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Doug Verdier

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Minneapolis Riverfront News

Covering life, work, and play in the Historic Mill District and Downtown Minneapolis Riverfront neighborhoods. Have an opinion, local news or events to share?  Contact us.


Star Tribune Candidate Endorsements

Star Tribune endorsements from last week in the races affecting Downtown Minneapolis and adjacent neighborhoods:

Minneapolis is by no means a city in distress. But a sense that persistent problems are festering rather than being forcefully addressed afflicts the place that sets the pace for prosperity in Minnesota and the Twin Cities region.

In recent years, opportunities to acquire new civic assets and strengthen old alliances have been squandered; key constituencies say they have been excluded from decisionmaking; an uptick in violence threatens the vitality of the city’s showplace, its downtown; rising housing costs are eroding the sense that Minneapolis is a place where all are welcome and can succeed.

How to break through that malaise? Voters can start by electing a new mayor. We recommend first-choice votes for Jacob Frey in the Nov. 7 ranked-choice mayoral election. Read the Strib endorsement…

Incumbent, newcomer offer best mix of skills in First and Third Ward. Read the Strib endorsements…

Incumbents have the experience City Hall will need the next four years. Read the Strib endorsements…


Woodchuck plants a tree for every product sold

Article by Claudia Kittock, photos by Rick Kittock

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood? Remember that? Most of us used to enjoy trying to say this tongue twister and probably had no idea if there was any meaning behind this phrase. This week, I was excited to visit a vibrant company in Northeast Minneapolis named Woodchuck that is making wonderful products while helping the environment.

I first learned about Woodchuck from Michael Mader, founder of Hippy Feet. Michael introduced me to John Guenveur and suggested I interview him and go visit Woodchuck. I’m so glad I followed up.

John Guenveur holding a Wood Journal

Woodchuck was founded by Ben VandenWymelenberg while he was in college at the University of Minnesota. Ben was frustrated by a smart phone with a cracked screen and, as an architecture major, designed a case for the phone. He used a laser cutter to cut out a piece of sticky wood veneer that he attached to the back of the phone, reinforcing it. Friends noticed and wanted one, as did a buyer at Target. They offered to buy thousands for $6 each and then sell them at $19 retail. Family and friends lent Ben $60,000 to fill the Target order.

While Ben paid back his lenders, with interest, the experience with Target was a failure. As most small business owners discover, education happens through experience, and Woodchuck had succeeded in learning, but not monetarily.

Ben had been awarded a scholarship for graduate school to M.I.T. and now had to decide if he wanted to do that or start a business. While interning his senior year at the Minneapolis architectural firm Cuningham Group, he developed a relationship with the founder, John Cuningham. He asked Cuningham’s opinion, who responded, “He was a fine young architect, but if you heard him talk about his business aspirations…it was a no-brainer. Why go to graduate school. And, so far, that business has been a whirlwind. And he’s had the time of his life.”

About a year after Ben started Woodchuck, John Guenveur connected with him and asked if he needed help. John was working for Best Buy and studying business at Carlson. He wanted ‘real world’ experience and Woodchuck sounded like an interesting idea.

In the early years, Ben got the idea to plant a tree for every product Woodchuck sells. In early October of this year, the company planted its ceremonial 1 millionth tree. In addition to Minnesota and Iowa (141,462), their trees can be found in a number of countries, including: Madagascar (603,246), Indonesia (170,000), Nepal (90,000), Peru (4411), France (1176), and New Zealand (1000). If you're keeping score, that's seven countries, and a total of 1,011,286 trees.

Sales have doubled every year since 2012, and the mission of the company is to put nature back into peoples' lives. Per Ben, “We are meant to have a deep connection with the Earth, and we want to be a daily reminder of that with our real wood products. It's also important to us to bring jobs back to America, while bringing quality products back to consumers. With every product sold, we plant a tree. It's our way of making a better world for future generations. It's not about us, it's about our planet and how we can make a difference now.” 

Woodchuck is a terrific small, local business to check out. Their products are inventive, useful, and pretty. While often used in corporate gifting, the items are also very appropriate for individual use. Woodchuck employs local workers, and is dedicated to making the world better.

If all of this sounds exciting, you may want to get involved. Some of the best ways to support this fascinating company are:

• Learn more about Woodchuck, follow them on Facebook
Donate to their cause
• Visit their company at 610 9th Street NE, Suite 100, in Minneapolis.  It's right in our backyard!

Claudia can be reached at 


Stronger Together - Call for Neighborhood Support to Assure Mill City Youth Players Program Continued Success

by Claudia Kittock

The Mill City Youth Players program, sponsored by the Friends of the Mill District in partnership with the Guthrie Theater, is returning. Actors are drawn from YouthLink and from the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.  Rehearsals will begin the week of November 5 and will be held at the Guthrie from 4:30p-6:30p, twice a week through the end of January. The program will culminate with two performances in the Dowling theater.

There will be many more details as the program progresses, but there is an immediate need for help from the community. We are seeking community volunteers to provide meals at 6:30p on the nights of the rehearsals. There will be about 20 young people and when they finish rehearsing, they are famished! We invite people to volunteer to bring dinner for a rehearsal and/or be willing to supply snacks for our actors as they arrive at rehearsal.

