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Greening Minnesota ~ August 2011

There are some great green initiatives and events happening in Minnesota, contributing towards a cleaner environment for residents. Read about how local communities are working towards creating a more environmentally-friendly world. There are more entries than usual this month!

Prodded by a homeowner whose prairie plantings were mowed against his will, the city of Minneapolis has come up with a plan to let lawns go natural. Some suburbs have already taken the step of allowing natural plantings in place of grass, accepting their environmental benefits over the objections of some neighbors who think they look unkempt. The proposal defines the new type of landscaping as an intentional planting of native or non-native grasses, wildflowers, ferns, shrubs, trees or forbs. They're allowed to exceed the city's normal nuisance ordinance threshold of 8 inches in height, or grass that has gone or is about to go to seed. They can't include noxious weeds and have to be maintained to avoid "unintended vegetation." Unkempt turf lawns are specifically prohibited.

Organizers of the Visa Gymnastics Championships, held earlier this month in St. Paul, teamed up with Xcel Energy Center officials to exclusively power Xcel, RiverCentre and Roy Wilkins Auditorium with wind energy for four days and go paperless at what President Steve Penny called USA Gymnastics' greenest event ever.The sustainability plan also included composting in Xcel Center lobbies. Instead of paper-based programs and bio packets, the revamped USA Gymnastics mobile site fed live scoring to smartphones, tablets and LED screens. Xcel Center has already emerged as one of the country's greenest arenas. Its "50-50 in 2" program, aimed at cutting trash and increasing recycling, has reduced trash by 1.2 million pounds and raised recycling rates from 15% to more than 50% by increasing the number of recycling and composting bins.

Prodded by Hennepin County to boost its lagging recycling...

Historic Buildings Being Documented in Minneapolis

Minneapolis planners are hoping to finish a 10-year-long citywide update of historic sites and places this year. It is the first survey of its kind since the 1970s.

Some may think historic preservation saves buildings that were sites of historic events or are associated with famous people. But there's more to it than that. Other things can come into consideration, such as a collection of relatively intact homes from a specific period as few as thirty years ago.

One example is the Mereen-Johnson Machine Co. on Lyndale Avenue N. near Shingle Creek. Its a a 1906 brick factory that curves along a railroad track. The woodworking machine fabricator is a remnant of the sawmill industry that once proliferated in Minneapolis near the Mississippi River.

A property's importance also depends on how much integrity it retains from the period of its significance. Moving a property, substantially altering it or making it unrecognizable would work against its significance.

Newer areas of the city didn't get as much attention in the 1970s survey. That gives surveyors the first chance to weigh in on significant features. For example, last year in the Nokomis area a collection of mid-20th-century churches was "uncovered."

To find the structures, surveyors scrutinize old maps and property records. Then they drive the streets to confirm or disprove the information and to look for unexpected treasures. Then another survey of the more promising properties or areas is conducted, followed by field research, record searches and the creation of files on each property or area.

With owner cooperation, some properties may go on become designated as locally or nationally significant. City planners set priorities to help determine which priorities are targeted. Records on some properties may linger in files for years, serving as a resource if someone seeks a demolition permit on the property.

Designation isn't...

What $239,900 Buys in Minneapolis MN

Here is MLS # 4011520

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This charming single-family house is located at 4137 Harriet Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This two-story home was constructed in 1913 in the Kingfield neighborhood of the city. It has 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 1,100-square-feet of space.

kitchen_500

This home features a bright, open floor plan with coved ceilings, newly finished hardwood floors, and new furnace & central A/C! It also has a detached 2 car garage.

living_room_500

Just a short walk from Lake Harriet, this house could be yours for $239,900!

Browse more Kingfield Minneapolis MN Real Estate
Browse more Homes for Sale in Minneapolis MN Communities

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Greening Minnesota ~ July 2010

Summer is in full swing in Minnesota. That means the news is filled with stories about our lakes, our parks, and our farmers markets. of course, all of those are topics we love to cover in Greening Minnesota.

Earlier this month, Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famous late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, visited Powderhorn Park on July 4 to promote an effort called Expedition: Blue Planet and to film a segment for it. Minneapolis was the first stop for the project’s film crew and biodiesel bus on its 14,500-mile tour across North America to investigate water issues and educate the public about water conservation. Some local organizations were there to help, too, like Blue Thumb, a clean-water program started by Rice Creek Watershed District that now has many chapters in Minnesota, and Metro Blooms, whose mission is to promote eco-friendly gardening that beautifies neighborhoods and protects the environment.

