Experience a 19th Century Victorian Christmas

The Alexander Ramesy House in downtown St. Paul will open to the public for the holiday season on November 14th and run until December 30th. What makes this house special and worth checking out?

The historic preserved pre-Victorian home will be decorated for the season, but a la 1875. The beautiful home will beam with Victorian Christmas decorations and dated Ramsey personal items. The house hosts its visitors to experience Christmas long before our time. The house circulates smells of cookies from a wood burning stove and sounds of Christmas music drifting from a classic Steinway piano. This is a great chance to experience Christmas in a new and historic way.

To learn more or for ticket information, visit the Alexander Ramsey site.



Homestead Pride in Saint Paul's Summit Hill Neighborhood

The first mansions of Summit Avenue in Saint Paul started going up nearly 150 years ago, evolving over time to become one of the city's swankiest neighborhoods. Residents want to celebrate that history with house plaques that display when their homes were constructed.

The Summit Hill Association plans to connect homeowners with vendors and contractors qualified to install house plaques on their properties. Association members have said the plaques would likely resemble the markers typically associated with the National Register of Historic Places, regardless of whether the home actually sits within one of the area's two federally defined historic districts. The association — one of the city's 17 official planning districts — floated the idea in its newsletter last month. So far, 13 homeowners have signed up for more information.

The idea of encouraging homeowners to buy historic plaques isn't new. Throughout the country, historic preservation commissions often designate uniform designs for home plaques within historic districts. A private homeowners' group in the Summit Hill area, called the Ramsey Hill Association, followed a similar tack in the 1980s.

A sizable area around Summit Avenue lies within two different national and two different local historic districts. The Hill Historic District and the Summit Avenue West Historic Districts are the national designations. The Hill Historic District runs east-to-west along Summit Avenue from the St. Paul Cathedral to Lexington Avenue. The Summit Avenue West Historic District is an adjoining area along Summit Avenue from Mississippi River Boulevard to Lexington Avenue. The local districts include Summit Hill, a triangular region from Lexington Avenue on the west, Summit Avenue on the north, and the bluffs on the south, and Ramsey Hill, the area bounded by Summit Avenue, Dale Street, Interstate Highway 94, and a line running...

Campaign Signs at Vacant St. Paul Houses

Vacant and foreclosed houses and buildings in Saint Paul have started sprouting political campaign signs.

One of the first people to notice the signs was a real estate agent who found a campaign sign for Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher on the lawn of a foreclosed St. Paul home. As sheriff, his office has a role in the foreclosure process. Gazing down the block, more signs were planted outside vacant houses.

Though it may seem funny or harmless, it is a violation of Minnesota law to put signs on private land without the consent of the owner or occupant. The signs will be removed if a landowner asks. Some of the properties are owned by banks or mortgage companies.


2010 Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour This Weekend

The Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour happens April 24-25, 2010. The tour showcases real homes, real people, and real ideas for remodeling, redecorating, and restoring.

On the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour, residents of 53 amazing homes, 35 in Minneapolis and 18 in Saint Paul, will open their doors to show creative and practical ideas for home additions, kitchens, bathrooms and more. Visitors will have the opportunity to talk directly with the homeowners and find out what it’s like to live there. At many homes, their contractors, architects, and other trades people will also be on hand to answer questions.

Homes on the free, self-guided 2010 tour will be open Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, April 25, 1-5 p.m. This event will happen, rain or shine.

The tour starts where you like. Discover what homes can be visited at the “Homes” page on this website, wwww.MSPHomeTour.com. Printed guides are available in early April at libraries in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and suburban Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Additionally, there is something new on the Minneapolis & St. Paul Home Tour. This year, one hour before the tour starts, several workshops will be offered. The workshops are as follows, see the site for details and locations:
  • Is a Green Certification Right for Your Remodel Project? on Saturday, April 24, from 9 to -10:30 a.m.
  • How to Select and Work with a Professional Remodeler on Saturday, April 24, from 9 to 10 a.m.
  • The Art & Science of the Open Plan on Sunday, April 25, from Noon to 1 p.m.
  • Historic Homes for Everyday Families on Sunday, April 25, from Noon to 1 p.m.
The Minneapolis & St. Paul Home Tour is coordinated by Minneapolis...

