Neighborhood News

Lyndale neighborhood hires new executive director

Deb Foster is no stranger to the Lyndale neighborhood. For the past 15 years, Foster has worked at the YMCA at 3335 Blaisdell Ave. S. On Feb. 2, she took over as the new executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, whose office is just blocks away at 3537 Nicollet Ave. S.

During her YMCA tenure, Foster held a variety of jobs. She started as a marriage and family therapist, which she called her dream job because she could work with inner-city families who often lack access to mental health services. The United Way underwrote her work, and as a result she was able to charge couples $5 a session.

Later, she became the community program’s manager overseeing youth development, family enrichment and the senior citizen programming. After a stint as membership marketing director, she became the facility manager.

Though Foster is still learning the LNA job, she feels that she has a bead on it because of her knowledge of the people, the churches, the service organizations and the partnering agencies located in the Lyndale neighborhood.

In addition, she is no stranger to the LNA activities since she worked on joint grant proposals that allowed both organizations to provide programs in the communities.

Said Foster, "My goal is to continue to do what LNA does best, which is to empower residents and to implement projects that residents feel are needed and necessary for the betterment of the Lyndale neighborhood."

Whittier caf/ gets parking variance

The Minneapolis Planning Commission granted a parking variance for the proposed new coffee shop, Blue Caf/, located at 2524 Nicollet Ave. S. at its Feb. 9 meeting. Samantha Nguyen, the owner, is proposing a 25-seat, 700-square-foot seating area for her new business.

By ordinance, the new coffee shop would need 15 parking spaces before getting Minneapolis Planning Department approval. Blue Caf/ is in the Whittier neighborhood, which is already hurting for parking. However, Becca Farrar, senior city planner, said a caveat in the ordinance states that exceptions are made for pedestrian-oriented businesses such as Blue Caf/ that are frequented by neighborhood customers, rather than those who would drive from further away.

The Blue Caf/ agreed to create four parking spots in the back of the building, including one for people with disabilities. The parking area will be paved, striped and designed to drain storm water runoff into the alley. Bike racks will also be installed to promote bike traffic. Decorative planters will be in all of the windows in front of the building, too.

Nguyen’s next step is to go through the city’s permitting process.

Stevens community center celebrates 50th anniversary

The Loring-Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center (LNBCC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a 6 p.m. event at Plymouth Congregational Church at 1900 Nicollet Ave. S. on Monday, Feb. 23.

The Stevens Square center, one of two Southwest LNBCC facilities, provides education services such as English as a second language, graduate equivalency degrees and preschool programs; and it sponsors two alternative high schools, serving 50 students each. LNBCC also provides basic education, literacy, job search and placement services for older youth and adults. Its funding comes from United Way, government contracts and individual contributions.

Bert Berlowe, a center spokesperson, said, "The Loring-Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center has always had a close association with neighborhood organizations, local churches, banks and other groups involved in community service."

An RSVP is required for the event. Those interested should call 872-3624.

Whittier gets cleanup grants

Two Whittier housing developments have received Hennepin County environmental grants.

The Hennepin County Board approved 13 Environmental Response Fund grants worth $972,000 to evaluate and clean up contaminated sites, a media release said.

Franklin Lofts LLC will receive $230,000 for asbestos abatement of the former Ramar Buidling, 111 E. Franklin Ave. The developer plans to remodel the two-story office building into a 63-unit owner-occupied condo, with 20 affordable units.

The 2000 Nicollet Avenue LLC will receive $22,885 to excavate and dispose of contaminated soil at the site of a former gas station. The developer plans to build Greenleaf Lofts on the half-acre site at 2000 Nicollet, for a mixed commercial and owner-occupied building.

CIDNA withholds Greenway streetcar support

Rejecting calls to support a Midtown Greenway streetcar, the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA) board voted in February not to choose a preferred transportation alternative until more information is available.

The Midtown Greenway Coalition, a multineighborhood group, had sought support for a proposed streetcar system to run from the Chain of Lakes to the Hiawatha Light Rail Line via the greenway. It would run along CIDNA’s southern border, just north of and parallel to Lake Street. (The neighborhood is tucked roughly between Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun’s northern shore.)

CIDNA’s reluctance stems, in part, from another transportation corridor that runs through the neighborhood, the Kenilworth Corridor. Like the greenway, Kenilworth (which cuts northeast through CIDNA) features bike trails and walking paths and in some areas runs very close to homes.

Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority is currently studying transit options to best connect the suburbs to Southwest and Downtown. The study is now focused on light-rail transit’s viability, and could run on one of either CIDNA’s two corridors.

Because of the tracks’ proximity to residences, as well as environmental concerns, CIDNA board members oppose light rail in the neighborhood. Some noted that the streetcar rails are light-rail compatible. Some CIDNA board members reasoned that if they supported one transit alternative in the greenway, it would be easier to place another in Kenilworth.

County officials are considering a Kenilworth light-rail route but have ruled out one that would run along the greenway to Lyndale Avenue and head north into downtown.

Still, County Study Manager Katie Walker said they’d still consider a connection between the Midtown Greenway and the Hiawatha line in the future.

Another public meeting on the county’s plans is tentatively scheduled for May. For more information, visit the study’s Web site at www.co.hennepin.mn.us/tcw/Southwest/swhome.htm.

CARAG chili fest is Feb. 29

The CARAG neighborhood hosts their annual Chili Fest at Bryant Square Park, 3101 Bryant Ave. S., Feb. 29 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. The CARAG neighborhood group still seeks volunteers to help with cooking, serving and setup and cleanup.

For more information about the festival or to volunteer, call 823-2520.