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Urban Homesteading: 3 Ways to Produce Your Own Food

From backyard and rooftop gardens to community plots in parks and vacant lots, urban agriculture has become a nationwide movement, and more homeowners have taken an interest in producing their own food. For many urban homesteaders, it stems from a desire to know where their food comes from and live more sustainably.

Are you interested in participating? These three small-scale projects are great places to start.

Raising Backyard Chickens
Chickens provide a relatively inexpensive, low-maintenance way to feed your family, plus they act as complimentary fertilizer and chemical-free pest control. Before you buy baby chicks, make sure you research and follow local laws, city ordinances and homeowner association rules. Get inspired by the luxe chicken coop design above and then check out these DIY tips to build the perfect home for your feathered friends.

Taking Up Beekeeping
In the 1940s, America had five million beehives, and today, roughly half of those remain. A growing awareness of this drastic decline has led to an increase in urban beekeeping, to the tune of approximately 120,000 backyard beekeepers.

Becoming a beekeeper starts with a lot of research, followed by choosing the right equipment and bees. Don’t want to care for an entire colony? Plant native flower and weed varieties that help encourage bee pollination and reproduction.

Gardening and Canning
Whether it’s a large plot or a small section, a personal garden gives you control. Plus, you can preserve fresh fruits and vegetables via the canning process. While many homesteaders use yields from their garden, others buy extra produce in its peak season. Canning veggies and fruits is a family-friendly activity that lets you enjoy seasonal produce all year long.

Though urban homesteading may seem intimidating at first, it’s easier to start small. The projects above can help minimize your impact on the environment and allow you to take part in your own food production.


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Featured Image Credit: “Chicken coop” by SoniaT 360. © 2015 (CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Southwest Minneapolis

Southwest Minneapolis is made up of nine distinct, yet cohesive, neighborhoods: East Harriet, Kingfield, Tangletown, Windom, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Armatage, Fulton, and Linden Hills. The community covers a lot of ground, stretching eastward from France Avenue to Nicollet Avenue, and southward from W. 36th Street to the Crosstown Highway. Within these 7 square miles, you will find a wide variety of housing styles, recreational activities, dining options, and shopping opportunities. From casual eateries and hipster hangouts in Kingfield to upscale cuisine and boutiques in Fulton (and everything in between), Southwest Minneapolis is a diverse community with an array of amenities and offerings that will suit your family’s needs.

Whenever you’re ready to start exploring the community, we suggest to first download the XSW app, which allows you to lookup all the local happenings and nearby businesses (and score some pretty good deals!). The Experience Southwest website also shows which businesses are hiring, as well as any commercial sites that are available, in case you are looking to open your own storefront in the area. The app and website are just a couple of the ways Southwest Minneapolis supports its small business owners. Proprietors who join the Southwest Business Association have access to member benefits such as shared marketing efforts and a strong support network.

You can tell that there is a deliberate promotion and encouragement of small businesses, which lends to the one-of-a-kind vibe you experience when venturing from neighborhood to neighborhood. Rather than a community inundated with fast food chains and big box stores, many businesses are family affairs, where the owners know their customers by name and you can guarantee that you’ll be treated like part of the family.

An exemplary case of mom-and-pop success is Curran’s Family Restaurant, which has thrived on the corner of 42nd and Nicollet since 1948. What began as a carhop drive-in (with the Twin Cities’ first car-to-kitchen ordering system), has evolved into a beloved family-run eatery with an Early Riser special that can’t be beat. 

But just because you see nary a bullseye or golden arch within the community, don’t think that means Southwest Minneapolis lacks convenience. Located just fifteen minutes from Downtown Minneapolis at its furthest corner, residents have easy access to the city center via major roadways, I-35W, and multiple high frequency bus routes. In fact, most residents spend only 15-30 minutes commuting to and from work per day.

Also, don’t worry that the lack of franchises somehow means that Southwest Minneapolis is stuck in the past. Quite the contrary is true – there is a freshness to the neighborhoods here, as seen by the recent arrival of new, unique businesses and the increased development of modern housing options over the last decade or so. This anti-staleness is also echoed in the presence of Neighborhood Roots, an organization that runs both the Kingfield and Fulton Farmers Markets, a further nod to the community’s efforts to shop and support local businesses while keeping things fresh.

