Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Up and Running: Public Works’ Project Legacy

“Most people opt out of hard things,” remarked noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, correcting a reporter’s assertion that “kids opt out of hard things.”  Tyson was asked in a recent interview to explain why so few kids today are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses while in school. 
A public works technician explains the workings
of the city's traffic signal control system to students
from the West 7th Community Center's summer camp
The lack of young people entering STEM fields today is a trend that is very concerning to agencies such as Saint Paul Public Works, which ranks among the state’s largest engineering firms.  Engineers of the Baby Boom generation are retiring from the field faster than they are being replaced.
In an effort to help reverse this trend, this year Public Works launched “Project Legacy,” a program of outreach and fellowship for the city’s prospective STEM professionals.  The program is designed to interest students in the STEM disciplines by giving them a glimpse of what’s involved in a career in engineering.
To date, Public Works staff have participated in the program by appearing in panel discussions about preparing for a career in engineering, guiding tours of its facilities, and giving talks about the design of the city’s bridges.
A public works civil engineer discusses
the Lafayette Bridge's structural features
with students of the West 7th Community
Center's Summer Camp
Although still in its fledgling period, Public Works hopes to expand the program to include staging classroom problem solving challenges, one-on-one mentoring, and job shadowing.
The program targets middle school-aged students through partnerships with the Saint Paul School District, West 7th Street Community Center and Breakthrough Saint Paul.
As Public Works spokesman Dave Hunt explains, “Once kids reach the middle school grades they’re far enough along in their development that they’re giving serious thought to what kinds of courses they’ll take in high school.  The aim of Project Legacy is simply to get kids thinking about careers in the STEM fields, and with that interest created, the idea is they’ll take up STEM courses while they’re still in school.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Neighbors share hotdogs, games and conversation about the Gateway Corridor

On Saturday, July 13 neighbors gathered in the parking lot of Leo’s Chow Mein on Old Hudson Road to learn more about plans for the Gateway Corridor transit route and to offer their ideas for the neighborhood in the context of transit planning.

Sponsored by the Engage Eastside Resident Network, the event offered free hot dogs and games for the kids in addition to information about the Gateway Corridor- the transit corridor that follows Interstate I-94 from the St. Croix River Bridge into downtown Saint Paul.

The Gateway Corridor Commission, comprised of elected officials from communities along the corridor, recently completed an Alternatives Analysis study which selected Hudson Road in Saint Paul as the most feasible route for improved commuter transit service through the East Side.  The Commission is about to embark on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to further study this route and the potential for either Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Light Rail Transit (LRT) along the corridor.

While the kids enjoyed face painting, side walk chalk and other games, adults studied materials about the corridor and had the opportunity to provide feedback, via stickers, about issues important for planners to keep in mind as the project advances.  Based on the feedback from the event, improved streetscapes, housing and affordability, and noise mitigation will be key issues for the neighborhood as the plans move forward.

If you missed the gathering on the 13th but would like to learn more about the Gateway Corridor (and score a free hot dog), the Engage Eastside Resident Network has another gathering planned for Saturday, August 3 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. in the cul-de-sac near 652 Conway (in case of rain, the gathering will move to Mounds Park United Methodist Church at 1049 Euclid).  All are welcome to attend.

If you would like more information about Engage Eastside, you can visit their website at:  For more information about the Gateway Corridor see:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Demolition begins on the Lowertown Ballpark

Baseball fans of all ages recently gathered in Saint Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood to celebrate a big step forward for the Lowertown Ballpark project and the beginning of the Gillette/Diamond Products building demolition.  
During the event, fans cheered as the first pieces of the Gillette building where torn down, marking the start of the building’s demolition.  The event also included a ceremonial block breaking and speeches from Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Director of Parks and Recreation Mike Hahm and others involved with the project.  Even the diva of the diamond, Mudonna, showed up to lend a hand.  Video highlights from the event can be found here.

The Lowertown Ballpark project will bring a world class stadium and the Saint Paul Saints to downtown Saint Paul.  In addition to being the home of the Saint Paul Saints, the ballpark will host youth and amateur baseball games, giving these young players the ability to experience what playing baseball in downtown Saint Paul is like.

