Minneapolis to get $31M stimulus funds for green senior housing

Today I was proud to announce that as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which President Obama signed last spring, Minneapolis is going to receive $31.8 Million to fund three new innovative and exciting housing projects.

In north Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) is going to be partnering with an array of community organizations to create a brand new senior community center that will provide a variety of medical, recreational and social services to the senior population.  Near that proposed community center, the ARRA funds will also be used to develop a new 48-unit green senior housing development.  This new development will provide housing and support to the frail and elderly, particularly those who have severe memory issues.  The innovative structure will utilize cutting edge, green technologies such as solar and geothermal to reduce energy costs and consumption and will also be built out of green materials designed to reduce the structure’s carbon footprint.  With these initiatives, we will be providing much needed housing for our senior population while building Minneapolis’ green economy and helping our environment in the process.

Additionally, these dollars will be used to make significant green improvements on 733 already existing MPHA properties.  Many of these properties have severely outdated energy and water systems that can be enhanced to be more efficient and to save energy.   These benefits will not only help our environment but also save taxpayer money in the long term.

These incredible investments in our community will give a boost to our green economy while helping some of our vulnerable senior population.  Minneapolis continues to be a strong competitor for recovery funds and innovative, beneficial projects like this illustrate why that is. Altogether, Minneapolis has already received nearly $100 million in federal stimulus funds from the ARRA.

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Helping another small business grow: Holy Land Deli expands

Small businesses are the heart of our community and our economy. That’s why today I was absolutely thrilled to celebrate the grand opening of Holy Land’s new hummus production facility on Central Avenue in northeast Minneapolis. With the help of City financing, this great new facility will be the only hummus factory in the state of Minnesota and will be joined by a new Holy Land bakery.

Throughout its twenty years, Holy Land has consistently been an excellent community leader, continuing to give back and improve the area. Central Avenue once saw tough times, but Holy Land with this new facility and new bakery, has helped to turn the tide and get the area back on track. They have an ongoing pledge to donate five percent of their gross revenue to community causes, charities and schools.

The new Holy Land hummus factory is in what used to be a bar and a somewhat troublesome establishment. They bought the property for above market value and renovated it. And the new bakery is in a building that had stood vacant for nearly nine years. These expansions are creating local jobs and revitalizing the local economy.

When a small business like Holy Land does well, Minneapolis does well. That’s why the City of Minneapolis provided a 2% low interest small business loan of $150,000 to help Holy Land’s expansion effort. In the process new jobs will be created and the revitalization of our city will spread. I enthusiastically applaud Holy Land’s expansions and love everything that they have done for Minneapolis. Congratulations!

The first steps in Access Minneapolis are underway…but we can’t stop now.

Three years ago we developed a sweeping vision for reshaping transportation called Access Minneapolis.

The first steps in that plan will take place in the next couple of months and they will have a major impact on how we get around, but we can’t stop here because we still have a long way to go – and fast – to get ourselves out of growing gridlock in the region. The major imrpovements you are about to see will change the way buses get through downtown Minneapolis, how cars and bikes move around town, and how all kinds of trasportation moves along 35W and the Crosstown.

*Marq2, the conversion of Marquette and Second avenues downtown into transist corridors, will be done in early December. This will add a second bus lane in each direction – along with wider sidewalks and more pedestrian amenities – making it possible to have many more buses, moving much faster on these streets during rush house. This, in turn, makes it possible to take many of the buses off Nicollet Mall, leaving only hybrid buses, taxis and bikes on Nicollet Mall. At the same time Hennepin and First Av. N will be turned into two-ways with more innovations for bikes, like special lanes and “green boxes” so bikes can more easily be seen by cars.

*Along 35W, high-occupancy toll lanes, called “hot lanes”, will be open from Lakeville all the way into downtown, making it possible for those who car pool to get to work faster. With fewer people driving, that means less congestion for everyone. Also sharing those lanes will be high speed, high class buses, which will use those new lanes on Marq2 so they will not only get to downtown faster, but also get through faster.  The first real bus rapid transit station will be added at 46th Street – something we insisted on as part of the upgrade of the Crosstown.   (For someone living in the King Field, or Field Regina Northrup neighborhood, this should make it possible to walk/bike to the station and get downtown in just a few minutes.)

*In a month the first Northstar rail car will pull into downtown next to the new Twins ballpark…connecting to the extension of the Hiwatha LRT.

*In the Spring 1,000 bikes will be put on the streets of Minneapolis, stationed at rental kiosks throughout downtown, Uptown and the U of MN. They will make it possible to have fewer car trips in that area, and, instead, have people hope on a bike and speed through traffic. (Car drivers will have to do their part to watch out for, and give right of way to, bikers.)

This is all progress but it is only a start. We still have a long way to go. Top priorities for me include: building the Central Corridor light-rail through the U and to St. Paul; developing routes for the proposed light-rail line to the western suburbs (we have to find a way to serve Uptown); and another LRT line to the northern suburbs. We also have to turn those improvements along 35W into true bus rapid transit…meaning more stops along the way. And after having fought hard to get transit capacity onto the new 35W bridge, I believe we need a vision for that transit right now.

