[IMAGE]Grants, Bonding Boost West End Development

By Jerry Rothstein

Announcement of the 2012 Neighborhood STAR grants (Sales Tax Revitalization funds) included good news for two West End projects that promise to contribute to the neighborhood’s growing attraction for new businesses and residents alike.

J.W. Hulme Project Means Real Jobs
Hulme received its full request of almost $100K, half in grants and half in loans. Community Reporter reported on Hulme’s STAR application in May 2012. While the decision was being made, the company wasted no time in moving ahead with a creative framework that starts with an independent coalition of businesses and agencies that will decide later on what kind of formal structure to establish.

The coalition includes manufacturers like J.W. Hulme (leather and canvas); Kelle Company (dance apparel using lighter fabrics); Airtex Industries (using a range of materials); and 14 affiliated members that include direct manufacturers, contract manufacturers, and other entrepreneurs. Agencies involved are Lifetrack Resources and Dunwoody College of Technology.

All members have an interest in creating a pool of workers with high level industrial sewing skills. Existing manufacturers need more of these workers, and Jen Guarino, CEO of J.W. Hulme, believes that new industry will emerge as trained workers become available.
Even before the STAR Grant was announced — and Hulme will begin its expansion immediately — Lifetrack Resources, a key partner, succeeded in obtaining a United Way WINGs grant (Women Investing in the Next Generation) that provides 15 scholarships and funds to develop curriculum for the first training course, expected to be offered in January 2013. Kelle Company and Airtex Industries have also agreed to be secondary training sites, thus providing a full range of skill development opportunities with different materials and products.

Guarino expects to have program and curriculum details and the application process ready for the community in September.

Schmidt Brewery Project Brings Benefits
The complexity of the Schmidt Brewery redevelopment project becomes clear when the terms and conditions of its financing are laid out. In July, City Council approved the recommendation of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority to issue up to $69.3 million in tax exempt housing bonds for the residential part of the brewery renewal. At the same time, the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation received approval for $400K in Neighborhood STAR funding for part of its work on the Rathskeller and office space portion of the project (the total cost is around $5 million). Reopening the historic Rathskeller, adding a basement space for catering, developing the office building and creating a public plaza between the Rathskeller and the Brew House are all part of the Federation’s role.

Dominium Development has a difficult and complex project to navigate in order to create the 261 planned new housing units out of the Brew House (“the Castle”) and the Bottle House. Many demands of the work also generate sources of necessary funding assistance — cleaning up a polluted industrial site; historically preserving and adaptively rehabilitating and reusing the brewery’s heritage building; providing new affordable housing based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s criteria. All the units are meant for tenants whose household income is 60% or less of the Area Median Income, and rents are therefore “below market.”

Actual work on the buildings is made very difficult by the many structures and features that were installed to meet the brewery’s manufacturing needs, for example removal of heavy, uneven flooring and 60 holding tanks. Dominium’s experience in adaptive reuse of old warehouses (see their Carleton Artist Lofts development at 2285, 2295 and 2341 University Avenue) gives them a good baseline of expertise, which undoubtedly will be tested by the complexities within the brewery buildings. All union labor will be used on the project.

Another welcome feature is the reopening and extending of Webster Street through the site, joining its presently separated sections to help better integrate the entire site into the neighborhood. It is also interesting to note that this development has the potential to increase the West End population (11,083 in the 2010 census) by between 3 and 4 percent.

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SPECIAL VISIT: West Seventh Host Special Delegation

A delegation of librarians, community representatives and support staff from the Biblionet Romania project visited the West Seventh Library in July to learn how a small library can serve its community successfully.

The five-year project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is administered by the Washington DC based International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).

A key element in generating this visit has been the work of Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and its consulting arm, Library Strategies, which was contracted by IREX to consult on the Romanian project.

While there are more than 3,000 libraries in Romania, many are small and lack enough government support. Establishing Friends of the Library organizations in each of Romania’s 41 counties, along with Gates Foundation support for computers and information technology resources, will help to build a strong system. (The Gates Foundation did a lot of library work in the United States before beginning to work in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world through its Global Libraries program.) St. Paul’s Friends of the Library and its Library Strategies service have become increasingly well-known and respected for the significant support they provide to the SPPL system.

Monica Grecu, one of the Biblionet Romania program specialists, pointed out, “We also have to work to establish trust in the libraries. In 50 years of Communism, they were often centers for disseminating propaganda.” She added that they are past the halfway mark of a five-year funding grant that was awarded based on need and the likelihood that they will be able to sustain the system after grant funding ends. Having Friends organizations throughout the country of almost 20 million is a big part of how sustainability will be accomplished.

The Library Strategies team of Friends’ president Peter Pearson, Sue Hall, Library Strategies coordinator, and Toni Garvey, former director of the Phoenix Public Library had two visits to Romania. Pearson and Hall helped coordinate the visit to St. Paul, where the delegation had an orientation to the SPPL system, visits with City officials, and even time for a cruise on the Jonathan Padelford.

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Not a Secret Garden - At All [IMAGE]

by Kathleen Corley, Peg Brown

If you are looking for a peaceful spot, a cheerful spot, a spot guaranteed to help you feel like a part of something quite wonderful, walk under the archway and into the neighborhood garden at West Seventh and Dousman Street.

It’s a garden that rocks, but it’s not a rock garden. It’s a garden that hums with the energy, enthusiasm and laughter that transformed it from an abandoned, unkempt, overgrown lot to a garden full of corn, tomatoes, beans, squash, marigolds, hosta, and other wondrous vegetables, flowers, and art.

This garden grew from the work of neighbors of all ages. It developed with a piece of this and a part of that, neighbors gathered bringing tools, seeds, hay bales, plants, hoses, picnic tables, benches, rock, paint and do-dads — yes, do-dads. Sparkling bits of glass, mementoes and other pieces of this and that were added to concrete forms, as children created colorful stepping stones along the path and through the garden. As a neighbor/art teacher oversaw their creation, other adults and children hoed, tilled, pulled weeds, planted seeds, and created scarecrows. We celebrated with a grand community meal, toasting our hard work, and the creation we had wrought.

[IMAGE]Over the past several weeks, the garden’s true nature revealed itself — it gathered its community around it and they learned about each other. They made connections, developed appreciation and marveled at the way in which the garden allowed them to build community. The welcoming, inclusive energy that moved the garden from a planning meeting into the sunlight of reality brought curious onlookers into the garden, garnered greetings from those passing by and encouraged others to pause and smile.

The land is private, owned by Clear Channel, which has granted permission for the community to use it. The energy, resources, and commitment that brought it to fruition, maintains and protects it, and nudges it along with weeding and watering, came from all of us. The park espouses the principle of “our” — it is our garden. A garden that belongs to everyone, provides access and opportunity to each of us, and allows each of us to influence it and care for it. As we do, we demonstrate our care, our concern, our enthusiasm for our community and for each of us within that community.

Come by. Walk through the archway. Sit on the bench. Breathe deeply and relax in our garden. You are welcome here.

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SUMMERTIME: A Garden Tour of Detail and Delight

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