Stakeholders divide over Dinkytown preservation

Homeowners favor, landlords oppose, and business owners appear mixed on whether portions Dinkytown should be declared a historic district in the four blocks across University Avenue from the original entrance to the University of Minnesota in Southeast Minneapolis. Their debate is over the “Dinkytown Historic District Designation Study” written by Minneapolis planners that will be considered by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission on June 9 and by the City Council, probably in July. The HPC’s public hearing will be at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, in Room 317, Minneapolis City Hall.

Principal city planner Haila Maze presented the report to the board of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association on May 19, which voted unanimously to support historic designation of the district, and to the Dinkytown Business Alliance on May 21, which rejected the idea after much discussion.

In February 2014, the HPC imposed a moratorium on development in Dinkytown pending a study to determine whether some of the area is historically significant and worthy of preservation. The city’s Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) posted its study and solicited public input from April 20 through May 25 . Additional comments may be still submitted to be included with the appendices. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The Big E sizes up MN GOP candidates

The Big E, confessing to Minnesita Progressive Project (MPP) readers and contributers, recently wrote that his heart no longer pines to hose down right wing sparkle ponies like Michele Bachmann or even review books by the likes of a Keith Ellison.  The Big E (known to his Minneapolis neighbors as Eric Pusey), is the founding scold of the MPP lefty sentry post and appears on the current edition of Democratic Visions as he retires from political blogging. After a moment of posing as a weary blogosphere elder  (as if blogging was old enough to earn elders), the smart, liberal confederate, prompted by an actual DFL elder,  Tim O’Brien, shines with bemused and bewildered takes on the current state of the Minnesota Republican Party and its clownish, hopeful State and Congressional candidates.   Mr. Pusey, who has splashed gleefully in the rushing stream of blogs, Tweets, Facebook twerking and probably Skype, does quite well in the “legacy” medium of television where I operate.  Fox Nine News knew that and for a while put him on from time-to-time.  But the Fox 9 News producers didn’t have the cojones to make him a regular pundit.   Too bad.  Mr. Pusey has good chemistry. This ten-minute Eric and Tim segment is yours to consider.  Its “tagged” (the TV producer’s sense of the word) with an homage to the late, great, populist troubadour Pete Seeger and Twin Cities activism thanks to the air guitar wonders -The Junk Yard Democrats, a peoples’ anthem, and creative editing.  Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Democratic Visions February Segments Ex-blogger Eric Pusey and Tim O’Brien on senate and gubernatorial hopefuls.Jon Spayde as a clinically depressed motivational speaker with advice for Republican hopefuls.I report on the DFL 48 Precinct Caucuses and present an award winning short film making change. Democratic Visions is handcrafted by Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka volunteer Democrats at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission. Democratic Visions Cable ScheduleMinneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.; Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. The entire Feburary program and 183 archived Dem Vis segments can be seen on the Democratic Visions Channel on YouTube. Democratic Visions has become the  liveliest political issues show in Minnesota.   I know.  I produce the darned thing.   Continue Reading

Leather pro, Vietnam vet, Girl Scout leader, friend: Remembering Tom the Tailor

Leather biker jackets far outnumbered suits and ties while motorcycles—ranging from scooters to rare classics—crowded cars out of the chapel parking lot as about 150 people gathered Saturday, September 28, to remember the life of Thomas E. Dale.Known as Tom the Tailor around Dinkytown, Mr. Dale died of an apparent heart attack in his sleep Tuesday night, September 24, 2013. He was 63.“It’s way too early for someone so vital to go,” said Michael Trittipo, a neighbor and friend. “It’s just such a big loss for the community. Tom knew everybody, and he was always helping out, like helping out with the Girl Scouts when they needed a leader.”Local residents remember Dale as a businessman, a leather artist, and motorcycle rider and would not necessarily think of him as a Girl Scout leader, Trittipo said.At his memorial, though, several tearful young women in their late 20s mourned the passing of Dale, whom they described as a “second father.”One of them, Lindsay Moody, whose mother was a scout leader with Tom, recalled selling Girl Scout cookies. “I remember that Tom always sold ten times as many cookies as anybody else because he knew so many people,” Moody said.Tom Dale’s daughter, Kaycie Dale, spoke at the visitation and recalled activities and road trips they did together.Tom Dale worked as Tom the Tailor for 34 years and six months, from April 1979 until his death. Continue Reading

