Year in review: Headlines

JANUARY              

Sonny memories

On Jan. 5, roughly 500 friends and family members poured into the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community Center in Linden Hills to celebrate the life of Sonny Siron — the beloved founder of Sonny’s Ice Cream, which later became Crema Café at 34th & Lyndale.

Siron died Dec. 27 at the age of 81. His farewell party was dubbed the Sonshine Celebration.

An ‘extraordinary’ affirmation

Rev. Jen Nagel became the first gay Lutheran minister to be ordained in Southwest on Jan. 19, and the third in the Twin Cities. The church made it official with an "extraordinary ordination," an ordination performed outside traditional Lutheran guidelines.

Robbery spike

Southwest robbers rang in the New Year with a flurry of activity during the first week of January.

From Jan. 1–7, 20 robberies were reported in the 5th Precinct. That’s more than double the weekly average of nine, said Minneapolis Police Department Insp. Kristine Arneson, who oversees the area.

Arneson said many of the robberies, which occurred primarily in the Whittier and Lyndale neighborhoods, were done in the same way: a group of robbers in a vehicle would drive around, spot a target, commit the crime, then return to the vehicle and move on. Some of the incidents involved a weapon or threat of harm.

FEBRUARY    

A plan for Lyn-Lake

On the heels of the Feb. 1 city approval of the Uptown Small Area Plan, City Council Member Ralph Remington rolls out another planning process for the Lyn-Lake area. The plan is designed as a 20-year land-use plan that calls for the community to weigh in on future development objectives.

Nicollet fires

Less than a week after a pair of fires at 34th Street & Nicollet Avenue left numerous low-income residents stranded and two businesses and a new mural destroyed, the neighborhood came together to talk about moving forward.

At the regular Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) meeting Feb. 25, five days after the fires, residents talked about what the corner would look like with a coffee shop, a small grocery store or something else.  

"We spent quite a bit of time just having people put their ideas out for what could happen at that corner and what’s the neighborhood need," said LNA Executive Director Mark Hinds.

The first fire started around 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 in a building at 3343 Nicollet Ave. S. that housed retailer Jojo Urban Clothing, a bakery being converted into a pizza parlor and a vacant space. A second fire that appeared to be unrelated to the first started at a rooming house next door at 4:20 p.m.

MARCH              

New plans for Sunnyside site

The former Almsted’s Sunnyside Market site near 44th Street & France Avenue and an adjacent Gas Plus station might be replaced with a CVS/
Pharmacy.  

The national pharmacy chain’s hired development firm, Velmeir Companies, has been in talks with the owners of the Almsted’s and Gas Plus properties and hopes to use both sites for a single development.    

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) is hosting a community meeting with the developers April 8 to go over design plans. LHiNC plans compile and submit neighborhood feedback from the meeting to Velmeir. The group wants to eventually host a second public meeting to go over how the community’s input could be incorporated into the project.

North Face opens in Uptown

Outdoor clothing retailer The North Face opened March 21 at 3008 Hennepin Ave. S.

The newly constructed store is the company’s only one in Minnesota. The nearest North Face stores are in Madison and Chicago. Other retailers carry North Face products, but stand-alone stores are rare throughout the U.S.  

The company’s Uptown location carries a more extensive line of North Face products than other retailers in the state, managers said. Outdoor gear and apparel for every season is available.

Pothole city

When pothole season rolls around each spring, it doesn’t just come to one street; it arrives everywhere in Minneapolis at once.

And yet, Harvey Ettinger saw something remarkable March 18 that reinforced his belief that the pothole problem on his street — East Lake of the Isles Parkway — was among the most serious in the city.

Within one hour that night, Ettinger said, he saw two cars get flat tires after hitting massive potholes near his house, on the parkway’s 2600 block. (Ettinger provided the drivers’ names, and they confirmed the story.)

In March, Public Works officials were working on a plan to move up a scheduled renovation of the parkway to 2009 from 2011. The proposal would "front-load" the next three years of parkway renovation funding to complete the project early, said Mike Kennedy, director of transportation maintenance and repair.

APRIL     

Przynski takes new post

Three and a half years doesn’t seem like much time at any job, but in the Minneapolis Police Department, anything more than a couple years in one position is
noteworthy.

So when Lt. Marie Przynski left the 5th Precinct, where she’s worked since Christmas 2005, to take a job as commander of the MPD’s Narcotics Unit, it should have come as no surprise to anyone.

But for community members who have developed a close relationship with Przynski during her stint in Southwest, the news was hard to take.

Przynski — whose sector included West Calhoun, East Calhoun, CARAG, Lyndale, Kingfield, East Harriet and Linden Hills — worked her last 5th Precinct shift April 11. According to her colleagues and many residents who have come to know her, her time in Southwest was well spent.   

MAY 

Loop Calhoun on rocky ground

Loop Calhoun, a 122-unit condominium project at 3104 W. Lake St., is in foreclosure and has been entangled for months in a dispute involving the developer, the contractor and the lending bank.

Developer Mathwig Development defaulted on its roughly $32 million loan in early March, nearly a year after firing general contractor Dew Corporation, of St. Paul, which imposed an $8.6 million mechanics’ lien on the property in June for completed work. Wary of shaky financing, Dew halted construction on the project before getting the boot and little has happened to the development since.

A limit on idling

In an effort to limit the effect cars have on Minneapolis air pollution, City Council members eyed an ordinance amendment May 16 that would limit vehicles to idling for three straight minutes or less.