To help people recycle more when they're not at home, Ramsey County officials are setting aside $1.3 million to buy nearly 2,000 recycling bins to give to cities for use in public areas. It will be a three-phase program over three years. First, cities would put the bins in parks, along trails and in other recreational places. Second, cities would put the bins along streets. Third, the county would offer the containers to school athletic facilities. The goal is to have the same kind of container in every public park in the county. Ramsey County has already put about 400 containers in its parks and ice arenas.

A patch of grass along Nicollet Avenue past Burnsville's Civic Center campus is brown and dead for good reason: The City is turning the one-acre site into a field of native prairie grasses and wildflowers. It is the first step in the city's plan to cut maintenance costs and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Between $8,000 and $10,000 will be devoted to the project, Jacobson said, adding that it will pay for itself in seven...

Greening Minnesota ~ January 2010

There are a lot of environmentally friendly projects getting underway in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota. And we're even saving all the rail news for a separate, future post!

Amid rising concern over the effects that road salt has on Minnesota's lakes, streams and groundwater, public works officials around the state are trying out new methods to spread salt on pavement, moistening rock salt so it sticks better, and working to establish a less-is-more culture, while also keeping motorists safe. The impacts are salt run rampant statewide after decades of dropping a pound of salt onto every 10 feet of highway without much thought. In addition to the environmental impact, money has also become a key motivator. The new techniques use less salt, costing cities and counties less.

The new Target Field ballpark for the Minnesota Twins will have a sustainable water system that will capture, conserve and reuse rain water. Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc. is building and donating the sophisticated system. The water will be used to irrigate the field and clean the bleachers.  Officials say it'll be a new standard for water use in sports facilities.

Hennepin County Medical Center's newest recycling program composts food scraps and soiled paper napkins, cartons and plates from its kitchens and cafeterias. It promises to annually transform 100 tons of organic waste collected from the hospital into a soil additive that can be used in landscaping and road construction. It will also reduce how many tons of waste HCMC throws away each year and reduce its water bill by $1 million because not as much will be sent down the garbage disposal.

The new Saint Paul fire station that's nearing completion at W. 7th Street and Randolph Avenue was designed to include energy-efficient features throughout, including automatic faucets and toilets, lighting and temperature controls, and a green roof that will be open to West End community use. Saint Paul has...

Twin Cities Residents Riding the Rails

At long last, the Hiawatha light rail line is finally complete. The last planned stop, the America Boulevard Station located in Bloomington at 34th Avenue, opened on Saturday. And it opened ahead of schedule, as the work wasn't even supposed to be finished until January.
The $3.3 million station was included in the original plans for the light rail line, but its construction was deferred when the south end of the 12-mile route was redesigned, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit. Money to build the new station came from the Bloomington Port Authority, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the federal government.
The new station is northeast of the Mall of America and a short distance from Bloomington Central Station. Three hotels, an office complex and large long-term parking lots are located nearby. The area is being redeveloped and Bloomington MN officials view the new station as a key component to the plans.
"It serves a section of the Airport South district that we hope will become part of a new residential neighborhood," said Larry Lee, director of community development for the city. "It's especially important for residents, but ... tourists and business people [also] have the option of getting around by LRT instead of riding in a car."

That vision of a community built around transit is already a reality at the Reflections condo development by Bloomington Central Station, Lee said. Many couples who bought homes there have gone from two cars to one and some are living with no car at all, he said.
The north end of the line was completed in November when a new station opened in Minneapolis at Target Field. That station also serves as a link for Hiawatha riders to the Northstar commuter rail line.

Speaking of the Northstar, Metro Transit has announced that 33,112 people rode the trains...

Two New Parks in Family-Friendly Blaine MN

It is two years later than expected but in Blaine MN, two new parks are nearing completion. They will open next spring.

The Blaine Athletic Complex is a 22-acre park with four lighted tennis courts, a half-mile of new trails, two baseball fields, a basketball court and a freshly seeded field for football, soccer and lacrosse.

Lakeside Commons Park features 170-acre Sunrise Lake, a 14- to 18-foot-deep man-made lake that was dug by Emmerich Development Corp. of Andover in 2003 as the namesake and top amenity of the 1,045-acre housing development.

The park features a boathouse that will include watercraft rentals, a 50-foot dock, a beach house with restrooms and changing facilities, a 100-person picnic pavilion with a large, built-in grill and electrical outlets, a playground, jogging and biking paths around the lake, and "splash pads" with motion-sensored water jets that come up from concrete squares.

