What’s making news in St. Paul, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to richard.meryhew@startribune.com.

Posts about People and neighborhoods

St. Paul gets EPA grant to plan West Side Flats cleanup

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: April 13, 2015 - 6:03 PM

St. Paul is getting a $200,000 federal brownfields grant to plan the future cleanup of the West Side Flats, a 120-acre riverfront area opposite downtown that the city hopes to turn into a mixed-use urban village.

The Environmental Protection Agency grant, announced Monday by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and Mayor Chris Coleman, will pay for development of a plan to address pollution in the area, much of it now vacant after decades of industrial use.

According to a master plan adopted by the city last year, the city hopes that the area will develop into a mix of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, entertainment and recreational uses.

"Developing housing and job opportunities along the riverfront for the people of St. Paul has long been part of our vision for the city. This grant allows us to take the next steps toward making that vision come to life in a way that benefits all residents," Coleman said in a prepared statement.

The area is bounded by the Mississippi River on the north, Hwy. 52 on the east, Plato Boulevard on the south and Wabasha Street on the west. It's called the West Side flats because it occupies the level floodplain on the river's west bank.

In 2003, U.S. Bank opened a $60.5 million operations center off Robert Street in the flats area, a development that required millions in public subsidy to clean the polluted site.

Harding student has his pick of the Ivy League -- and then some

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: April 10, 2015 - 4:37 PM

By Blair Emerson


As it turns out, there's more than one student in Minnesota faced with a choice of which Ivy League school to attend.

Alexander Roman, 17, a senior at Harding Senior High School on St. Paul's East Side, was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools — and then some. Starting in January, the acceptance letters have been pouring in. In all, he’s been accepted to 20 colleges and universities across the country.

“At first I was hesitant [to apply to 20 schools], because it just seemed kind of like a lot,” he said. “But then I kind of got encouraged by many people to kind of just [apply to] the schools that I think I would enjoy myself at.”

Alexander said he couldn’t believe it when he started getting accepted to big name schools like Harvard and Yale. “The first reaction I had, especially the Harvard one, was like, ‘Is this really happening?’” he said. “Right away I told my family, ‘We’re going to go out to eat!’”

They got Chinese.

Alexander said he’s currently weighing his options and plans to do several college tours in the coming months to find the best fit. He took a summer program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology during his junior year and enrolled in a few courses, including calculus and physics. After the program, Alexander said his interests grew in fields like the sciences and math, but he said he still plans to explore other subjects.

At Harding, Alexander is involved with the Knight Crew -- a student group that helps younger students make the transition to high school, and the Genius Squad, a tech help group. Alexander also played as the starting first baseman for the school’s baseball team until his junior year. He is a youth leader at his church.

Alexander said he will be the first in his family to graduate from college. Alexander's father was a teenager when he emigrated from Mexico. Alexander said his dad's excitement has grown with each acceptance letter.

“Just the first [letter] he was really excited … and then right after that getting the Harvard one he was really ecstatic because it really is a really big deal,” Alexander said.

Ralph Alexander, the director of Harding's College and Career Center, said in his 12 years on the job he’s never seen a student get accepted to all Ivy League schools. “He’s the consummate perfect kid to have this happen to,” he said. 

Blair Emerson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

Ramsey County seeking Earth Day cleanup volunteers

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: April 7, 2015 - 3:27 PM

Ramsey County is seeking volunteers of all ages for the annual Earth Day Cleanup, held April 25 at 9 a.m.

About 300-400 volunteers are needed to pick up trash and prepare the parks for the busy spring and summer seasons. Volunteers are specifically needed for Battle Creek Regional Park, at the park's Maplewood and St. Paul locations. 

Individuals, families, scout troops, schools and community groups all are invited to participate.

To register, contact Jennifer Fink at jennifer.fink@co.ramsey.mn.us or 651-748-2500 ext. 333.

This just in: Blimp factory at Ford site will leverage city's hot air supply

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: April 1, 2015 - 10:22 AM

The news came out Wednesday morning. After years of speculation, a use had finally been found for the Ford plant site in Highland Park: the construction of blimps.

It’s the perfect site, the company president said, because between the Legislature and numerous city councils, St. Paul is a year-round reliable source for hot air.

Huh? What is this? Could it be?

Of course. It’s April 1.

The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce sent out a press release Wednesday morning announcing that it had been selected as the primary developer for the Ford site. There’s been a good deal of anticipation about plans for the vacant 122-acre parcel, ranging from housing to light industry, so any information about who’s involved or what would be developed there is big news.

This reporter sat down with pen in hand, reading with bated breath as the release went on to say that construction would begin this fall on Flygplats Airship Factory, a “center of excellence” for future blimps.

Then a quote from Chamber president Matt Kramer: “With the Flygplats plan, we are now, for the first time, combining our love of blimps with the raw source of hot air so needed for this burgeoning industry.”

The reporter says, out loud: “They’re gonna build BLIMPS?”

Moments later, a call to Kramer confirmed that it’s all a joke.

“Every good truth contains a little lie, and any good lie contains a little truth,” he said with a laugh.

Closer study of the illustration connected to the press release revealed a Summit beer ad on the side of the blimp – shaped suspiciously like an Easter egg -- hovering over the Ford site.

The press release goes on to say that while most of the Ford site would be used for manufacturing of airships, about a third would be used as a hot air storage facility. It would add 1,038 jobs, including air tour-space guides, and include a charter school to educate future airship designers and politicians.

The chamber, according to the release, is “confident we can make this site a carbon neutral, but hot air positive, sustainable development.”

St. Paul named winner of Knight Cities Challenge

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: March 31, 2015 - 9:36 AM

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on Tuesday announced that St. Paul will receive a $175,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation -- money the city will use for a full-time policy fellow who will work on the mayor's 8 to 80 Vitality initiative. St. Paul was one of 32 applicants across the country to receive the award. There were more than 7,000 applicants.

“I am thrilled that the Knight Foundation recognizes the importance of the 8 to 80 Vitality initiative,” Coleman said. “Their support will ensure we can engage residents, community partners and stakeholders throughout St., Paul in strengthening our city and ensuring that our investments in streets and public spaces promote economic vitality for people of all ages.”

Based on the work of urban designer Gil Penalosa, the 8 to 80 Vitality initiative aims to increase activity and vitality on streets and in public spaces by making them accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

The grant will fund the policy fellow position for 18 months. The position will work out of the city's Planning and Economic Development Department.

"The 8 to 80 Vitality initiative has the potential to have widespread impact across St. Paul—creating new opportunities, connecting residents from diverse backgrounds, and giving people the tools to help shape the future of our city," said Polly Talen, Knight Foundation program director in St. Paul.

The Knight Cities Challenge seeks to fund ideas to make the 26 cities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work, according to the foundation. The challenge asks: What's your best idea to make cities more successful?

Three other St. Paul projects were chosen as Knight Cities Challenge recipients, including 4 Play by Greater MSP, as well as Rolling Out the Welcome Hat and MN Nice Breakers - both by artist Jun-Li Wang.

For more information about the 8 to 80 Vitality initiative, click here.

To learn more about the Knight Cities Challenge, visit www.knightcities.org.


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