Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The EcoVillage Snowman

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

While the connection might seem tenuous at first, this picture of a snowman in the Hawthorne EcoVillage was the most inspiring sign of neighborhood progress I've seen in quite some time.  Telling the whole story from start to finish would take far too long.  For the sake of people new to NoMi, here's a 3-sentence history lesson:

The EcoVillage area, with 31st Ave N and 6th St N at its center, was once among the most crime-ridden parts of the entire city.  Only a few years ago one resident said, "It wasn't a matter of if we were going to get shot, it was only when."  Now the development area is thriving.

So I was driving through an intersection that was once an epicenter of violent crime.  The formerly vacant house that was on the corner was frequently broken open, used for all sorts of unsavory activities, and eventually driven quite literally into the ground.  After its demolition, PPL built a home that is certified by Minnesota Green Communities and a whole host of other environmental and health organizations.  And the home was built by Mitchell Construction, a locally- and minority-owned business.

But I knew all of this already, so why did the EcoVillage snowman represent such progress?

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Hereby Declare Boom Island Brewing to be NoMi's Best Beer

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, video by Hillside Chronicle.

Over on Get to NoMi, we've been promoting local businesses, including the startup Boom Island Brewing.  We've all been promoting the place, but I'm not sure if anyone has actually tried their beer.  So I took it upon myself to do just that.  Such is the sacrifice that I am willing to undertake on behalf of my community.

And make no mistake, this was indeed a sacrifice.  Their beer locator shows that the closest place to buy their beer is in St. Louis Park.  I cannot stand driving to, through or even thinking about St. Louis Park.  Their on-again, off-again freeway exits drive me crazy.  It's like they were built by a civil engineer with commitment issues after an especially traumatic breakup.  Or maybe an overly sarcastic city planner said, "I like St. Paul's practice freeway on 35E, but do you know what would make it even better?  Strip malls."  And then the city council passed the design plan before anyone realized that was a sadistic joke.

Just about the only good thing I can say about the highway and street layout of St. Louis Park is that it finally answers the question, "What if David Bowie's Goblin King from the movie Labyrinth got a master's degree in urban planning?"

"Damn it, Carl!  The GPS says there's a T.G.I. Friday's right around the corner."
So I braved the freeway ramp mazes, found the Four Firkins beer store, and made my way back to NoMi with my newest acquisition.  And that beer tastes...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Historypin and a Get to NoMi Challenge

Post and photos below by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos above from the Get to NoMi Facebook page.

In the summer of last year, I found a nifty new smartphone app called Historypin.  I tried it out on West Broadway and Friedman's, with varying degrees of success.  In essence, here's how the application works:  You take an old photograph, like the one shown above, and upload it onto the Historypin website.  Once uploaded, the photograph can be positioned using Google Street View, like so:

Step 1: find the house on Street View.
Then line up the old photograph; it can be adjusted to be translucent or opaque.
Now the picture is lined up directly over the current map.  We're good to go.
And now anyone who downloads the historypin app onto their phone can go to 2806 James and see the exact same thing, in the palm of their hands.

I have wanted to gather a large number of old pictures to do a historypin walking tour of part of NoMi.  But many older pictures are copyrighted or otherwise can't be used without permission or paying fees.  I've asked around about funding opportunities, but I'd rather get this done myself sooner rather than get funding later.  So when I saw this picture on the Get to NoMi page, I had an idea.  I'm asking neighbors on the page to send me old photographs.  I will pin the first twenty I receive on the application, and we can do a small tour from that initial collection.

Here are the rules for the NoMi Historypin Challenge...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stenglein on Lowry Bridge: "Beautiful doesn't even BEGIN to describe it!"

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On Wednesday the final piece of the Lowry Bridge arch was put into place.  This is going to be a world-class bridge that will bring north and northeast Minneapolis back together.  The aesthetics are already amazing, but we found out it's just getting better.  The bridge will have LED lighting similar to the 35W bridge, the bike lanes are done right, and the county is building storage tanks that will hold hundreds of gallons of rainwater before the runoff gets to the Mississippi.  Hennepin County really hit it out of the park here, and this bridge will help transform and revitalize our communities by leaps and bounds.

A side note on blogging and social media here:  the implosion of the Lowry Bridge was the first video I uploaded onto Youtube.  In the spirit of trying new ways to connect people and events through social media and smartphone technology, I streamed footage live from my phone on an application called Qik, and uploaded videos 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the event.  I'm still ironing out the wrinkles and looking for a way to stream live directly on Blogger, but live streaming is yet another way blogs and social media can get coverage of an event out faster and more nimbly than traditional sources.  (Although the Strib's video is quite cool if I do say so myself.)

The videos of the final piece being put into place are indicative of the building process as a whole.  The arch was completed so slowly as to be almost imperceptible.  I moved the camera from side to side a few times just to show anyone watching that the video had not paused in any way.  I am compelled to warn you, with some degree of irony, that you should not watch those clips while operating heavy machinery.  But once the arch was completed, one almost forgets how long it took to finish the job.

More photos after the jump...