2013 Minneapolis Underground Film Festival lineup is a mixed bag, but with one must-see

When I asked Minneapolis Underground Film Festival (MUFF) program director Mark Hanson to mention one of the biggest challenges in gearing up for the sixth annual MUFF, he said, “Well, our mascot is this big gorilla costume and its head may not fit in any of the cars we’re using for the festival.”I laughed, as did Hanson, but then he replied, “We’re having the festival at St. Anthony Main again, but our festival last year was in August, and we’ve moved it to October, where I think it’ll be for the years to come.” He mentioned the theater went going through some remodeling. “We didn’t know when we could get in there, so we were waiting to find out, when we could have the festival, and once we got our dates, we were racing to get everything put together.” Yes, putting a film festival together has its ups and downs. MUFF, which takes place October 3-6, started as a “word-of-mouth” festival and has now brought in some top-notch “underground” films to Minneapolis. What’s “underground”? Continue Reading

Emerald ash borer threatening to make Minneapolis streets look “like parking lots”

50 University of Minnesota students joined park officials and neighborhood residents on Sunday, September 22, to raise awareness of the emerald ash borer (EAB) that threatens to kill as many as 20 percent of the trees in Minneapolis.Students tied green ribbons around ash trees on boulevards and in other public areas to call attention to the problem and to identify trees that may have to be removed if the emerald ash borer infests trees in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.Green ribbons had already been attached to ash trees in other parts of the city, including Northeast Minneapolis.The ribbons will raise awareness and direct residents to the city’s website for more information on how to handle trees in their own yards, said Mary O’Neill, a seasonal forestry worker for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. (Information is also available from the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources, and Michigan State University.)O’Neill and members of Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association briefed the students on how to identify ash trees and passed out a map showing the location of neighborhood ash trees on city property.Although the city replaced elm trees with a more a diverse “urban forest” during the Dutch elm infestation several years ago, the diversity was citywide rather than on each block, said Craig Pinkalla, an arborist for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.Some blocks may all have ash trees and some others may have all maple trees—another susceptible species—he said.“In some areas, streets and boulevards with a canopy of green trees today could end up looking like parking lots without their ash trees,” Pinkalla said.“This crisis could provide an opportunity to plant a greater diversity of trees in each area,” he said. “When trees are taken out because of EAB, they will be replaced with a more diverse canopy.”The green ribbons demonstrate a concentration of ash trees along Main Street and University Avenue, but Pinkalla and O’Neill said the city will replace the ash trees gradually so they are not all removed at once—unless an infestation creates a crisis.To protect their trees, residents can have their trees inoculated to discourage the emerald ash beetle—just as some people get flu shots. Like flu shots, these inoculations may have to be administered annually.Kelly Phillips, who lives at Second Avenue and Sixth Street Southeast, treated several of his trees.“I didn’t want to lose them,” said Phillips, a Marcy-Holmes board member. “Losing them would dramatically change the appearance of our street.”Pinkala said what homeowners do with their trees is a matter of individual conscience. Continue Reading

Marcy-Holmes residents block proposed sound walls along I-35W in Minneapolis

Controversial sound barrier walls will not be built along I-35W in the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods—after an election process that would make Rube Goldberg cringe.The 20-foot sound walls had been proposed as part of a construction project that will add two lanes to I-35W from Fourth Street South across the Mississippi River to Johnson Street Northeast, passing through sections of the Marcy-Holmes, Southeast Como, and Beltrami neighborhoods.State and federal rules require sound walls for projects of this magnitude but allow the state to create a voting process for neighbors to reject or approve them.Neighborhood leaders say the system was weighted in favor of building sound walls, making it difficult to reject them.Cordelia Pierson, newly elected president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA), said the campaign required strategic planning. She and MHNA staff Melissa Bean distributed lawn signs throughout the neighborhood asking residents to vote against the walls.They encouraged word-of-mouth contacts because only certain residents and landlords could vote and votes were weighted by occupancy and a transportation department projection of how much the property would benefit from a sound reduction.Vacant properties that did not return the mail ballots would count as “yes” votes. “That must be a bureaucratic mistake that needs to be corrected,” Pierson said.Pierson said she’d like to build on the momentum that MHNA has gained from organizing to oppose the sound walls.“It’s always easier to get people out to oppose something, but building on something positive is more difficult,” she said.She suggested that an additional bridge across the interstate at Fifth Street or Sixth Street Southeast would reconnect the neighborhood divided by the interstate highway in the late 1960s.The sound walls would have visually re-enforced that division, Pierson said.Marcy-Holmes had distributed black-and-white lawn signs that were seen throughout the neighborhood saying: “VOTE NO/ on I-35W Sound Walls/ will further divide our neighborhood/ will hurt our quality of life/ will cost taxpayers millions/ will not significantly reduce noise.”They began putting bright yellow diamonds over the signs proclaiming victory: “WE WON! No walls will be built here/ Thank you.”The highway expansion is designed to reduce congestion created by people leaving downtown to drive north on I-35W from Washington Avenue. The addition of a lane from Fourth Street downtown near the Metrodome would reduce traffic turning from Washington Avenue during games and rush hour.         The project will also reconfigure the Johnson Street, New Brighton, and Stinson Boulevard exits on the north end of the expansion.Both Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Minneapolis City Council Member Diane Hofstede said they were “blind-sided” when informed of the required $3 million wall after they had already approved a $13.4 million highway project involving the city, county, and state governments.“We had committed to keep that vote open until we receive 50 percent one way or other,” said Scott Pedersen, project manager for MnDOT. Continue Reading

