Cats of St. Paul get second chance at feline rescue

“It’s the people power here, I think, that makes a difference,” says Kelley Leaf, Community Relations Director of Feline Rescue, Inc.Yet despite the title, Leaf is not paid for her work; Feline Rescue is an all-volunteer no-kill feline rescue. Founded in 1997, the nonprofit houses and rehabilitates up to 70 cats at a time at its adoption center on Fairview, just north of University Avenue, in Saint Paul.The organization also maintains an extensive network of foster homes to care for kittens, whose special socialization needs require them not to be kept at the adoption center. In 2012, 277 cats were adopted from the rescue, making a dent in the hundreds of cats picked up by animal control each year in Saint Paul. This represented a 17% increase in adoptions over 2011, even as the shelter took in 10% more cats than over the previous year.Further helping to decrease the number of unwanted felines in the Twin Cities, Feline Rescue gets out into the community in partnership with MNSNAP and spays and neuters hundreds of feral cats (or as Leaf calls them, community cats). This year, a $24,000 grant is expected to increase the number of cats the organization can spay or neuter from the 719 ‘alterations’ performed last year.Those interested in adopting, volunteering or just visiting with the cats can stop by the adoption center seven days a week or visit the website at This is one of a number of articles produced by students at Macalester as part of a New Media class.CORRECTION: The official name of the organization is Feline Rescue, Inc.  Continue Reading

Buffalo Wild Wings on Snelling: Facebook fight, full house for Land Use Committee meeting

UPDATED 6/13/2013 (at bottom of article) | Will a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant on Snelling cause problems of traffic, noise, and “student bacchanalia?” More than 30 opponents who packed the March 12 Union Park District Council Land Use Committee meeting raised these and other concerns. The restaurant has started construction at the former Cheapo Records storefront at 80 N. Snelling, having received city approval for the site plan and zoning last year. The liquor license application that was before the Land Use Committee is the last remaining hurdle to the planned May opening.Heated discussion at the meeting followed Facebook debate at Citizens for A Better Snelling Avenue, a Facebook group created by Brian Quarstad on February 25.  Opponents and advocates of the chain have engaged in conversations on the pages of dueling Facebook groups that have been spirited and cutting at times, featuring personal attacks and controversy over the deletion of posts. Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) representatives at the meeting took questions and responded to proposals by members of Citizens for A Better Snelling Avenue to alleviate the impact of a development that they acknowledge is now inevitable.  Key measures included a fence along Ashland to discourage parking on that street, limiting the planned hours of operation (currently until 1 a.m. on weeknights), and furnishing the phone number of an on site manager to nearby residents — a longtime practice of nearby O’Gara’s.  The company made some concessions, agreeing to nix a sign facing Ashland, install a soundproofing system and bike racks, and limit smoking areas. Continue Reading

ReNewell Project aims to restore historic Saint Paul oak grove

As planning begins for this year’s Heartwood Festival, an unusual partnership between the city of Saint Paul, the University of Minnesota and the Hamline Midway Coalition has planted the seeds for the renewal of a historic oak grove in Newell Park. TheReNewell Project aims “to engage community members in Newell Park restoration each year during the Heartwood Festival,” according to Faith Krogstad, a community organizer with the Hamline Midway Coalition, which organizes the Heartwood Festival in Newell Park each year.Newell Park, wedged between Fairview and Pierce Butler, is host to a grove of more than 150 oak trees identified on the city’s landmark trees list. This grove was already established when the park was dedicated in 1908, one of the last native growths in Saint Paul of its kind.“Newell Park is one of the oldest parks, if not the oldest park, in the city, and it is very iconic for the old-growth oak trees that exist there,” said Brett Stadsvold, a natural resource technician with the City of Saint Paul’s forestry unit. “So it is very important to the community of Saint Paul to make sure that we have trees to replace the mature oak trees in the future… so that we have something new to take the place of anything that comes down.”“In terms of mass stands like Newell Park, there is nothing else that is part of the landmark tree program,” Stadsvold added.The seeds of the reNewell Project were really planted four years ago, when Chad Giblin of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Horticultural Science struck up a research partnership with the forestry unit of the Saint Paul’s Parks and Recreation department.“The main focus that we are looking at with our research partnership is ‘What can we do to get younger trees established in the parks, on the streets, in the city, or so forth,’” Giblin said. Continue Reading