Mortenson Construction to Lead St. Paul Union Depot Renovation

The Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority has picked Mortenson Construction to lead the $150 million renovation of the historic Union Depot in downtown St. Paul. The county's goal has been to restore the depot into a regional transportation hub for trains, buses, bikes and taxis.

The block-long building faces 4th Street and sits between Wacouta and Sibley Streets. County officials estimate the project will bring up to 1,350 jobs during design and construction. Construction is expected to be completed in 2012.

Rail Authority commissioners have also approved giving the Metropolitan Council up to $82,000 for a study of how three additional stations along University Avenue, at Hamline, Victoria and Western Avenues, would affect the areas when the Central Corridor light-rail line is built.

The 11-mile Central Corridor will connect downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis and is expected to begin running in 2014.


Community Highlights ~ Blaine MN

Blaine MN is a lively and involved community that's seen an increase in business and residential development in the recent years. The population now standing at about 54,000, Blaine is truly a community in the middle of a growth spurt. Straddling both Anoka and Ramsey Counties, it is in a first-rate location that offers superb access to the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area.

In 2006, Blaine was named one of Money Magazine's Top 100 Places to Live, and it shouldn't take long to understand why. Blaine, MN has an assortment of real estate and employment options for its residents. The city is a well-planned variety of business, light manufacturing, commercial, retail and residential areas. A handful of large employers are based in Blaine, including Aveda, Dayton Rogers Manufacturing and the Anoka County Airport. Nine universities are located in and around the city.

Great athletic, entertainment, and leisure activities are available for people who call Blaine MN home. The National Sports Center, an Olympic-class training facility, provides top athletes the space to practice and prepare to be the best in competition. The Schwan Super Rink, also in Blaine, is the world's largest indoor rink and it allows children and adults to ice skate and play ice hockey. For golfers, Blaine lays claim to the Tournament Players Club of the Twin Cities and features a course designed by Arnold Palmer and Minnesota's Tom Lehman. Brunswick Lanes bowling, Foss swimming and pool complex, and over 60 parks with trails, playing fields and courts can also be found here. Finally, Blaine is competing to become the home of the Minnesota Vikings new stadium.

From Blaine's mature, established neighborhoods to newer developments, there is sure to be right house for you to call home. Whether you can afford a multi-million dollar mansion, want to build on an empty lot, seek a pre-owned, single-family home or you just want a cozy townhouse, Blaine...

Downtown Saint Paul Development Canceled

Opus Northwest in Minnetonka, the developer hoping to put a $200 million office, hotel and housing project on prime riverfront real estate in downtown St. Paul, has given up its exclusive rights to the property.  Citing the economy, it canceled the $10 million deal with Ramsey County for a six-acre site along Kellogg Boulevard that contained the old West Publishing complex and the adjacent vacant county jail. The developer forfeits a $125,000 deposit and the county is allowed to put the land back on the market.

Opus Northwest had proposed a 22-story office tower with up to 500,000 square feet of space and a 30-story tower with room for a 250-room hotel and 100 condos. The developer could not find a company to anchor a planned office tower, which is something they required of themselves to start the project. Although it no longer has exclusive rights, Opus intends to continue to market the property.

Part of Opus' challenge in landing an office tenant is because Saint Paul typically has had one of the Twin Cities' softest markets. A recent report released by Bloomington-based NorthMarq put St. Paul's midyear vacancy rate at 25.7%, compared with 15.4% for the Twin Cities overall. The project above the Mississippi River would have given St. Paul its first new office tower nearly ten years and significantly increased Class A office space.

Downtown Saint Paul has only 1.6 million square feet of Class A space, compared with 13.2 million square feed in downtown...

Ramsey County to Buy 3M Land?

The St. Paul Port Authority is in the process of buying much of the 45-acre 3M grouping of properties, which lie south of Phalen Boulevard and east of Arcade Street.  Ramsey County, meanwhile, wants its own piece of the pie.  The county is looking into buying some of the 3M land on St. Paul's East Side for $1 million.