 

As you might imagine, because of the neighborhoods’ varying personalities, there are many different housing options as well (see individual neighborhood profiles below for more info). This also means that although the median sales price (MSP) for Southwest Minneapolis as a whole is a healthy $350,000 (compared to greater Minneapolis at $232,000), values vary greatly between neighborhoods. For example, the MSP in Kingfield – where many homes tend to be smaller and sit near I-35W – is only around $260,000. Meanwhile, in Lynnhurst, where a number of homes are sizeable properties along Lake Harriet’s southern edge, the MSP skews higher to about $481,000. And while some neighborhoods have seen sales prices trending upward recently, a few are actually on the decline, so that is another factor to consider when thinking about where to purchase in Southwest Minneapolis. These numbers and trends are reflected in the two figures below:

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Although home prices differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, one characteristic they share is that each of them boasts an active neighborhood association that encourages community involvement and camaraderie. With that said, let’s take a quick dive into each of the neighborhoods that make up Southwest Minneapolis.

East Harriet

As you might discern from the name, one of the main features of this neighborhood is Lake Harriet, which forms part of the western border. Every January, the sky turns into a kaleidoscope of colors thanks to the Lake Harriet Kite Festival, the perfect remedy for those winter doldrums. When spring rolls around, it’s time for another feast for the eyes: the Lyndale Park Rose Garden begins to bloom and blossom. Your eyes can be pleased year round by taking a look at the impressive homes along Lake Harriet Parkway – we’re talking massive luxury homes that sell for upwards of $1 million. Venture a few blocks eastward, though, and you’ll discover the comparably modest childhood home of actors James Arness and Peter Graves, tucked among similar two-story homes and duplexes.

Before crossing Lyndale to the Kingfield neighborhood, don’t forget to sample the belly-satisfying pub grub at Harriet’s Inn, a relative newcomer, but already a favorite amongst locals.

  

Kingfield

Speaking of yummy food, whether you are in the mood for Cuban, French, Japanese, or Spanish cuisine, you can find it in Kingfield. From lauded joints like Victor’s 1959 Cafe to the quaint boulangerie Patisserie 46 to all the exceptional restaurants on Nicollet Avenue, there’s something to please every palate.

The neighborhood is not only diverse in ethnic eateries, but also in its residents. Like the neighborhood’s namesake, this community puts an emphasis on empowering its residents and aiding those who are less fortunate. Kingfield also has an active arts community, with projects such as the Mural Map, the Empty Bowls event, art installations at MLK, Jr. Park, and the Center for Performing Arts. Neighbors are able to further connect by participating in gatherings such as the annual Garden Tour, PorchFest, and Nicollet Open Streets. Follow Kingfield on Instagram for even more inside scoop on what it’s like to live in this corner of Southwest Minneapolis. And keep in mind that, in this neighborhood, most homes were built before 1920, and include bungalows, prairie-style, arts & crafts, and other period-revival styles.

Tangletown

The neighborhood (originally called “Fuller”) was aptly renamed in 1996 for its curving streets, which mimic the free-flowing Minnehaha Creek that runs through the southern end of town. But don’t worry, original namesake Margaret Fuller is still honored through Fuller Park & Rec Center, the hub of community life. In fact, it is at the center of the neighborhood’s biggest day each year – the annual 4th of July Parade and Celebration. The festivities harken back to simpler times of yesteryear, which is exactly the vintage, small town vibe T-town residents enjoy. This sentiment is reflected in the housing as well; most houses are Period Revivals from the 1910s-20s, but there is also a fair number of Victorians, Lustron metal houses, and modernist styles. Most businesses are concentrated along Grand Avenue, Lyndale Avenue, Nicollet Avenue, and W. Diamond Lake Road.

But if you’re willing to take a trip off the beaten path through the neighborhood’s winding streets, a visit to the Washburn Park Water Tower is definitely worth it. Although it might not be the most obvious travel destination – a water tower, really? – once you see it in person, you’ll understand the decades of people who have been fascinated by its architecture, including the stoic knight and vigilant eagle sculptures (it’s even on the National Register of Historic Places).

Windom

Not to be confused with Windom Park in Northeast Minneapolis, this neighborhood occupies the southeast corner of the SW Minneapolis community. It’s well connected to the surrounding suburbs of Richfield and Edina by I-35W and Highway 62. There’s a full range of housing choices, with a majority designed as single-family homes and duplexes – about 40% of dwellings are multi-family units, which are built closer to major transportation corridors and are primarily from the 1970s. Though mostly residential, there are several pockets of commercial activity scattered throughout Windom, and there is also a large industrial area near the southern border. Meanwhile, art enthusiasts can enjoy visiting The Museum of Russian Art, which houses a collection of pieces from the 20th century, and is the only of its kind in the U.S.

