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Brief Historical Overview
University UNITED emerged from a number of organizational
initiatives. In 1977, the Economic Development Committee of the Midway Civic and
Commerce invited the District Councils bordering University Avenue to participate
in its meetings, which led to the formal establishment of University UNITED in
1981. In the 1970's, three Local Development Companies were working along the
University Avenue corridor. They later merged to form the University Midway Local
Development Company, which in turn formally merged with University UNITED in 1991.
the years, University UNITED has undertaken a variety of activities responding
to the changing needs of the community. These included a number of planning efforts,
starting with the first comprehensive planning study for the University Avenue
corridor in 1988. Early on, UNITED was also an implementation organization. Its
first and largest development project was the International Marketplace Project,
in 1989, funded with $1.5 million in federal Urban Revitalization Action Program
(URAP) dollars by the City of St. Paul. This led to the creation of International
Plaza (an Asian/International mini-mall), and streetscape and façade improvements
for businesses in the two blocks between Western and Mackubin Avenues. In the
intervening years, UNITED has organized crime prevention efforts, promoted business
retention and expansion programs, established programs working with new immigrant
businesses, managed façade improvement programs, created U-PLAN, organized
the University Avenue Business Association (UABA), and became a strong advocate
for transit oriented development.
|Click on the below links for information on:|
- Staff Members
UNITED Board Members
Stuart Alger, Attorney, Leonard, Street, Deinard - Chair
Western Bank - Treasurer
Jaime Kreisman, Beka, Inc. Specialty Wood Products
Mary Leonard, Chocolat Celeste
Sherman Eagles, Hampden Park Consulting (Software)
Hinkle, Policy Director, Minnesota Solar Energies Industries Association*
University Avenue Business Association,
Development Project Community Representative:
JoAnne Makela, St. Anthony Park Community Council
Photo by Bill Klotz
McMahon, Executive Director: Brian started as Executive Director of University
UNITED in January 2001. A trained architect, with degrees from the University
of Notre Dame and the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, he has been working
in the urban planning and redevelopment field for over 20 years. He operated a
real estate brokerage and development company in his native New York City, and
has completed a number of housing and mixed-use projects. He is currently a licensed
real estate broker in Minnesota. In addition to promoting commercial corridor
redevelopment, Brian has received a number of research grants from, among others,
the Minnesota Humanities Commission and the Minnesota Historical Society, and
has written widely on the subject of urban history.
- McKnight Foundation
- St. Paul Travelers Foundation
- City of St. Paul
Council/Metro Commuter Services (contract with Midway TMO)
- Bikes Belong
Foundation (Midway TMO)
- Saint Paul Foundation
- The Bigelow Foundation
OF UNIVERSITY UNITED|
Adopted by Board on December 7, 2009
Section 1. Mission. The mission of University
UNITED shall be:
(a) to plan for and implement commercial, housing, and
transportation development which will benefit residents and businesses within
the University Avenue corridor, and be consistent with the Central Corridor Development
Strategy adopted by the City of St. Paul, and the Station Area Plans adopted by
St. Paul and Minneapolis.
(b) to build relationships among stakeholders
along University Avenue;
(c) to promote the University Avenue corridor as
a place to live, work and conduct business; and
(d) to advocate for public
and private decisions which benefit the University Avenue corridor, but no substantial
part of the activities of the Corporation may include the carrying on of propaganda
or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.
Section 2. Vision.
The vision of the Corporation is that the University Avenue corridor will
be a vital, thriving, metropolitan hub which enhances people's quality of life
and economic well-being.
Section 3. Service Area. University
UNITED has a service area along the University Avenue corridor in that portion
of the Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, described as follows:
The northern boundary is the southernmost main-line railway track of the Burlington
Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, north of Pierce Butler Route; the eastern
boundary is the State Capitol; the southern boundary is the center-line of Interstate
94; and the western boundary is the University of Minnesota, east-bank campus.
ARTICLE II: BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Section 1. Selection
of Directors. The Board of Directors of the Corporation shall consist
of up to twelve natural persons appointed or elected by the voting members of
the Corporation, including a representative nominated by the University Avenue
Business Association, and a representative nominated by the newly created Community
Advisory Board (described below). At least one member shall be from Minneapolis.
