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

Notorious neighbor should have been allowed to change her plea

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: November 25, 2014 - 10:01 AM

Lori Christensen, the so-called "neighbor from hell" alleged to have criminally harassed a family across her White Bear Lake cul-de-sac, should have been allowed to change her mind after pleading guilty last year to violating a restraining order, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

"We conclude that the guilty plea is invalid because there is not a sufficient factual basis for the conclusion that Christensen violated the harassment restraining order," Judge Matthew Johnson wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

Charged with two counts of aggravated stalking and a count of violating a restraining order, Christensen pleaded guilty in July 2013 to the latter charge. But the following month, before she was sentenced, she moved to withdraw the guilty plea. Ramsey County District Court denied her motion, and she appealed.

The case will now return to the district court.

It's a bouncing baby boy gorilla for Alice at Como Zoo

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: November 19, 2014 - 3:42 PM

Como Park Zoo is celebrating the birth early Wednesday of a baby boy gorilla to Alice -- the first gorilla birth in the 55 years that Como has housed the large primates.

According to a news release, the baby weighs about four pounds and "appears healthy, strong and bonding with Alice."

Because bonding between gorilla mothers and their babies is so important, zoo officials plan to keep Alice and her son off exhibit for several weeks.

It's the first of two expected gorilla births at Como. Alice's housemate, Dara, is expecting and likely to give birth later next month or in January.

In both cases, the father is Schroeder, 29, who has lived at Como since he was a lad of five. Alice is 12, and Dara is 11.

Alice and Dara were among six gorillas moved to Como last year to live in the zoo's new $11 million Gorilla Forest exhibit, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America.

Como's gorillas, while born in the United States, are descended from gorillas that inhabit the forests of central and west Africa. The gorillas, called Western lowland, are critically endangered.

Gorilla gestation takes about eight months. About 4 in 10 baby gorillas die in the first several months, which is one reason why zookeepers will be keeping a close eye on the new mother and baby. But zoo staffers won't intervene unless the baby's health is in jeopardy or the mother isn't doing her job.

Photo: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

St. Paul brings up the rear in Ramsey County voter turnout

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere Updated: November 17, 2014 - 11:18 AM

The votes are in, the Ramsey County Canvassing Board has certified the results ... and St. Paul is the loser.

The tallies, finalized last week, show that St. Paul registered the lowest turnout of eligible voters for cities in Ramsey County. About 40 percent of eligible St. Paul voters cast ballots, compared to 51 percent of voters statewide and 45 percent in Ramsey County as a whole.

The city in Ramsey County with the highest turnout was North Oaks, with 71 percent.

Ramsey County also reports that one in 10 ballots this year was cast before Election Day either in mail or at the county elections office on St. Paul's West Side. That's the third highest rate in the last 20 years, and up 75 percent from 2010. For a non-presidential election year, it was the biggest number of early ballots ever cast in Ramsey County.

For more details on 2014 election results and years prior, go to www.co.ramsey.mn.us/elections/results.htm/.

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.

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