After Seven Years, Victoria Park
Has New Life
By Kent Petterson
Fifteen members and interested neighbors attended the second meeting of the Victoria Park Advisory Committee on Oct. 23. Co-chairs Emily Shively from the Park Commission and Tonya Johnson-Nicholie from the Fort Road Federation, and Alice Messer, Parks Department Landscape Architect, led the meeting. Nova Classical Academy provided their Great Room as meeting space.
The goal of the group is to develop specific recommendations for a master plan at the 40 acre Victoria Park site. An earlier proposal for a soccer complex that raised significant neighborhood concern does not seem to have any significant support in this group. Playing off the themes of the Great River Passage, many specific suggestions are in the mix that seem to revolve around traditional park elements with a single large green space that will be paired with a more natural restored bluff area. That idea includes potential emphasis on interpretation of the Fort Road oxcart trail that passed through the site in the mid-19th century; highlighting of the limestone quarry that existed in the area; and the natural history of the bluff area and wetlands. These elements and many others offer active and passive uses of the park.
Some of the specific traditional park elements included benches, picnic shelter(s), tennis and horseshoe courts, bocce ball, multipurpose athletic fields, and a small performance stage/amphitheater.
The more innovative ideas included a community bread oven and a community garden; rock climbing at the bluff; historical plaques tied to internet wi-fi interpretive information; and a funicular (inclined plane railway) down the steep bluff for moving people, boats and equipment to the river edge. A name change for the park was also suggested.
Significant interest in the Advisory Committee has been focusing on the parcel of land at the corner of Otto Avenue and Shepard Road that is not in the park. This area previously planned to be a development parcel contains the only overlook to the river and the most obvious bluff location for an incline and associated parking. The city has recently been entertaining an offer to sell this parcel with retention of a conservation type easement for the bluff. A decision this month by the Fort Road Federation to recommend removal of this parcel from certain types of private development may change the picture of what could be considered for this parcel, which includes two acres available for habitable buildings. (See Federation Update, pg 2.)
The public is invited to the next meeting, which will be held again at Nova Classical Academy, 1455 Victoria Way, Dec. 4, 6-8 p.m. Contact Alice Messer 651-255-6412 if you have questions.
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Building Little Bohemia Neighborhood
By Marit Brock
There is a lot going on in the Little Bohemia neighborhood and we are happy to have the chance to share it in the Community Reporter. Little Bohemia is the neighborhood situated between Mancini’s and 35E – if you haven’t visited lately you should see for yourself the work we have done and all that we have accomplished.
We are a neighborhood eligible to participate in the Invest Saint Paul (ISP) program, and we have been working with the City of Saint Paul and the Fort Road Federation to rehabilitate 18 distressed, foreclosed properties into single family, owner-occupied homes. Most of these properties were once blighted rental properties, but with the vision of architect Jim Glendening and funding through the ISP program they are becoming beautiful old homes again. This summer we welcomed the new owners of 455 and 459 Banfil Street into our neighborhood. Selling these homes was a big success story for our neighborhood and for the ISP program.
The homes at 22 Douglas St and 286 Harrison Ave are nearly ready for sale, and the buyers may also be eligible for very generous support programs through the ISP program. As each property sells it helps add money to the budget for future rehabs, and the next phase includes renovation of the Thauwald house, which was moved from Smith Ave to 29 Douglas St earlier this summer. We will also begin the transformation of homes on Forbes Avenue from dilapidated former rentals to graceful owner-occupied homes that reflect the character and history of Little Bohemia. Watch for these homes to come up for sale in 2013. In addition to the ISP rehabilitations, we continue to see private sales as well and are pleased to welcome several new members to our community.
Over the past two years we have also been working hard to develop safe and clean green spaces in the neighborhood and better utilize the bike path running along 35E from Grand to St. Clair Avenues. Pleasant Place is the park at the corner of Harrison Ave. and Garfield St. that runs along the 35E bike path. Over the years we have built artistically designed fitness stations and added other necessary items and the City of Saint Paul Public Works department has been a great partner in our cleanup efforts.
As we get small grants and other funding, we add to the park and it looks great! We were awarded a $1,000 grant from Community Neighborhood Housing Services to create new gardens this summer, and we even had a spot on the West End Garden Tour in June. Our most recent grant was awarded by Greening the Avenue and will pay for a sign for the park — see John Yust’s article on page three.
Because every great urban neighborhood wants a thriving business district, we have been working to find new owners for the vacant commercial properties nearby. In collaboration with our neighbors in Dousman Park and Uppertown we are building a vision for our community and hope to attract new businesses to fill in what is currently a blighted stretch at West Seventh, Grand Ave. and Smith Ave. We know that eventually we will find great commercial property owners who will thrive in our funky, walkable, livable neighborhood!
The Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association is always evolving and growing. Please check us out at littlebohemiastpaul.org and join our e-mail list. You can also find us on Facebook at Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association.
Marit Brock is a West 7th resident, Co-Chair of the Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association and a member of the Fort Road Federation board of directors. Email her at mycommunitymatters.wordpress.com.
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Community Reporter Needs Your Helpby Jerry RothsteinYes, the paper needs help. For more than 42 years, the paper has provided the community with news and coverage of events in the business, social, educational, spiritual, historical, cultural and artistic activities that make the neighborhood such a historic and dynamic community. We now find that our advertising revenues (our only source of income) are down, and efforts to improve them are running into changes in the ways businesses and organizations are trying to market themselves. Internet and social media are growing in influence. The First Way: Our long-standing advertisers are sticking with us — do business with them whenever you can, and let them know your recognize their support of the paper. If you are a potential advertiser, involved in business, community agencies, social organizations, professions and so on, advertising in the Community Reporter creates a win-win situation. For the advertiser, awareness of your business, service or special event travels through the community through our house-to-house delivery and drops to apartments and businesses from downtown to the river end of West Seventh, as well as exposure on communityreporter.org. For the Community Reporter, advertising allows us to do our job of providing an informational network for the community. So the advertiser is adding value to the community by helping to support the newspaper’s financial health. The Second Way: Encourage West End businesses that you patronize to try some ads in the Community Reporter. Customers can have a lot of influence in helping us get our message across. The Third Way: Continue to support our effort to become “a community of reporters.” We encourage your involvement in the creative side of things. We have correspondents, reporters, reviewers and general writers involved. You can write a letter to the editor on a topic we have written about, or in response to one of our columnists, or a longer “Neighbors Speak Out” piece. You can also contribute story ideas. We aim to cover a wide range of interesting areas in the neighborhood. Your ideas for stories and topics that you would like to see covered are always welcome. As a nonprofit organization we are governed by a Board of Directors, and have openings for community members to join. And donations are tax-deductible. For information, call Jerry Rothstein at 651-587-8859 or e-mail email@example.com to top