Last Wednesday I was on hand for what looked an awful lot like the birth of a new community. A Give & Take, sponsored by the D12 Council and the Creative Enterprise Zone Task Force, was held in the recently purchased Mattress Factory building on Vandalia. It was put on by Works Progress and led by Ben Shardlow, a former resident and one of the forces behind the Starling project which set up a successful Pop-up gallery in an empty University Ave storefront this summer. (By the way, that project resulted in the space being rented by a retro store, MidModMen check it out.)

Basically, about 100 or so interested people were treated to beer, wine and ice-breaker games in between presentations from neighborhood businesses & entrepreneurs. One of the residents of the Mattress building is Miles Mendenhall, artist and star of the Bravo TV show ‘Work of Art’ - he talked about creativity and working across disciplines. Jeremy Lenz, who is involved with the collaborative biotech research center in the Westgate complex told about his experience with incubators and the people it brings into the community. Award winning filmmaker Dawn Mikkelson showed a piece of her latest film, Risking Light (really moving) and talked about how she funded it on Kickstarter. Emily Cook, Executive Director of the Rock Star Supply Co., which provides tutors for St. Paul Schools, spoke about creating curious kids. The whole thing was kicked off by artist and CEZ task force chair, Catherine Day and local architect, Geoff Warner of Wee House fame who framed the event in the context of connection inspiring creativity.

Also sharing some thoughts was the building’s owner, Peter Remes, who invited the gathering to contribute ideas for naming the building. The Launch Pad, Bounce and Spring City were some put forward. I also met the owners of our soon-to-be first brewery and tasting room in D12. Bang Beer’s SSA building is already on its way up and they hope to offer their first tastes next spring. I also met a couple other guys who are looking for a spot in the area for their new brewery. Must be in the water, huh?

So, things are moving down there and what was particularly exciting about the whole thing was new meeting old around the idea of what is and could be. Neighbors meeting neighbors talking about collaborative possibilities or just getting to know each other and what goes on in the Zone. We all know about Rock-Tenn and the RR and some of the more established entities, but did you know there’s a company that makes floating islands out of recycled plastic that help filter and clean water? Or that an artist and her two daughters make mural-textured paint for Hirschfields? It is a very vibrant and interesting place, becoming more so every day.

Kudos to D12 Executive Director, Amy Sparks for her enlightened and steady navigation of the CEZ process, also to Catherine Day who has really been the connecting/driving force of the University & Raymond community for at least 15 years. After several years of hard work to put the conditions in place for this community to come together, it’s incredibly rewarding to see it happening.

D12 – If you visit their web page you can find info about fun places and green spaces to be active, the Neighborhood Heroes photo contest (win a flat screen TV!)  and, ugh, updates on snow emergency procedures. You’ll also find CURA data on neighborhood desirability and thoughts about walkability.

Schools – I had a great meeting this morning with the dynamic fundraising team for SAPSA – the St. Anthony Park Elementary School Association. They raise around $60,000 each year to support important arts, environmental and enrichment activities not covered in the district budget. Their Fall Festival is coming soon on Oct. 26. Festivities kick off at 5:30 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. There will be live music and dancing, food, a haunted house, crafts and a pumpkin decorating contest. There also will be the always popular silent auction. More info on the SAPSA's new and excellent blog…you will also find a very comprehensive explanation of the changes coming to our schools next year from the district restructuring. Sounds like the hope is that 6th grades moving to Murray will have their own area of the school and will be run similarly to how they run in the elementary school. They will mix with 7th & 8th graders in certain elective classes and extra-curricular activities. No word on whether the same teachers will move over…Como High’s Parent Academy starts Oct. 22 at 5:30. All parents are welcome to learn about the school and techniques for supporting their students.

Listserv – The St. Paul Fire Dept. is offering city homeowners a chance to participate in Project Safe Haven, a voluntary, self-inspection of your home using a handy checklist the Fire Department provides. (They were actually just next door as I write at the Methodist church showing the pre-schoolers their truck.) Call 651-228- 6273 for more info… Next Thursday, 10/18, there’s a free concert at 7:30pm in Ted Mann Concert Hall (UMN West Bank) with the University Band. The program features two American Premieres including an accordion Concerto and works by Minnesota composers… Also on the 18th, Representative Alice Hausman will host a discussion on the Voter ID amendment. The event will run from 7-8:30 pm at Alice's home, 1447 Chelmsford Street. Light refreshments will be served.

StAPnotes – I attended about the best fundraising event I’ve been to last week at the Neighborhood House, I really wonderful non-profit making a difference in the lives of many new Americans in our metro area. Neighbor, board member and tutoring volunteer, PJ Pofahl, headed up this year’s event, which I hear turned out very well. Exceptional leadership and staff, dedicated volunteers like PJ, and successful programming make this a critical institution to find out about and support.


Oct. 18    Voter ID discussion, 7-8:30pm 1447 Chelmsford

                U Band Concert, Ted Mann Hall

Oct. 22    Como High Parent Academy, 5:30pm

Oct. 26    St.AP Elementary School Fall Festival, 6:30-9pm

That’s all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.