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METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Hope abounds at Hamline Avenue 

| Monday, June 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM

METRO Green Line trains at the Hamline Avenue Station. Like many of the students who documented the METRO Green Line’s construction as part of a special class at Gordon Parks High School, Khalaun Phillips viewed light-rail construction as an unwelcome inconvenience.

Now that work has come to an end, he looks at the project a lot differently.

“I learned a community needs things that bring people together and the train does that,” Phillips said during a recent visit to the school, which sits on University Avenue just east of the Green Line’s Hamline Avenue Station.

Philips’ change of heart came partly from his involvement in the school’s “Transitions” class. For the last several years, students in the class have interviewed residents about what life was like on University Avenue and what they think the Green Line will mean for the community in the future.

The results are collected on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website to be preserved for future generations to look back on.

Only time will tell how the Green Line will shape the area around Gordon Parks and Hamline Station, but as light-rail trains begin carrying passengers up and down University Avenue it’s already evident the area is poised for change.

Several vacant auto dealerships are being redeveloped to provide new housing and retail space. Small businesses are cropping up along University Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhoods. And immigrants who have settled in St. Paul are bonding together to support one another and promote their distinct cultural offerings.

Among the most visible signs of change can be found just north of Hamline Avenue Station, where Minneapolis-based Project for Pride in Living will begin construction this summer on a vacant property once used as an auto dealership.

PPL’s $28 million Hamline Station project includes two buildings that will together include 108 new apartments, as well as commercial and retail space and a courtyard.

Barbara McCormick, PPL’s director of housing, said the project is mean to serve working-class residents who live in the community and want to take advantage of being near transit. Already, it’s clear the demand is strong for such housing.

“The calls have been coming in since the sign went up,” McCormick said.

West of Hamline Station, a vacated showroom is being converted into retail space. East of the station, at University Avenue and Griggs Street, another old dealership is being renovated into a new Goodwill store.

Not every change around Hamline Avenue Station is coming in the form of new construction, though.

Seeing opportunity from the Green Line, several African business owners banded together in late 2013 to launch a new marketing and branding campaign for the Little Africa district.

The idea is to promote the cultural district as a destination for visitors traveling through the corridor on the Green Line. The district covers area south and north of University Avenue between Fairview Avenue and Syndicate Street.

“We want people to know they don’t have to travel to Ethiopia to experience Ethiopian culture, because it’s right here in their backyard,” said Gene Gelgelu, one of the effort’s organizers.

One of the businesses included in the effort is Flamingo Restaurant, located a block east of Hamline Avenue Station on Syndicate Street.

Shegitu Kebede and Frewoini Haile opened the restaurant in 2010 but after surviving construction and a power surge that nearly put them under say the start of light rail service makes them feel as though they are “opening for the first time.”

“I don’t think anyone will appreciate it (the Green Line opening) as much as we do,” said Kebede, who immigrated to St. Paul from Ethiopia. “It’s a very huge chapter in our lives.”

Beyond bringing in new customers, Kebede said she and many of those who work at the restaurant will be able to commute to and from work on the Green Line. Kevede lives in Frogtown and will travel between Hamline Avenue Station and the Capitol/Rice Street Station.

Students from Concordia University-St. Paul will also likely be traveling between Hamline Avenue Station and the Capitol/Rice Street Station, said Jason DeBoer-Moran, the school’s director of marketing and communications. Political science students often travel to the Capitol with rented vans but will now be able to make less than a half mile to Hamline Avenue Station and ride the train instead.

The trips are just one example of how Concordia’s 3,600 students will use the Green Line, said DeBoer-Moran, who lives in the neighborhood and himself will use light rail. Students can also use the Green Line to travel and from campus, to internships along the Green Line corridor and to reach downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“It’s just another convenient option for those students who are trying to get around without having to worry about driving and parking,” DeBoer-Moran said. “Having more options to get here is always a nice thing.”

Hamline Avenue Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 21, with service from Uptown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul on Lake Street, Marshall, Snelling, University, Hamline and Selby avenues. Route 16, with service from downtown St. Paul to the University of Minnesota on University Avenue.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Foster Willey and his brother Guy combined Terra Cotta, hand-made glazed tiles and other materials to create what they call “Hamline Prairie Station.” The work is inspired by Prairie School Architecture, a popular Midwestern style that draws on the natural environment. “I have always been drawn to the combination of geometric and organic forms that define the Prairie style,” Foster Willey said. “The station provides a modern context for new designs that are both original and complimentary.

Area landmarks: Concordia University-St. Paul, Central High School, Dunning Recreation Center, James Griffin Stadium, Skyline Tower, Gordon Parks High School, HealthParners Center for International Health, Galtier Community School, Leap High School, Hamline Park.

Bike-ped connections: Charles Avenue bike boulevard (construction to be complete in summer 2014); bike lanes on Pascal Street North between I-94 and University Avenue; pedestrian overpass over I-94 at Griggs Street. Nice Ride kiosk at the St. Paul Police Western District (389 Hamline Ave. N.)

