A building in South St. Anthony Park is on the verge of selling, or may already have been sold, and its sale may be the start of something very exciting. It’s the old mattress factory building on Vandalia across from the Rock-Tenn Recycling Center. It currently houses the High School for the Recording Arts - a charter school which has taught recording and sound engineering to a very diverse and primarily economically-distressed population, some even homeless. It also houses a creative incubator and various craftspeople/artists. There are some transport-oriented warehouses in back as well.

The building went through foreclosure, a sheriff’s sale and now hopefully, a new owner will start the process of rehabbing the site with a vision for keeping the current residents while trying to attract more creative enterprises and reportedly, even an urban farming operation. There still are some concerns about the degree of environmental clean-up necessary, but the hope is that it will not suck too much of the money planned for rehab.

As many of you know, I have been a part of a group that has been trying to build community in that area around the intersection of industry and culture that is relatively unique in the Metro area. The region has been, and will always be, a largely industrial area, the challenge is to carve out an appropriately sized piece of it to encourage the relatively large (compared to other neighborhoods, including Lowertown) proportion of creatives, non-profits and small businesses to stay and thrive. An important piece of the vision is increased job creation.

That population has historic roots as well and has existed there along with industry since the late 1800’s. The number of residents has increased over the past 5 years with new housing up and down University Avenue and stands poised to grow even more with the arrival of light rail. There are many great people and operations in this informally named Creative Enterprise Zone and its future is bright.

That was a big diversion, but to circle back to my opening news, the Vandalia building could very well be the tipping point for this new econo-culture. Its proposed commitment to providing space for creative enterprises (70 jobs are being talked about right off the bat) coupled with some level of incentives or support for “starters” of all kinds is required (I’ve just read a book that suggests “entrepreneurs” is a dated, useless term, so I’m trying their suggested alternative.)

I’ve been told by sources in the know that development on our end of the corridor will not necessarily be overnight and so far that seems to be bearing out. I wish the new Vandalia building owners much luck and know they will receive a lot of support from the CEZ group and neighbors who want very much to see them succeed. Developers and property owners like Wellington, Update and the Johnson’s are slowly turning that area into a lively destination for all kinds of neighbors.  This melting pot is our urban future as we all learn how to live in, and enjoy, the incredibly stimulating mix. I look forward to working with these newest CEZonians to continue that exciting process.

D12 – I have to mention the new districting plan that was announced. It supposedly doesn't change much state-wide, but it sure mixes our area up a lot. Our State Senator, Mary Jo McGuire will be in the same district as John Marty. There's a year long streetcar study initiated by the city of St. Paul to see if they would be a good way to connect light rail with the north-south feeder routes. If implemented. , we may be able to tie into one to move people between the north and south end of StAP. We're imagining we'll want to have a circulator of some sort come 2014. Our councilperson, Russ Stark has been the driving force behind that consideration. 

Schools - the Como High Boys Hockey team, filled with many neighborhood kids, is having a nice season. The team consisting of kids from Como and Great River Charter are enjoying playing together for a new coach who is bringing fun, technique and an emphasis on good grades to the gentlemen pucksters...Murray's History Day was last night and though I was out of town and have not had a chance to catch up, I am sure it was successful. It's a great event with impressive entries every year and students go on to city and state competitions where Murray kids always do well...meanwhile at StAP Elementary, the Destination Imagination teams are going through their dress rehearsals for the big competition that tests creativity and teamwork. We are always well represented at all levels of that as well with several teams in the recent past going all the way to the nationals.

Listserv - This Friday at 6:15 and 7:30 pm at St. Matt's Episcopal, Music in the Park Series hosts their first Family Series show featuring Ross Sutter and Laura MacKenzie. Take the kids and go, they are always sensational. Call 651.292.3268 for more info...Next Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7pm there will be a showing at the United Methodist Church of "White Water, Black Gold," a film which details the environmental costs of the Keystone pipeline. It's part of the Green on the Screen series sponsored by the StAP Energy Resilience Group, another unique org I forgot to mention in my last week listing of our amazing assets...the St. Paul Police Western Division will be hosting a series of home security and personal safety trainings in march, June and September. For more info, call 651-266-5625 or email Pam.mccreary@ci.stpaul.mn.us...good neighbor story of the week: a student left a college text book on the top of his car and drove off losing it somewhere on his trip. A neighbor found it and heard of his plight on listserv and returned it to him. 

StAPnotes -  local son, Ben Shardlow, is part of a very innovative idea taking place in the CEZ. He helped found the Starling Project, a volunteer organization that is trying to rent empty store-fronts by the month along University Avenue. Ben spent his early years at the corner of Chelmsford and Commonwealth with his siblings and parents, Marilyn and John. Sounds like they are stirring up some interest, I look forward to seeing how it turns out. I was invited to the organizing workshop and was very impressed by their enthusiasm and agility. Here’s the link to the story...Charlie Nauen was named both a 2011 Lawyer of the Year by MN Lawyer and the 2012 Environmental Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers. That's a double mazel...

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