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 continues repaving "the Terrible Twenty"

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: May 4, 2015 - 12:27 PM

St. Paul officials announced Monday that crews are renewing work to resurface, rebuild or redesign the remaining city's “Terrible 20” arterial roads in 2015 and into 2016.

Mayor Chris Coleman included $54 million in his 2015 budget for street repair and transportation upgrades to help continue several infrastructure projects. A major piece of that is the reconstruction of Third Street, from N. Arcade Street to Johnson Parkway. In addition, crews will replace the top layer of pavement on the following sections of road in 2015 through a technique called mill and overlay:

• Homer Street and Rankin Street, from 7th Street to Shepard Road
• Front Street, from Dale Street to Western Avenue
• Summit Avenue, from Ramsey Street to Selby Avenue
• Earl Street, from Maryland Avenue to York Avenue
• Oakdale Avenue, from State Street to Annapolis Street

Public Works has begun designing improvements for Wheelock Parkway, from Rice Street to Edgerton Street, and Third Street, from Johnson Parkway to McKnight Road. Construction on these projects will begin next year. Crews repaired poor areas of Mississippi River Boulevard, from Marshall Avenue to Emerald Street SE, in 2014 -- a stretch of road that is scheduled for mill and overlay work in 2016.

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

blair.emerson@startribune.com

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.”

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