Port Authority development on Pelham leaves lingering questions

After a lawsuit with the City of Saint Paul and vigorous community objections, construction is underway at Industrial Equities’ new 68,000 square foot office and warehouse building on the corner of Pelham and Wabash.  The conflict over plans for the site involved the St. Paul Port Authority, City Hall, the Union Park District Council, and other neighborhood groups.  In the wake of the Ramsey County District Court decision in favor of Industrial Equities, important questions remain for residents and businesses in the community.  How did the taxpayer-funded Port Authority come to support a for-profit business over the stated interests of community organizations and government?Most importantly, what is the bottom line? Continue Reading

Ax-Man Surplus: In spite of light rail, a family affair

Packed into an old building at the corner of University and Fry, Ax-Man Surplus does not seem particularly noteworthy from the outside. Walking in, a potential customer is bombarded with a number of seemingly unrelated items. Several mannequins are waiting to greet the customer, dressed in whatever clothes the staff found lying around. These and a number of other goods are for sale: a crate of bowling pins, a bike, a box of umbrellas, tiny bells, garbage cans, a very-used nightstand, several rolling chairs, a giant model horse with a saddle, a giant scale, and a can crusher. And this is just walking through the entrance.Ax-Man Surplus has lasted decades on University Avenue, now surviving light rail construction with the help of a unique approach to business and a loyal customer base.It is hard to explain exactly what it is that Ax-Man sells. The website describes it as “A second home for collectors, crafters, artists, and those who love to tinker” and “home to pretty much everything you never knew you couldn’t live without.”“No two days are the same, that’s for sure. Continue Reading

Far from gone: Graffiti in Hamline-Midway

Spraying graffiti on your own garage is not how most people would respond to tagging, but that’s just what Becky Johnson of Hamline-Midway did. On “the wall of illiteracy,” as she and her sons named it, they sprayed over previous vandals’ graffiti with a message that she recalls as something like, “’Please don’t tag us unless you want to be shamed.”It worked. Their family had six to eight months of a graffiti-free garage, not including their warning. Then, right as Johnson fell ill, the city insisted either she remove her own spray-paint from her garage or give them permission to do so. Within a week of the city painting over her message, fresh tags were back.Pam McCreary of the Saint Paul Police Department said she sees recent graffiti as being a product of gangs from across the country growing in Twin Cities neighborhoods. McCreary has been with SPPD’s crime prevention department for nearly 12 years. Continue Reading

Ten tips for creative placemaking emerge from Get Connected! meeting in St. Paul

Have you ever wondered what creative placemaking is? A top-ten how-to list from Jill Mazullo, Envision Minnesota’s director of communications and development, reveals what it is by describing how to do it: Go where the people are.Block off the street.Make it easy for people to come.Feed people.Show pictures of what’s possible.Have people vote with post-its.Give people something to do.Have fun projects for kids and grownups.Invest people in the outcome.Use social media to your advantage.Irrigate, an artist-led creative placemaking initiative that spans the Central Corridor Light Rail line in Saint Paul, gives a more formal definition of “placemaking” as, “The act of people coming together to change overlooked and undervalued public and shared spaces into welcoming places where community gathers, supports one another, and thrives.“ Placemaking can involve temporary activities such as performances and chalked poetry, or more permanent installations such as landscaping and unique art.Connecting over placemakingCreative placemaking was the focus of the final Twin Cities Media Alliance Get Connected! community meeting, held in partnership with Envision Minnesota at St. Paul’s Chatterbox Pub on October 30. Mazullo’s list comes from a blog she wrote about the event, synthesizing the lessons of the Charles Avenue Friendly Streets group.The Get Connected! event featured opening remarks by Mazullo and Envision’s executive director Lee Helgen. Most of the evening was devoted to presentations by Hamline Midway Coalition members Lars Christensen and Erin Pavlica, and Twin Cities Media Alliance neighborhood engagement coordinator, Marcos Lopez-Carlson.Lopez-Carlson, in his presentation, illustrated how blogging, Reddit, and other new media tools can play a major role in placemaking. Continue Reading

Minnesota Karen community celebrates warm St. Paul welcome

“Minnesota may be cold, but the hearts are warm,” said Priscilla Aung, one of the first Karen refugees to arrive in Minnesota more than ten years ago. Now, approximately 6,500 Karen live in the state, making St. Paul home to the fastest growing Karen population in the United States.The Karen are an ethnic group from the mountainous border region of Burma and Thailand, where they are the second largest ethnic group in each country. The community has suffered a tragic history of being persecuted by the Burmese military junta for over 60 years. Several hundred refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma, including the Kachin, Mon, and Shan, have also made Minnesota their home. Continue Reading