Kenny

Kenny, like its eastern neighbor Windom, is a mostly residential area. According to the city website, “houses in the neighborhood tend to have been built in the 1940s or later and are generally larger than the houses in adjacent neighborhoods such as Armatage and Windom. The neighborhood has a balanced mix of longtime and new residents.” These residents appreciate the good access to schools, public services, recreational activities, shopping, and restaurants. Its hidden gem is Grass Lake, but other standouts include Kenny Park and Peter’s Billiards, which you have probably spotted if you have ever traveled on I-35W. Located on the southern edge of the Kenny neighborhood, this 37,000 square foot game room and furniture store (the largest of its kind in the Midwest), has been family-owned and operated since 1957. It’s expanded past just selling pool tables and pinball machines, and is now a “complete lifestyle store.” Speaking of lifestyles, experience a year in the life of a Kenny resident by checking out the community’s photo project, Kenny365, which featured a different snapshot of the neighborhood each day from 2013 to 2014.

Lynnhurst

Bisected by Minnehaha Creek, Lynnhurst occupies just under 1 square mile in the center of Southwest Minneapolis. It also borders the southern edge of Lake Harriet, meaning there are some stunning and expansive lakefront properties – homes with 5+ bedrooms are common along the parkway – that can be yours for a cool $1-5 million. Beyond that, the neighborhood is a treasure trove of unique architecture, featuring multiple designs by famed architects, Purcell and Elmslie. These houses are characterized by their Prairie Style, non- “cookie cutter” curb appeal, and abstract landscaping. Community involvement is encouraged (residents can connect through Next Door and Facebook), and one annual event that always brings residents together is Summer Festival held at Lynnhurst Park. Also, if something called Middlemoon Creekwalk doesn’t peak your interest, we don’t know what will.

  

Well, we have an idea of what might get your attention. How about 37 varieties of malts and shakes at The Malt Shop Restaurant, a Bryant Avenue staple since 1973. Did we mention they offer their full menu for Bite Squad delivery? Score! If you’re in the mood for something a little less traditional, then head next door to George and the Dragon. Though it may seem like just your average British pub, it’s actually got a unique Asian flair that’s earned rave reviews from foodies across the nation.

Armatage

Annexed from Richfield in the 1920s, Armatage experienced most development from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, which resulted in most homes being built as ramblers or 1.5-story abodes. It was named after Maude Armatage, the first woman elected to the city’s park board. Fittingly enough, there is now a lively bistro called Cafe Maude located on the main commercial thoroughfare, Penn Avenue. Another local favorite, Pizzeria Lola, was visited by Mr. Triple D himself (Guy Fieri, of course) in 2012. Like other eateries that have been featured on the show, Pizzeria Lola has since experienced an overwhelming increase in sales. That same year, Armatage was named the best neighborhood by City Pages (coincidence? We think not). It’s also known for its annual summer festival, a celebration that brings the community together in the beautiful neighborhood park.

Fulton

Last but certainly not least, we’ve got Fulton. Like East Harriet and Lynnhurst, Fulton sits on the edge of Lake Harriet, which helps boost home values. Many homes in the area are Craftsman style, similar to neighboring Linden Hills. Speaking of neighbors, Fulton also shares a boundary with Edina, which definitely has its perks, as residents and visitors have easy access to the amenities of 50th & France. There are two other commercial nodes along W. 50th Street, at Xerxes and Penn Avenues. Another reason it’s categorized as one of the most popular neighborhoods in Minneapolis is because it is home to some of the best public schools in the state, including Southwest High School (just outside the northern border), which previously ranked as Minnesota’s top high school. If you’re a current resident hoping to get more involved within the community, there are multiple ways, including joining the Arts Committee or the Block Club.

To read about the final Southwest Minneapolis neighborhood, Linden Hills, click here.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this tour of Southwest Minneapolis! As you can see, this community has so much variety and something to offer everyone. The neighborhoods, although different and special in their own ways, embody a philosophy that we could all stand to follow these days: “be unique yet united.”