Neighborhood groupsHamline-Midway Coalition; Union Park District Council

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Car-free and creative at Raymond Avenue Station 

| Tuesday, May 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train pulls into the Raymond Avenue Station.When David Needham and his wife Alyscia moved from San Francisco to Minneapolis in 2013, they didn’t think they’d be able to sustain their car-free life. Eight months later, they drove south to visit family in Texas, left their car behind and flew home.

The decision to relinquish their vehicle was aided in part by the fact that Needham and his wife live on University Avenue, just south of the METRO Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station in the recently-opened C & E Lofts.

Using the train, they and their 10-month old daughter will be able to ride the train to the airport, get to church in downtown Minneapolis and travel to other destinations along the light-rail line. Improved connecting bus services at the station will help them get to Grand Avenue and other key destinations.

“Part of the reason we moved to this neighborhood was the convenience of being able to get to either downtown really easily,” said Needham, an entrepreneur who runs a freelance support business, Triplo, and frequently travels downtown for meetings. “Moving here, we decided we should have a car, but we found the transit system to be really good and reliable and just decided we wanted to be one less car on the road.”

The ease of traveling to, from and within the St. Anthony Park neighborhood surrounding the Raymond Avenue Station is drawing all types of people like Needham who are looking for a central location with a plethora of transportation options.

In their footsteps are a fresh crop of new businesses, residential development and a groundswell of community-building efforts centered on the creative economy. The activity is interwoven with well-established neighborhoods of single-family homes and industry.

Among the recent arrivals is Barely Brothers Records, an all-vinyl record shop that opened in February. The record shop sits amid a collection of restaurants and eclectic businesses that line Raymond Avenue and are less than a block north of the Raymond Avenue Station.

Mike Elias, who opened Barely Brothers with friend Spencer Brooks, said the store’s proximity to the Raymond Avenue Station was a “major selling point” in choosing where to locate. The hope is to draw from each downtown as well as students from the University of Minnesota.

“It should be pretty easy to hop off the train and get right here,” said Elias, who will be able to commute to work using the Green Line and Route 83, a new bus service that will run on Lexington Parkway beginning June 14.

Transportation was also a motivating factor for the recent relocation of the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, which was previously located on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.

The nonprofit provides tutoring services to nearly 500 youth who come from throughout St. Paul and can now easily reach the center’s office at the corner of University and Raymond avenues. The organization also draws more than 100 tutors, many of whom come from colleges along the Green Line.

“We did an informal poll of parents and many of them said they would use the train,” said Chad Kampe, the group’s executive director.

Kampe said the cheekishly-named organization is also planning to open a small retail component to raise funds for their work and that being near the station will be a good way to increase visibility and draw in new people.

As interest in the area around Raymond Avenue Station grows, developers are breathing new life into old properties and creating new homes for urban dwellers, nonprofits, artists and other small businesses.

The C & E Lofts building, where Needham lives, dates to the 1920s and was originally a furniture warehouse and showroom. The 104-unit building reopened in 2013 following a yearlong renovation and now boasts a host of amenities, such as a rooftop deck, bike storage and repair station and an HOURCAR hub.

Two blocks south of University Avenue, Minneapolis-based development company First & First is renovating a collection of office and warehouse buildings on Vandalia Street.

The Vandalia Tower development will create 200,000 square feet of office, creative and warehouse space that will serve as a hub for creative businesses, technology firms, tradespeople and artists.  A restaurant and brewery could also locate there.

First & First founder Peter Remes, who grew up nearby, said light rail “was definitely an influencer” in taking on the ambitious redevelopment. Remes said light rail will not only benefit current and future tenants but create a vibrant streetlife that has a positive impact.

“New prospective tenants we’ve been in conversation with all view light-rail as a very positive thing,” Remes said.

The Vandalia Tower project builds on the development of the Creative Enterprise Zone, a community-led effort to support and grow creative entrepreneurship around Raymond Avenue Station. The Creative Enterprise Zone's mission is to make the area a “recognized center of creativity and enterprise” where people “make a living by their creative capacities.”

Catherine Reid Day, a Creative Enterprise Zone board member, said the Green Line’s opening is an important milestone that strengthens the group’s efforts and the wider community.

“It’s a very exciting time for us all,” she said. “For me, this area is a true hub for our city, and keeping it strong will contribute to assuring all the spokes that radiate from it stay strong too.”

Raymond Avenue Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, with local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul. Route 30, with service to Northeast and North Minneapolis. Route 63, with service on Grand Avenue to downtown St. Paul. Route 67, with service on Minnehaha and Thomas avenues to downtown St. Paul and west on Franklin Avenue to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. Route 87, with service on Raymond and Cleveland avenues between the Rosedale Transit Center and Highland Park.

Public art: Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears carved wheels out of granite that mimic those on earlier modes of transportation, including streetcars and Empire Builder passenger trains. Myklebust and Sears created similar works for the Green Line’s Westgate and Union Depot stations. Learn more.

Area landmarks: Hampden Park, Jennings Community Learning Center, Avalon School, St. Anthony Park Branch Library, Langford Recreation Center, College Park, Commonwealth Park, Luther Seminary, Murray Middle School, University of Minnesota-St. Paul Campus, Desnoyer Park.

