MnDOT High Bridge / Smith Avenue workshop to be held August 24

The first of three public meetings on the Smith Avenue / High Bridge reconstruction project will be held Monday August 24, from 5-7 p.m., at Bad Weather Brewery at 414 W. 7th. (never heard of it? It’s in the former repair shop space at Smith and McBoal, across from DiGidio’s).

Two additional workshops will be held on the West Side and in Mendota Heights, information will be posted here as soon as they are scheduled.

Full news release is pasted below. Please help spread the word!

The public is invited to learn and provide input about future improvements to Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Mendota Heights at a community workshop scheduled for Aug. 24.

The workshop will be held from 5 – 7 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewery, 414 West Seventh Street in St. Paul.

The proposed project is scheduled for spring 2018 through fall 2018. Work includes:

  • Reconstructing the bridge deck of the Smith Avenue High Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

The project will extend the lifespan of Highway 149 and the High Bridge, and provide a smoother road surface and improved ride for motorists.

This work is expected to result in the complete closure of the High Bridge for one construction season.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the overall project, get details about specific project elements and provide feedback on potential improvements to the High Bridge, Smith Avenue and Dodd Road. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and project staff will be on hand to answer questions and gather input.

Two additional project workshops will be held in the coming months. Times and dates will be announced when they are finalized.

Please visit the project website for upcoming event dates and times, in addition to project updates, at www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, call 651-366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call 651-366-4718; the Minnesota Relay service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529) TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to adarequest.dot@state.mn.us.

High Bridge / Smith Ave project: Here’s how you can get involved

This image from MnDOT shows the deteriorating underside of the High Bridge.

This image from MnDOT shows the deteriorating underside of the High Bridge.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the High Bridge will be closing for a couple of months in 2018 (news outlets have been reporting 2017, but the date has been pushed back). The decking on the bridge needs to be replaced — no small project — and while they’re at it, MnDOT is going to go ahead and do some resurfacing of Highway 149, including Smith Avenue.

You may also be aware that around five years ago, a group of neighborhood volunteers from both St. Paul and West St. Paul endured eagerly participated in more than a year’s worth of meetings to establish a new comprehensive plan for the Smith Avenue corridor (disclosure: the writer of this post was a participant). The transportation section of the plan included provisions for improving pedestrian safety and calming traffic, addressing one of the biggest concerns for business owners and residents along the street.

The previous plan was drafted in 1984 and was basically ignored for more than two decades. This time around, though, would be completely different, we were assured. Next time the street is reconstructed, big changes would be coming.

So does this construction project mean the plan will finally be implemented? Well, maybe, maybe not.

For instance, while the comprehensive plan calls for “bump-outs” at key intersections throughout the corridor to make it safer for pedestrians to cross and to encourage drivers to keep it somewhat close to the speed limit, so far it appears only one intersection — Baker Street — is being considered for this upgrade (details on page 184 of this document). The plan calls for updating any non-ADA compliant sidewalk, which means a lot of curb corners are going to be replaced, so any changes (or lack of changes) made during this project are likely to stick around for a long time.

Tara McBride, the MnDOT engineer in charge of the project, cautions that this is “a repaving of the road, not a complete reconstruction,” so opportunities for significant upgrades may be limited. But McBride has recently reviewed the Smith Avenue plan (at the prompting of Christine Shyne from WSCO) and says “we are looking at the entire corridor to see what pedestrian and bicycle improvements can be made as part of this project to address Complete Streets.”

You’ll have a chance soon to offer more input. MnDOT is scheduling community meetings at both ends of the bridge in August and September. We’ll post more information here as it becomes available.

Also, you can sign up for email updates from MnDOT about the project.

Art on the Avenue Performance Schedule

Here is a schedule of the music and performances at this year’s Art on the Avenue:
July 25, 2015 3:00pm-8:00pm Saint Paul – West Saint Paul

Metric Auto Parts Music Tent – 550 Smith-St. Paul
3:30-5:00pm – Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, performances
and Instrument Petting Zoo
5:30-5:30pm – Joe Fillipovich Free Harmonica Workshop
5:30-7:00 – Joe Fillipovich: Blues

Cafe Corner Music & Art Tent – Baker and Smith – St. Paul
3:00-5:00 –  Babatunde Lea: African Drumming
5:30-7:30pm – Mira & Tom Kehoe with Xibaba: Brazilian & World Music

Capital Deals – 710 Smith
8:00pm – Bicycle Scavenger Hunt
Registration starts at 7:30pm. Bring: Bike, helmet camera or smart phone to take pictures of items on the scavenger hunt list. Kids must be accompanied by an adult!

788 Smith (Vacant Lot) – St. Paul
7:30pm Danza Mexica Cuahtemoe: Drumming and Dancing

Amore Coffee – West Saint Paul
7:00pm – Music by Joel Thune

Music on Smith – West Saint Paul
5:00pm – Swamp Brothers
6:00pm – Patrick Mager

Albert Park – West Saint Paul
4:00pm – Edgar lee

Smith and Butler – West Saint Paul
7:00pm – Kids Color Dash

Dodd Park – West Saint Paul
5:00pm – Tricia and the Toonies: Music, Puppets, and More!
8:00pm – Movie: Big Hero 6

Plus! Check out all the great art and interactive activities, starting at 3pm in Saint Paul and 4pm in West Saint Paul!  Download the map: Art on the Avenue Page

Call to Artists-Art on the Avenue

Art on the Avenue
A place inspired event celebrating the intersections between local business, community members, and artists.

Art Ave14 Logo

  • Entries Due: June 26th
  • Event Date: July 25, 2015

CALL TO ARTISTS
West Side Community Organization (WSCO) is looking for artists to participate in the 3rd annual Art on the Avenue (AoA) 2015. AoA will take place from 3-8pm on the West Side Neighborhood of Saint Paul, MN. AoA is a community art festival that aims to activate the indoor and outdoor spaces on Smith Avenue, from the High Bridge in St Paul to Dodd Road in West St Paul.

