Your guide to the High Bridge grand opening December 2

While the new High Bridge has been open for a couple of weeks, an official celebration will take place tomorrow (also please note the bridge will be closed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Here’s the rundown:

1-2 p.m.: Ribbon cutting at the south end of the bridge

2-2:30 p.m.: Walk from the bridge to the Capital View Cafe

2-4 p.m.: Celebration at the Capital View with food, entertainment and prizes

On the north end of the bridge, Waldmann Brewery and Bad Weather Brewing are planning their own celebrations.

Bad Weather is offering $1 off beers all day and will launch its new West 7th Wit beer.

Waldmann is hosting a “Prost” Ribbon Cutting Party from 4-8 p.m. with an outdoor fire, a marshmallow bridge building project for kids, outdoor games and more.

Please come join us!

If you live in West St. Paul, you should probably vote in the primary election on August 14

A packed house at a recent candidate forum for Ward 3 city council candidates.

It’s an understatement to say that this year has been interesting for West St. Paul politics.

Earlier this year a dust-up over a committee appointment revealed a longstanding pattern of sexism directed at Mayor Jenny Halverson, the first woman to hold the post in the city’s history, as well as numerous other women who say they’ve been marginalized by their city council. The ensuing testimony spanned more than two hours and generated local and national media coverage.

In response to this, two women have stepped up to run for city council in Ward 3, which includes Smith Avenue. And in response to that, two men have stepped up in an effort to prevent them from succeeding.

One of those candidates, former mayor David Meisinger, has a documented history of sexist actions and other questionable behavior, as outlined by local blogger Kevin Hendricks. John Ramsay, another candidate in the race, has not condemned or disavowed those actions, and indeed the two candidates filed on the same day and have yard signs of the same design and typeface, suggesting the campaigns are clearly aligned.

The other candidates, Wendy Berry and Lisa Eng-Sarne, both decided to run in response to the treatment of Mayor Halverson. A commitment to a more transparent and inclusive city government is part of both candidate’s platforms. (Full disclosure: Ken Paulman, the author of this post, has volunteered for the Berry campaign)

As an example of this commitment, Eng-Sarne and Berry were the only candidates who committed to attend a recent candidate forum held at city hall (Berry had to change plans because of a death in the family, but later answered questions in a Facebook event). Meisinger said he had a conflict, Ramsay simply ignored the invitation.

And so this primary election is assuredly a referendum on sexism. But that’s not all it’s about.

As the High Bridge reopens this fall and a new high-profile restaurant arrives in the neighborhood, the Smith Avenue neighborhood is at a critical juncture. The neighborhood needs representation that will be responsive to citizens and attentive to community frameworks that have been developed in the past. How our city is represented to potential developers and prospective homeowners matters too.

This blog does not plan to endorse a particular candidate, but I encourage readers to research and reach out to the candidates and ask them about their vision for the neighborhood. Local elections have a major impact, and if you haven’t been paying attention in the past, there’s no time like the present to get involved.

Also, vote! First, determine if you live in Ward 3 (a roughly L-shaped swath including everything west of Charlton and everything south of Marie). Then, find your polling place or vote via absentee ballot at the Dakota County Services Center. You can only vote for one candidate, the top two will advance to the general election. This is a non-partisan race.

The primary is on August 14 and it’s very important you turn out. Here’s how to reach the candidates:

Wendy Berry: website | Facebook

Lisa Eng-Sarne: website | Facebook

David Meisinger: (no known campaign website or Facebook page)

John Ramsay: Facebook (no campaign website)

 

 

 

Brace yourselves: High Bridge to close Sept. 5

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(photo by jpellgen via Creative Commons)

It’s really happening – the High Bridge will officially close for construction in just a few weeks. Starting September 5 the bridge will shut down for 16 months so the deck can be rebuilt and reconfigured. In addition to being safe for continued automobile traffic, the new bridge will feature bike lanes and protected sidewalks.

The official detours will route northbound traffic to downtown via Robert Street, and southbound traffic to Interstate 35E and Highway 13. The section of Wabasha between Fillmore and Plato (just south of the bridge) is still closed and is not scheduled to be completed until October, but if you’re on foot or bike that’s still your best bet to get downtown (the Wabasha bridge itself is still open and can be accessed via Water Street).

This obviously will be an inconvenience, but given the scale of the project it’s not exactly apocalyptic. Google Maps estimates a trip from the Capital View Cafe to Bad Weather Brewing is about 3 minutes by car over the High Bridge. Routing through downtown via Robert Street turns that into a 14 minute trip, and when the Wabasha bridge reopens it goes down to 11 minutes.

If you’re going from the West Side to, say, Grand and Victoria, you go from a 7 minute trip with the bridge to 13 minutes via 35E (those times will obviously vary based on traffic conditions).

The project will also involve short-term closures of Shepherd and Lilydale roads along with the dog park and adjacent trails, details are on the project page.

MnDOT is holding two open houses this month to talk about the construction schedule and local impacts. The first will be Wednesday, August 16 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Capital View Cafe, the second will be Tuesday, August 22 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewing.

The work is currently scheduled to be completed in December 2018.