If you are interested and can help, please contact Claudia Kittock at There will be at least three months of rehearsals, and your help is needed and greatly appreciated. If you can bring dinner, please plan to stay and eat with the actors. Listening to these talented young people talk about what they are doing is truly inspiring!


October 28 marked the close of the 2017 Mill City Farmers Market outdoor season

Scary good bread and freaky pumpkins marked the end of the 2017 outdoor Mill City Farmers Market season. The winter markets return November 11 inside the Mill City Museum. Click here for the 2017-2018 indoor winter market information.

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 28, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market


35W Bridge Aesthetic Lighting Replacement Project

I noticed a while back that the 35W Bridge went dark, so I checked out MnDOT's website to see what was up. I hope you're all as happy as I am to learn this is due to an Aesthetic Lighting Replacement Project, which is slated for completion on December 15, 2017. During this time, lighting on either side of the bridge will be turned off, including regularly scheduled special occasions.
Their website also states to expect temporary closures from late October to late November:
- Single lane closures on NB I-35W from 9am to 3pm and 8pm to 7am daily
- Single lane closures on SB I-35W from 9am to 3pm and 7pm to 6am daily
- Possible nighttime ramp closures from University Ave. to SB I-35W and Washington Ave. to NB I-35W


We were lucky to capture a number of photos of the bridge before the lights started burning out. The one below is from Halloween, 2011. We look forward to seeing the lights return to their former glory!


Met Council project work to close portion of Highway 55 in Minneapolis for two weeks beginning Oct. 30

Beginning Monday, Oct. 30, a quarter mile distance of Highway 55 just west of downtown Minneapolis between West Lyndale Avenue and Van White Boulevard will close for two weeks. Crews working on this Metropolitan Council project will replace a structurally deficient 130-year old storm sewer in anticipation of the Blue Line extension light rail line.

Traffic will be detoured to Highway 100 and Interstate 394 during construction. Local access will be maintained to the surrounding neighborhoods and Summit Academy OIC.  Access to existing polling locations will also not be impacted during the planned roadway detours.  A sidewalk along Highway 55 will remain open. Route 19 buses will be detoured around the closure area, and rider alerts will be posted at impacted bus stops.

For a detour map and construction information, see and Detour information is also available at for drivers, trail users and bus riders.


Road Closures for October 28 Halloween Half Marathon, 5K & 10K

Road closures for October 28, from 7:30am-12:00pm, for the Halloween Half Marathon, 5K & 10K:
West River Parkway - Plymouth Ave to E 42nd St
Main Street SE
Stone Arch Bridge

Free Coffee and Donuts on November 2 Kick Off the “Season of Giving” at Minneapolis Visitor Information

Via an October 25 e-newsletter from Meet Minneapolis:

Visitors will also enjoy shopping discounts and have an opportunity to learn how Hippy Feet Socks and YouthLink give to those in need.

As the season of giving approaches, Minneapolis Visitor Information (505 Nicollet Mall, Suite 100, directly across from the METRO Nicollet station) will provide complimentary tasty treats and an opportunity to learn about two local organizations – each whose mission includes giving to those in need.

As part of its “First Thursdays” event, individuals are welcome to stop by the Nicollet at 5th Street shop for free donuts from Cardigan Donuts and coffee from Caribou on Thursday, November 2 from 9am to Noon (while supplies last). After enjoying the light breakfast, consider shopping for gifts such as Hippy Feet Socks, where your purchase means warm feet for someone else, and be introduced to YouthLink, a program dedicated to providing aid and resources for homeless youth in the Twin Cities.


  • Free coffee and donuts (while supplies last)
  • Learn more about YouthLink’s efforts in the Minneapolis community
  • 15 percent off Hippy Feet socks (all day): For every pair purchased, a pair is donated to homeless shelters--socks are the least donated, but most needed, at shelters! 
  • 10 percent off all Love from Minneapolis retail store merchandise (all day, excludes transit sales)

First Thursdays are held each month to encourage residents, employees of downtown businesses and visitors to learn more about Minneapolis Visitor Information and its partners, Love from Minneapolis and Move Minneapolis, as well as highlight community organizations and events. Minneapolis Visitor Information is located at 505 Nicollet, Suite 100, directly across from the Nicollet METRO station.

For more information on First Thursdays events, go to:  


Minneapolis Visitor Information includes three services in one convenient location on Nicollet at 5th Street:                                                                 

  • Shop: Love From Minneapolis offers Minneapolis- and Minnesota-themed apparel, art, specialty foods, souvenirs and gifts, including many made by local artisans. Products are also available at:
  • Move: Move Minneapolis (formerly the Commuter Connection) provides services to commuters, carpool information, transit passes, schedules and maps, MnPass and bicycling commuting information and accessories. Visitors seeking help with transit options should make this their first stop downtown.
  • Find: Meet Minneapolis staff is available to answer questions, share visitor maps and provide suggestions about things to do in Minneapolis and the surrounding area. The Visitor Information Center in the Minneapolis Convention Center also is available to provide similar information to visitors and convention attendees.


Meet Minneapolis is a private, not-for-profit, member-based association. It actively promotes and sells the Minneapolis area as a destination for conventions and meetings, works to maximize the visitor experience and markets the city as a desirable tourist destination to maximize the economic benefit to the greater Minneapolis area.

Meet Minneapolis is accredited by the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) of the Destinations International.


