Grant

Home Repair Programs for North Minneapolis Tornado Victims

Minneapolis has received a $750,000 grant for North Side tornado repairs from Minnesota's Housing Board.

The money is to be dispensed in interest-free loans of up to $30,000 repayable when the house sells. The 30-year interest-free loans will be available for households earning less than 115 percent of area median income.

In other closely related new, an arrangement has been worked out for Minneapolis homeowners with tornado damage to access loans from a separate $1 million Quick Start fund that was awarded to the city by the state. So far, only five North Side homes have received Quick Start money, for a total of about $150,000.

Source: Star Tribune

...

Greening Minnesota ~ September 2011

Fall is in the air! The leaves are turning gold and red, but there are still some great green initiatives and events happening in Minnesota. There are plenty of people ad local communities working towards a cleaner environment for all Minnesota residents. Read on to find out more.

The annual report on organic farm performance from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota said 2010 was a good year for organic farms. "Profits improved but were not outstanding." Balance sheets, however, were on average very sound as they headed into 2011. The report said that after a difficult 2009, the median organic producer earned a net farm income of $62,463 in 2010. That was a sixfold increase over 2009 and was consistent with returns earned in 2007 and 2008, which were considered very profitable for the organic sector.

As a Hopkins High School junior, Dustin Kloempken had the bright idea of getting solar panels installed to make his school more eco-friendly. It took six years, but the now-24-year-old's persistence has finally paid off. Six solar panels were installed at the school in September. Hopkins High School now is among just a few Minnesota schools with solar panels. One of those schools, Chisago Lakes Middle School in the north-metro, installed 44 solar panels two years ago thanks to several grants and donations covering the $73,000 cost. The 10 kilowatts of power save the school $1,600 a year in energy costs.

Grandview Tire and Auto's two-year-old building on W. 70th Street in Edina is a model of energy efficiency, with its insulated garage doors, white roof to cut heating and cooling costs and boilers burning waste oil to help heat the building. Manager Rick Murphy says the building would be even more efficient if it had solar panels. He'd like to add them and gradually pay them off over a few years as part of the property taxes for the business. Twenty-seven states, including Minnesota, now allow "property assessed...

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 rate,...

Greening Minnesota ~ July 2011

It's summer in Minnesota! The sun is shining, the rivers are flowing and the winds of sustainable change are blowing throughout Minnesota. Read about how local communities are working towards creating a more environmentally-friendly world.

Edina's new public works building, which formally opened this spring, was built with sustainability in mind. It has geothermal heating and cooling and used recycled materials and its landscape was designed to minimize the development's impact on the environment. A rain garden holds and infiltrates water from sloping parking lots. Native grasses and plants are growing in "no-mow" areas between the sidewalk and the parking lot. Once they're mature, those native plantings should need little care. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how these native areas work or how much money they can save when it comes to caring for public lands and some people are complaining about their appearance as they become established.

Minneapolis is ahead of the pack in at least one way compared to the rest of the country and other bike friendly cities like Portland. Here, depending on the data, between 31 and 45 percent of bicyclists are women, compared to a national average of 26.4 percent. The only thing the biking pundits find more puzzling is that people here also bike in the winter.

Minneapolis became the 10th city to sign on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's urban bird treaty, which brings with it a $70,000 grant to restore avian habitat. Mayor R.T. Rybak's office and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board raised an additional $98,019 by teaming with the city of St. Paul and Audubon Minnesota. The money will be used to enhance the bird habitat along North Mississippi Regional Park and B.F. Nelson Park near Nicollet Island and to create a birding trail in the Lilydale Regional Park along the Mississippi River. The Twin Cities supports more than 300 species of birds. Birds...

Where do you want to spend your old age?

Many people want to live at home when they grow older. The "Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future" exhibition explores the housing trend of "aging in place" through the development of products and adaptive technologies that allow people to stay in their homes.