Minneapolis City Council rejects moratorium on Dinkytown development

The Minneapolis City Council, with a tie vote of 6-6 on August 30, rejected a proposed moratorium on the four-block core of the Dinkytown business district adjacent to the University of Minnesota.Council Member Diane Hofstede had proposed the six-month moratorium to allow time for the Dinkytown Business Association and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association to complete small-area plans before new development projects begin. Both associations had endorsed the moratorium.The moratorium’s failure allows a developer to proceed with plans for an apartment building in the traditionally small-scale business area.Kelly Doran, who was at the City Council meeting, will continue with a proposal to build a six-story mixed-use building that would replace two buildings that currently house Mesa Pizza by the Slice, Camdi Vietnamese restaurant, and other small businesses. The Doran development would require rezoning from C1 commercial to C3A mixed use.The plan, which he presented to a committee of the whole of the City Planning Commission Aug. 29, shows commercial space and parking on the ground level and 70 dwelling units, including 130 bedrooms, on the upper floors.“Dinkytown needs development,” Doran said after his presentation. “If we don’t do this development, Dinkytown will continue on a downward spiral.”An objective look at the buildings, including the rear of the buildings, would reveal the need for improvements, Doran said.He admitted that his plan might not displace the most needy buildings, but refused to comment on which buildings might be worse.Doran told the planning commission that none of the Dinkytown buildings has a historic designation, but he said he favors preserving Al’s Breakfast, the Varsity Theater, and the former drug store building that houses Loring Café.Ted Tucker, president of the planning commission, said he invited Doran to present his proposal, but he’d prefer a more informal conversation about the nature of Dinkytown and what his project would contribute to it.“This is a very complicated area,” Tucker said. Continue Reading

More development in Dinkytown? Public forum will address long-term plans

The future of Dinkytown will be the subject of a public forum on September 9, a meeting convened by those creating a small-area plan for the unique four-block business district adjacent to the University of Minnesota.Minneapolis city planner Haila R. Maze announced the meeting in an email to the community just days after a developer proposed a new mixed-use building on Fourth Street Southeast, Dinkytown’s main street.The meeting will begin with a 6 p.m. reception followed by a 6:30 p.m. presentation and open house in the Varsity Theater. The Dinkytown Business Association will host the meeting featuring Maze and City Council Member Diane Hofstede.Doran Companies has proposed a six-story, 70-unit apartment building with ground-level retail on Fourth Street between 13th and 14th Avenues, the Star Tribune reports.This project would fit on the south half of the block on which Opus Development has begun construction of a larger six-story mixed-use development along Fifth Street, taking land that housed the House of Hanson, Duffy’s Pizza, and parking lots.Some community and business leaders have proposed a moratorium on development in Dinkytown at least until the plan is completed.“The Dinkytown area has been experiencing a great deal of change and transition,” Maze said. “This has raised a number of important questions regarding the future of the area, and how important issues are being handled—including everything from community character to parking availability.”The meeting will provide an update on the planning process and seek public input on land use and development; parking and transportation; market conditions and trends; and preservation, design, and community character, Maze said.Hofstede, who is in a close re-election race, had proposed a delay of the Opus Development until the small-area plan is completed.Read our complete coverage of development in Dinkytown.Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Continue Reading