Two programs in Minneapolis schools with track records of helping students stay in school and head to college are among the big winners in a proposed shift of how the district spends its state integration aid.
Under a proposal scheduled to go to the school board on Tuesday, the AVID and Check & Connect programs will get a significant expansion next school year. That shift reflects a greater emphasis in state law for integration aid toward student achievement, especially closing the achievement gap, in addition to the traditional priority of desegregating students by race and income.
AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) would get a 73 percent increase to $3.5 million in an expansion that’s projected to add 950 more students, bringing the total to 2,800 at 23 schools.
According to district research, AVID students are more likely than similar students to be on track to graduate, and have better attendance. Students of color in AVID do better on math and ACT score. For example, 80 percent of 2012 graduates who were in AVID enrolled in college, compared to 69 percent for non-AVIDs students
AVID is a program operating from fourth through 12th grades that works to prepare students described as the academic middle in the skills needed to go to a four-year college. It focuses on reading, writing, collaborating and inquiry skills. It’s aimed in particular at minority or low-income students from families without college experience.
Check & Connect works to establish adult-student connections that keep high school students enrolled, including monitoring attendance, grades and credits toward graduation. District research found Check & Connect students 10 percent more likely than similar students to graduate and also significantly less likely to drop out. The program was developed by the University of Minnesota, was introduced in two district high schools in 2003, expanded to all seven high schools in 2007, and expanded to four middle schools last school year.
Other winners under the proposed revamping of funding are programs to interest students in technical fields, where funding would more than double; funding for debate programs, which would double; and programs planned for winter and spring break next school year for lagging students, which would get almost $950,000.
The district’s integration aid is projected at $15.6 million next school year, an increase of 2.4 percent. Much of the increased spending on academic programs is being paid for by reducing funding for other programs previously supported by integration aid or shifting them to other parts of the budget. Those include $2.6 million to transport students to magnet schools, and $320,000 for Metro Transit bus passes for high school students.
A City Hall development panel was somewhat taken aback Thursday by a plan to build 759 parking stalls at a new residential project in the heart of downtown, an area where city plans generally discourage additional parking.
Developer Jim Stanton is proposing to build a 20-story condominium building on the corner of Hennepin and Washington Avenues, within walking distance of most major transit lines. The building would feature 360 condominiums and ground-level retail on what is now an empty lot.
Parking policy – particularly in transit-oriented areas – is of increasing concern for city leaders who hope to dramatically grow the city’s population without adding more cars on the street.
Unlike developments in the rest of Minneapolis, new residential buildings downtown have no minimum parking requirements. In fact, there is a maximum allowed parking of 1.6 stalls per unit. Stanton needs a variance to construct his 759 stalls (the bulk of them underground), almost all of which would serve residents of the building.
Stanton and his development team presented the plan to the city planning commission’s committee of the whole Thursday night. The parking proposal faced resistance from commissioners, who said they would prefer more of the stalls were available to the public and the neighborhood.
“In the future, if more families become single-car households or preferably they have bikes and rarely use a car, is there a plan in place for the parking, [for] some of it to become public?” asked commissioner Alissa Luepke Pier.
Stanton said probably not, since he sells the parking stalls along with the units. Luepke Pier suggested selling the units with one stall and making the other one optional. “I mean that’s a lot of parking.”
Council Member Lisa Bender, who chairs the council’s zoning and planning committee, said there are several policy reasons parking is capped downtown. “One policy argument for not allowing the additional parking in this place is because you’re taking space away from what could be units downtown,” Bender said.
But Stanton said his experience building downtown – he has constructed more than 700 units there – has taught him parking is crucial to selling the condos.
Some residents at his other properties, Bridgewater Lofts and Stonebridge Lofts, purchased only one parking spot, he said. “Now they try to sell their place and they’re coming to me: ‘Do you have any extra spots? Please, we’ll pay you $20,000 a spot if we can get a spot. We can’t sell our unit because we only have one parking spot.’ So that’s the dilemma I face.
“These people are buying and most of them are … empty nesters and professionals. And when they’ve got couples you’ll find one works on this side of town, and one works on another. I’m not against your mass transit. In fact, it’s great that you’ve got it. Hopefully some of the people use it.”
He added: “There’s a grievous concern about whether we could sell and I don’t want to be sitting there with empty units. They cost me money. Significant money.”
Bender countered that he will still sell the units if he lowers the amount of parking, though probably for less money.
“There are policy reasons that we’ve set a parking maximum downtown,” she said. “So parking is driving the architecture of a lot of these buildings. And it is also driving the price of housing. And it’s driving the amount of housing we get in buildings.”
The planning commission committee of the whole does not vote on projects. The next stop for Stanton’s project is the full planning commission, then on to the council’s zoning and planning committee.
Efforts to tame an onslaught of single-family home redevelopment in Southwest Minneapolis got some teeth Friday with a new moratorium on home demolitions in several neighborhoods.
Council Member Linea Palmisano on Friday proposed the moratorium -- which took effect on an interim basis immediately, pending further council action -- to allow the city to more carefully examine the city's regulations. If approved by the council, the moratorium would last for one year.
A primary concern among neighbors is lack of communication as builders rapidly tear down existing homes and replace them with much larger ones. Palmisano said that in the first week she took office, there were 20 applications pending in different stages of the demolition and rebuild process.
Since the homes often don't need variances, the redevelopments rarely rise to the level of discussion in a public meeting. But they're becoming exponentially more common in Ward 13, as shown in the blue line above.