Before the man-made lake, Blaine didn't have one. Now it has a 300-foot sand beach and swimming area. The parks are a major expansion of Blaine's parks and recreation offerings. The $2.4 million parks were funded largely by park development fees from the Lakes housing development collected since 2003 when the housing boom was still in action.

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A New Era in the Twin Cities

After $317 million, political struggles, and a 13-year wait, the 40-mile North Star Commuter line embarked on its maiden voyage on Monday morning, November 16, 2009. And people were certainly checking it out. After the last train of its first operation day finished its run, Metro Transit reported that more than 2,400 paying customers rode Northstar trains. On a typical day, the line is projected to have 1,700 passengers each way.

Trains were on time -- the first one arrived three minutes early -- but the first day was not entirely free of glitches. At Target Field, the doors of the 7:10 a.m. train didn't open for a few minutes, so its more than 300 passengers were stuck inside. Once they made their way upstairs to the Hiawatha station, light rail wasn't there to greet them because of a mechanical problem. A replacement Hiawatha train left the station at 7:25.

During the afternoon rush, there were some frantic dashes for closing doors, some doorway stumbles and even a few people who missed trains and had to wait for the next one. Only one person missed the final train, arriving at Target Field two minutes late on a connecting light-rail transit train.
It is Minnesota's first long-distance commuter rail line. It currently has stops in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley, and Minneapolis. It is eventually expected to reach all the way out to St. Cloud.

You can read more first-hand experiences from the light rain in this Star Tribune article, Finally, All Aboard for Northstar. Yes, finally!

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Greening Minnesota ~ October

Including North St. Paul and Anoka, 12 Minnesota cities have begun installing wind turbines. Buffalo, Le Sueur and Faribault have had wind turbines installed already. Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Olivia, Shakopee and Winthrop are up next. If everything goes as planned, all of the Minnesota Municipal Power Association wind turbines will be up and running by mid-November.

The St. Paul Convention & Visitors Authority has rolled out the "50-50 in 2" program. It is meant to cut trash output at the RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center in half and push the recycling rate up to 50% in two years.

Three Minnesota schools took top marks on a national report card that measures colleges' sustainability efforts. The University of Minnesota, Carleton College in Northfield and Macalester College in St. Paul were three of 26 schools to score an A- on this fall's College Sustainability Report Card.

To meet federal clean water standards, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is considering ways to keep runoff and pollutants out of three west-metro lakes. Eagle Lake, a 291-acre lake popular for fishing and swimming, phosphorus would have to be reduced by 40% to meet Clean Water standards for swimming. The phosphorus levels in 81-acre Cedar Island Lake would have to be reduced by 67%. The 58-acre Pike Lake would need a 49 percent cut in phosphorus. The three lakes in Maple Grove and Plymouth are so polluted, it may take 20 years to get them off the state's impaired waters list.

In a similar move, Eden Prairie will repair two catch ponds at the base of the Minnesota River bluff to reduce storm water runoff and pollution from going into the river. The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District has also commissioned an engineering study on how storm water, groundwater and river water are interacting to erode the north bank of the river below the bluff, where Riverview Drive is located.

Land dedicated to scientific research...

Greening Minnesota - August

The residents, businesses, and government of Minnesota have been doing so much to make the state a greener place to live. Greening Minnesota is a monthly installment that explores some of these actions and developments.

First, a story about an eco-friendly home rennovation. Can a green remodeling project look good and not break the bank? A St. Louis Park bungalow got an affordable, earth-friendly makeover that respected the 1940 home's vintage charm while at the same time reducing its energy costs. The renovation included a two-story addition to expand the kitchen and add a family room and mudroom as well as create space for upstairs bedrooms. St. Louis Park design/build company Sicora followed the new Minnesota Greenstar certification program to meet green building standards, but the bottom line was also a factor. This affordable remodel doesn't include all the bells and whistles. Though there aren't spendy bamboo floors or a geothermal heating system, it does have hardwood floors repurposed from the original home, remnant granite countertops, and two Energy Star-rated furnaces that heat and cool in zones.

The U.S. Green Building Council has announced the introduction of its new LEED for Homes Affiliate Program, which allows regional green home building programs to promote the growing green residential market by partnering with USGBC. The objective of the new program is to increase the availability of the green homes stock through collaborations with local green home building programs across the country and  further promoting sustainable design and energy-and-resource efficiency in all dwellings. Third-party green home building certification system Minnesota GreenStar was one of the first two green home building programs to sign on with LEED for Homes Affiliates.

Let's not forget that Minnesota is about to get $52.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize 16,800 homes this year. A home that is properly weatherized uses less energy because...