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

Neighborhood: Nix one-way streets on East Bank

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: August 21, 2014 - 9:25 PM

Tired of cars whizzing through their neighborhood at the expense of pedestrians and local retailers, residents of the East Hennepin area are pushing to eliminate one-way traffic on two key streets.

The conversion of Hennepin and 1st Avenues from one-way to two-way streets is the top transportation priority of the Nicollet Island - East Bank neighborhood's draft plan for their area -- now under consideration at City Hall. Those plans, drafted by neighborhoods and approved by the City Council, help guide future development and infrastructure decisions.

"If you want to … restore the old East Hennepin commercial district, the fact that you have one-way Hennepin and 1st [Avenues is] really harmful to trying to get that done," said Victor Grambsch, president of the neighborhood association. Not only is it harder to woo customers traveling a high speeds, Grambsch said, but one-way streets make navigation of a commercial area more cumbersome.

Vehicles now enjoy three lanes of one-way traffic between downtown and 7th Street NE on Hennepin and 1st Avenues, a corridor that passes local landmarks like Nye's Polonaise and Surdyk's. In 2009, the two avenues were converted to two-way streets in the downtown core.

The neighborhood is already facing resistance from Hennepin County, which owns the road.

J. Michael Noonan, administrator of the county's office of strategic planning, wrote in draft comments that, "Impacts of one-way to two-way roadway conversions affect traffic operations and safety by increasing conflicts and the potential for crashes....Hennepin County does not currently support this proposed change."

Another major difficulty will be determining how the new two-way streets would flow onto the Hennepin Avenue bridge, which is comprised of two one-way corridors. Grambsch said a specialized intersection would be required.

Grambsch said the neighborhood will likely compromise on some of the language, but added that local leaders need to view streets as being home to more than just cars.

"There’s this famous line from George Clemenceau about 'War is too important to leave to the generals,' Grambsch said. "And I think that we want to go with: 'Use of the street is too important to leave to traffic engineers.' There is just simply many more uses of the street than moving cars.” 

These segments of Hennepin and 1st Avenues carry 15,300 and 10,300 cars per day, respectively, the county said. Grambsch observed only during rush hour do the streets fill up, however.

“You really have to separate rush hour, say 4 until 5:30 business day, from all other times," Grambsch said. "Because at other times, one lane of traffic in either direction on Hennepin is completely adequate for the traffic."

Following the conversion of Hennepin and 1st Avenues downtown, the city discovered that the volume of traffic accidents actually decreased.

Specifically, the neighborhood's plan would convert three 12-foot, one-way drive lanes into two 11-foot drive lanes and one turn lane. That would allow room for a tree-lined boulevard, which is known to calm traffic. See the diagram below.

Another factor in the potential conversion of the streets across the river are plans to run a streetcar into the area. Plans drawn up by the neighborhood envision it traveling in mixed traffic along one of the drive lanes on Hennepin Avenue, possibly beside a new protected bike lane.

“You have to interpret the street as not just cars both moving and parked, but also pedestrians and business and all the other users of the street," Grambsch said.

Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area, noted that proposals for a high-rise building on the Washburn-McReavy site and a to-be-determined high-rise building at the Superior Plating site are illustrative of a vibrant and rapidly evolving neighborhood.

“It’s still very much so an on-ramp and an off-ramp for large segments of the day,” Frey said of the street. “This measure would be designed to move away from that.”

The draft neighborhood plan will be discussed by the planning commission's committee of the whole on August 28. It must then be approved by the City Council.

Above Right Photo: The opening of the East Hennepin Bridge in 1974.

"Jam for Joe" benefit to help family of missing Minneapolis man

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: August 20, 2014 - 6:30 PM

The family, friends and neighbors of a Minneapolis man missing since July 1 will set aside their search for one night Thursday to hold a benefit for his wife and two young daughters.

Josef Zurnieden, 42, was last seen at 6 a.m. on July 1 at his home in the Hiawatha neighborhood of south Minneapolis; his vehicle was found two days later near 26th and Marshall in northeast Minneapolis.  

A police bulletin issued at the time of his disappearance said Zurnieden, who is white, stands six feet tall and weighs about 165 pounds with dark, receding hair. Authorities do not suspect foul play. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Minneapolis Police Department's tips line at 612-692-TIPS (8477). 

FUNDRAISER DETAILS: The "Jam for Joe" fundraiser runs from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 21, at St. Helena's Catholic School, 3200 E. 44th St., Minneapolis. The event will move into the school's gymnasium in the event of rain. A suggested donation of $10 per person is being suggested. 

Donations can be made directly into the Wells Fargo account 8678229694, with tax ID 47-6346506. Checks can be mailed to the Zurnieden Family Trust, PO Box 17112, Minneapolis, 55417.

Two arrests in grisly "burning dumpster" murder

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: August 20, 2014 - 5:12 PM

Two men have been arrested in connection with the death of Rufina Alejandra Clara-Rendon, 31, whose badly burned body was found Aug. 7 near a burning dumpster in south Minneapolis.

A Minneapolis police investigation found that Clara-Rendon was at a BBQ on Aug. 7 with Manuel Guzman, 24, and Guillermo Ayala-Enriquez, 22, when they drove him to a south Minneapolis house. Once there, the two accused Clara-Rendon of being an informant and took him into the bathroom and shot him once in the head, killing him. 

They rolled his body into a carpet, then cut open a mattress and stuffed him inside. The men loaded the mattress into Ayala-Enriquez's car, drove to a gas station and bought a can of gas, which they used to douse the mattress before setting it on fire. 

Firefighters were called to the dumpster fire at 11:30 p.m. on 39th Street East between Snelling and Minnehaha Avenues. They discovered the body on the asphalt near the dumpster, police officials said.

Guzman was already being detained on unrelated charges. Ayala-Enriquez was arrested Tuesday by Minneapolis homicide investigators, the Brooklyn Center police and the Minneapolis SWAT team. 

They both face second-degree murder charges. 

City to recount school board ballots

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under Politics and government Updated: August 19, 2014 - 4:31 PM

A recount is in order for the city’s at-large school board seat.

Doug Mann

Doug Mann

Doug Mann, who finished fifth, asked for the recount because he had 50 votes less than Ira Jourdain, who advanced to the general election.

There were six candidates in the citywide race, only four moved on to the Nov. 4 election where two candidates will take the board seats.

Jourdain said Mann reached out to him to talk about the request, and Jourdain encouraged him to explore all his options.

“That’s within his right, and if it turns out he comes out on top, then life goes on,” Jourdain said.

Mann said because the margin was so close, he felt he had to ask for the recount.

“I could end up advancing, rather than Ira,” Mann said.

The city will count all 29,129 ballots on Aug. 26 at the elections warehouse, located at 732A Harding Street NE. The city anticipates the process will take up to eight hours.

In addition to Jourdain, Rebecca Gagnon, Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano are on the November ballot.

Star Tribune file photo.

U.S. military exercises to continue through Thursday in downtown Minneapolis

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: August 19, 2014 - 4:07 PM

The military training exercises that so far this week have brought low-flying helicopters through downtown Minneapolis should continue through Thursday, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department said. The training is not open to the public, and no details about the training will be released, said Scott Seroka of the MPD.

The police are not directly involved in the training other than by offering a "supportive, logistical role," Seroka said. A similar round of training two years ago saw helicopters flying in formation through downtown Minneapolis, near office towers and over the skies in St. Paul as well. 

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