The county wants a 6-acre piece at Arcade and East Minnehaha Avenue in order to build a $14.2 million office building on the site for county workers.  The idea is to build offices for about 275 county workers from a number of departments, including 125 Community Corrections workers.  The cost for the new building and moving workers combined is estimated at $17.8 million.

Ramsey County is floating this idea because it plans to move out of the former West Publishing Co. building on Kellogg Boulevard. A developer has eyes on West building and the county's other riverfront real estate in Downtown St. Paul.


The Great Minnesota Get-Together

This week on Thursday begins an event which many people wait for all year.  It’s commonly called the Minnesota State Fair and often referred to as the Great Minnesota Get-Together but I think most people can agree it’s the 12 Best Days of Summer.  Beginning August 21 and going through September 1, you can get all manner of foods on a stick, music concerts and entertainment, exhibits, and more.  Last year the Minnesota State Fair was attended by nearly 1.7 million people.  Each year it seems to grow as one of the largest attended state fairs in the nation!

Entertainment at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair includes more than 100 acts at eight free venues, and a lineup of top stars that includes Toby Keith, the Backstreet Boys, and the Black Crowes.  The Great Minnesota Get-Together also features more than 450 food choices.  Let’s not forget the hundreds of agricultural, educational and commercial exhibits and attractions.

It also has a long and deep history.  After four years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859 near what became downtown Minneapolis.  That was just one year after Minnesota was granted statehood, which means watch out for next  year’s State Fair celebration when it celebrates its 150th anniversary!

Anyways, back to the fair.  During the fair's early years, the site of the exposition rotated with stops in Minneapolis, Saint Paul...

Saint Paul's Skyways Public Hearing

The Capitol River Council will hold a public hearing tonight (Monday, July 7, 2008) regarding Saint Paul’s skyways, the attempt to create within them consistent hours of operation, and requests by a series of buildings seeking to be exempt from the plan. 

Approved by both the St. Paul City Council and Mayor Chris Coleman, the plan is to make all of the skyways open everyday from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. The main goal of the ordinance is to avoid the skyway network from becoming fragmented by buildings at key junction points closing their skyways at odd hours, confusing people and forcing them to go outside in the winter, probably unexpectedly.  However, the plan includes a way for buildings to try to get out of it, subject to City Council approval. Certain buildings at the ends of the network of indoor sidewalks are expected to be able to make a good argument that their walkways aren't heavily traveled or essential to the larger network. The Capitol River Council, hosting the hearing tonight, makes recommendations to the City Council.

The initial wave of requests for exemption were from Saint Paul’s City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse, the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, and St. Joseph's Hospital, and were all expected for obvious reason.  Some are offering an after-hours skyway escort service for people who need it.

The current round of requests includes Macy's, which is expected to receive permission to close the skyway through its store at the time of store closing to prevent merchandise from becoming the target of thieves. Other buildings requesting different hours are: The Gilbert Building, Metro Square, Sibley Square...

The Payne-Phalen Neighborhood of Saint Paul

The area known as the Payne-Phalen neighborhood is bounded by Interstate 35E on the west, Larpenteur Avenue on the north, the Burlington Northern railroad tracks on the east, and the Burlington Northern railroad tracks.  The Payne-Phalen neighborhood is part of St. Paul’s “East Side.”

The Payne-Phalen neighborhood served as one of the first immigrant settlements in Minnesota’s history.  For this reason, the area has historical significance for Saint Paul.  The first residents of Payne-Phalen were transitory settlers who lived in log cabins along the edge of Phalen Creek and Trout Brook.  These creeks used to make up the southwest boarder Payne-Phalen, but they were filled by railroad companies in after the Civil War. Starting in the 1840’s and 1850’s, Swedish immigrants were establishing themselves in the creek ravines.  The area was ultimately inhabited by a diverse assortment of people, including Irish, Italians, and Poles, in a multitude of shanties and shacks. None of the current buildings in this old section of Payne-Phalen were built before 1956, however.  That was when the City of St. Paul condemned the area in order to demolish and rebuild it.  The Phalen Creek valley also served as the site for a number of early industries in the neighborhood, one of the most famous being Hamm’s Brewery.  The Olympia Brewery now occupies that space.


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