Last Friday the deal to purchase the Vandalia Mattress building finally closed with 1st & 1st Development company taking over from the banks that had taken it in foreclosure several months ago. It's been a long process, but there is a lot of hope that this building will become a centerpiece for the emerging Creative Enterprise Zone. The proposed plan by Peter Remes and his 1st & 1st team is to keep most of the current tenants (a radiator company working with lead and a snake/reptile breeder are being helped to find other locations,) tear down the 60's vinyl additions and rehab the main building and brick structures on the campus (there are 9 buildings.) Other rearranging will take place no doubt (there are several small woodworking companies who might be consolidated into their own new space with a showroom and better ventilation) but the recording arts high school is still in the mix if they want to stay.

Peter and his team, along with the CEZ group, met yesterday with Mayor Coleman, Councilman Stark and City Arts Czar, Joe Spencer, to get a better understanding of the 1st & 1st vision for the site and to see if there were any incentives that could be offered for this development and to attract others to bring more investment/jobs into the Zone. The Mayor was very receptive and excited about the project's potential. My understanding is that there is some money for clean-up and low-income housing, but housing is not part of this proposal, so we'll have to wait and see on what the city can bring to the table. I also think infrastructure is something cities can offer to support development and a long-term solution to the parking in the Zone would be incredibly helpful. As for other incentives, the CEZ is working to put together a support network for creative entrepreneurs and working on a marketing plan (website, etc.) for the area. This project is definitely creating a buzz already and will certainly heighten interest in the area.

D12 - The Midway Local Food Hub is having its first seed and seedling distribution this Saturday from 9-noon at Leonardo's Basement/Griggs Park (1188 Hubbard Ave., St. Paul.) You can register to be a part of the Hub at this event and get in on seeds, gardening info, etc. Here's the website for more info...not that we've had much, but when we do get rain, make sure you are directing your downspouts onto your lawn, garden or into a rain barrel for watering use later. This run-off into the storm system is not filtered before hitting our waterways and so any pollution it picks up on the way can really screw the environment up...just a couple days left to get in your submission for St. Paul's sidewalk poetry contest. Check it out before April 13...there's alot more on the D12 website, so check it out regularly to see all of the programming and events going on in our area.

Schools - Science fairs, History Day, Destination ImagiNation and more are the spring happenings at our local Area E schools, which is our community's new designation under the SPPS Plan. Just a reminder, that means the following K-5 schools - Chelsea Heights, Como Park, Galtier, Hancock-Hamline and StAP - will all feed into Murray for 6-8 and then to Como High for 9-12 (Students can apply to other St. Paul public schools on a space available, you provide the transportation basis.) A performance by Como High's Chamber Orchestra was broadcast on MPR recently and the annual D.C. student trip found lovely weather and met with members of the MN congressional delegation including, Sen. Amy Klobuchar...Murray sent 49 students to the regional science fair with five qualifying for the state competition. Four students qualified for the State History Day finals and the baseball team is having another unbeaten season...StAP Elementary had 96 students participating in the Destination ImagiNation competition this year with 7 teams placing in the top five of their categories and 6 teams moving on to the state tourney. 240 kids presented projects for the annual science fair. 240? Wow.

listserv - Bob and Nancy Thayer are selling tomato plants as part of their annual Humane Society fundraiser. They have quite a selection of varieties and are known for their plant quality - contact them here...Adam Granger is hosting the Contra Dance this Saturday above the Hampden Park Co-op. Instruction starts at 7:30 pm, then dance the night away from 8-11 pm...Susan Henry has listed all the branch library April activities on the library website...don't forget about the "In the Zone" Happy Hour a week from tomorrow (thursday, April 19) from 5-7pm in the old Urban Blueprint space on the SW corner of Raymond & University. Refreshments and connection promised.

StAPnotes - I just about got rear-ended this morning waiting to turn left from Como onto Hendon. A young women texting looked up in time to screech to within a foot or so of my back bumper, then promptly went back to texting. Hope it was important, it was so close I think I'm suffering from virtual whiplash...the Colossal Cafe has gotten preliminary approval for outdoor dining and is now waiting final approval on their beer & wine license. Neighbors in the immediate vicinity were very supportive with Park Bank offering their parking lot after banking hours. I finally got a chance to try their chicken pot pie and it was fantastic. If you need a dinner idea some night, order one of those for pick up before 3pm and you will be more than good to go...you can enjoy a refreshing beverage right now on the Bistro, Muffuletta, Cafe Caribe or Mim/Lori's patios and with this nice weather, it's the best way to take a moment and spend time with friends...I finally got in to meet the new owners of the little wine shop, Pam and Austen Johnson. They seem like very nice people and will be a great addition to our business community...there will be a celebration honoring the life of Sheila Richter, a long-time director and teacher at the St. Anthony Park Co-op Preschool on Saturday, May 19 at 3pm at the UCC Church. Sheila, who died several months ago, was a very bright light for kids and families for a number of years. Many children and parents were incredibly fortunate to have her as their teacher.

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