“They have started tearing down houses and putting up new ones quickly, and they don’t at all look like the neighborhood," said Jim Tincher, president of the Fulton Neighborhood Association.
The moratorium applies to single- and two-family homes in Linden Hills, Fulton, Armatage, Kenny and Lynnhurst neighborhoods.
"The intent is to be able to give us some time to pause on just responding to fire after fire, while being able to study and get really good due process improvements," Palmisano said. "Right now our ability to enforce even our existing laws are disjointed.”
In a letter to neighbors, Palimsano said they need builders to comply with regulations surrounding noise, dumpsters, idling, shoveling and parking. "And we need to bring greater environmental sensitivity to these projects," Palmisano wrote.
The proposed ordinance says the city is interested in studying nuisance and safety issues with new construction, as well as the negative effects on the "urban forest, lakes and shorelands, and on stormwater infrastructure." The city is also studying possible fixes that could be made in the zoning code.
Here is the proposed ordinance:
City attorney Susan Segal was reappointed Friday with the support of all but two council members, who voiced concerns with her legal opinion that help solidify the controversial Vikings stadium deal.
Segal has served in the role since Mayor R.T. Rybak’s appointment in 2008. She came to City Hall after many years in the private sector focusing on employment law and a stint with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office under now-Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“She could be working anywhere else, making 10 times the money and not dealing with half of the grief she has to deal with here,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, one of 11 supporters of Segal’s reappointment.
Opponents of her reappointment, which included the local chapter of the Minnesota Lawyers Guild, were critical of an opinion Segal authored that helped secure crucial council support for the Vikings stadium. The opinion said the city’s financing scheme for the stadium did not trigger a referendum requirement in the charter, an assertion that was later refuted by a district court judge.
The council’s crucial stadium swing vote, Sandy Colvin Roy, cited that opinion as a major reason why she reversed course and supported the project.
“I wish that that had been handled better,” said council member Cam Gordon, who opposed the reappointment. “I think it’s really important, especially when we have really difficult and challenging decisions, to get the best, most neutral, most detached legal advice that we possibly can. And I’m not sure that we got that in that instance.”
New Council Member Alondra Cano said she was voting for the reappointment because she wanted to be able to work with Segal on a number of issues.
“I do not feel like I need to hold anyone hostage to the Vikings stadium decision,” Cano said. “I think that was of the previous council and I will not drag that into this particular decision.”
The other ‘no’ vote, council member Blong Yang, said reappointment votes should not be based on future relationships. “I’d like to say a yes or no vote should just mean a good relationship in the future anyway,” Yang said.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden highlighted Segal’s worth early in her tenure defending the city’s ranked-choice voting system, as well as efforts to reform pensions.
Mayor Betsy Hodges, who opposed the stadium as a council member, said Segal has found innovative ways to reduce crime in the city. She cited a domestic violence prosecution partnership, youth violence prevention initiatives and the Downtown 100 program.
“Having that kind of innovation, creativity and forward thinking in the city attorney is not something every city gets, but our city has benefited from for years,” Hodges said.
Government officials and developers are breathing new life into a long-stymied plan to redevelop one of the most significant pieces of land along the Hiawatha light rail line.
The proposal would transform the area surrounding the Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue by replacing an aging building and surface parking lots with housing, office space, street-level retail and a home for the Midtown Farmers Market. The 6.4-acre site is now owned by the Minneapolis School District, which has previously been reluctant to sell over concerns about where to move adult education programs.
But the new scheme (left), presented at the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization Thursday, gives the school district leeway by allowing them to stay in their current building for several years as the development moves forward around it. The building would eventually be demolished, however.
The entire project would be anchored by Hennepin County, which would move a social services hub into the office space as part of a plan to scatter services now housed at downtown’s Century Plaza building.
Development at the Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue intersection has been a major priority for several local politicians, partly because development there has fallen far short of goals before the line opened. Only 280 units of housing have been constructed or are underway, compared with 1,250 once anticipated.
“This thing could be a win on about five different fronts,” said Hennepin County commissioner Peter McLaughlin, noting the county’s interest in transit-oriented development.
A development team, L&H Station Development, proposed a similar plan for the school district site several years ago but talks with the district broke down. The same team is behind the current proposal.
Dick Mammen, chair of the Minneapolis School Board, indicated Thursday night that giving the district a window when they can move makes the idea more palatable.
“Right now what’s critical is this three to five year window and to continue to work with folks to see what would work best for both of those programs,” Mammen said. The building currently houses a range of programs from GED instruction to English as a second language courses.
The site would have about 500 units of market rate and affordable housing, 100,000 square feet of office space and about 10,000 square feet of retail space. Lake Street, which is now fronted by a retaining wall, would feature ground-level retail anchoring six-story buildings.
Jack Borman, the CEO of BKV Group who is one half of L&H Station Development, said redesigning the site around the school board building actually increases the space for the farmers market by about 40 percent over what was previously envisioned.
“It’s a blessing that we now can get a little bit more space into the farmers market because it can really become that urban park [with] more greenery and more spaciousness,” Borman said.
Mark Nordland, the other half of L&H Station Development, said the plan envisions the county purchasing the entire site from the school board and leasing the building back. The county would then sell the land in stages to the developer and lease the office space.
The financial details have not been worked out, however, which could determine if the school district accepts the deal. “We don’t have the details of the proposal and there’s been no numbers discussed thusfar,” Mammen said.
The plan will be presented to the entire neighborhood in April. Click here for the more detailed image of what the new site would look like.
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