The new stadium will also play host to more than 100 non-baseball events annually including concerts such as the one Bob Dylan recently played at Midway stadium and other community building events.  The new Lowertown Ballpark will bring 400,000 visitors to downtown Saint Paul annually and have an estimated $10 million annual economic impact.
The first pitch is scheduled to be thrown in the new ballpark in the spring of 2015.  To learn more about the Lowertown Ballpark project, visit the project’s website here and be sure to follow the project on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Intro to Seal Coating 101

Beginning August 1, 2013 and continuing into mid-September, the City of Saint Paul will be seal coating all paved alleys and residential streets. “NO PARKING” signs will be clearly posted in streets the day before the seal coating process begins.

To fully understand all the advantages to this modern maintenance, here’s a step-by-step explanation:

Step One – No parking signs are installed.
Step Two- Street is swept clean.
Step Three- A layer of liquid asphalt covers the street.
Step Four- A layer of gravel goes on top.
Step Five- The gravel is worked in.
Step Six- The seal coated street is swept.
Step Seven- Enjoy a paved street that will last significantly longer because of this preventive maintenance.

The general boundaries are Summit Avenue (north), Lexington Avenue (east), Montreal Avenue (south) and Mississippi River Boulevard (west).

The next day after the seal coating process, the streets are swept again to pick up any loose gravel and recovered and screened for use in the following days' work.

If you have specific questions, please call our information line at 651-266-9700.

July Library Roundup

Saint Paul Public Library is recognized as a Top Innovator

The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) recognized the Saint Paul Public Library as a top innovator in economic and workforce development for our Northstar Digital Literacy Project, an initiative led by the library and the Saint Paul Community Literacy Consortium.

The 2013 Top Innovators were chosen by a panel of expert judges who considered more than 140 applications.

Read more…

Wild (Library) Cards!

We are partnering with schools to equip every summer school student with a Wild (library) card. Every Saint Paul Public School summer school student will receive a voucher to take to any one of Saint Paul Public Library's 14 locations to quickly redeem for a free library card.  

A Collision of Art and Technology at the Library

Making shadow puppets
You can explore new technologies and hands-on creation at one of these four free workshops for adults. Learn about urban art and inflatables, glowing clothing, folded structures, and shadow puppet animation. No experience is necessary. These Wednesday evening programs are designed to be fun, and everyone is welcome.
Program schedule…

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Have You Thanked Your Friendly Fire Inspector Lately?

Saint Paul fire inspectors: Protecting lives and property since 1915.  It’s more than just a tag line – it’s true!  For almost 100 years now, Saint Paul has taken great pride in keeping both commercial and residential property safe for occupants and firefighters.  We see fire inspections as more than just checking the status of a building on any particular day.  Every inspection is an educational opportunity.  Fortunately, most property owners and tenants don’t routinely see the devastation fire causes.  Our inspectors do, which makes them not only experienced and helpful, but informed. 

In 2012, Saint Paul fire inspectors performed more than 25,000 inspections.  These inspections include routine inspections and complaints or referrals from residents, other city staff, councilmembers and firefighters.  The goal is to leave the property safer than we arrived.  This change is dramatically seen in residential property where their inspection receives a letter grade.  In 2010, 33 percent of residential properties improved their letter grade from the previous year and this trend continues to rise.  In 2011, 46 percent improved and in 2012, 51 percent improved. 

So next time you see your friendly fire inspector, say hi and be sure to ask them any burning fire safety questions!