November 9 Open House for Update on Water Works Project

Open House planned to discuss progression of project design, programming, food vendor and schedule

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is hosting an open house to give an update on the Water Works project on Thursday, Nov. 9, 6-8 pm at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 40 Power Street.

At 6:15 pm, members of the Water Works project team will give a brief presentation highlighting features of the park project design and give general project updates. Also, Frank Haney, culinary ethnobotanist and Indigenous chef from The Sioux Chef team, will be present to discuss the food concept selected for the indoor pavilion at Water Works. Limited samples of The Sioux Chef food will be available.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Minneapolis Parks Foundation (MPF) invite all interested members of the public to attend and comment on the Water Works project. Families are welcome!

About this project

Water Works is a transformative park development project on the downtown side of St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge that will bring significant new historic, cultural, and recreational amenities to the Central Riverfront.


Restoration of Hall’s Island Along Northeast Minneapolis Riverfront Begins in November

Scherer site concept renderingAn illustration showing the completed plans for Hall's Island. The island will remain off-limits to people during this first phase to allow plants and wildlife habitat to establish.


Work to carve back channel, build out island will take place over next 6-8 months at Scherer site


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) announced construction begins in November on a project that will restore Hall's Island along the Northeast Minneapolis riverfront. Work will be based out of the Scherer site, an 11-acre piece of land directly north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge that was purchased by the MPRB in 2010.

Restoring Hall’s Island will be an important milestone in the long-term vision laid out for Upper Riverfront in RiverFirst and Above the Falls Master Plan. These plans call for the incremental transformation of more than 11 miles of largely inaccessible shoreline degraded through decades of industrial use into an ecologically valuable network of parkland and trails.

Work to construct the island will include expanding the existing shoreline into the river and carving out a back channel through the Scherer site to form the island. This phase of the project is expected to last up to eight months.


 Hall's Island aerial image collageAn aerial image collage showing past and future land use at the Hall's Island / Scherer site



Hall's Island History and Upcoming Work

The island shows up on the earliest known survey (1895) of the Mississippi River through Minneapolis. The City of Minneapolis operated a bath house on the island from 1905 to 1926. Hall’s Island was sold to Scherer Bros Lumber Co in 1963 and Scherer Bros filled the channel and connected the island to shore in 1966 to expand mill operations.

The MPRB purchased the Scherer site in 2010. From 2011 to 2013, a plan to restore the island and build a park on the adjacent shoreline was created and approved as part of RiverFirst and Above the Falls Master Plan. In 2013, the Minnesota State Legislature authorized a six-year window to restore Hall’s Island.

Since then, the MPRB and consultants conducted extensive environmental investigation and advanced design work to get the project permitted through the US Army Corps of Engineers, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Once restored, Hall’s Island will stretch from the northern edge of the Scherer site, extend south underneath the Plymouth Avenue Bridge and include the Boom Island Lighthouse at its southern tip. It will feature a sandy habitat beach (off-limits to people), rock ledges, basking logs, shrubs, plants, trees and prairie grasses.

The open water back channel will range from approximately 120 to 150 feet wide, with an average depth of approximately six feet during normal flow conditions. Materials placed in the back channel will provide high-quality habitat for native mussels.

Aerial photo of the Scherer site on October 24, 2017, before Hall's Island construction beginsAerial photo of the Scherer site before construction begins. Over winter workers will use clean fill to extend the shoreline into the river & carve a back channel through the pictured land.

Future Phases and Construction Impacts

Future phases of park development will include two pedestrian bridges connecting to the island from the Scherer site and a third bridge connecting to Boom Island Park, an elevated boardwalk on the island with observation platforms, and expanded riverfront trails across the mainland.

Construction is scheduled to start in November. Initial work will include soil remediation and site grading. The Mississippi East Bank Trail will close between Boom Island Park and Sheridan Memorial Park during most of the construction period and reopen next summer, when the project is scheduled to wrap up.

The trail detour reroutes pedestrians and bicyclists to Marshall Street NE between 8th Avenue NE and 13th Avenue NE.

To learn more about this project and others, visit


Preserve Minneapolis Seeks to Fill Open Seats on its Board of Directors

Preserve Minneapolis invites you to join their Board of Directors

Preserve Minneapolis has multiple open seats on its Board of Directors and is seeking applications from interested individuals. We have a particular need for persons with backgrounds in website design/maintenance and/or graphic design.

If you're passionate about, well, preservation in Minneapolis, we'd love to hear from you! To be considered, please send a letter of interest to Board Secretary Kelly Mastin at by Monday, November 6, 2017. 

In your letter, please include comments regarding:

• Your interest and/or background in preservation in Minneapolis (or elsewhere)
• How you could help the board and the organization in its mission to improve the quality of life in Minneapolis by recognizing, preserving, and revitalizing the architectural and related cultural resources of the city of Minneapolis
• Special skills, experience, or interests (etc.) that you would contribute to the board

These positions are for a three-year term, with the possibility of a longer-term extension. The Board meets every other month, in addition to the annual meeting. The current board of directors is listed on our web site.

We'd love to have you join us and look forward to hearing from you. Please share this information with anyone who may be interested in applying.

Get involved: Support Preserve Minneapolis with a donation or by volunteering

For the latest Preserve Minneapolis news and events, find us on Facebook.