We are looking for all types of artists working with all types of media. Possible options for artists participation: community engaged take-away project, performance, music, dance, placemaking, live art making, straightforward gallery exhibition inside a local business, outdoor sales/display tents, etc.

Mini-grants may be available for creative placemaking artists. AoA wants to encourage artists to try something different; artists work samples don’t have to match what they are proposing. Projects need to have a presence at Art on the Avenue, but can begin in the weeks leading up to July 25th and can happen anywhere on the West Side. Additionally, artists that install work in local businesses may be able to display for a longer duration than July 25th.

Artists will be supported through the entire process by Artist Organizer Sara K Udvig.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Please submit the following via email to sara@wsco.org
Note: All types of media are welcome and encouraged, however some business/artist collaborative spaces will necessitate certain parameters.

  1. Paragraph or two introducing yourself as an artist or artist team answering the following questions: What do you do? What are you interested in? What is your connection to St. Paul, the High-bridge, Smith Avenue or the West Side Neighborhood? What are you proposing for AoA? What would be the ideal space for your work? What is your past experience with this type of work?
  2. 5 digital images of your work*, or for performing artists-links to an online portfolio.
  3. Artist Resume

*if you are an artists trying placemaking or community engaged work for the first time, submit a sketch or images representative of the type of work you intend to carryout.

DETAILS

Entry Requirements: There is no entry fee, but artists *must be able to install their work.
*Assistance will be provided for PWD, please indicate needs.
Timeline: July 25, 2015 (possibility to extend per agreement with business)
Installation will take place:  TBD
Entries Due: June 26, 2015
Selection Process: Selection is first come, first serve. We will match you with an appropriate business owner to work with.
Notification to artist:  July 6
Artist Mixers: TBD
Event Day: July 25, Installation period will be determined with the aid of WSCO Artist Organizer
Pickup Artwork by: TBD
Sales: Artists will receive %100 of sales and be responsible for %100 of negotiations
Contact: Artist Organizer- Sara K Udvig, West Side Community Organization, sara@wsco.org

Update on the Mohawk Theater (is it for sale or isn’t it?)

photo(3)

If you’ve been by the Mohawk Theater lately, you’ve probably noticed some signs of activity. The “for sale” signs have come down, the doors have been painted red, and there’s a dumpster bag full of construction debris in the alley.

I hate burying the lede, so before you get your hopes up: The theater is up for sale again. maybe up for sale or maybe it isn’t. Not for sale anymore.

If you’re just catching up, the theater was seized by Ramsey County for back taxes back in 2013. The property failed to sell at auction last spring for $340,000, and again failed to sell at a September auction for $225,200.

However, according to a source at the county, the building was purchased by an entity called Beeldaaje First Properties LLC a week after the auction (tax-forfeit properties that don’t sell at auction remain available at the low-bid price, so we’re assuming it was purchased for $225,200).

Beeldaaje First is owned by a guy in Eagan, I was able to track down an email address and have attempted to contact him, but haven’t heard anything back yet. The clerk at Ramsey County is pretty sure he’s planning to resell (a very safe guess considering there’s an active real estate listing). but now he appears to have changed his mind.

So, Smith Avenue’s most prominent architectural landmark can be yours for $299,900. The listing has some additional photos of the interior if you’ve ever been curious about what it looks like on the inside.

UPDATE #1: Some conflicting reports now as to whether or not the building is actually for sale. I’ve got a call into the realtor, will update soon.

UPDATE #2: A neighboring business owner says the new theater owner’s plan to sell or rent the building has run into code and permitting snags. At this point, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the new owner doesn’t want to sell because he’s has now invested a lot of money bringing the building up to code. He instead wants to develop some sort of community center and/or rental hall. Still waiting to hear back.

UPDATE #3: The listing agent has confirmed that the property is no longer for sale. A couple of interested buyers had previously contacted the city about a liquor license but there are no more available in Ward 2, so that essentially eliminates any restaurant/bar-type usages unless someone else gives up their license or the city changes the charter.

Also, while the back taxes on the property were forgiven as part of the foreclosure sale, the owner must start paying current taxes (around $7,000/year) in May.

Oxendale’s has big plans for former Jim’s Market

bakery

Oxendale’s Market in Minneapolis

The grocery store at Smith and Dodd is changing hands for the second time in five years, but this time the owners are a little closer to home.

Oxendale’s Market, a grocery store serving the Nokomis neighborhood in Minneapolis, began operating the store as of November 1. The previous owner, Jim’s Market, was a rural chain based in central Minnesota.

Ray Oxendale, the retired owner of the Nokomis store (now run by his son, Neil), says there are big — but gradual — changes ahead for the West St. Paul store.

“Whatever they see at this [Nokomis] store, we’re going to try to have there.”

That includes more organic produce and local products, Ray says. The Nokomis store also has an in-house butcher shop, bulk goods (such as grains and dried beans) and a floral department. Local products carried at the store include Thousand Hills beef, Cedar Summit dairy products, Peace Coffee, Ames Farm Honey and others.

The existing staff will stay in place.

Ray also anticipates extensive remodeling of the Smith Avenue store, a process they’ve undertaken over the course of about seven years at the Minneapolis location.

The family sees a lot of potential in the neighborhood, which Ray described as demographically similar to Nokomis, and which doesn’t have a lot of competition in the grocery sector: “there’s nothing nearby.”

We’re excited to see another growing business set up in the neighborhood. You can find out more about Oxendale’s at their website or Facebook page.

[hat tip: Amanda Garza]