Check out our website at and our YouTube series “Let Me Show You Something” on Space Heater Safety, Stove Top Safety, and Smoke Detector Safety.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hmong Freedom Celebration—Food, Flag Football, Fun

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen
Many vibrant community festivals celebrate our city’s rich ethnic heritage – St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, for example. My ward includes several neighborhoods where European immigrants gave way to Hmong and Karen refugees, and two weekends ago I had the opportunity to celebrate these more recent cultural additions at the Hmong Freedom Celebration.
The festival takes place at Como Park, just across Lexington Avenue from my ward -- it’s the largest Hmong cultural event in the United States, perhaps even the world, and it’s a five-minute walk from my front door. Tens of thousands of people travel from all over the country to visit family, celebrate Independence Day and compete at soccer, flag football, volleyball, and kato, among other sports. You can chow down on traditional Hmong food, visit the many Hmong (or non-Hmong) vendors, or watch performances and sports matches running constantly throughout the weekend.
Photo Credit: Lee Pao Xiong, Director of Center for Hmong
Studies, Concordia University
This year I took part in a new festival experience that I hope will become a permanent fixture: a tour for Como Park neighbors. Every Fourth of July weekend the festival takes over the neighborhood, but my neighbors have not tended to visit despite the proximity. This year, festival organizers sought to close that gap by offering neighbors a guided tour. The experience was wonderful, with roughly 30 neighbors taking part. I heard from several people that they had never once been to the festival, despite living in the neighborhood for over a decade!
For me, last week’s tour reflects what I love about Saint Paul, and specifically about my ward. I love to see people celebrating their community and culture, saying “yes” to new and unfamiliar experiences, and proudly sharing their culture with their neighbors.
I had a wonderful time at the first Como Neighbors Tour of the Hmong Freedom Celebration – and I’m really looking forward to going again next year. I hope you’ll join me!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Improving Diversity in the Saint Paul Fire Department

The City of Saint Paul will soon be accepting applications and testing for new firefighters in 2014.  We strongly encourage people of diversity and women to apply.  Firefighter testing and hiring information will be posted on our social media (Facebook and Twitter) when it’s available.  Bonus points are awarded for military veterans and Saint Paul residents.

The fire department has made significant strides towards making the department’s membership better reflect the diversity of the city we serve, and that work continues.  Sixteen young, diverse emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were promoted this week into the fire department to staff our ambulance transport service.  All of these EMTs are graduates of the city’s revolutionary Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Academy which provides paid EMT training to diverse, low-income youths so they can apply to become Saint Paul firefighters.

We’ve come a long way, but we have more work to do.


One of the biggest improvements we have made in building diversity is maintaining a continuous presence with young people in diverse communities and mentoring those interested towards careers with the SPFD. We have a standing recruiting team that meets regularly with Human Resources to explore new and creative ways to captivate interest and mentor young Saint Paulites. 

The following are specific programs we have developed and are very proud of:
X   The EMS Academy:  Training Saint Paul youth as EMTs to help them qualify as firefighter candidates. 

X   Firefighter I training at the training center:  SPFD hosted a Firefighter I certification program and a firefighter summer camp to engage youth in careers, positive role models, and actual firefighter certification. 

X   Ongoing recruiting team:  One of our main goals is to maintain contact with all Saint Paul high schools to enhance the interest of a diverse population in becoming firefighters with SPFD. 

X   Community events and outreach:  We have had considerable contact with the Hmong Academy, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Totem Town, etc.  Our recruitment team focuses on disseminating hiring information to the general public at these events in order to attract the most qualified applicants that represent the diversity of the citizens served by the Saint Paul Fire Department.
X   Fire 20-20 Workshop:  In 2011, the Saint Paul Fire Department hosted a statewide Fire 20-20 Diversity and Recruiting Workshop attended by the leadership and diversity committees of seven other fire departments. 

X   Women’s Expos:  Saint Paul Fire Department has joined the Northstar Women’s Firefighting Association, which is a professional association for women active or interested in the firefighting profession.  Together we have hosted joint training events and women’s firefighting expos to demonstrate the gear, equipment, and training techniques used in the trade, and to encourage and mentor women interested in firefighting.
We are making real progress toward establishing a fire departmen that is as diverse as we believe it should be. We are proud of the many efforts and the results we have achieved over the last five years, and we are committed to working toward a workforce that reflects the diverse population of our community. Do you reflect the diversity of Saint Paul? Consider the rewarding and honorable career of firefighting. Give yourself a chance to become one of Saint Paul’s best.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Catch one of the best views of Saint Paul from the Highland Water Tower this weekend