Bike-ped connections: The City of St. Paul recently rebuilt Raymond Avenue, adding bike lanes between University and Hampden Avenues, as well as wider sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly medians. Further north, there is a seven-mile stretch of Como Avenue with bike lanes between the U of M campus and Rice Street. A Nice Ride kiosk is located at University Avenue and Carleton Street.

Neighborhood groupsSt. Anthony Park Community Council

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Past and present converge at Victoria Street Station 

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train at Victoria Street Station. Sam Hayat opened his first car repair shop on University Avenue nearly 30 years ago. After struggling to sustain the business, he tried making a go of it at locations in south Minneapolis, Bloomington and Brooklyn Park.

A year ago, he returned to the place where it all began, opening the doors to Eco Garage at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street and just north of the METRO Green Line’s Victoria Street Station.

After years of bouncing around, it appears Hayat has finally hit the sweet spot.

“We’ve been busy since day one,” Hayat said recently. “It’s been a huge difference as far as business goes. This is really beyond my expectations.”

Hayat, who has expanded from one to four mechanics since opening in 2013, is expecting things to get even better after the Green Line opens on June 14. His thinking is that customers who need to leave their cars for the day will come to Eco Garage because of its convenient location on the Green Line.

Business owners and community leaders say Hayat’s success is a precursor of what is to come for those who live and work near Victoria Street Station. In addition to increased mobility and improved conditions for small businesses, light-rail is viewed as a catalyst for residential, commercial and retail development, as well as a springboard for community building.

One of the groups leading the charge is Model Cities, a nonprofit human service and community development group that has been active on University Avenue for nearly 50 years.

Based just north of Victoria Street Station, Model Cities hopes to begin construction in 2015 on two sites at or near Victoria Street Station, together known as  Model Cities Redevelopment. The Model Cities BROWNstone and Central Exchange projects would together bring 60 new units of family and workforce housing as well as two new pocket parks, public art and a reading room that focuses on the role African Americans played in St. Paul’s early railroad industry.

Dr. Beverly Oliver Hawkins, the chief executive officer at Model Cities, said the project is part of a larger goal to develop and promote a distinct cultural district that celebrates the area’s history and the mix of cultures that now reside there.

“The window of opportunity has opened up and we are jumping through it,” Hawkins said.

Community leaders driving to restore the Victoria Theater also see the Green Line’s opening as a seminal moment for their efforts. Located just north of Victoria Street Station on University Avenue, the 1915 theater was a popular community hangout through the 1930s, when it was converted to retail use.

After nearly 20 years of vacancy, the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative is working to purchase the building and re-open it as a community arts center. The theater is one of several locations where community celebrations will be held for the Green Line’s opening and will continue to feature art from the community throughout the year.

Tyler Olson, who lives nearby and is involved in the restoration effort, said having light-rail trains run outside the theater’s doors will be critical to building interest in the site.

“This is probably something that could move forward without light rail, but having that adds a real depth of audience and allows us to share a lot more easily,” he said. “This could be a community center in a very traditional sense but now it will be open to a huge number of people from across the Twin Cities.”

Mary Milton, the owner of Transformation Salon, is also hoping the extra attention will be a boon for her nine-year-old business, located on University Avenue just west of Victoria Street Station. While the construction period was difficult, she believes the future will be much brighter.

If business improves as she expects, she wants to expand into a larger space and offer shoes, clothing, jewelry and other items.

“That was kind of my vision in the beginning,” she said. “I’m hoping that people will see the business and be encouraged to stop and get off.”

The renewed entrepreneurial spirit reflects a deep-seeded culture of self-reliance in the area surrounding the station.

MK Nguyen grew up in Frogtown as the daughter of Vietnamese refugee immigrants who became pioneers in the Southeast Asian small business community, opening Ala Francaise Bakery, the Twin Cities’ first bánh mì shop. As community leaders, they helped many others establish small businesses on University Avenue and St. Paul.

Nguyen now hopes to build on that legacy by opening a retail space of her own. She also wants to help grow the capacity of residents and business owners to work together and build a "healthy, wealthy, vibrant Frogtown for the next generation." The Green Line is an integral part of that vision, creating new opportunities for residents and youth to engage and develop a healthy, participatory, and sustainable model for social and economic growth, she said.

“My mind is blown every single day by the genius of the people in my neighborhood," Nguyen said. "My goal is to unleash the human potential that already exists in Frogtown, invite others to join our story, and add to the rich and dynamic history embedded in Frogtown.”

While focused on the future, residents around the station remain ever-mindful of the neighborhood’s history. The historic Rondo community was divided by the construction of Interstate 94, and that past experience remains front of mind for many who still live in the area.

To recognize the leaders who held the neighborhood together throughout the years, the Victoria Street Station features 17 images of people who have impacted the community. The group includes educators, historians and entrepreneurs, such as Tiger “Jack” Rosenbloom who ran a small shop at the corner of St Anthony Avenue and Dale Street and is remembered for saying “Never say can’t.”

Scultptor Foster Willey learned about the individuals while crafting the station artwork and said he was struck by the number of strong personalities that called St. Paul home.

“There is a very compelling story of a very vibrant community that had some rough times and their resilience in overcoming that while continuing to thrive and celebrate their history and culture,” he said.