 

Neighborhood Resources

Schools

Faith Communities

Anthony Middle School Annunciation Church
Armatage Montessori Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Burroughs Elementary School Bryant Avenue Baptist Church
Carondelet Catholic School Faith Free Lutheran Church
Clara Barton Open School Incarnation Catholic Church
Kenny Elementary School Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Lake Harriet Upper Elementary Knox Presbyterian Church
Ramsey Middle School Lake Harriet United Methodist Church
Southwest High School Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
Stonebridge World School Lynnhurst Congregational UCC
Washburn High School Macedonia Baptist Church
Windom School Mayflower Church
Mt. Olivet Church
Pilgrim Lutheran Church
Richfield United Methodist Church
Shir Tikvah Synagogue
Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church
The Church of Christ the King
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Public Parks & Attractions

Local Restaurants

See the full list of local and regional parks here. Blackbird Cafe
Heffelfinger Fountain Broders’ Cucina Italiana and Pasta Bar
Lyndale Park Rose Garden Butter Bakery Cafe
Roberts Bird Sanctuary Cafe Ena
 

 

 

 

Cafe Maude
Cocina Latina
Curran’s Restaurant
Five Watt Coffee
George & the Dragon
Harriet’s Inn
Kings Wine Bar
Kyatchi
La Fresca
Lake Harriet Pizza
Michelangelo’s Master Pizzas
Patisserie 46
Pizzeria Lola
Red Wagon Pizza
Rincón 38
Saguaro Restaurant
Sparrow Cafe
Sun Street Breads
Terzo Vino Bar
The Lowbrow
The Malt Shop Restaurant
The Roastery
Victor’s 1959
Whole Sum Kitchen
Wise Acre Eatery

RNR’s Rock Star of the Month: Jen Kilzer

It’s no coincidence that RNR also stands for “Rock ‘N Roll” … because we think all of our agents are rock stars! Each month we will feature one of our team members to find out more about them and why they joined the biz. First up is Jen Kilzer, a rookie agent who is more than ready to help you achieve your home buying and selling dreams!


Jen

Q: How long have you been in the business?

A: I am new to the business; I entered into the real estate world in 2016.

Q: What’s your specialization?

A: I work with residential home buyers, especially people trying to establish themselves a bit later in life or re-establish themselves after life changing events, such as divorce.

Q: Where is your hometown?

A: I grew up in Richfield and returned there as an adult for 10 years. I currently reside in South Minneapolis.

Q: Why did you decide to become a real estate agent?

A: I have always had a passion for real estate and I’ve spent many years stalking homes on the internet, so I thought it was a good idea to take my passion for helping people and combine that with my love of housing and turn it into my second career.

Q: What is your dream home or favorite house style?

A: I really like townhouse living – I enjoy having more free-time by not having to do yard work and snow removal. As far as my dream home, I would choose a home with a view, preferably of a body of water. I like wide-open concepts and great views.

Q: What is your number one real estate tip?

A: I think the advice I give most frequently is that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses – the Joneses may not be that happy. We need to find a home that best fits your family and your lifestyle. We want it to be nice but we also want it to fit your budget, so that you can be happy every day that you are in this home.

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in the Twin Cities?

A: There are so many things I love about the Twin Cities. Our schools are great. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family, and there are also great neighborhoods for young adults with no children. We have a lot of variety here, from things to do to the drastic season changes. I love it all!

Q: What would you say is the Twin Cities’ best kept secret?

A: I think the best kept secret would be the local theater/art talent that we have here. We also have a ton of amazing neighborhood restaurants that you might not expect to find in their locations, and then to top it off the food is fabulous.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination?

A: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Q: What is your favorite sports team?

A: My favorite sport is basketball and our MN Lynx are pretty amazing!

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “A house is made of bricks and beams; a home is made of hope and dreams.”

If you want Jen to be a part of your Rock Star Home Buying or Home Selling team, contact her at jen.k@rnrrealty.com!

6 Ways Real Estate Agents Add Value in a Home Sale

Just because you can buy and sell property on your own, it doesn’t mean you should. Real estate agents remain essential when making these pivotal financial transactions.

There are many ways agents add value during the purchase or sale of a home:

  • Handle the technical nuances — Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, a home sale includes a dizzying amount of paperwork. Skilled agents know how to fill out what documents and when, saving you time and helping you avoid mistakes.
  • Speak the lingo — The industry uses an astonishing number of acronyms. Working with a real estate agent gives you the opportunity to better understand the conversation.
  • Can negotiate without emotion — It’s easy to get triggered when a potential buyer picks apart your home. Let the agent handle criticisms or requests that could set you off or scare away an interested party.
  • Help you look beyond the property’s walls — Agents have expertise beyond the sale, including insight on everything from utilities to neighborhoods to quality schools.
  • Are well connected — It takes a village to complete a home sale. Whether you need a trustworthy home inspector, an efficient mortgage broker or a creative interior designer, turn to your agent for credible recommendations.
  • Keep up with the most recent laws and regulations — You may only complete a few real estate deals in your lifetime, whereas an agent often signs off on several each year. Experienced real estate agents know as soon as something in the industry changes and can save you from a liability headache.