One of the best places to see Saint Paul’s skyline will open its doors to the public on July 20 and July 21. The Highland Water Tower, located on top of one of the highest naturally occurring elevated sites in the city, adds another 127 feet to the ground it rests on.
From the observation deck, a clear day reveals sites as far as 12 miles away, such as the refinery in Rosemount and the Carlson Twin Towers in the West Metro. Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul skylines can be seen. The airport, the State Fair’s Space Needle, and the High Bridge on Smith Avenue are all visible.
Better than any stair master exercise, visitors are rewarded with a workout and the view. As a bonus, those who make the climb as get a sticker declaring, “I saw St. Paul from the top of the Highland Tower.”
The tower is open to the public only twice a year; once in conjunction with Highland Fest, July 20-21 and again October 12 - 13 for the fall viewing. The doors are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
In addition to great views, the building is a historical landmark designed by the nation’s first African-American municipal architect, Clarence “Cap” Wigington. Tower blue prints hang in the tower base for viewing. The tower was designated an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association in 1981. In 1986, the tower was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
Water utility employees will be on hand to answer questions about the tower, the water distribution system, and the water sources that provide more than 415,000 people in Saint Paul and the surrounding area with quality drinking water.

Como on Comcast Newsmakers: Exciting Changes!

There are some exciting new additions to the Como Park Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory that are currently being featured on Comcast Newsmakers. Learn more—check out the video below. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

"B" is for "Brewery"

Submitted by Councilmember Russ Stark

Bang Brewery
The smell of hops and the letter "B" must be in the air as Bang Brewery and Burning Brothers Brewery are both in the process of finishing their new spaces in Ward 4. Bang owners Sandy and Jay Boss-Febbo have built a unique new brewery building on the corner of Hersey and Capp Road in the heart of the Midway near the old Minnesota Transfer rail yards. Bang will have a small taproom in addition to supplying some local bar/restaurants. The Boss-Febbos are focused on local sourcing and supplying local businesses with a high quality product.

Burning Brothers, which will be the only exclusively gluten-free brewery in the Midwest, is building out their new space in a warehouse on Thomas Avenue near Fairview. The Burning Brothers duo of Thom Foss and Dane Breimhorst got their name from one of their former professions, flame-throwing and fire-eating at the Renaissance Festival. They hope to fill a growing local and regional market niche, and to eventually have a taproom.  

Additionally, Jill Pavlak and Deb Loch of Urban Growler Brewing Company recently signed a lease on Endicott Street to open yet another craft brewery and taproom combo Ward 4. They plan to have a limited menu of food in the taproom as well, and with their location right near Bang, Urban Growler will help create a little brewery and taproom “zone” in the West Midway.

To the west of us, Surly, the established, popular Brooklyn Park-based brewery, is moving ahead with plans to relocate and expand at a site on Southeast 5th Street in Minneapolis right on the Saint Paul border.

Until recently, our zoning regulations wouldn't have allowed taprooms in most areas. The Saint Paul City Council recently made changes to our zoning code to allow the sale of beer at breweries in most commercial and mixed-used districts.  The Council also eliminated the 300-foot distance requirement between a taproom and a school or church.  This old requirement in zoning had become a hindrance to the development of new taprooms because of the proliferation of churches and charter schools in many of Saint Paul’s commercial and industrial areas. 

Historically, when breweries were typically massive operations, city zoning was set up to separate beer production, distribution, and retail sales into different locations and zoning districts.  The new trends of craft and microbrews (with about one new brewery opening each day in the U.S. right now), are forcing cities across the country to rethink these kinds of zoning restrictions, and I hope to keep Saint Paul on the cutting edge of these burgeoning trends.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let’s go ride a bike!

One way to enjoy Minnesota’s short summer is to hop on a bike and take a ride. There’s a plethora of biking trails around the City of Saint Paul, some longer and more competitive, others short and scenic – perfect to enjoy nature or get in a great workout. No matter what your preference, here are some favorites.