Victoria Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, which will provide local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Foster Willey partnered with his brother Guy to sculpt portraits of historic people and landmarks from the Rondo community which are affixed to the station walls. Around 80 individuals were nominated for inclusion in the “Faces of Rondo” project and community members helped select 17 people to include. Among those featured at the station is Gordon Parks, who overcame trying circumstances to become a well-regarded author, photographer and filmmaker. Others featured at the station are Pearla Mae Barnes, Lou Bellamy, Dorothea Burns, Charles Crutchfield Sr., Mahmoud El-Kati, Beverley Oliver Hawkins, Katie McWatt, Debbie Montgomery, Rhoda Stroud, Billy Williams, Floyd Massey Jr., Sharon Sayles Belton, Tiger Jack Rosenblum, Hallie Q. Brown and Evelyn Fairbanks. There are also images of the Rondo-Stryker streetcar, a familiar sight in the neighborhood from the 1920s to the 1950s; Mechanic Arts High School, a fixture in the community until it closed in 1976; and Pullman porters. Many early African American Rondo residents worked on sleeping cars as Pullman porters, and fromed the first all-black union. Learn more

Area landmarks: Ryan Park, Carty Park, Frogtown Park and Farm, Maxfield Elementary

Bike-ped connections: A NiceRide kiosk is located in the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street.  This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. There are pedestrian crossings over I-94 at Chatsworth and Grotto streets.

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association; Summit University Planning Council

METRO Green Line Minneapolis Station Spotlight

Green Line brings promise to Prospect Park 

| Monday, May 12, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line trains travels eastbound from the Prospect Park Station. Jeff Barnhart is feeling a buzz, and it isn’t from the caffeine served up at his coffee shop, Overflow Espresso Café.

Barnhart’s cheery mood is the result of the METRO Green Line’s June 14 opening. The Green Line’s Prospect Park Station is located at the corner of University and 29th avenues, directly adjacent to the café and the property Barnhart manages.

“We’re already feeling a buzz in the area,” Barnhart said. “Everyone is feeling pretty optimistic. We’re seeing a boost and I hope it’s going to get even better still.”

Barnhart’s enthusiasm is shared by many in the Prospect Park community. Centrally located between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, residents and business owners in the Prospect Park station area say the long-established “village in the city” will benefit from light rail in many ways.

Seniors who want to age in place will be able to get around without a vehicle. University of Minnesota students and faculty living in the area will have convenient transportation to and from campus. And housing and commercial development will be strengthened by the area’s newfound accessibility.

Jeff Hensley, vice president of Minneapolis-based Wall Companies, is among those who believe light rail will have a positive impact on the area surrounding Prospect Park Station. Hensley is championing the idea of a private research park on land previously owned by ADM that sits north of the station.

If Hensley’s vision for the Minnesota Innovation Park is realized, start-ups, national and international firms working on everything from food science to robotics will eventually fill more than 1 million square feet of office, lab and light industrial space. The Green Line is a key selling point to future tenants, he said.

“It’s about instant connectivity,” Hensley said. “This is going to be one of the most accessible areas in the Twin Cities.”

Accessibility was a key reason Surly Brewing Co. decided to put their $20 million “destination brewery” near the station. The brewery is being built on an 8.5-acre site about a block northeast of the Prospect Park Station and will open later this year.

“It’s important for us to give our patrons as many options to get there and get home as we can,” said Omar Ansari, Surly’s founder and president. “It’s part of the whole package.”

Surly is perhaps Prospect Park’s highest-profile development, but several other new developments are now in the works, promising to bring additional housing, retail and commercial development to the station area.

The historic neighborhood south of University Avenue is to be preserved, but a group of community leaders is working with the University of Minnesota and other partners to transform vacant or underused industrial property north of the station into a “living lab of 21st century urban living” with a mix of green space, multifamily housing, retail and commercial space.

Dick Gilyard, a ten-year Prospect Park resident involved in the planning effort, said the Green Line is a key to making that vision a reality.

“It’s a permanent stroke that signals the community has invested in this system that will be there,” said Gilyard, part of the community development group Prospect Park 2020. “That’s an absolute magnet that gives confidence to investors.”

Ahead of those larger projects, light rail will have an immediate impact on Prospect Park residents who can use the train to get to work, shop or reach other destinations along the corridor.

Richard Davis, a spokesman for Minneapolis Public Schools, said students, parents and staff at Pratt Community School are eager to use the Green Line to get to and from the school.

The K-5 school sits just south of the station and is in the same building as the Pratt Community Education Center, which offers program for families and adults.

“More and more students across Minneapolis are taking advantage of light rail as an alternative means to get to and from school on a daily basis,” Davis said. “This is a tremendous tool for them to use to ensure that they arrive safely and on time.”

Marji Miller, the executive director of Southeast Seniors, said the Green Line will be a great benefit to the Prospect Park seniors the organization works with. The non-profit provides a variety of services to seniors who want to continue living at home.

Miller said around two-thirds of the seniors the organization works with rely exclusively on public transportation or get transportation help from friends, family and volunteers.

“For people who want to remain in their homes as long as possible transportation is a huge issue,” Miller said.

