auto sales, gas stations, lawn sales and drive-throughs.

The ordinance change is being pushed by Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who said last year that it would benefit businesses like small grocery stores, bookstores and secondhand good shops.

"We're really trying to encourage walkable neighborhoods and walkable business districts," Glidden told the Star Tribune in 2013.

The item will be discussed by the planning commission Monday afternoon, followed by the city council itself.

City Planner Mei-Ling Anderson wrote in a letter to business and neighborhood leaders that the merchandise displays will be required to leave at least five feet of sidwalk right of way.

The text of the proposed ordinance says sales would be allowed between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Sales of liquor, tobacco and sexually oriented images will be prohibited outdoors.

"Having that retail/dining experience right in the midst of the urban environment can be a really fun and enjoyable thing," Glidden said.

Photo: A sidewalk display on Queen Street in Toronto. Taken by Flickr user Virgomerry, used under Creative Commons license.

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