Whether your aim is to net money from the sale of your home or spend wisely on a new one, a real estate agent has your best interests in mind and can make the process as seamless as possible.


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2017’s Top Kitchen Design Trends

While a home’s curb appeal may draw buyers in, its interior matters just as much, if not more. Several features are high on the wish list of today’s homebuyer, including a modern kitchen. Whether you’re thinking of starting a remodel or you’re just curious about what the future holds, check out these trends that turn kitchens into buyer bait.

Hidden appliances: Upgrading appliances is one of the quickest ways to add value to a kitchen. If you’re looking to impress a buyer with deep pockets, look into hidden appliances. What’s the appeal? Less obvious appliances keep the eye on the kitchen’s overall flow and design.

Personalized pantries: The utilitarian kitchen pantry has evolved into a trending design element. Whether you choose a pocket door and complementary light fixture or a rustic barn door and wallpaper, there’s no shortage of ways to express your personal style.

Creative countertops: Looking for a revamp with an immediate impact? Upgrade the counters. Quartz and butcher block, both easy to maintain, are quickly replacing traditional marble and granite surfaces. You can dress up your kitchen further with sleek waterfall-edge countertops that extend vertically to the floor.

Mixed-up metal accents: Accessorizing with different finishes is a trendy, cost-effective way to update your kitchen. In addition to stainless steel and gold, homebuilders are seeing copper accents emerging as the metallic detail of choice.

Don’t let a dated kitchen cost you when it’s time to sell your home. Incorporating a trend or two could be enough to give your kitchen the face-lift it needs to entice buyers.


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Featured Image Credit: “The Kitchen: Chapter Six (Final Reveal!)” by Emily May © 2014 (CC BY 2.0)

Credit Score: What It Means and How to Improve It

Are you considering making a major purchase, like buying a home, this year? If so, your credit score will likely come into play. An understanding of the basics can help you effectively monitor and manage it.

Credit Score 101
Your credit score will usually range from 300 to 850. It’s derived from an algorithm that takes into account several factors, including payment history, the total debt owed and length of credit history.

Lenders use this three-digit number to predict risk and the likelihood that you’ll repay your debt on time. The higher your credit score, the less risk you are and the lower your loan terms will be. For example, a person with a “good” credit score of 700 may have a lower interest rate and smaller required down payment than someone with a “poor” credit score of 400.

How to Improve Your Score
If you don’t have much credit history or you have a few negatives on your report, consider these strategies to increase your score.

  • Pay all of your bills on time. Late payments can negatively impact your score.
  • Pay off debt where you can. The less debt you have, the lower your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Keep your credit card balances as low as possible, aiming to use no more than 30 percent of your available credit. And pay off as much as you can each month since higher balances can sink your score.
  • Review your credit report at least annually, and keep an eye out for mistakes and identity theft.

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Featured Image Credit: “Excellent Credit Score” by CafeCredit.com © 2016 (CC BY 2.0)

How to Be Prepared for an Emergency

Do you know what vital information to have on hand in the event of a natural disaster or family emergency? When an unexpected situation arises, there’s no time to sort through paperwork, no matter how essential it may be. Having everything you need in an organized emergency binder can streamline the process and give you peace of mind.

What to Include in an Emergency Binder
While there’s no shortage of important family documents and household records, a true emergency calls for a few must-haves:

  • Vital records like birth certificates, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, naturalization documents, passports and child custody papers.
  • Insurance policies, including homeowners, renters, auto, life and health.
  • Property records such as real estate deeds, rental agreements, and vehicle titles and registration.
  • Financial documents like wills, trusts, powers-of-attorney and funeral instructions.
  • A family emergency plan with contact information and predetermined meeting places.

Safely Storing Other Important Information
Some items, such as account passwords and a backup of critical computer files, aren’t suited for a portable binder. Instead, house them in a secure location like a safety deposit box or lockbox. You can also include a home inventory list, contracts, business paperwork, tax returns and investment records.

Play it safe and include a recent photograph of every family member, along with fingerprints and dental records. You may also want to store valuable memorabilia, jewelry, and priceless family photos, letters and documents here as well.

There’s no way to predict when misfortune will strike, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Set aside an afternoon to create an emergency binder that can help protect your family when time is of the essence.