Update to the update on Smith Avenue construction

The city of St. Paul will continue to do water line replacements along Smith Avenue in the coming weeks. Once again this is not the impending High Bridge closure, which isn’t happening until fall.

Starting April 17th Smith will be closed from George to Cherokee, with official detours to side streets thusly:

Capture

The work is expected to last five days.

Crews will continue working their way up Smith with detours to side streets as appropriate (exact detour routes haven’t been worked out yet).

Update on Smith Avenue construction

By now you’ve probably noticed the road closure signs on the High Bridge. Fear not! The bridge is not closing early. Here is a statement from the city of St. Paul.

The city is closing a short section of Smith Avenue on the north end of the High Bridge as part of a lead replacement project. The bridge itself will not be closed. Smith Avenue will be closed from McBoal  Street to Cliff Street (two blocks) starting Monday, April 10 through April 17. Restoration will follow and the work should be finished by Wednesday, April 19.

There will be a short traffic detour from Smith Avenue using Cliff Street, St. Clair Avenue and West 7th Street. Here is a link to the city’s road closures map and list: https://www.stpaul.gov/residents/road-closures.

Once work is complete on the north end of the bridge, the city will move to the south side. They will be working in the area for a couple of months, most likely.

If you need further details, please contact Jodi Wallin with the city of St. Paul: jodi.wallin@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

Note that this is a city project, not MnDOT. Not clear yet if the work on the south side of the bridge will involve street closure but hope to have an update soon.

The closure of the High Bridge is still scheduled for later this fall.

Meet the candidates for West St. Paul city government

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As entertaining (?) as the presidential campaign can be, let’s not forget that local elections are important too.

Here is a link to last night’s candidate forum for West St. Paul. Remember that Smith Avenue and Dodd Road are scheduled for reconstruction by MnDOT in 2018, but any improvements/upgrades not directly related to the roadway or bringing sidewalks to basic ADA compliance will be up to the city. The Smith/Dodd corridor is in Ward 3, John Ramsay and Dave Napier are the candidates for that seat. Jenny Halverson is challenging David Meisinger for mayor.

To briefly recap the responses, Napier supports implementation of the city’s bike/pedestrian plan, Ramsay says because he and his immediate family seem to have no trouble getting around, he sees no reason to change the status quo.

Because of the timeframe for this project, this election could have implications for our neighborhood for decades to come. The choice is pretty clear, depending on whether you want to see changes or if you like things the way they are.

Please research the candidates carefully and choose wisely.

West St. Paul Days parade on Saturday: What you need to know

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 5.21.16 PM

Click here for a closer look at the map.

On Saturday, the Celebrate West St. Paul Days parade moves to Smith Avenue. Here are the details:

What time does the parade start? 1 p.m.

What time do the streets close? From roughly 12:30 to about 3 p.m., according to West St. Paul police. This includes the parade route, staging and breakdown areas, and side streets one block on either side. No parking will be allowed on the parade route starting Saturday morning. Signs will be posted as appropriate.

OMG, I live on the parade route, and I need to get to work! What do I do? Police will be flexible and allow people in and out as needed (you won’t be able to drive on Smith during the parade, though). If you *absolutely* need to get to your car during the parade, the smart thing to do would be to move it to a side street ahead of time.

I need to get to the store! What do I do? Police will be somewhat flexible allowing cars through on Dodd/Bernard to access the Doddway shopping center. But maybe get those errands done in the morning or save them for later.

What about the bus? The Route 67 bus will detour to Delaware Avenue, as shown in green on the map. Rider alerts will be posted at affected stops. This will be a good detour if you’re driving, too.

My family wants to ride our bikes to the parade, where can we park? There is only one bike rack in the area, on the south end of Doddway shopping center. Otherwise bring a cable lock and hope for an open signpost somewhere.

Speaking of parking: Please don’t park in business lots unless you’re shopping there. There’s ample street parking in the neighborhood.

Will there be food? Drinks? Yes! Stop by Amore Coffee, the Cherokee Tavern, Gallaghers or Los Arcos for sit-down dining/refreshments. Taste of Love will also have lots of treats, and Jim’s Market is also right on the parade route.

What else is there to do? West St. Paul Antiques, Simply Vintage, Eclectic 887 and other shops are also located on the parade route near Smith and Annapolis.

I heard the Cherokee is having a street dance on Friday. Will Smith Avenue be closed? No. There will be no street closures for the street dance, which will be held in the parking lot of Cherokee Dental on Annapolis.

Smith Avenue should do this sort of thing more often! Well, we are planning to hold Art on the Avenue again this year, on August 9th. We need volunteers to distribute flyers, email stubbornlylocal [at] gmail [dot] com if you’re interested in helping out. Thanks!

What about the other West St. Paul Days events? Full schedule can be found here.

The new thrift shop in town

thrift store door

[UPDATE: This store is now closed]

It looks pretty official that the St. Paul Classic Cookie Company won’t be opening up at Smith and Curtice after all – a new tenant has moved into the space and opened its doors to the public.