Cedar Phillips voluntarily gave up her car as a way to save money and now regularly takes the bus to her job at the Textile Center on University Avenue. Phillips hopes light rail will make her commute easier when the weather is bad or there is a large event that slows traffic.

She won’t just use the Green Line for commuting, though. Phillips said she plans to take the train to meetings during the day and to visit the businesses, parks and restaurants that line the light-rail corridor.

“I’m looking forward to exploring St. Paul,” she said. “My husband and six-year-old are already planning day trips.”

Prospect Park Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, which will provide local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Janet Lofquist’s station artwork weaves together Prospect Park’s residential and industrial heritages. Decorative aluminum bands wrap station poles and include cut-outs in the pattern of the nearby Witch’s Tower. The platform concrete is colored in earth tones and includes the outlines of large flax seeds, which were historically stored in the grain silos north of the station. “I wanted to bring in that element of industry that existed on the north side of University Avenue but also consider the residential element,” Lofquist said. “In some ways, these elements are at odds. But I found a way to weave together that story in an abstract way.” Lofquist also created the artwork for 10th Street Station and Robert Street Station. Learn more

Area landmarks: Tower Hill Park (home to the Witch’s Hat water tower), Pratt Community School, Luxton Recreation Center, Textile Center, U.S. Post Office, University of Minnesota, TCF Bank Stadium, East River Parkway and Mississippi River

Bike-ped connections: The University of Minnesota Transitway, open only to bicyclists, transit and emergency vehicles, can be accessed a block north of the station. The transitway connects the U of M’s Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, the Minneapolis riverfront, Como Park, Roseville and Falcon Heights. Bicyclists can travel between Prospect Park Station and the Seward neighborhood using bicycle lanes on 27th Avenue SE and the Franklin Avenue Bridge. There are also bicycle lanes on 27th Avenue SE between University Avenue and the U of M Transitway. A Nice Ride kiosk is located at University Avenue and 29th Avenue SE, immediately east of the station.

Neighborhood groupProspect Park East River Road Improvement Association

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

At Dale Street Station, the best is yet to come 

| Monday, April 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

 Ron Whyte has spent the last 30 years making barbeque in St. Paul. Despite the long work history, the opening of the METRO Green Line has him wishing he had even more time to spend at the grill.

The restaurant Whyte has built alongside Bob Edmond, Big Daddy’s BBQ, moved to the corner of University Avenue and Dale Street in 2010, where the Green Line’s Dale Street Station now stands. As the Green Line’s June 14 opening approaches, Whyte is increasingly confident the restaurant’s best years are yet to come.

So confident, in fact, that he and Edmond recently expanded their restaurant to 21 seats and added a patio that sits right on the street corner.

“I see all the improvements that are being made on University Avenue and I just wish that I could be here another 25 years,” Whyte said recently from his restaurant. “I think it’s going to be really nice.”

Whyte’s enthusiasm is echoed by business owners, residents and others who live, work or play near the Dale Street Station. Following years of community-building, the intersection of Dale Street and University Avenue has emerged as a bright spot along the Central Corridor where small businesses get their start and residents live, dine, shop and learn.

The Green Line’s opening marks the beginning of the next chapter and should bring about more positive change, community members say.

“The whole strip looks better,” said John Tolo, who lives near the Dale Street Station and is part of a group that began reinvesting in neglected Frogtown properties three years ago. “And when things start to look nice that has a contagious effect on your neighbors. People start to take pride and want their place to look better, too.”

Tolo is working with the Frogtown Community House Project, which has purchased or leased nine properties on or near Charles Avenue, just north of Dale Street Station. Previously vacant buildings have been restored to provide homes for residents in need. A community garden and outreach center have also been developed.

Directly on University Avenue are two prominent buildings that symbolize the progress that has already been made in the Dale Street Station area – the Rondo Community Outreach Library and Frogtown Square, a mixed-use building where several small, locally-owned businesses are located. The library opened in 2006 while Frogtown Square opened in 2011 with support from a group of non-profits, the City of St. Paul, the Metropolitan Council and the federal government.

The library building, which also includes multifamily housing, sits on property that was previously home to an adult theater. Today, the library has become a community focal point with more than 500,000 visitors a year – the highest number of any of St. Paul’s public libraries.

Branch Manager Charlene McKenzie said students and adults come to the library from all over the metro and that light rail will allow even more people to access the site, which also includes a small business resource center.

“I’m kind of amazed every day who finds us,” McKenzie said. “I hope it (light rail) does make people’s journeys easier.”

Across the street in Frogtown Square, employees at the Daily Diner are also on a journey. Opened in April 2013, is part of a 12-week vocational training program that provides recovering adults the skills they need to enter the restaurant industry.

Nick Gisi, the director of men’s programs at Union Gospel Mission, which runs the diner, said most of those who participate in the program rely on transit to get to work. Having reliable, convenient access to the diner and future employment will be one of the keys to their success, he said.

“Some of these people have been out of the workforce for a long time and there’s some fear around it (working),” he said. “Anything you can do to make things easier and more convenient, even just getting to work and back, is a huge help for them.”

Above the diner, nearly 50 seniors live in Kings Crossing Apartments.