C’est Chic Boutique Imports Clothes and Accessories from France

Article and photos by Merle Minda 

Want to dress like a Parisienne? You can, without traveling to France. Paris fashions, known world-wide as a city of best-dressed women and a spectacular fashion hub, can be had in the Minneapolis North Loop for a fraction of high-fashion pricing.

C’est Chic Boutique in the North LoopC’est Chic Boutique in the North Loop

Pam Pappas Stanoch opened C’est Chic Boutique eight years ago and has persevered through the ups and downs of North Loop shopping. This charming store, at 210 North 2nd Street in the Warehouse District, carries Pam’s determination to bring French fashion to Minneapolis.

Pam Pappas Stanoch, owner of C’est ChicPam herself has an interesting background, starting out teaching high school French; she is highly fluent in the language. Then, armed with a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Intercultural Communication, she morphed from teaching to starting her own global business based on cross-cultural training, a specialty she continues to this day. But always, in the midst of her global travels to such places as China, Singapore, Rwanda (both before and after the genocide), India, Brazil, and, of course, France, it was her heart’s desire to open a shop featuring French clothing in Minneapolis.

Helper Dina models a French lookHelper Dana models a French look

She chose a Paris model for what she wanted to create in Le Grain de Sable, (Grain of Sand), a small French shop on the Ile St. Louis in Paris. Starting out with this idea, C’est Chic now offers a range of French clothing and accessories for women, including dresses and coats, jackets, purses, fabulous hats and scarves. Pam does all her buying at the Salon, a fashion hub at Porte de Versailles in Paris. She shops twice a year, and looks for smaller and more original designers.

Black and red French-styleBlack and red French-style

“Some of these designers are really small; I like to find new designers before they get too big,” Pam notes. Many of her offerings are only available in the United States at C’est Chic. She has even added some products imported from Italy – beautiful Italian purses, for example. She also occasionally features local jewelry designers.

A gorgeous French wrapA gorgeous French wrap

Taupe anyone?But there’s more: Pam led a group of customers to Paris this year on a French shopping trip taking them to designer workshops and to her favorite spots in Paris. And C’est Chic regularly puts on special events in the shop for tips on putting a wardrobe together, such as how to work with colors besides black (“…Navy is the new black,” says Pam), how to accessorize, how to wear stripes, and even French make-up and skin care. Watch the website or get on the email list for these events because they fill up quickly. Keep watching the shop all during the year as Pam’s stock choices rotate with our Minnesota seasons.

Pam herself is a dynamo. Carrying on her world-wide cross-cultural training business and running C’est Chic Boutique adds up to more than two full-time jobs. Somehow she thrives on being the center of all this activity. Pam’s personal Christmas parties are legendary for their food, their French influence and her wide circle of friends, albeit husband Joe does most of the cooking! Pam’s warmth and enthusiasm imbues the C’est Chic shopping experience from the start; you might even be heard to say “Vive la France” before you leave.

C’est Chic Boutique is located at 210 North 2nd Street in the North Loop between 2nd and 3rd Avenue North. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11am – 6pm; Saturday, 10am-6pm; and Sunday, 12 noon to 5pm. Website is, or call the shop at 612-339-1600.

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About Merle Minda

Journalist and free-lance writer Merle Minda writes about travel, business, people profiles and other subjects for a number of national and regional publications, including Delta SKY, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business, Star Tribune, Twin Cities Statement, Minnesota Monthly, and now Mill City Times. She can be reached at or on the web.


Today's Pressing Question: Who Will Win the "How to Cook Minnesotan" Contest?

The entry deadline has passed (October 20), so now it's time to review the submissions and see if you can guess who the winners of the How to Cook Minnesotan contest will be! (If it were solely based on the recipe name, I'd say "Grain Belt Chicken" is a good bet.)

Categories included Hotdish (well, dah!), Bars and Wild Card. Mpls St Paul magazine Food and Dining editor, Steph March, will pick the top 3 winners soon, and you can view them here.


Traffic Alert - October 22 Vikings Game Street Closures Update

The City of Minneapolis will close streets around US Bank Stadium for Sunday’s Noon Minnesota Vikings game.

Beginning at 6:00am Sunday, the City will close:
• Chicago Avenue, from Fourth Street to Sixth Street.
• Norm McGrew Place from Third Street to Fourth Street.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, the City will close:
• Fourth Street from Park Avenue to Interstate 35W.

These street closings are for traffic safety and security needs related to a large stadium event. All streets will reopen about one hour after the completion of the game.

Metered spaces change for events
Prior to the game, metered parking spaces on streets surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium will switch from hourly rates to event rates. Starting at 9am, event rate spaces will require a flat fee of $25, which will cover parking costs for the entire game. Anyone starting a parking session after 1pm will use hourly rates. To find out which streets have event rate parking use the interactive parking meter map.

All of the City’s parking pay stations and the MPLS Parking app on a smartphone (iPhone or Android device) will automatically charge the rate in effect.

Drivers should follow all signed hours of enforcement, time limits and other parking restrictions. Please watch for heavy pedestrian traffic along streets close to the stadium.


The One That Got Away...

Rob Manning submitted these pictures he captured from the 3rd Avenue Bridge of a WaveRunner that got snagged on the Horseshoe Dam. He said he call called 911 this past weekend, and while law enforcement knew the craft was there, they said they have to wait until the current isn't as strong to attempt recovery.