The 3T’s Thrift Store is now open at 779 Smith. The location was previously home Affordable Coffins and Artery, which left over a year ago for a bigger space in the Midway neighborhood. The cookie shop held a lease on the space for the past year, but unfortunately never got off the ground.

I stopped by on Sunday and spoke briefly with Trinidad, one of the owners of 3T’s. He’s excited about the space and the traffic he sees going by on Smith, but is also well aware that a similar store was in the space a few years ago and went out of business in a short amount of time.

He said the store will be getting more merchandise over time, possibly even appliances at some point. Most of the items he’s currently selling were donated from friends, recovered from storage units, etc.

thrift store

If you need a blender, an overhead projector and a wicker basket to take it all home in, this is your place.

The pickings are a little thin at the moment – it’s basically garage-sale merchandise, but also at garage-sale prices. Like all good thrift stores, the selection is eclectic, functional and useful to the right person. Most smaller items were in the $1-$3 range, a kid’s bike emblazoned with Minnesota Vikings logos was for sale for $35. Trinidad says he’s willing to negotiate on prices.

It’s hard to tell based on first impressions how successful this store will be. Trinidad, who lives nearby, says he’s putting “everything he has” into the business. The hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, are ambitious and will mean an “open” sign during times when most other shops in the area are closed (for instance, I Dream of Heels, next door, is only open on Saturdays).

At any rate – it’s good to see some activity inside a space that’s been dormant for far too long. Stop in and say hello if you get a chance.

West St. Paul Days parade coming to Smith Avenue

(Artist’s misconception)

Because of construction on Robert Street, the West St. Paul Days parade will be moving to Smith Avenue this year (and possibly for a couple of years after that).

The new proposed route will start at Charlton and Butler, travel down Butler to Smith, then follow Smith to Annapolis, ending at Charlton and Dodd (near Gallagher’s and Taste of Love). The parade takes place Saturday, May 18 17 at 1 p.m.

Informational meetings will be held at the Cherokee Tavern on March 18 for businesses and March 20 for the general public.

Haven’t seen any information on bus detours, but I have an inquiry into Metro Transit. I’ll post info as soon as I find out.

For more information, call 612-710-7043 or go to www.celebrateweststpaul.org.

map route

I can see my house from here: Neighborhood history revealed in aerial photos

The University of Minnesota has recently put thousands of historical aerial photos online, and a handful of the capture the Smith Avenue neighborhood at a time of historic transition.

The Minnesota Historical Aerial Photographs Online database has more than 113,000 images taken throughout the state over the past century. While not quite the same resolution as the satellite images we’re accustomed to today, the level of detail they reveal is remarkable.

I’ve posted some low-resolution screen captures below of some of the images depicting our neighborhood. You can click on some of the images to enlarge them a bit and explore in more detail. The links to the originals are also at the end of the post.

(Disclaimer – I’m not a historian. I’ve done my best to identify buildings based on what I know about their history, but feel free to correct or add additional information in the comments)

The earliest image in the dataset from our area is from 1923, showing part of the border area between St. Paul and West St. Paul:

1923 full

(click to enlarge)

For reference, I’ve zoomed in and labeled the portion around Smith and Annapolis:

1923 smith annapolis labeledThis shows the neighborhood in its youth. If you look closely you can see the building currently housing Amore Coffee (at the time, I believe, it was a drug store). At this point much of the area south of Annapolis is still farmland and orchards. You could buy a country house and still be walking distance to the streetcar. These were the suburbs of their day.

Fast forward to 1937, and we can see housing starting to move into West St. Paul (Annapolis Street is labeled). Much of the city’s walkable northern edge is taking shape, while the rest of the city remains largely rural. On this image you can see Robert Street, Thompson Lake on the right and Somerset Country Club on the lower left:

1937 full

(click to enlarge)

Zooming back onto Smith and Annapolis we can see how much has changed:

1937 smith annapolis labeledYou can see how quickly things changed in less than 15 years – the dirt paths, fields and orchards south of Annapolis are filled with new, tidy middle-class homes, and businesses are thriving at the streetcar terminus.

This image also gives us a look further up the street, at Smith and Baker:

1937 smith baker labeledAnother 1937 image includes part of downtown, decades before a big chunk of it was leveled by freeway construction and “urban renewal,” and back when Seven Corners actually had seven corners:

1937b full

(click to enlarge)

This view gives us a better look at the gas station that is currently home to Taste of Love bakery:

1937b smith annapolis doddAnd also the top of the High Bridge. You can’t see it here, but if you look at the original you can see the shadows of the bridge’s trellis supports over the Mississippi River.

1937b top of high bridgeAnyway. This is just a snapshot (pun intended) of what’s in the archive. There are more images of West St. Paul, including some shots of Robert Street in the 1950s, still wide open and rural, with nary a chain store in sight. Bill Lindeke of Streets.mn has used the database to show the evolution of the Ayd Mill Road/I-35E interchange (which provided the inspiration for this post).

I encourage you to check out the images for yourself and explore. Here are the links:

Minnesota Historical Aerial Photographs Online (full database)

1923 image of West St. Paul and the West Side

1923 image of the West Side

1937 image of West St. Paul

1937 image of the West Side