The first addition to the city’s idling ordinance — relating to regulation of large, commercial diesel engine vehicles — has already passed, making Minneapolis the 10th city nationwide to adopt such a measure. That amendment allows diesel vehicles, in general, to idle only for five minutes every hour. The second article — relating to all other gas-fueled vehicles — was referred back to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, where it was schedule to be further discussed in committee.

"Over half of air pollution in the city is coming from cars, trucks and buses," said Environmental Services Supervisor Daniel Huff.  

JUNE         

Council adopts resolution supporting green economy

The City Council has jumped on the green jobs bandwagon with the approval of a resolution June 11.

Members formally resolved to keep green jobs in mind in all future decisions to capture the benefits of the emerging green economy.

The resolution is another step in the advancement of Mayor R.T Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s "Making it Green" initiative — a plan to bolster environmentally friendly manufacturing in the region.

JULY     

Championing biking/walking

Shanai Matteson isn’t your typical sash-wearing ambassador. She prefers a bike helmet any day of the week.

Matteson, 26, is one of eight Bike/Walk Ambassadors recently hired by the city to get more people to use their feet, rather than an engine, to get from A to B.

"It’s really just as simple as we want more people to bike and walk for transportation and drive less," Matteson said. "We want people to have the tools they need to bike and walk safely and conveniently."

Broder passes away

Tom Broder knew food, cherished food and understood food. Friends and family fondly remember lunches with cold ricotta and dinners where something new — new grilling methods or new ingredients — were always on the menu.

"The man loved food," friend Jay Sparks said.

Broder, the owner and founder of Broders’ Cucina Italiana and Broders’ Pasta Bar, died July 5 of a lifelong heart condition. He was 59.

New fire chief

The City Council approved the appointment of Alex Jackson as Minneapolis fire chief.  

Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) noted that the hiring of an African-American fire chief is historic in the city, particularly in a department that once needed federal oversight of its hiring practices.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the fire department has gone through some tough times, but he believes that Jackson is able to hear all sides of an argument equitably.

Former Fire Chief Jim Clack left the department in April to work as Baltimore’s fire chief.

AUGUST    

Marking the bridge collapse anniversary

Two public events were planned for Friday, Aug. 1 to observe the one-year anniversary of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

At 11 a.m., an interfaith prayer and memorial service was held at the Basilica of St. Mary, 88 N. 17th St. Following the procession and invocation, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Mayor R.T. Rybak offered their reflections. Rev. Peg Chamberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, also spoke.

New structure for NRP

The continuation/makeover of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) is far from complete, but change is afoot.

The NRP Work Group, which spent months thinking up the future of the program, has dismantled, and the City Council in September approved the creation of both a new committee and a new department that eventually will oversee it all.

The Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission — a 16-member group of residents appointed by neighborhood groups, the mayor and City Council — will oversee the next phase of NRP.

SEPTEMBER    

RNC revelries

The Republicans arrive in the Twin Cities for the Republican National Convention. While the Xcel Energy Center is the venue for most convention business, downtown Minneapolis hotels are packed with conventiongoers and the Minneapolis Convention Center hosts CivicFest — an interactive exhibit celebrating Minnesota and American political history.

New I-35W bridge opens

Hundreds of people gathered before dawn on Sept. 18 to witness the first motorists cross the new Interstate 35W bridge.

Escorted by squad cars, fire trucks and ambulances, the first cars drove over the bridge around 5 a.m., prompting cheers from onlookers who gathered with cameras to photograph and videotape the historic event.

The new bridge opened just 13 months after the old I-35W bridge plunged into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007, claiming the lives of 13 people and seriously injuring 145 others.

OCTOBER    

The politics of trash

The longtime garbage hauler that serves Southwest will lose a large chunk of its territory to a new hauler under a contract agreement the Minneapolis City Council approved Oct. 24.

What that means for Southwest garbage collection isn’t yet clear and depends heavily on whether both haulers accept the city’s contract.

The best-case scenario is that come Feb. 1, when the contract is scheduled to begin, a different truck shows up to collect your trash at a slightly cheaper rate. The worst-case scenario — highly unlikely but possible if a court battle ensues between the haulers and the city, or if the haulers simply walk away from the contract — is that nobody shows up at all.

NOVEMBER    

Election results

The election of Barack Obama on Nov. 4 prompts street parties throughout the city, including a massive one at 26th & Lyndale. On a local level, the election was a big night for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a doubling of the district’s current property tax levy to $60 million a year for eight years, beginning next fall. By nearly as wide a margin, they approved a major change to the way school board members are elected.

They also elected two new school board members — Carla Bates and Jill Davis — and returned incumbent Lydia Lee.

Safety concerns at Starbucks

Concerned about their own safety and the safety of customers, employees at the Starbucks at Franklin & Nicollet avenues have demanded that the company hire a security guard.

Baristas delivered a petition signed by 500 community members and customers in support of the guard to managers Nov. 12. A small group of employees and patrons rallied outside the coffee shop today to further voice their concerns about safety at the intersection, which has long been a hotspot for transients and a variety of criminal activity.

DECEMBER    

A dim outlook for holiday sales

Debra Tekle has spent much of the holiday season gazing out the huge front windows of Urban Traveler’s new Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street store, watching people pass by.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, signs boasting "super savings" stood next to miniature Christmas trees outside the door and hung everywhere inside, where hot tea and baked treats awaited customers, should any arrive.

Some area businesses are performing well this season despite recession woes, but slow traffic is a reality at many and the near future doesn’t look bright — retail spending this holiday shopping season is projected to be the bleakest it’s been in two decades.

A survey conducted by staff at the University of St. Thomas determined that the average household would spend $663 on holiday shopping, down from $751 forecasted last year. More than half of the survey respondents said they would spend less on gifts this year, and just 4 percent said they would spend more.