Business news briefs


Citgo closes to become Metro Petro; poles to be replaced for wi-fi; Seward Redesign gets new digs, SNG nerw office mates; Resource Center of Americas building to reopen

Prospect Park Citgo closes to become Metro Petro

As of Sunday, June 15, the independently owned Citgo gas station at 2700 University Ave. SE closed in preparation for the renovations owners Clay and Mia Lambert have long been waiting for.

Now called Metro Petro, the gas station will grow to 3,200 square feet in order to accommodate a grocery store, as well as an 88-foot soft-cloth tunnel conveyor car wash. Of course, there will be a full-service gas station with the added perks of free gas-pumping and oil-checking services. According to Clay Lambert, the new and improved Metro Petro will be the type of gas station business he has envisioned since his ownership in 2002.

“We’re going back to old-school,” he said. Lambert also said he has received widespread neighborhood support for the project.

Demolition began on Monday, June 19, and Lambert estimates that the renovations will finish in time for Metro Petro to reopen by mid-November.

Hayley Nelson

Small poles mean wireless delay in Prospect Park

One thing stands in the way of the completion of Minneapolis’ citywide wireless internet network: small utility poles.

Instead of big, wooden poles, smaller decorative posts line the streets of several neighborhoods, including Prospect Park, still waiting for service from USI Wireless, the network’s service provider. While the poles might please the eyes, they can’t hold equipment necessary for wireless access in the area, USI Wireless CEO Joe Caldwell said.

So far, about 2,600 poles in the city have radios affixed to allow wireless access, he said.

In July, the city will begin replacing about 140 incompatible poles, a process that’s expected to be done by the end of summer, said Lynn Willenbring, chief information officer for the City of Minneapolis, which will pick up the tab using funds set aside for the wireless project. The cost was unclear are the time of The Bridge’s interview with Willenbring.

Matt Laible, of the city’s Communications Department, explained that the small fiberglass poles will be temporarily replaced with wooden ones, in order to get the network running in the “challenge” areas by the end of summer. Eventually, the temporary poles will be replaced with larger, stronger ones that look similar to the original poles.

Caldwell said that all but 10 percent of the city is with service now. The service offers wireless service subscriptions for $19.95 a month, a price guaranteed for 10 years.

“Where it is up, and where people have proper equipment, it works just fine,” he said. “We’ve identified where every one of these poles have to be placed.” A compatible pole must be placed about every other block to ensure wireless access over the city’s 60 square miles.

But although the area not yet covered by the network makes up roughly 5.5 square miles, Caldwell said it’s bigger than that, in terms of population — all the more reason for the city and USI Wireless to deliver Internet service.

“From where people live, it’s probably 18–20 percent of [the population], so it makes all the economic sense in the world not to delay this,” he said.

Karlee Weinmann and Jeremy Stratton

Seward Redesign moves up Franklin Avenue; SNG leases vacated space

After a long process of planning, moving and renovating, the community development group Seward Redesign is happy with their new home in the building that used to house Smiley’s Clinic on the 2600 block of East Franklin Avenue. According to Development Project Manager Emily Wergin, the new location is easier to find than their old office, which was tucked away in the back of a building shared with the Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG).

“I think we’ll have a much more physical presence in the community now,” Wergin said.
For an organization that places its focus on neighborhood housing and commercial growth, being accessible to the public is certainly important. The building itself, however, is something to be proud of as well, said Wergin. Seward Redesign renovated the space to have an open feel that emphasizes natural light and a soft appearance, enhanced by operable windows and new wood floors. The wood floors were a luxury Seward Redesign felt fit their philosophy, Wergin says, in that they would be a nice addition to the building for future potential tenants.

“We felt like we were giving something back to the community in addition to getting something we liked,” she said.

A distinctive translucent ceiling-to-floor wall separates the offices from the conference room and can be moved manually to open up the space even more when meetings aren’t in session. Equally unique are the desks, Wergin pointed out, which, in a creative act of recycling, were made out of the doors that used to be a part of the old Smiley’s Clinic.

“It was an affordable way of having nice, quality desks,” she explained.

Seward Redesign shares the new building with Fast and Furless, a vegan boutique promoting a healthy lifestyle and accessories, shoes, and clothing that have not involved animal testing, as well as the Animal Rights Coalition, a subtenant of Fast and Furless. Articulture is also in negotiations to move to the building.

In addition to the new building, Seward Redesign has recently welcomed a summer intern to their space. Tim Weaver will be working with the Seward Civic and Commerce Association (SCCA) towards creating an updated business directory of the area. This is part of the SCCA’s efforts towards promoting community awareness and outreach to businesses that have either fallen off the radar or are new to the neighborhood.

“I am often surprised by how many businesses I encounter that I have never heard of before,” Wergin says.

In related news, two organizations have leased space vacated at 2323 E. Franklin Ave., which include the SNG offices. Sheldon Mains, SNG board chair, said that Common Cause, MN has restarted a local chapter in the building, and that Citizens for Election Integrity/MN has also moved in. Both have year leases and take up “most of the Redesign” space, said Mains, who credited SNG board member Charlie Hoffman with finding the tenants and working out the leases. SNG currently has one private office and space for contract staffer Bernie Waibel.

Mains said the new tenants help make the space affordable in the absence of Redesign.

“It’s definitely a relief,” he said.

Hayley Nelson and Jeremy Stratton

Resource Center of the Americas building to reopen

The building that housed the Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave. S., will reopen soon as the Mosaic of the Americas Building, according to a newsletter from Ward 9 City Council Member Gary Schiff’s office, which reports that the building has been purchased by Mosaic Properties.

Wilson Law Office, which specializes in immigration issues, moved into the building in June, and Schiff’s newsletter quotes Mosaic Properties owner Mark Thistle as saying the Resource Center of the Americas will return as a tenant in the basement level. The center — which focused on Latin American issues and immigration and included a bookstore, café and language classes — closed in August 2007.

Mosaic hopes to open a café or sandwich shop and incorporate the existing courtyard as outdoor seating. Near the small courtyard, a south-facing exterior wall still sports a colorful mural, which the new owners say will be preserved. “The building is a landmark in the neighborhood. I was very excited when it became available for purchase, and I will continue to honor the tradition of the building,” said Thistle, according to Schiff’s newsletter.