Minneapolis Idea eXchange (MiX) 2017 Highlights Innovative Collaborations for the Greater Good and Inspires New Non-Profit and Business Connections

Via an October 17 News Release from the mpls downtown council:

The Minneapolis Idea eXchange (MiX), an initiative of the mpls downtown council’s Intersections: The Downtown 2025 Plan, will host its fourth annual gathering on Tuesday, October 24 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. at Brave New Workshop in downtown Minneapolis. Networking begins at 4:30 p.m., with the program beginning at 5:00 p.m. and concluding at 7:00. There will be an optional social activity from 7:00-7:30 p.m.

MiX is a place for people of all backgrounds and expertise to come together, meet one another and share ways we can better our community. MiX addresses major topics affecting our city in an interactive, engaging and entertaining way in an event that is free and open to the public.

REGISTER for MiX Minneapolis here:

This year’s event will highlight innovative collaborations for the greater good through case study discussions and an interactive session. Mix will feature leaders in Minneapolis who are doing remarkable things that connect people to causes, outreach to communities and goods to those in need with maximum impact. The panel discussion will include:

• Jim Delaney – Engine for Good (Moderator)
• Joy King – Be The Match
• Ravi Norman – Thor Construction
• Liz Tupper – Software for Good
• Tyler Van Eps – Matter NGA

“We’ve seen great growth in our downtown community, and part of that growth stems directly from innovative thinking that brings different business models together through unique partnerships,” mpls downtown council president and ceo Steve Cramer said. “MiX does a great job of celebrating innovation in our community, and this year’s program will again shed light on ways we can think outside the box about working together.”

MiX’s networking session will include food and drink to kick off the evening followed by the program, which will include a brief improv exercise led by Brave New Workshop’s Elena Imaretska. The evening’s panel conversation will dive into the evolution of greater good collaborations and provide attendees with an opportunity to model scenarios that can contribute to innovative ways to address Minneapolis’ challenges.

“MiX’s format offers a topic and invites the broader Minneapolis community to work together to create new approaches to problem-solving,” MiX co-chairs Eric Caugh and Jennifer Gilhoi said. “This year, we want to demonstrate how innovative leaders here in Minneapolis have created some very exciting models outside of traditional for-profit business and non-profit organization silos. We want to challenge attendees to consider how they might think differently about collaborations that can impact the city.”

MiX initiates cross-collaboration and showcases how those who live, work and play here can connect and innovate. The October event will be the fourth MiX event since officially launching in 2014. It has continued to evolve to provide a forum for the community to come together.


Downtown Minneapolis Crime Discussion: Media Archive

The latest media coverage of the ongoing discussion on crime policy affecting Downtown Minneapolis (updated 10/09/2017):

(New) Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jacob Frey: Reject the false choice of safety vs. justice

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch wants a 'top-to-bottom review' of the city's police department
On many of the issues facing the city of Minneapolis and its police department, mayoral candidate Tom Hoch says he is taking a systematic approach.

Editorial counterpoint: Confront problems, yes, but don't overlook downtown Minneapolis' many strengths
Downtown safety is an issue to work on, but from population growth to thriving development, Minneapolis has plenty to work with.

Three ideas for improving safety in Minneapolis' exciting and vibrant downtown
Relatively inexpensive steps can help keep downtown vibrant while tackling legitimate issues.

Council Member Jacob Frey proposes boosting police presence in downtown Minneapolis
Mpls. mayoral candidate's plan to curb downtown crime was released as part of his platform.

Downtown Minneapolis once was a great place to live. No more.
I moved there 17 years ago. It felt secure, energetic, promising. No more.

Zone of concern: Ways to make downtown Minneapolis safer
The Warehouse District is a center of public-safety considerations. How to respond is an election-year issue.

Downtown's dilemma: 'A mind-set of violence' in Minneapolis
Minneapolis wants a safe and vibrant downtown for residents, office workers and visitors. But rising rates of violent crime in parts of the city's core threaten to undo years of progress.


Mayoral Candidate Profiles in the Strib

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jacob Frey aims to 'regain our citywide swagger'
Frey says the path of ideological purity isn't the way to get things done for the city.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges pushes for social change across the city
After turmoil in Hodges' tenure, she refocuses on goals of smart growth, closing gaps.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch urges city to step into the spotlight
Hoch's platform is built on love for his hometown and the issues that keep it ticking.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Raymond Dehn focuses on racial equity, criminal justice
Dehn's focus on racial equity, criminal justice is fueled by his own experiences.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds' run born in Fourth Precinct protest
Levy-Pounds has hammered on the theme of police reform and demanded greater racial equity.


Scenes from the October 14 Mill City Farmers Market

Come the dead of winter, we will be dreaming of this fresh, gorgeous produce! :)

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

New from Horner's Corner - Pure Maple Sugar!

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

I think of the Market a giant classroom because you can learn so much there. Below, Mallory Franklin and Jillian Tholen, both former Meet Your Vegetables interns, are now Nutrition Liaisons. Following Beth Jones' Mill City Cooks demo, they discussed how to find accurate nutrition information. And of course the vendors are always happy to answer your questions.

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

New creations from Heritage Breads - Apple Turnovers and Sausage Rolls! :)

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

The little ones were introduced to kohlrabi at the Info Booth.

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market

Milly the goat!