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Featured Image Credit: “Better work flow: get organized” by Jodimichelle © 2011 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Downtown St. Paul: Revisited

Every January, talk of “New Year, New Me” abounds, so we figured now would be a great time to revisit one of our very first featured neighborhoods, Downtown St. Paul, to see what has changed since we last visited in February 2014. As it turns out, a lot has changed in three years – the Metro Transit Green Line opened in June 2014 and has since served millions of passengers; the State Capitol building has undergone a massive $310 million restoration (due to be completed by August 2017); and dozens of other development projects, both large and small, have popped up in the capital city. As its twin city, Minneapolis, gears up to host Super Bowl LII a year from now with its own bevy of renovation projects, St. Paul is also tidying up and polishing the fine china to welcome the big crowds that are expected.

With a “crumbling exterior” and “antiquated infrastructure,” the Capitol building was long overdue for some major reconstruction. After 100 years of use, what else would you expect? So in the past three years, the building has experienced a comprehensive renovation – updates include everything from exterior modifications to safety enhancements and increased energy efficiency. Behind-the-scenes photos of the process can be seen here. The project is expected to reach completion in August of this year, which will be celebrated with a free multi-day event for the public to kick off the site’s next 100 years of service.

  

As is typical in most major metropolitan areas, condos, lofts, and apartments are the downtown’s prevalent housing styles. Conversion and restoration projects throughout the neighborhood over the past year or so, have resulted in hundreds of additional units coming on to the market (with more on the way). In December 2016 alone, there were forty condo units listed for sale (compared to 25 in Downtown Minneapolis). With a relatively low median sales price ($169,900 compared to $261,950 in Downtown West and $514,000 for Downtown East, see chart below), buying a condo in Downtown St. Paul is a smart investment, especially because of the access to a strong job market, burgeoning recreational opportunities, and convenient public transportation.  

A great transit system factors into the decision for many to choose Downtown St. Paul as their home. Fortunately, Metro Transit fits the bill, having received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) last year. With at least 20 bus routes traveling through the Downtown on a daily basis, it is well connected to the rest of the Twin Cities, including suburbs such as Maplewood, Lino Lakes, and Stillwater. The successful addition of the Green Line in 2014 has made it even easier for residents and visitors from anywhere in the metro to check out all of Downtown’s new offerings.

  

The Lowertown area has experienced some of the most growth as of late, especially when it comes to the foodie scene. Favorite newcomers include Public Kitchen and Bar and Dark Horse Bar and Eatery. Also relatively new to the area is The Buttered Tin, a café and bakery which is part of the Wacouta Commons Park district.

Another recent Lowertown addition is CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. Opened in 2015, the stadium has hosted much more than ball games, including corporate events, concerts, even weddings! And of course you can’t forget one of Twin Cities most popular events, the Cat Video Festival, which relocated last year from the Walker Art Center.  

St. Paul is a haven for the culturally-inclined, brimming with art galleries, music and dance venues, museums, and, of course, some of the most historic theaters in the state. Until just last year, the Palace Theatre – which first opened in 1916 – had not been in regular use for nearly 40 years. Just before being condemned, the building was purchased by the City of St. Paul and refreshed (to the tune of $15.6 million over two years) to become one of the Twin Cities’ premier destinations for contemporary music and entertainment. Built in 1910, the Fitzgerald Theater (originally the Shubert Theater, then later renamed after the literary great, and St. Paul native, F. Scott) is the oldest active theater in the city. The venue is known for hosting Minnesota Public Radio, along with concerts and “Films at the Fitz.” While not quite as old as the Palace or the Fitzgerald, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is just as culturally significant to the fabric of St. Paul, being recognized as one of the U.S.’s leading not-for-profit performing arts centers. The Ordway went through its own two-year update, completed in 2015. One of the biggest annual attractions is the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival, which takes place in June. Lastly, if you haven’t seen or been inside the Landmark Center (built in 1902 and located just across the street from Rice Park), then you are missing out. From its instantly recognizable pink granite exterior, to the green turrets and red tiled roof, to the marble and mahogany interior, the architecture represents the best of the city. Definitely come for a tour of the building, and stay for the impressive performances and exhibits.

Theaters are not the only way to take in St. Paul’s culture – there are many museums, as well, and they are experiencing their own rejuvenations. As part of the Pioneer Endicott/Empire Building’s larger renovation plans, the Minnesota Museum of American Art is set for a major expansion in the months to come. Meanwhile, work on the Children’s Museum, is nearing completion (it’s expected to be wrapped up by April 2017). The $30 million update includes a four-story climbing structure and an expanded gallery for air and water play.

  

Until then (and beyond), the Science Museum is another great option for those who like their museums to be interactive, educational, and fun. As the most popular museum in the Upper Midwest, it takes this distinction seriously, offering a myriad of diverting shows, exhibits (dinosaurs!), and artifacts – the Omnitheater is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! History buffs will particularly enjoy the exhibit and views of the Mississippi River. Speaking of history lovers, just head north on Kellogg Blvd. to the Minnesota History Center for a walk through our state’s past. Home to the Minnesota Historical Society, the center has permanent and changing exhibits and hosts concerts, lectures, family days and other special events throughout the year.