Among them is Jean Tretter, who moved there in 2011 so he could take advantage of the Green Line when it opened. Because of health issues, Tretter stopped driving more than a decade ago and now relies primarily on buses to get around. He said the Green Line and related bus improvements will make it easier for him to run errands, visit friends and continue living independently.

Tretter has for years used the METRO Blue Line to get to the VA Medical Center, and said he hopes more light rail lines will be built in the future.

“Every time they build a new light rail line it expands my ability to go somewhere,” he said. “So many places are difficult to get to now. I just want something where you can get on and get there and light rail does that.”

Dale Street Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16 provides local service between downtown St. Paul and the Green Line’s Stadium Village Station. Beginning June 14, Route 65 will provide service between the Rosedale Transit Center and Grand Avenue. Route 67 buses travel four blocks north of University Avenue on Thomas Avenue, turning on Dale Street to Minnehaha Avenue. The route travels between downtown St. Paul and connects with the Green Line’s Fairview Avenue and Raymond Avenue stations, terminating on the west end at the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station.

Public art: St. Paul artist Seitu Jones, who lives near Dale Street Station, created painted steel and aluminum "quilts" that include patterns and icons derived from many of the cultures present in the Dale Street Station area. Jones also created the public art for the Green Line's Capitol/Rice Street and Lexington stations. Jones' wife, Soyini Guyton, also created a poem that is featured at the station. ​Learn more

Area landmarks: Frogtown Square, Rondo Community Outreach Library, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Central Village Park, Carty Park, Saint Agnes School, Jackson Prep Magnet, Museum Magnet, Capitol Hill Magnet

Bike-ped connections: A Nice Ride kiosk is located on the west side of Frogtown Square. This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. There pedestrian crossings over I-94 between St. Anthony and Concordia avenues at Grotto and Mackubin streets (north access is between Kent and Arundel).

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association, Summit University Planning Council 

METRO Green Line Minneapolis Station Spotlight University of Minnesota

Getting to the game and more on the Green Line 

| Tuesday, April 08, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line test train departs Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis.When the cost of gas skyrocketed in 2008, Wally Widlund and his wife decided to make a change.

The couple sold their car and relocated from south Minneapolis to Prospect Park, nearer to work at the University of Minnesota.The decision to go car free has meant more walking and almost daily bus rides to fetch groceries, stop at the library or go the gym.

Beginning June 14, they’ll have an additional option  – the METRO Green Line. The Green Line’s Stadium Village Station is just a few blocks north of their home and will provide convenient and reliable transportation to both downtowns and the University Avenue corridor. “I’m really looking forward to being able to easily go to St. Paul and accessing all that’s along University Avenue,” Widlund said recently, riding to the Minneapolis Whole Foods on Route 6. “It will make it a lot easier for us, and I just like the vibrancy it will bring to the neighborhood.”

Widlund’s enthusiasm is shared by business owners, residents and commuters who will use Stadium Village Station.

Located at University Avenue and 23rd Avenue SE, the station will provide immediate access to TCF Bank Stadium, which the Golden Gophers football team will share with the Minnesota Vikings while a new stadium is constructed in Minneapolis. Several other U of M athletic facilities, including Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena, the McNamara Alumni Center and the Biomedical Discovery District are also nearby.

“We are excited about the Green Line opening,” said Jacqueline Brudlos, communications manager for the U of M’s Parking and Transportation Services. “Its impact on gamedays as well as the average school day should offer...relief to drivers in the immediate vicinity of campus.”

Brudlos, communications manager for the U of M’s Parking and Transportation Services. “Its impact on gamedays as well as the average school day should offer some potential relief to drivers in the immediate vicinity of campus.”  

Just south of Stadium Village Station is the bustling Stadium Village commercial district, which got its name after businesses located near the U of M’s former Memorial Stadium.

Christopher Ferguson is active in the business community and owns two Stadium Village businesses, a Dairy Queen and Bywater Business Solutions. Ferguson said he and other business owners are largely optimistic about what the Green Line will mean for the area.

A METRO Green Line train near the Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis.The hope is that the Green Line’s convenience will bring community members to Stadium Village throughout the year, and that some train passengers will be compelled to stop while traveling along the corridor.

Stadium Village businesses are partnering on events like the April 24 Taste of Stadium Village and looking to activate public open spaces to make Stadium Village a fun place to visit.

“The next phase of work is to get people to use the train and take advantage of the opportunities it creates -- to get them to explore parts of the community they haven’t before just because they weren’t as easy to get to,” Ferguson said.

Laura Beeth, the system director of talent acquisition for Fairview Health Services, also sees promise in the Green Line. Fairview has several locations along the light-rail corridor, including outpatient and children’s clinics on University Avenue just east of Stadium Village Station.

Beeth said the new light-rail connection will not only benefit patients and employees but the thousands of students who go through clinical rotations at Fairview sites every year.

Fairview is actively working to attract students who live in the Green Line corridor and works with several schools that are connected by transit service, including the U of M, St. Catherine University, Augsburg College, Saint Paul College and Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

“Not all of these students have cars and this will be a very convenient, affordable, stress-free way to get here,” Beeth said.