October 14, 2017 Mill City Farmers Market


Meet Your Next District 4 Park Board Commissioner

Craig Wilson, of the Hill and Lake Press, and David Tinjum, of the Mill City Times, interview Minneapolis Park District 4 Commissioner candidates Jono Cowgill, 29, of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood (a.k.a., the “Wedge” Neighborhood) and Tom Nordyke, 54, of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood about their vision for the future of the Minneapolis Park System. (Please note that each candidate was given the same questions, same amount of time to respond and a total copy limit of 2000 words, which they both met.)

What experience will you bring to the Park Board?

Jono Cowgill – “I am an urban planner who leads comprehensive plans for cities throughout Minnesota. For the past two years I have been a board member for the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association, chairing the Open Spaces Committee. Previous to my planning work, I have led policy-related initiatives for a variety of public and non-profit organizations including the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and the MN Legislature’s nonpartisan House Research Department. Before that I founded a glass blowing education program for underserved youth in San Francisco, CA. I grew up in Minneapolis, attending Kenwood Elementary, Anwatin Middle, and South High schools. I will bring my professional planning perspective, my lifelong experience in the parks, and my evidence-based progressive values to the Park Board.”

Tom Nordyke – “I served on the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board from 2006-2009, and I was elected as President of the Park Board from 2008-2009.  During my years on the Board and under my leadership as President we were able to bring the Board together after years of acrimony and difficult relationships with senior MPRB staff.  We were able to heal the differences with the staff and to bring unity to the Board around common visions and goals for the Park System. One of my greatest strengths as the MPRB President was my ability to bring Commissioners together around shared goals in spite of what were often very different visions and agendas of the various Commissioners. Some of the successes of my time on the Park Board were:

  • MPRB Comprehensive Plan 2007 – 2020
  • Launched the Minneapolis Parks Foundation
  • Extensive renovations of Lake of the Isles Park and Parkway
  • Repaved Kenwood Parkway
  • Initiated plans to renovate the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center
  • Renovated Parade Field/Stadium and Parkway

Over the years I have also served on many other civic boards including the Minneapolis Planning Commission, the Minneapolis Institute of Art board, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation & chairing the Minneapolis Arts Commission, as well as a number of arts and affordable housing non-profit boards. Professional, my almost 30 years of experience in the unique field of “Affordable Housing and Real Estate Development for the Arts” has given me a good objective outlook of what it takes to turn an initiative from an idea to a finished project.  My understanding of government relations along with historic preservation, and affordable housing financing over the past twenty years has made me a leader in this field. I successfully help the revitalization of a number of cities through historic preservation, economic development and the arts and affordable housing development. As a vanguard in this field, I have spearheaded over 30 arts focused real estate projects with over $1.5 billion in financing across 26 states and Canada. My work demonstrates a history of creating win-win strategies that benefit preservationists, developers and the arts community. I am committed to building creative communities that support and sustain the arts. I began my career in this creative work as Vice President for Artspace, the national leader in the field of developing affordable space that meets the needs of artists, but since 2003 as W+Noordijk, inc. As a small business owner I have provided independent consulting on issues of real estate acquisition, finance, design and marketing.  My clients have included many of the major cities and foundations across the United States. I have worked internationally as well on projects as far flung as the University of Belgrade in Serbia and Gallery Magazine in Guangzhou, China. It’s an exciting job!”

What diversity do you bring to the Park Board?

Tom Nordyke – “I was the first openly gay President of the Minneapolis Park Board. That is something I am proud of and one of the reasons I jumped into this campaign. We are seeing less diversity in this year’s local election cycle than we have in years. Regarding the LGBTQ community, we are looking at less representation in local government than we have seen in a very long time. I believe as a gay man and member of our LGBTQ community I have a unique and diverse voice to bring the Park Board.”

Jono Cowgill – “The diversity I bring comes from wide variety of people and experiences that have shaped me. I am the son of teachers, I grew up in a racially and economically diverse Minneapolis neighborhood where I learned to recognize my privilege early on, and where I have built friendships with people from a variety of identity backgrounds. I have lived in London, Tacoma, Washington D.C. (as a page under Martin Olav Sabo), and San Francisco. I am also a trained urban planner who uses empirical data to inform decisions. I am an old soul who loves Rogers and Hart, but I am also a millennial. I would bring all these influences with me to the Park Board.”

What examples do you have collaborating, working and problem solving with others?

Jono Cowgill – “Currently I work with communities to solve long-term issues ranging from infrastructure planning and bonding initiatives to persistent crime and community disinvestment. I work with city leadership, community members, and business stakeholders to come up with concrete, long-term solutions that have collaborative buy-in. I have done this work in places as far-flung as International Falls. A premier local example of my collaboration has been working with the City of St. Paul, neighborhood development organizations, the University of Minnesota, and citizen leaders to reevaluate the City’s capital investment program with a racial equity lens. That work has been effective in completely transforming the City’s process for allocating capital dollars equitably throughout St Paul.”

Tom Nordyke – “My time on the Park Board and particularly being President was a constant exercise in collaborating, working and problem solving with others. Our work on the Park Dedication Fee and the repaving of Kenwood Parkway both required difficult negotiations with the City, which were eventually successful. Our work on the Lake of the Isles renovation, Parade Field and the Sculpture Garden required work with the City as well as the State Legislature, and again these were all successful. Being able to work with other institutions in a way the not only gets things done, but does so in a way that is a win for the Park Board is at the heart of being an effective Commissioner. It is why I believe that experience really does matter when we look to who will represent us on the Park Board.”

