One year along the Green Line: Barbeque thrives, but not because of the light rail

I called Ron Whyte, one of the owners of Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned BBQ on University Avenue in St. Paul. I was trying to ask him how the trains of the Green Line had affected his business since the line opened a little more than a year ago. It was mid-afternoon, and he was behind the counter.

“Call after 6:00 pm, when we’re closed,” he told me. “I can’t talk. We keep getting customers.”

Big Daddy’s BBQ is doing well. The success is less about the Green Line and more about entrepreneurship, but the spark for the new success came from the new light rail just outside their door. 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

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

Connecting around equitable transit and safe, livable communities

The District Councils Collaborative (DCC) of St. Paul and Minneapolis is all about connecting and engaging members of communities along the Central Corridor, ensuring that residents and business owners’ voices and concerns are heard so that the new light rail green line benefits everyone. At a Twin Cities Media Alliance-sponsored Get Connected! event held on September 18, DCC’s executive director, Carol Swenson, explained that the organization has been active in environmental review processes and the Stops for Us campaign, which added three stops to the line. DCC, which represents the coming together of all St. Continue Reading

A head start in St. Paul: Model Cities’ Central Corridor development plan

As planning begins along the Central Corridor, Model Cities wants to get a head start. Their latest project, which is in the first developing stages, is a mixed-use project that will include affordable housing along Central Corridor on University Avenue. According to the CEO of Model Cities Dr. Beverley Hawkins, they are looking at addresses 773-785 on University Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Dale Street, which are currently vacant. So far they have site control of two of these sites, 773 and 785, which they have acquired through their own funds. Model Cities is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) based in St. Continue Reading