The convenience of light-rail is also seen as a major boost for those attending a wedding reception or other event at Profile Event Center, located on University Avenue about halfway between the Green Line’s Stadium Village and Prospect Park stations.

Having an easy way to travel to and from the venue is important for out-of-town guests who don’t want to rent a car and will also make for a fuller, more enjoyable visit, owner Patrick Kellis said.

“A lot of people have relatives or friends coming in from out of town,” Kellis said. “Now they can stay in a hotel downtown and take light-rail right to our facility, as well as the Mall of America, the airport, lots of places. It will be more of a fun weekend experience.”

Duane Rohrbaugh, the general manager at The Commons Hotel, said the prospect of a car-free, hassle-free stay drawing guests to the hotel, a block south of Stadium Village Station.

“In the last three weeks, we’ve booked three groups for the MLB All Star Game and it’s all because of the Green Line,” he said. “They’ll get into town, get on light rail and be able to get right here.”

The Green and Blue light-rail lines will share stations in downtown Minneapolis, including Target Field Station, where the All-Star Game will be held on July 15.

While particularly beneficial during events and gamedays, Rohrbaugh said the light-rail connection will be a year-round asset for guests at the hotel, which opened in late 2012.

“This (the Green Line) is just going to be a major artery for people to get into Stadium Village from either downtown and any place in the Twin Cities really,” he said.

A METRO Green Line test train at Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis. Stadium Village Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 6U, with local service in Edina, Uptown, downtown Minneapolis and the U of M, will be extended further east to 27th Avenue SE to connect with Stadium Village Station and provide local service to Prospect Park. Route 16 will continue to provide local service on the University Avenue corridor but will not continue to downtown Minneapolis; westbound commuters can instead transfer to the Green Line at Stadium Village Station. Several express or limited-stop routes with service to the U of M will also connect with the station, including Route 111, Route 113, Route 114, Route 115, Route 118, Route 252, Route 272, Route 465, Route 652, and Route 579. The U of M’s Campus Connector (Route 121) and East Bank Circulator (Route 123) also connect to Stadium Village Station.

Public art: Artist Roberto Delgado created a collage of historic and current photos from around campus and the Twin Cities, transferring the images to tiles using a silk screen process. The collage includes several photos from the U of M archives and commencement. “I like to superimpose photos so it becomes like a puzzle and you have to get up close to see what’s going on,” he said. Delgado created similar artwork for the Snelling Avenue and Central stations. Learn more

Area landmarks:  TCF Bank Stadium, Williams Arena, Mariucci Arena, McNamara Alumni Center, University Recreation and Wellness Center, Biomedical Discovery District, Stadium Village, Prospect Park

Bike-ped connections: The Dinkytown Greenway, an off-road trail through Dinkytown, runs between the Mississippi River and just north of TCF Bank Stadium. The trail connects with the U of M Transitway, which connects to the U of M’s St. Paul campus and is open only to bicyclists, transit and emergency vehicles. The Washington Avenue Transit/Pedestrian Mall runs between Walnut and Pleasant streets. Bicylsts and pedestrians can cross the Mississippi River on the Washington Avenue Bridge. There is also a trail along East River Parkway, on the west bank of the nearby Mississippi River. The U of M Bike Center is located at 401 SE Oak St, on the west side of the Oak Street Parking Ramp. For more information on biking on campus visit the U of M’s biking website.

Neighborhood groups: Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, Prospect Park 2020, Stadium Village Commercial Association

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Lowertown has high hopes for Green Line 

| Friday, March 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line test train at Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.Jim Ivey has always owned a vehicle. But lately, it’s not serving much of a purpose.

That’s because the Lowertown resident has largely given up on driving, choosing instead to get around by using transit, HOURCAR and Nice Ride. Soon, there will be another way for him to travel – the METRO Green Line.

Ivey lives and works just a few blocks from the Green Line’s Union Depot Station and plans to use the train to get to appointments on University Avenue, visit the State Capitol and make short trips in downtown St. Paul.

“Paying 50 cents to step on and step off right where I need to be is going to be really nice,” Ivey said, referring to the Green Line’s Downtown Zone between Union Depot and Capitol/Rice Street stations.

Ivey isn’t alone in looking forward to the Green Line. Across Lowertown, residents, business owners and organizations are anxiously awaiting the site of in-service light rail trains at Union Depot Station.

The Green Line’s eastern terminus, the station sits on the south side of East Fourth Street outside the Union Depot. The 1926 train station recently underwent a $243 million renovation and is owned by Ramsey County.

Caitlin Marlotte, the manager of community engagement for Twin Cities Public Television, said the Green Line will have an “immediate positive impact” by giving the station’s 200-plus employees a new way to get to work.

But the addition of light-rail will also allow TPT to open itself to the community in new ways. TPT’s studios are less than a block west of Union Depot Station, so visitors can easily take the train to visit for live tapings and other events. One of TPT’s public events is a series featuring Minnesota musicians called Lowertown Line, a name inspired by the Green Line.

“We really want to be able to invite the public into our station,” Marlotte said. “Having public transit that drops people off at Union Depot just a block away will be a big benefit for us.”

The Green Line will also be a boost to the community of artists who have taken up residency in the refurbished loft spaces surrounding Union Depot Station.

