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 is for the birds

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:45 PM

In the debate over whether to install special glass for the billion-dollar Minnesota Vikings’ stadium in downtown Minneapolis to protect migratory birds, St. Paul wants to make one thing clear: it’s for the birds.

Three City Council members next week will introduce a resolution calling on the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority “to build a bird-proof stadium” with glass walls that are visible to birds rather than completely transparent. To do otherwise, the resolution says, could result in the deaths of thousands of birds.

Why should this matter to St. Paul? For one thing, the city shares with Minneapolis the Mississippi River, a corridor used every spring and fall by 40 percent of the migratory birds in North America. The more birds colliding with the stadium in Minneapolis, the fewer will find their way through the capital city.

And the city wants to stand in solidarity with the Minneapolis City Council, which passed a similar resolution nearly three months ago.

Both St. Paul and Minneapolis signed a federal urban conservation treaty for migratory birds in 2011. Minneapolis’ stadium implementation committee, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Audubon Society all think bird-safe glass is the way to go.

But the St. Paul resolution is unlikely to change the minds of the Vikings or the stadium commission. They’ve already pointed out that specially fritted glass, containing tiny ceramic beads to make it less reflective, would add $1.1 million to the stadium budget.

And they say it could reduce the glass’ transparency for human eyes. If you’re going to design a downtown pyramid wrapped in 200,000 square feet of glass, you ought to be able to see in or out as well as possible, so the argument goes.

Opus recommended to develop Seven Corners Gateway site

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:22 PM

A partnership led by Opus Development Co. has been recommended to develop the Seven Corners Gateway site in downtown St. Paul, a small but highly visible parcel across from Xcel Energy Center for which the city has had big plans for years.

The Opus proposal, put forward with Greco Development, includes a hotel, market-rate multi-family housing and retail stores surrounding a public plaza. Retail possibilities include restaurants, convenience shops and entertainment.

In a prepared statement, Mayor Chris Coleman said the Opus proposal “is continued proof of the city’s vitality and economic momentum.”

If the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority – made up of City Council members – approves the tentative developer agreement at next week’s meeting, Opus and Greco will have 18 months to formalize the proposal.

The site is considered valuable for its proximity to downtown, the W. 7th Street entertainment area and the Smith Avenue Transit Center.

The city issued a request for proposals in July to develop the 2.4-acre site, bounded by W. 7th Street and Kellogg Boulevard. Officials were seeking a mixed-use plan that included a vibrant entertainment district.

The Opus proposal was chosen over the only other proposal received, from M.A. Mortenson Co.

Green Line projects win Knight grants

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: October 14, 2014 - 10:14 AM

Sixteen projects designed to enhance St. Paul neighborhoods along the Green Line light-rail corridor have been awarded a total of $530,000 in grants this week by the Knight Foundation.

The grant amounts range from $75,000, given to a public arts project commemorating black railroad workers and to restoration of the Victoria Theater, to $3,700 for a wayfinding public art project near the Fairview Avenue station.

Other winning projects include beautification of the Interstate 94 bridges, installing green community space alongside Big Daddy's BBQ, and expanding a community plaza and street market in the Little Mekong district.

The winners were chosen from among 579 applicants to the Knight Green Line Challenge, a $1.5 million program to develop Green Line neighborhoods in St. Paul. The program will continue for two more years.

Eleven community reviewers narrowed the list to 48 finalists, with the winners chosen by reviewers and representatives of the Knight and St. Paul foundations.

For a complete list of the winners, go to www.knightgreenlinechallenge.org/.

Como's new baby zebra has a name: Ruckus

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: September 30, 2014 - 1:35 PM

The people have spoken, and the name for the Como Zoo's new baby zebra is -- drum roll, please -- Ruckus.

Officials reported Tuesday that, after nearly 3,000 votes in all from Facebook fans of the popular St. Paul zoo, Ruckus was the clear winner from among three nominated names. It took 42 percent of the vote, putting it well ahead of ZigZag (33 percent) and Mayhem (25 percent).

Ruckus, a male, was born on September 7 to mom Thelma and pop Ulysses. The other two members of Como's zebra herd are Minnie and new foal Melee, born July 27.

Como's herd consists of Grant's zebras, found on the grassy plains of east Africa in countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia. Ruckus is available for sponsorship, officials said.

Ballpark signs would be an exception in downtown St. Paul

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: September 22, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Signs long have been a heated issue in St. Paul, perhaps more than most cities.

A local group called Scenic St. Paul has vigorously championed billboard removal and tighter sign regulations. The City Council typically has balked at allowing large and flashing signs to advertise products or companies; most of those seen now, such as the iconic “1st” on top of the First National Bank building, have been around for a long time and were grandfathered in.

But the council may be ready to carve out an exception for the new city-owned Lowertown ballpark, recently named CHS Field, where the St. Paul Saints will play starting next season.

An ordinance has made its way to the council that would amend city code to permit two roof signs at the ballpark. Roof signs are defined as either those mounted on a roof, or projecting above the top of a building.

The first version of the ordinance would have permitted roof signs anywhere downtown, subject to a conditional use permit. That was too much for City Council Member Dave Thune, who asked last week that the ordinance be reworked to permit only the ballpark signs. The council agreed with Thune, striking out what could have the most controversial of the signage ideas.

The council is making other provisions for CHS Field. The proposed ordinance would allow sponsor signs at the new ballpark and let them be bigger than usual, as well as advertising signs.

City Parks Director Mike Hahm told the Planning Commission that a roof sign “will be a great identifier for the ballpark and the neighborhood.  Saints Vice President Thomas Whaley said ballpark roof signs “will add to the visual experiences of fans attending events at the park and visitors to the neighborhood.” Whaley wanted a four-sided sign, which the current ordinance version doesn't permit.

The ordinance also would allow sponsor signs at transit stop stations and for bike sharing facilities, such as Nice Ride. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance next week.

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