Qik - Lowry Bridge arch completion 1 by Jeff Skrenes

Qik - Lowry Bridge arch completion 2 by Jeff Skrenes

Qik - Lowry Bridge arch completion 3 by Jeff Skrenes

Qik - Lowry Bridge installation interview by Jeff Skrenes

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Minneapolis Redistricting Ramps Up

Post and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The city of Minneapolis is in the midst of redrawing its district lines, and now is the time to add our voices to the process.  A public meeting will be held on February 29th, from 5-7 p.m. at the Webber Community Center, 4400 Dupont Avenue North.  In the meantime, people can tinker with their own maps at www.drawminnesota.org.  This Saturday, CURA will host an event at UROC to teach people how to use the website to make their own ward maps.  Sometimes open-source sites like this can harness the collective intellect of communities and result in better maps than what professionals would have created.

Now if I were in St. Paul, I'd try and make a redistricting map that would lead to clues about the location of the Winter Carnival medallion.  Then I'd see if Nicolas Cage was interested in coming to our capital to film National Treasure 4 and maybe resolve some daddy issues with Jon Voight.  But since we're on the nicer side of the river, and wards have to be contiguous anyway, and those are some of the most terrible movies ever, I'm sticking with Minneapolis maps.

Minneapolis has their own site that describes redistricting rules in detail, but essentially they require...

Lowry Bridge Arch to be Complete Today

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

One of the arches on the Lowry Bridge was connected today, and tomorrow at approximately 10 a.m. the "keystone" piece of the arch will be put into place.  An event commemorating its completion will be held at Edgewater Park in northeast Minneapolis starting at 9:30 a.m.

Commissioner Stenglein's office released a press advisory that reads...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Phone Book Opt-In: So Close Yet So Far

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Since Ed Kohler of The Deets recruited me as a fellow anti-phone book crusader, the dead tree impact of these makeshift booster chairs and sofa legs has diminished.  It's pretty rare to see them littered at vacant houses anymore, or worse yet, dumped directly into alleys.  One solution both Ed and I have called for is an opt-in system.  Instead of the current system where you can opt out of phone books, (which by the way, vacant houses can't really do) you would only receive a phone book if you specifically requested one.

The door hanger appeared to specifically set up the opt-IN process, until I looked at my feet to see yet another phone book that will simply make its way to the recycling bin.  I'm still trying to figure out how this phone book got left at the doorstep, and I'm picturing the delivery crew putting the door hanger in place, then counting "ONE Mississippi, TWO Mississippi, THREE Mississippi...well, he hasn't opted out.  Time to leave a book or two and check off the address as another satisfied customer."

How about this arrangement, Dex?  When I need extra insulation for my house, or kindling for a bonfire, or a counterweight for land mines or booby traps, or really REALLY bad wallpaper, or a paperweight that is also a meta-paperweight, or reading material for an internet cafe on April Fools' Day, or a phone-book-armored car (how cool is THAT?!), then I will call YOU.  Deal?

Mr. Slummy's Buildings Registered as Vacant, Condemned

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Wait, they weren't already?

The foreclosure process hasn't yet finished up over at 2515 3rd St N, but now the building has been listed as condemned.  The collective response to that development is shock that it took over two years from the point where the property was open to trespass to the date when condemnation was posted at the property.  The wheels of regulatory services do turn, albeit ever so slowly.

Its partner to the north, 2519 3rd St N, has several boards over openings along the side and rear of the house.  This property was condemned in October of last year, and continues to go downhill.  It's too bad, because Amro seemed to be doing at least slightly good work over here.

There aren't too many homes out there that I would celebrate their demolition, but these two are among them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Arches of Lowry Bridge Near Completion

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The Lowry Bridge arches are close to being completed, and they are looking tremendous.  Ever since seeing the original proposals, I was quite excited at the prospect that the bridge could become a visual feature that would come to define north Minneapolis in a more positive light.  (Okay, and northeast too.  We'll let them bask in the glory a bit.)  If anything, it seems my initial reaction was understated and I can't wait to see it completed.

The final piece of the arches is expected to be put in place within a week.  A press conference and other festivities will be scheduled to commemorate the event.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Candidates Debate in 58A

Post and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman, video done on behalf of the Senate district 58 DFL.

Before diving into the candidate debates, two things should be made clear.  First, the way the videos are labeled on the District 58 DFL website is not entirely accurate.  I did the recording at this forum and know that the questions preceded the candidate "introductions."  Our moderator slipped up and forgot to give the candidates time to introduce themselves.  Since she jumped into the questions immediately, she suggested that the candidates be given two minutes' worth of closing statements instead of a one-minute introduction and a one-minute closing remark.  The candidates agreed to the change in format.

Second, unlike in 58B where I am still neutral, I do have a candidate I support:  the incumbent Joe Mullery.  I support Mullery because our district is already losing its seniority of a senator and one representative.  That seniority means something in terms of committee memberships, and I don't want to see NoMi have three freshmen legislators who are at the bottom rung when it comes to influence.  Second, no legislator knows more about the housing crisis and mortgage technicalities than Joe.  I believe we need that expertise.  Joe's been around a long time and the time will come when we should hand the reins over to someone new.  I don't think we're there yet.

In describing the debate, I'll try to be fair, but readers should know my bias and be able to take that into account.

The candidates in attendance were David Boyd, Marcus Harcus, Joe Mullery, Jon Olson, and David Younk.  The moderator led off her questions with one about...