The 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan (NPP20) is a historic agreement that establishes additional funding to maintain and revitalize neighborhood parks through 2036. Extensive work has been done by the Park Board to ensure that funding is allocated based on racial and economic equity. Do you intend to honor NPP20 and the dollar allocations that have been made based?

Tom Nordyke – “I absolutely intend to honor the NPP20 initiative! It is a well-developed plan with a great deal of community input. It is important to understand that the NPP20 document was developed in partnership with the City of Minneapolis and goes hand-in-hand with the $11 Million dollars a year of funding over the next 20 years. There are a number of candidates for the Park Board that have stated that they will reopen or disregard the NPP20. That is an incredibly irresponsible position to take and would be a disaster for the initiative and it’s funding as well as the MPRB’s relationship with the City.”

Jono Cowgill – “I completely support the historic 20-year neighborhood park plan including the funding allocation framework and look forward to responsibly administering those dollars. I applaud the many community leaders who advocated for this historic agreement.”

What would you specifically change and how it would positively impact racial and economic equity in our community?

Jono Cowgill – “I will not change anything to the NPP20 plan, I will only add that it is important the Park Board is diligent and responsible in how it communicates these important investments to community members. As a commissioner I plan to be a public face that will ensure that all of our neighborhoods are well-informed about the progress of the spending of our NPP20 dollars.”

Tom Nordyke – “The Park Board adopted the NPP20 plan, which includes a racial equity matrix in decision making for resource allocation and also adopted the Racial Equity Action Plan for 2017 – 2018. The Racial Equity Action Plan is in essence a plan for creating a plan. Both of these plans are being implemented right now. They should be monitored to ensure they are having the desired outcomes and if those outcomes are not being achieved the plans should be modified. On the outside chance that it is determined that one or both of these plans is simply not working, then we should look at ending them and starting anew.  There are a number of candidates who have tried to label the MPRB as a racist organization with no concern about racial equity or justice. That is simply not true. The MPRB, like other public institutions has work to do on many fronts. The plans mentioned above are an excellent start to addressing these issues.”

The RiverFirst project is a multi-decade effort to transform 11 miles of once-industrial north Mississippi Riverfront to public parkland, which will effectively complete the Grand Rounds through north and northeast Minneapolis. Do you support the RiverFirst project on the Central Riverfront?

Tom Nordyke – “I do yes. I am honored to be endorsed by the current 4th District Commissioner and current MPRB President Anita Tabb, who has been a huge leader in the Park Board’s work with the RiverFirst initiative. I am planning to be a leader in this initiative as well.”

Jono Cowgill – “Yes, I do. The RiverFirst vision is critical to the sustained vitality of Minneapolis as a regional urban center. It has been a transformative vision that began in 1987 when the first section of what is now James I. Rice parkway first broke ground. We cannot stop now!”

Specifically, do you support the northeast at Hall’s Island and expanding the riverfront access along the river as well as the Upper Harbor Terminal with the Joint City/Park Board venture?

Jono Cowgill – “Ever since I was very young I have wondered why for so long Minneapolis turned its back on the River. Both the Upper Harbor Terminal and Hall’s Island are key aspects of that vision, enhancing access, recreational, and entertainment opportunities for north and northeast residents.”

Tom Nordyke – “I very much support the continued development of the River Front for all residents, particularly Northeast and North Minneapolis. I support the current concept design for Hall’s Island and Scherer Park and will work to refine the plans and move ahead with the project. I also support the Park Board working with the City to redevelop the Upper Harbor Terminal and support join City/Park Board work to make it a reality.”

Crown Hydro is a controversial hydro electricity facility proposed for the Mississippi River front near St. Anthony Falls. Many area residents are concerned about impacts on water flow over the falls and nuisances such as vibrations from a plant while its developers see it as an opportunity to bring more renewable energy to Minneapolis. What is your position on Crown Hydro?

Tom Nordyke – “I do not support the Crown Hydro project. I voted against this project TWICE while on the Park Board and I would vote against it again. The main concern I have is the flow of water over the St. Anthony Falls. In the four years I was on the Board the developers of this project were never able to definitively prove to me that the project would not adversely impact water flow over the Falls or that there would be a remedy if it did. Diminished or non-existent flow over the Falls is simply too much of a risk.”

Jono Cowgill – “I echo Congressman Ellison’s concerns about Crown Hydro given last year’s Environmental Impact Statement. I do not currently believe that Crown Hydro has a compelling reason for their proposed site at St Anthony Falls. The environmental risks and direct conflict with the RiverFirst initiative (Water Works in particular) are enough to greatly outweigh any vague potential energy benefits.”

What is your position on pesticide use in the park system? Is there an appropriate time to use pesticides in the park system or should all pesticides be banned?

Jono Cowgill – “There are a few viable models for severely reducing the amount of pesticides we use in the parks, including Kings County WA, Portland OR, and Toronto. We can realize a more environmentally-friendly and safe park system by responsibly moving towards a severe reduction in pesticide use through the reevaluation of our Integrated Pest Management Plan. It is broadly recognized that our current use of pesticides is unsafe for our already fragile waters, our pets, and our children.”