It took a huge coalition to get us here but we can’t stop because this is the time to reshape a transportation vision for the region that has been way to slow to move.

More positive changes to downtown streets

In just a few weeks, two landmark thoroughfares in downtown Minneapolis will change significantly as construction on Hennepin and 1st avenues nears completion.  Slated to open on October 10th, both avenues will now be two-way between 1st and 12th streets, something they haven’t been for nearly 30 years.

These renovations will allow drivers simpler, more direct routes to their destinations.  Drivers will be more able to avoid circling blocks as is often required with one-way roads, thus reducing congestion.  This means that drivers will be able to go directly to the businesses and establishments on these streets, something many downtown businesses enthusiastically support.

Plus, bikers and pedestrians will see improvements along Hennepin and 1st Avenues as well.  New, innovative, bike lanes will be added along 1st Avenue between the parking lane and curb. And bicyclists will now have “bike boxes” which are marked areas on the street, to make turning easier by allowing bikes to move slightly ahead of automobiles.  These improvements aim to encourage biking by making it safer and more convenient to ride a bicycle downtown.  New traffic lights will have “countdown timers” for pedestrians as well.

The street changeover is scheduled to happen early morning Saturday, October 10th with crews closing 1st avenue to re-sign and re-stripe.  Hennepin will remain open during this time.  Both streets will be re-opened by that evening as two-ways. These improvements will greatly enhance the downtown environment, making Minneapolis more accessible for everyone!

Minneapolis #3 most generous city

It seems that the term “Minnesota nice” is quite deserved.  According to a new report, Minneapolis ranks right near the top for cities when it comes to online charitable donations per capita.  The figures for 2008, released today by Convio, ranks 273 major cities in regards to online contributions to non-profit organizations and find that Minneapolis comes in an astounding third place.

Confirming what we already knew, the numbers show that Minnesotans – and Minneapolitans in particular – are some of the most generous people in the country.  Minnesota is home to an incredible number of charities and non-profit organizations who will continue to depend on online contributions.  And as this shows, Minneapolis is a great place for them to call home.  Here’s the Top Ten list of cities:

  1. Alexandria, VA 
  2. Cambridge, MA
  3. Minneapolis, MN           
  4. Washington, DC            
  5. Arlington, VA                
  6. St. Louis, MO               
  7. Seattle, WA                  
  8. Bellevue, WA                
  9. Berkeley, CA                 
  10. Ann Arbor, MI 

 View the report here: http://tinyurl.com/kq5chf

Kids on bikes is a good thing

It is so important that we instill in our children the importance of healthy living habits and practices.  That’sd why I was so pleased early yesterday morning to help launch a new program at Seward Montessori School that not only does just that, but also helps our environment, reduced traffic congestion, and strengthens a sense of community in our neighborhoods.  With the help of technology at Seward Montessori we can now give kids incentives to live healthier by walking or biking to school.

This new program uses radio frequency identification technology and a tag that students have affixed to their backpacks or helmets to incentivize exercising behaviors.  If the student backpacks or walks to school, the solar powered system detects that tag upon their arrival and logs the student’s use of alternative transportation.  Students can then receive a prize or incentive for commuting that way.  Seward is only one of a handful of schools in the country to do this. I couldnt be happier that they are leading the way.

By encouraging kids to live healthier, more active lives, our community as a whole will benefit in the long run.  If we teach our kids proper exercise and transportation habits now, as this program aims to do, they’ll develop practices that can keep them happy and healthy their entire lives. In the process, we will also be helping to create a more sustainable community.

Target Center gets new green roof

Yesterday, the city of Minneapolis once again proved that it deserves its reputation for being a leader when it comes to being green and sustainable. Yesterday we celebrated the completion of the new green roof atop the Target Center downtown. 

The new green roof, the largest green roof in the state, literally green and covered in vegetation, will not only have nearly twice the lifespan of a traditional roof, but also improve the downtown environment by reducing water runoff, help eliminate air pollution, and reduce energy costs for the arena. This city-owned Target Center now has the fifth largest green roof in the United States and is the first arena in North America to install a green roof.

The new green re-design represents the best of both worlds, saving our city money, while protecting and improving our environment. The arena was in need of a new roof, and because the construction cost differences between this new design and a traditional one were so minimal, it represented a huge opportunity for the city to take a giant green leap forward. Because of its extended life span, the sustainable roof will actually be cheaper, saving tax dollars in the long run.

With a growing zone averaging about 2” thick with plant life, the two and a half acre roof will prevent nearly a million gallons of storm drainage a year from entering the Mississippi river by having it absorbed by the vegetation. In addition, the roof will benefit our environment by reducing the heat island effect that occurs in downtown areas like ours. In fact, the temperature of the building’s roof may be reduced by as much as 80 degrees.  Further, all of the elements of the existing roof will be recycled and reused, rather than ending up in a landfill.

Cleaner air, cleaner water, and environmental innovation are some of the key principles that have kept Minneapolis strong and with this new addition to a city landmark, Minneapolis continues to lead.