Through all the changes the city has seen recently, though, there are iconic unchanging landmarks and events that will forever define St. Paul. For example, the Winter Carnival (being held Jan. 26th-Feb. 5th), is now over 130 years old, and can call itself the country’s oldest winter festival (predating the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years). Each year, the festivities attract more than 250,000 visitors from near and far, which helps boost the local economy. From the ice castle and snow sculptures to the Grand Day parade and Winter Jazz Festival to the Beer Dabbler and Vulcan Torchlight parade, there’s nothing you won’t enjoy about this St. Paul tradition. If we have to brave the Minnesota winters each year, we might as well make the most of them, right?  

Union Depot is one of the many venues for Winter Carnival events, playing host to the “paw-some” Doggie Depot day. There are many events held at the depot throughout the rest of the year as well, including weddings, cultural festivals, and holiday celebrations. With the full calendar, it’s easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis (since 1913), the depot actually functions as a working transit station, with connections to local and regional buses, light rail, and Amtrak trains. Like many other St. Paul buildings from last century, the depot underwent a two-year transformation in 2010-2012, making it the architectural wonder we know and love today.

From the depot, we recommend taking some time to navigate through the labyrinth of Skyways – you never know what you might find along the way. During our trip, we came across the TPT studios and the adorably cozy café Per.ke.lat. However, if you’ve ever ended up in the so-called “Skyway to Nowhere,” we feel your pain and are sure you’re happy to know that the divisive landmark will soon be demolished.

Mickey’s Diner is another St. Paul institution. Featured in numerous movies and TV shows, the art-deco dining car is recognized and beloved far beyond the city’s borders. The 50-foot-long diner sits on the unassuming corner of West 7th and St. Peter Street, and while the city has built up around it, the legendary eatery has been preserved for almost 70 years, and has remained family-owned and operated for three generations.  

In recent years, the landscape of St. Paul has certainly experienced a lot of change. But through it all, the heart and soul of the city remain, and it will be “Forever Saint Paul.”

 

Top Three Methods for Clearing Clutter in 2017

The new year represents a clean slate and the chance to begin again. It’s also the ideal time to clear out unwanted items and organize your home for the year ahead. If you want a fresh start to 2017, let these decluttering approaches inspire you.

Organizational Apps
Decluttering apps are plentiful, and they provide an effective way to complete the purging process. Some, like Snupps, let you digitize your belongings and organize them into simple categories or “shelves.” From there, you decide what to keep, sell or give away. You can also reach out to other users for organizational inspiration, discover items you may be interested in acquiring or show off your personal collection.

Room-by-Room Schedule
To systematically remove clutter over time, try monthly organization that’s broken down by room. For example, you can tackle the kitchen in January and give the home office a deep clean in February. Make a schedule that works for you. This method may feel less overwhelming and rushed.

Single Purge
Prefer to declutter your entire home all at once? Designate a few days or a weekend to devote to the process. The secret is to stay focused on one task at a time and avoid getting sidetracked. Work your way through each room one by one until you’ve cleared out all areas of your home.

The new year is fast approaching and now’s the time to eliminate your clutter. Whether it’s an app, a 12-month schedule or one big purge, there’s no shortage of methods to help you have a more organized 2017.


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Featured Image Credit: “an organized craft room” by alison headley © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Loring Park, Minneapolis

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to visit Loring Park. The park has served as home to one of the Twin Cities’ most beloved holiday traditions, Holidazzle, since the event relocated from Nicollet Mall in 2015. A celebration of all things holiday and all things Minneapolis, Holidazzle brings together local vendors, ice skating, music, and movies to equal winter fun for all ages.

Another cold weather favorite is Winterfest, held annually in February: a night of caroling, carriage rides, crafting, and ice skating. Even though the holidays will be over by then, there’s no reason you can’t keep the festive spirit alive all winter long!

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If venturing out in the -20 degree weather isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Loring Park is luckily beautiful to visit no matter the time of year. In the spring and summer, the Garden of the Seasons is in full bloom and features colorful florals and perennials, as well as wildlife (including the adorable resident albino squirrel!). A part of the #1 park system in America, Loring Park also boasts a nice-sized dog park and the Loring Community Arts Center, offering recreational programs (from cooking to yoga) and playing host to private events and receptions. Moreover, each summer, the park attracts large crowds for the Twin Cities Pride Festival and the Loring Park Arts Festival.