Linda Snyder and Valerie Anderson opened their store, Three Sisters, across from Union Depot a year ago and hope visitors will step off the train and through their doors. The store sells work from more than 80 Minnesota artists.

A METRO Green Line test train enters Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.“We absolutely see people coming from Minneapolis over to St. Paul and they’re going to be getting off right here,” Snyder said. “We think it’s really going to benefit our business.”

Next door, Andrew Rist sees the Green Line as a clear advantage for the 200-plus dancers who rehearse in Ballet Minnesota's first-floor studio space.

"It's always that problem of getting here," said Rist, who has been in Lowertown for nearly 30 years. "Light rail, when it's up-and-running, is going to make things a lot easier."

The combination of a strong arts community and transit led Bedlam Lowertown leaders to their space across from Union Depot Station, opening in April.

Venue Director Lucas Koski said Bedlam’s previous location near the METRO Blue Line’s Cedar- Riverside Station showed what kind of impact locating near transit can have. For some performances, more than 100 bikes would be parked at Bedlam, many of them brought by light-rail.

“One of the main caveats when we were looking for a new location is that we needed the train to be accessible,” he said. “The train offers more reliability and intersects nicely with bike culture. If you can bike to a station then you can come to us pretty easily.”

The nearby Union Depot’s connecting bus service is another plus, since it allows many of Bedlam’s guests and workers a one-seat ride to the location, said Koski, who travels to St. Paul on Route 21.

While Three Sisters, Bedlam and others hope transit provides year-round foot traffic, light rail will also be an important piece of events such as the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Northern Spark, First Fridays and the Saint Paul Art Crawl, which will be held next month.

Tom Reynen, who helps organize the Saint Paul Arts Crawl and is a board member at the AZ Gallery, said parking has always been an intimidating challenge when trying to draw people to the event. But with the convenience of light rail, he expects to draw in more people from outside the area.

“There is a lot packed into Lowertown so we’re looking at light rail as a way to handle all that growth by giving people a way to get here without having to drive,” he said.

While the Green Line won’t be in service in time for the Saint Paul Art Crawl, Metro Transit is offering free rides to this year's event, which runs April 26-27.

Leaders at the St. Paul Farmer's Market also believe that transit -- both bus and rail -- can help attract more people to their popular summer markets, which draw nearly 18,000 people each weekend. The market is just a block east of Union Depot Station, making it easy for people to visit and leave with a small amount of produce, flowers or other goods.

"Really where our emphasis is going to be in the next two years is getting people to change their habits," said Jack Gerten, market director.

The St. Paul Saints are also hoping fans will turn to transit when the team moves from the Midway to Lowertown next season.

Just two blocks east of Union Depot Station, the ballpark is expected to attract around 400,000 people annually. More than a third of fans are expected to use transit to get to games, said Annie Huidekoper, the Saint’s vice-president of community partnerships and community service.

“It’s all part of the dynamic, engaging nature of Lowertown and we just can’t wait to be a part of it,” she said.

The Green Line’s June 14 opening is particularly poignant to Don Ball, a founder of the shared workspace CoCo. CoCo’s St. Paul location, located immediately north of Union Depot Station, opened on the exact day light-rail construction began.

Ball said watching construction unfold has led him and others there to become “quite invested” in the project, which will provide an easy connection to its other location in downtown Minneapolis.

“That goes a long way to shrinking the distance between our two cities and opens up all sorts of possibilities,” he said. “We hope that it lets more of our members ditch their cars and take to the rails.” 

A METRO Green Line test train at Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.Union Depot Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routes: Route 21, with service to the Green Line’s Hamline Avenue and Snelling Avenue stations and the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis; Route 53, with limited-stop service on Snelling and Marshall avenues in St. Paul and Lake Street in Minneapolis; Route 54, with limited-stop service on West 7th Street to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; Route 94, with express service to downtown Minneapolis (effective June 16); Route 262, with limited-stop service on Rice Street between the 95th Avenue Park & Ride and downtown St. Paul; Route 417, with service to Mendota Heights; Route 480, with express service to Apple Valley and Eagan (operated by Minnesota Valley Transit Authority); Route 484 and Route 489 with express service to Eagan (operated by MVTA). Jefferson Lines and Megabus serve Union Depot and Amtrak passenger rail service is scheduled to arrive later this year.

Public art: The station will feature large carved black granite wheels that mimic those found on Great Northern’s Oriental Limited and Empire Builder trains. A stack of wheels used by transit vehicles in the corridor will be installed this spring (similar work is featured at the Green Line’s Westgate Station). The pieces were designed and created by Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears. Learn more

Area landmarks: Union Depot, St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Mears Park, Lowertown Ballpark (under construction and opening in 2015) , CoCo St. Paul, Twin Cities Public TelevisionMississippi National River and Recreation Area

Bike-ped connections: Off-street bike paths line each bank of the nearby Mississippi River. The Bruce Vento Regional Trail, which starts at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, will be extended through Lowertown along Prince Street to terminate at Broadway and Prince streets. There Nice Ride kiosks at Union Depot.

Neighborhood groups: CapitolRiver Council, Lowertown Entertainment District, Lowertown Landing 

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