Tom Nordyke – “If we wish to have the kind of Park System that our community demands in this heavily built urban environment, then we will need to continue the very limited use pesticides for the foreseeable future. There is simply no other way right now to deal with the invasive species that clog our waters and trails and obstruct or views and access to the Lakes and River. It should be noted that the Park Board is extremely judicious about the use of pesticides. I absolutely support the goal of moving toward a pesticide free system. But to do so now would cause damage to our system that our community would not accept.”

What should the role of urban agriculture and community gardens be in the parks?  What is the balance between keeping parkland public and allowing private gardening?

Tom Nordyke – “The Park Board adopted an Urban Agriculture Activity Plan back in 2014. This plan was created with a great deal of community input and was intended to compliment the City of Minneapolis’ efforts including “Homegrown Minneapolis” and the City’s Urban Agriculture Policy Plan. Frankly, the MPRB has been slow to implement this plan and I will make it priority to do so. I think the decision to set aside park property for community based gardening and agriculture is a case-by-case process. I do not see an inclusive and accessible community based garden as ‘private gardening.’”

Jono Cowgill – “There is a wonderful opportunity to support the rollout of the Park Board’s Urban Agriculture Plan. This plan provides the framework for allowing public gardens in parks. These public gardens would be open for all to use and would be more environmentally friendly than mowable land. The key to success for the Urban Agriculture Plan is developing sustainable partnerships with neighborhood organizations, the Minneapolis Public Schools, and recreation leaders to steward gardens effectively.”

The Park Police have been credited with creating a safer Hidden Beach at Cedar Lake. There has been discussion in the past of merging the Park Police with the Minneapolis Police Department to conserve resources. However, the fear is that parks will not be a priority for the City’s police department and that parks will suffer and become less safe. What is your position on the Park Police? What would you like to see change, if anything?

Jono Cowgill – “I support maintaining a strong, separate park police force. The issues that park police face are unique, and having a dedicated force allows for tailored approaches to ensuring our parks are safe. I support broadening the tools that our park enforcement has to successfully keep our parks safe for everyone. I am supportive of mental health training for the force, successfully rolling out the new comprehensive use of body worn cameras, and expanding the role of mental health professionals in helping our mentally-ill neighbors in the parks.”

Tom Nordyke – “The idea of merging the Park Police with the City Police force is pretty much a City idea. I can’t recall a Park Board Commissioner that ever supported that idea, and for good reason. The Park Police can and do have a more proactive approach to policing and it shows. Less than 2% of our City’s violent crime happens in our parks. That is a pretty stunning statistic particularly if you compare that with other metropolitan areas where the parks are the problem, not the exception.”

There is a distinct possibility that green space will be lost to Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) along the Cedar Lake and Kenilworth Trails unless representatives can work with the Met Council to develop a solution. What is your experience working with agencies like the Met Council? What is your strategy for SWLRT?

Tom Nordyke – “I worked with the Met Council a lot when I was on the Park Board. The Met Council is a funding partner with the MPRB in areas like the Regional Park System, land acquisition funding and other funding streams. I worked with the Met Council and others when I was on the MPRB developing the Metro Green Line and the intense debate about routing the Green Line through the U of M and across the Washington Avenue Bridge. I have also work with the Met Council in my professional life as a developer of affordable housing. The Met Council is a funding partner in affordable housing and in Brownfields cleanup and other environment funding. I have generally had a very good and productive experience in my work with the Met Council. SWLRT is another story however. I do not support the current route selected for the SWLRT, and I never have. Nor do I support the “process” that lead to the selection of the current route. Having said that, the only possibility at this point for halting SWLRT as designed and to change the route is the lawsuit currently in process by The Lakes and Parks Alliance. If that suit is successful then it is a whole new ballgame. If not, then the only thing the Park Board can do is work to mitigate any negative impacts of the SWLRT on the Grand Rounds and our other park assets. So, things pretty much hang on the lawsuit right now.”

Jono Cowgill – “It is very unfortunate that the Met Council’s SWLRT alignment goes through the Kenilworth Corridor. I personally believe it is a bad alignment. Currently the Park Board has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Met Council wherein the Park Board agrees to “facilitate the approval and construction of any LRT project.” It also calls for close coordination between MPRB and the Met Council on final design considerations around the bridges of the Kenilworth Channel. The Final Environmental Impact Statement estimates that the MPRB will lose a total of 0.7 acres of green space for a trail realignment in Bryn Mawr Meadows Park and for modifications to the rail alignments along the Kenilworth Corridor. We cannot afford to lose any more green space due to poor project management or revised designs. In this vein, I will closely monitor this proposed loss of green space and work with the SPO and Met Council to mitigate these losses. I have worked with Met Council staff on housing and transportation related work and as Commissioner will develop strong relationships with the current Council while advocating for my constituents and the Park Board. Within this project new issues arise consistently, including the lawsuit brought by the Lakes and Parks Alliance, the rebidding of the construction contract, and unstable federal matching funds. Should the MOU be revisited by the Park Board, I would listen to my constituents - especially those most affected by line construction - to make an informed decision on any and all agreement parameters.”

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About Craig Wilson, MLA, MURP, LEED AP

Craig is the Principal and Owner of Sustology, a third-party independent sustainability advisory firm that brings solutions to businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits.

Craig focuses on initiatives that enhance the environment while providing tangible bottom-line results.