The first wave of 70 million baby boomers living in the United States will reach age 65 this year. With this generation predicted to live longer, planners are examining ways to create homes and communities that are more senior-friendly. The new exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design is an interactive display of what a Smart House of the future might look like.

The exhibition will look like a small, attractive home inhabited by fictional, 65-ish homeowners, Jim and Sarah. Visitors will be encouraged to try out everything they see, starting with a welcoming flat-threshold doorway. Jim and Sarah have renovated their 1960s home so that they can continue to enjoy their active, engaged lifestyle. Visitors can sit in a power-lifted chair, handle easy-to-use-kitchen utensils, scoot around the kitchen on a wheeled chair to try out lower counters, operate an easy-open window, sit in a fully-adjustable desk chair at an ergonomically-designed desk, and observe wall colors and lighting that ameliorate the impact of changing vision. The bath will feature a walk-in shower and reinforced wall for grab bars. Visitors will learn about a Fall Guard alert system, auto-dispensers for medications, special environmental controls, and tools and technologies that allow Jim and Sarah to do the activities they enjoy and keep them connected to the world.

The exhibit opened on February 5 and can be viewed through May 22, 2011. The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm, Thursday from 10:00am to 8:00pm, Saturday and Sunday from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. It is Closed Mondays and all University Holidays.

This exhibit is curated by...

Minneapolis Among 18 "Coolest" Cities in America

Men's Journal Magazine has proclaimed what many of us already know when they selected Minneapolis as one of 18 "coolest towns in America."

Specifically, in its April issue, the magazine is lauding Minneapolis as the "Best Place to Live in a Big City Designed for Getting Outside."  The editors say its "countless parks, large biking community and numerous farmers markets" as the reasons.

They also chose Angry Catfish bike and coffee shop owner Joshua Klauck as a "model citizen" of Minneapolis.  The magazine says Klauck used a neighborhood grant to spruce up his shop and sells organic coffee and handmade bikes.

Men's Journal chose 18 towns they conclude have mastered the art of living well in the modern world. In its analysis, the magazine took into account factors such as cost of living and the number of sunny days each year.

The April issue of the magazine will appear on newsstands Friday.

...

Greening Minnesota ~ February 2011

With all eyes looking towards spring, there have been some environmental developments happening around the Twin Cities and Minnesota, particularly in regards to parks and natural areas. Here are some of the community-related green news and stories that broke in February.

All over the Twin Cities metro, registration for local community garden plots has begun or starts quite soon. Community gardens are popular right now, due to tough economic times and a desire for chemical-free, home-grown produce. People applying for community plots include homeowners, apartment dwellers, senior citizens, immigrants, people who are trying to save money on food and gardeners looking for green-thumb fun. The size and cost of renting a plot varies from city to city. In most locations, plots range from 10 by 15 feet to 20 by 20 feet and cost between $15 and $35 for the summer.

Workers have finished installing new pollution control equipment on the 58 older buses in Robbinsdale district's 114-bus fleet. The $87,000 project didn't even cost the school a single dime. The equipment and installation were funded through Project Green Fleet via the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Environmental Initiative. Green Fleet funnels grant money from such sources as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to retrofit the state's school buses and other diesel fuel-burning vehicles. The vehicles get new mufflers designed to cut down emissions coming out of the exhausts. The new mufflers can reduce diesel particulate matter emissions by 15% to 30%. They can also reduce emissions of hydrocarbons. The idea is not only to contribute to cleaner air in general, but to more specifically improve the health of student passengers.

Butch and Ruth Rechtzigel of Inver Grove Heights are protecting the habitat they love by selling 66 acres of land to a state nature preserve. The sale has been about a decade in the making and connects two other protected parcels within the 330-acre...

Greening Minnesota ~ October/November 2010

The last two months has been full of green news and initiatives that are occuring in Minnesota or the Twin Cities community and may be of interest to residents.

