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Saint Paul’s 8-80 Vitality Fund can help Saint Paul work for everyone

On Wednesday, October 8th, at 10:00 am, the Saint Paul City Council Budget Committee will review Mayor Chris Coleman’s proposed 8-80 Vitality Fund. If approved, the fund will invest $42.5 million in infrastructure projects designed to promote economic development by enlivening Saint Paul’s streets and public spaces. The idea for the fund was inspired by Gil Penalosa’s presentation at the Great River Gathering last May, where he urged Saint Paul to embrace a bold vision of a city that works for everyone, from 8 year olds to 80 years olds. Continue Reading

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Touring Green Line green infrastructure

This past Saturday I participated in a tour of Green Line “Green Infrastructure” as part of Public Art Saint Paul’s City Art Collaboratory Program. We are a group of multidisciplinary artists and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals who embark on monthly field trips together, exploring the living systems of the City of Saint Paul. One of our cohort is Matt Kumka, a landscape architect at Barr Engineering. He and his coworker, green engineer Nathan Campeau, guided us on this three-stop tour looking primarily at the stormwater management features. Continue Reading

Sewer credits could draw developers to Southeast Minneapolis neighborhoods

The City of Minneapolis has a new way to draw developers to a University of Minnesota-area neighborhood.Minneapolis already offered developers incentives like tax credits, land-use grants and lower interest loans for building in underutilized areas. Prospect Park recently came across a new incentive in the form of sewer credits.To fund sewers, the Metropolitan Council collects money from businesses and residents through the Sewer Availability Charge Program. When a structure on raw land needs a connection to the city’s sewer system, developers usually pay high costs upfront.Prospect Park received 1,600 sewer credits — worth nearly $3.9 million — after a potato processing plant left the area and couldn’t keep them. The Metropolitan Council will allocate these credits to approved developers in the area.Minneapolis principal planner Haila Maze said the city is using the sewers as motivation because planners have identified Prospect Park as a high-priority redevelopment area for decades.“We have to keep growing and investing in our city,” she said. “A city can’t remain static.”When it comes to incentives, Maze said, sewer credits are rare because they can only transfer to new developers in phased developments, like the ones in Prospect Park.“There’s not a whole lot of things that work quite like this,” Maze said.Local nonprofit Prospect Park 2020 is in charge of creating a framework for incoming projects. Continue Reading

Regulatory blind spot at the Public Utilities Commission

Last June, over half of a million Minnesota residents lost power after a storm swept through the state. Many went days without electricity. Yet this outage, along with many others caused by major weather events across the state will be nearly ignored as the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reviews the reliability of Minnesota’s investor-owned utilities electric service. Continue Reading

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Zombie apocalypses and other stormy tales

As a certifiable disciple of zombies and imaginary apocalypses, I often pose questions about the End of Times to T. My favorite is, “Which stores would you loot if the zombies were coming?” We pretty much agree on the pilfering route we’d take. We’d start at the sturdy hardware store across the street from our house, loading up on tools and camping items and food that has a mid-century expiration date. Then we’d move on to the pawn shop a few blocks down the road. They advertise “GUNS! WEAPONS! AMMO!” Not being a gun toter, I suppose if the zombies do make it to the Twin Cities I’ll have to stifle my inner pacifist and learn to lock and load. Then, time allowing, we’d make a final run to stock up on groceries, pharmaceuticals, sundries, and liquor. Maybe we’d grab some smokes to use as trade leverage (isn’t that what they use in prison?). Continue Reading