Originally called Central Park (yes, like that park in New York City), the park was renamed in 1890 to honor Charles Morgridge Loring, who was the first president of the park board in Minneapolis and is nicknamed the “Father of Minneapolis Parks.” Loring is largely responsible for negotiating the acquisition of large plots of private land throughout the city, especially along lake shorelines, and converting it to public parks in the 1880s.

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Beyond the edges of the park itself is the rest of the neighborhood, which extends north to 394, west and south to I-94, and east to Highway 65 and 12th St. One of the neighborhood’s most photogenic sites is, of course, the Basilica of St. Mary. Known as “America’s first basilica,” St. Mary’s has hosted the Basilica Block Party each year since 1995, to raise funds to restore and preserve the historic landmark. With big name acts such as The Fray, Death Cab for Cutie, and Weezer taking the stage in the past, the Block Party is always one of the city’s biggest events of the summer.

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Another recognizable neighborhood landmark is the Minneapolis Community & Technical College, colloquially known as MCTC. In 2014, the school celebrated 100 years of educational service to the diverse downtown community. Now covering more than 21 acres of land, MCTC enrolls nearly 13,000 students each year, which is about 5,000 more people than the entire neighborhood’s population!

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Speaking of the local populace, many Loring Park residents are below age 34, married with no children, and are employed in health care or professional fields. These people in particular seem to be attracted to the neighborhood because of its proximity to downtown amenities and available housing styles, consisting mostly of condos, lofts, townhouses, and apartments – suitable to their childless and busy lifestyles (multi-family homes often require less maintenance than single family homes).

As you can see in the chart above, inventory is at its lowest point since June 2013, with just about 20 townhouse or condo units currently for sale. While the neighborhood is known for its characteristic brownstones, in recent years, there has also been an uptick in development of modern lofts and condos to keep up with demand (there’s always more room to build upward rather than outward). With a median sales price of $230,000, the neighborhood is relatively well-priced compared to the city as a whole, making it a popular place to settle for young professionals.

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Along with new development, hip eateries and breweries such as Lakes and Legends, are bringing new energy to the neighborhood. Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, which just celebrated its first anniversary last week, often hosts community-centric events and markets that promote local artisans. Likewise, 4 Bells and The Third Bird draw a sophisticated yet relaxed clientele, with inviting venues and innovative yet accessible menus.

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Even with all the popular newcomers, though, longtime staples such as The Nicollet Diner and Salsa a la Salsa still attract a loyal fanbase by offering delicious food at reasonable prices. Additionally, Cafe and Bar Lurcat is as much a favorite of critics as it is of swanky foodies, having won numerous awards over the 15 years it’s been open. It is admittedly pricier than other restaurants nearby, but the ambiance and cuisine surely justify the higher price point.

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Brides-to-be have plenty of reason to visit Loring Park, with several bridal boutiques located in the neighborhood, such as a and bé and Che Bella (both pictured above) and annual bridal shows held at the Convention Center. There are also many churches, venues, and restaurants that are perfect for ceremonies and receptions in a nice central location. The nearby hotels, such as the Hyatt Regency and Millennium Hotel, are ideal for weddings – from hosting bridal parties to receptions to rooms for out-of-town guests and bride and groom suites.

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Speaking of the Minneapolis Convention Center, it is certainly one of the most well-known features of the Loring Park neighborhood. Each year, the venue (with 475,000 square feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms) holds hundreds of events, ranging from business meetings to private parties, the aforementioned bridal shows to home expos, ComicCon and beyond. If you’ve never been to the center in person, it’s definitely worth a visit, as the size, service, and happenings are all quite impressive.

Are you a resident of Loring Park, or thinking about moving to the area? Let us know in the comment section below!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Public Parks & Attractions

Child Garden Montessori School Loring Greenway
 Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center Loring Park
Rayito de Sol  Minneapolis Convention Center

Faith Communities

Local Restaurants

Basilica of St. Mary  4 Bells
 Central Lutheran Church  19 Bar
Episcopal Church in Minnesota  Asian Taste
 Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church Cafe & Bar Lurcat
Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral Eli’s Food & Cocktails
Westminster Presbyterian Church Espresso Royale Cafe
Wooddale Church Jerusalem’s Restaurant
Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant
Market Bar-B-Que
 Muffin Top Café
North 45 Restaurant and Bar
Ping’s Szechuan Bar & Grill
Ryan’s Pub
Salsa a La Salsa
The Nicollet Diner
The Third Bird