Minneapolis recently studied the garbage of 100 randomly selected houses in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis to determine what kind of garbage and recycling is generated there. Officials want to know how much recycling goes into the recycling containers and how much goes into the garbage. They also want to see what hazardous wastes are being put in the garbage containers. The results may be used to help the city make future plans for recycling and waste management.

The state is drafting new rules regulating riverfront homes and other structures built in the Twin Cities to protect the shores of the Mississippi River. The rules would standardize things such as how close to the top of a river bluff a structure can be built, how tall buildings in the corridor can be, when vegetation buffers are needed, and even how bluffs are defined. The standards already in place are not as detailed, and cities don't always enforce them the same way.

A handful of Minneosta cities have joined a state initiative to help grow sustainable practices in what's projected to be a "green" version of the Minnesota Star Cities designation. Instead of being awarded for economic development, GreenStep City designations would be given for embracing green initiatives. Though many cities have eco-conscious intentions, finding, funding and implementing ideas can be daunting. The GreenStep City program's website, greenstep.pca.state.mn.us, provides resources and goals tailored to cities' resources and needs to meet requirements in five sustainability categories.

The American home got supersized during the housing boom. Big was good. Not anymore. A huge house, once a status symbol, now symbolizes risk and high overhead to many buyers. After decades of beefing up, the American ...

U of M Solar House Has No Buyers

MPR recently reported that University of Minnesota students have spent months trying to sell their prize-winning solar-powered house. They're having trouble finding a buyer for the 550 square-foot house.

As part of its "Sustainable Shelter" exhibit, the house is on display across the street from the Bell Museum in Minneapolis. The house is shaped like a typical Minnesota family home, but the roof is covered in solar panels.

The house placed fifth internationally in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon last year. Although building costs reached $1 million, including a $100,000 Department of Energy grant and many donations, the house's market value has been set at $550,000 based on the cost of materials and labor.

Project coordinators put the home up for auction at a $200,000 minimum bid in the spring -- slightly higher than the median value of a single-family home in the metro area at about $185,000.

Though the price tag is reasonable for its quality, the house has sat untouched in the market since spring. The weak housing market is partly to blame. Secondly, "Location, location, location! is the soul of the real estate market, yet this solar house doesn't have one. Yet another deterrent is that once a location is found, the house's five parts requires self-assembly.

About $20,000 in moving expenses are already included in the purchase price.

The Bell exhibit opened Oct. 16 and will run until May 15.

...

Greening Minnesota ~ August/September

Though we missed Greening Minnesota last month, we certainly didn't forget about it! Once again, a round-up of earth-friendly news from our green and blue state.

Driving a Humvee or Escalade? Those giants are hard to park, but their available spaces have just been reduced. Signs that read "ECO VEHICLE PARKING Violators Towed at Vehicle Owners Expense," have appeared near the door of 8200 Building at Normandale Lake Office Park in Bloomington, which is home to the new Parma 8200 restaurant. Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op in St. Paul also has designated three prime spots for fuel-efficient cars.

A farmers market has opened in north Minneapolis! The Mini Farmer's Market is a small-scale weekly event on Tuesday afternoons from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on the east end of a large parking lot on Plymouth Avenue. The market will continue weekly through November, weather permitting. Unsold food at the end of the day will be donated to a local food shelf.

Saint Paul was recently awarded with a $50,000 grant to help train builders in energy-efficient and sustainable development. Nationally recognized architects from the University of Minnesota will spearhead the training to show builders how to follow the city's plans to go green. The aim is to help builders and their buildings meet standards set out in the St. Paul Sustainable Building Policy. Mayor Chris Coleman called the policy a "national model for green development."

In a time-span of less than 100 days, more than 50,000 people used the Nice Ride Minnesota. The program is now moving forward into its Phase II, exploring options to expand into North Minneapolis, St. Paul and first-ring suburbs. The program is drawing praise, not just locally, but nationally. Once again, other cities are looking to the Twin Cities to help launch their own similar bike share programs or learn how to expand existing services.

This week, September 20 through 24, is Farm to School week. This observance is designed to increase...