New Year greetings! Welcome to 2022. Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
New year, new opportunities: SLP City Council members and key city staff will gather later this month for a two-day retreat at Lenox Community Center, where we’ll explore how we can work together for optimal results in the coming year. Encouraged by our new city manager Kim Keller, we’ll be taking a more systems-based approach to decision making in 2022, organized around our five Strategic Priorities of environmental stewardship, racial equity, housing, mobility, and community engagement. I’m excited about this shift in our approach to governing and eager to work with my council colleagues and staff to explore ways we can make our community even better, for everyone.
Resident engagement is a big part of what makes our community great. If you haven’t engaged with me and/or other council members in the past on issues you care about, I encourage you to do so in the coming year. If you’re already in the habit of being in touch, I hope you’ll keep it up! I welcome phone calls (952-928-1447), emails, and online or in person meetings with residents (contact me to arrange) – it helps me do my job better.
City council meets most Monday evenings, at City Hall, and all meetings are open the public. Meeting agendas are available here the Friday before. Here's information on how to go online and observe your city council at work.
PLACE/Via Sol: Good news ... construction on the beleaguered Via Sol project will ramp up to full speed in the next couple weeks, following nonprofit developer PLACE’s recent closure on a $20M completion bond from a commercial lender. All back taxes and the city’s bond fee have been paid, and TIF payments to the developer won’t begin until the project is complete, eligible costs are certified, and the developer is paying property taxes. Via Sol hopes to be leasing by summer.
Public art in SLP: Great public art can create community identity, invigorate public spaces, and humanize the built environment. In SLP, our roster of public art projects is growing, with new sidewalk poetry recently completed near Texas Ave. and 36th St. and new outdoor sculptures near the Bridgewater Bank headquarters and The Elmwood. Here’s a helpful map of all public art in our community. Related, check out our Strategic Road Map for Advancing Arts and Culture, developed last year by St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts(FOTA). FOTA has been successfully building community through the arts for decades, so I’m pleased with this year's increase in their allocation of city funds, from $40K to $70K. One cool example of a FOTA partnership is last year's Paint the Drain pilot program designed to raise awareness of the importance of keeping our streets clean to protect our waterways. Here's a 3-minute video on the project.
Webster Park update: This valued Sorenson neighborhood asset, on a parcel owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), has been in limbo for years now, and neighbors are eager to reenvision the park. MnDOT is currently processing a request to formally convey the land to the city, anticipated to occur in 2022. Once the land is conveyed, staff will begin working with the neighborhood on a master plan for the park, with construction tentatively slated for 2023. The reimagined park will include the installation of an underground regional storm water treatment facility.
Police/mental health response: For a few years now the SLP PD has benefited from the presence of an embedded social worker to assist officers with the many mental health calls they receive. Our 2022 budget increases the position from half-time to full-time beginning in March. Mental health-related calls make up a large percentage of calls to local dispatch every week.
Fern Hill Neighborhood organizing effort: Within Ward 1, five of six neighborhoods are organized, with the exception of Fern Hill. That’s about to change: A group of Fern Hill residents is working to reestablish the neighborhood association and is currently meeting to establish bylaws, elect officers, and establish goals and committees for the coming year and is seeking help. They’re also looking for help developing a neighborhood website. Interested in helping? Email here.
Daycare ordinance: Convenient access to affordable quality daycare is critical for families, particularly families who experience transportation, financial and other barriers. While the state licenses daycares, city ordinances can promote or discourage daycare operators from opening up shop in a particular community. Council recently approved changes to our daycare ordinance that (1) allow nearby city parks to meet a portion of the required outdoor play area and (2) eliminate a requirement that daycares be located more than 200 feet from major arterial roads. These changes put our city more in line with other cities and hopefully will result in additional commercial day care options for SLP families in the future.
Climate podcast: My council colleague Larry Kraft hosts a bimonthly podcast called City Climate Corner that explores how small and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. The March 2021 episode features the work of our own St. Louis Park youth to initiate our city’s ambitious Climate Action Plan. Thanks Larry for all you’re doing to promote sustainability, here at home and across the country!
Local mask mandate? Council will get an update on local COVID protocols at our Jan. 10 meeting and may discuss whether to implement a citywide mandate given the current high rate of spread. Having a mandate can put workers, especially young workers, in a difficult position as enforcers and may have other unintended consequences; at the same time CDC recommendations include masking in all indoor spaces in areas with high transmission, like the Twin Cities metro area. More to come on this.
Trail snow removal app: Once again, the city is providing an updated online map showing the status of snow removal on the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail to help regular trail users make decisions about the suitability of the trail for bicycling and walking following a significant snowfall. This is a pilot project to determine the capabilities and usefulness of providing this information to residents. If you use this map, please email the city here with your feedback.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in our community:
Fern Hill Pavement Management Final Design Open House: Wednesday, Jan. 12, 5:30-7 pm, SLP City Hall, Council Chambers. Residents can also reach out to project manager Aaron Wiesen to schedule a phone call or online meeting to discuss the project. The public hearing on this significant infrastructure project is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7, 6:30 pm at City Hall; please attend if this project impacts you and you are able. More information here.
Community Storytelling event: Thursday, Jan. 13, 6:30-7:45 pm, St. Louis Park Public Library. These are monthly storytelling events facilitated by a small group of SLP residents and funded by St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts. The January event will feature the creators of Xtorch. All are welcome and invited to share their own stories as part of these community gatherings.
2022 SLP & GV Artist Showcase Opening Night, Friday, Jan. 14, 5-9 pm, Brookview Golden Valley. Join SLP Friends of the Arts for a festive evening with live music, artists, virtual reality experiences, and a cash bar. Masks are strongly encouraged. Artwork can also be viewed online. Through February 28. More info here.
Birchwood Winter Party, Saturday, Jan. 22, 6:30-8:30, Birchwood Park. Hayrides bonfire, s’mores, ice skating, and pick up hockey. Always a great event in my home neighborhood!
Green Card Voices art exhibit, St. Louis Park City Hall, now through January 31. An interactive exhibit featuring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professionals who are also immigrants living in Minnesota. Details here.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.