Located between Saint Paul and Pine Point Park, Gateway State Tail provides 18 smooth paved miles of fun. Starting in Saint Paul, this path offers an easy ride out of town. The trail provides views of ponds, forests, and wetlands. This popular path can get crowded on the weekends, so if you prefer quieter rides, a midweek visit is a great option.

Located in northwest Saint Paul, Lake Como is one of the largest lakes to bike around in the city. Centered around Como Park, this paved 1.75-mile bike trail is fairly flat and provides a very picturesque experience for any bicyclist. If the less than two mile ride seems a bit short, try a couple of laps or add a loop of Lake Como to a longer ride that takes you through the area.

Located on the east side of Saint Paul, Phalen Regional Park Trail provides a 3.2-mile path full of amazing views of Lake Phalen.  Conveniently connected to the Gateway State Trail, this paved trail circles around one of the most popular fishing lakes in Saint Paul. With concessions available if you get thirsty, this park is an ideal spot to ride a bike.

Located between Maplewood and Saint Paul, the 6.2-mile Bruce Vento Regional Trail is mostly off-road and provides scenic areas where it runs through a ravine. The trail is perfect for any length of bicycle trip and you can connect from there to the Gateway or make a loop around Lake Phalen.

Located along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, the 5.5-mile trail provides the best views of the downtown Saint Paul. With lots of activity to look at and an abundance of restaurants to visit, the Sam Morgan Regional Trail provides almost a constant view of the Mississippi and its parkland.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Transformation of Schmidt Brewery Underway

The Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh Street has a long history in Saint Paul. It all started in 1855 when the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was founded. The company was once one of the largest employers in the city and the seventh largest brewery in the nation. Brewing of beer stopped in 2002 and today two of the historic buildings on the site – the Bottle House and Brew House – are being renovated to become affordable rental housing for artists.

In January, Dominium Development broke ground on the $122 million rehabilitation project to convert the buildings into 247 units of housing. By the end of 2013, the first residents of the Schmidt Artist Lofts will move into their new homes. Thirteen new construction townhomes are also part of the project.  

The Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority issued $69.3 million in tax exempt bonds and provided additional financing for the project. One of the largest funding sources came from tax credits (low-income and historic).

Site amenities will include creative spaces for artists such as clay, sound, dance and craft studios, a gallery, performance theater rooms and rooftop deck.
In the early 1900s, the current buildings at the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh were constructed

Crews pour cement around forms for egress windows that are being installed for garden-level units at the Bottle House
Kitchen in one of the renovated units at Schmidt Artist Lofts

Monday, July 1, 2013

We're getting the fireworks ready...

The Fourth of July is best known for cookouts, brews, patriotism, parades, and most of all fireworks. Chances are most locals already know exactly where they will be watching fireworks on America's birthday, but for those procrastinators who are still looking for the ideal spot, here are a few suggestions.
As in years past, Saint Paul will once again launch its Fourth of July firework extravaganza, just outside Harriet Island Park, near the west bank of the Mississippi River. Spectators will be able to view the fireworks from nearly any vantage point along the Mississippi River or along Kellogg Boulevard.  Some recommended viewing locations include Kellogg Mall Park along Kellogg Boulevard, Indian Mounds Park, and the Science Museum of Minnesota stairs.

Streets not highlighted in red which normally allow parking will be open on July 4
Harriet Island will also be open for the fireworks, so be sure to bring a blanket, some bug spray and your love of country and enjoy the show from the comfort of the lawn at Harriet Island.  Additionally, the Wabasha Street Bridge and Robert Street Bridge are also spectacular spots to see the fireworks.

Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot.  As always, parking will not be allowed in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the fireworks display and it is recommended that those coming to the watch the fireworks carpool if possible.  Portions of Shepard Road will also be closed before and after the show and signs showing the closures will be posted 48 hours in advance. 
Taking the bus or using Nice Ride are two great ways to get to the fireworks without worrying about parking. Check out the Metro Transit website for bus schedules, and learn more about Nice Rides here.

The show starts at promptly at dusk -- around 10 p.m.