The Board shall also include up to five Special Community Director Positions nominated
by a neighborhood(s) District Council in which a development project is located,
who shall serve for the duration of the time the project is active. The current
Board of UNITED shall approve the new Board members, and the new Board will select
The Community Advisory Board shall consist of representatives
from each of the current organizational members of University UNITED, excluding
the business associations, who wish to participate (below). This group shall meet
periodically, but no less than once a year, to review the work plan of University
UNITED, and to nominate their representative to the UNITED Board when there is
an available seat.
- District 7 Planning Council - Thomas Dale
8 Planning Council - Summit-University
- District 11 Community Council -
- District 12 Community Council - St. Anthony
- District 13 Community Council - Union Park
- Prospect Park
East River Road Improvement Association
- Aurora-St. Anthony NDC
Frogtown Community Development Corporation
- Model Cities Community Development
Section 2. Term. Except as otherwise
provided herein, each director on the Board of Directors of the Corporation shall
be appointed/elected to serve for a term of three years. A director shall hold
office for the term for which he or she was appointed/elected and until her or
his successor has been appointed/elected and such successor has qualified, or
until the director's death, resignation or removal. No person shall serve on the
Board of Directors, as a director or for terms, either full or partial, aggregating
more than six years. Some of the initial Board appointments shall be less than
three years to allow for staggered terms.
Section 3. Resignation.
Any director may resign his/her membership at any time by giving written notice
to the Board of Directors or to the Chair. Such resignation shall take effect
at the date of the receipt of such notice or at any later time specified therein;
and, unless otherwise specified therein, the acceptance of such resignation shall
not be necessary to make it effective.
Section 4. Removal and Vacancies.
Any director may at any time be removed with cause by a two-thirds vote of
the Board of Directors. Cause can include missing three consecutive meetings of
Board of Directors. Action to remove the director shall be preceded by notice
to the director stating the reasons for considering the proposed action. The director
in question shall have no vote on the matter.
Any vacancy occurring because
of the death, written resignation or removal of a director shall be filled for
the unexpired term of such director.
Section 5. Non-voting Members.
The Board of Directors may establish classes of non-voting members based upon
such criteria as it shall from time to time determine. Non-voting members shall
be admitted or removed from membership by action of the Board of Directors, where
written notice of the proposed action has been given to the members personally
or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or facsimile at least five (5)
business days prior to the meeting.
Section 6. Interest in Property.
Directors of the Corporation shall not, as such, have any right, title or interest
in the real or personal property of the Corporation.
ARTICLE III: MEETINGS
OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Section 1. Regular Meetings.
Regular meetings of the Board of Directors shall be held at least every three
months. The meetings shall be at such time and place as determined by resolution
of the Board. Meetings may be held elsewhere, or at alternative times, if the
notice of the meeting clearly provides so. Notice of any change in the place or
time or holding any regular meeting, or of any adjournment of a regular meeting
to reconvene at a different time or place, shall be given to the directors personally
or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or facsimile, or by telephone,
not less than two (2) days before the meeting, excluding the day of the meeting,
to all directors who were absent at the time such action to schedule the meeting
Section 2. Special Meetings. Special meetings of
the Board of Directors for any purpose or purposes shall be called by the Chair
or at the written request of any director. Such request shall state the purpose(s)
for the proposed meeting. Written notice of all special meetings shall be given
to the directors, stating the time and place thereof, and the purposes for which
such meeting is convened, personally or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic
mail, or facsimile at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. The business
transacted at all special meetings shall be confined to the subject or subjects
stated in the notice and to matters germane thereto, unless all directors of the
Corporation are present at such meeting and consent to the transaction of other
Section 3. Quorum. Forty percent of the directors
of the Corporation shall be necessary to constitute a quorum for the transaction
of business by the Board of Directors, and the act of a majority of the directors
present at such meeting shall be the act of the Board, except where otherwise
provided by statute or these By-laws. If a quorum is present when a duly called
or held meeting is convened, the directors present may continue to transact business
until adjournment, even though the proportion or number otherwise required for
a quorum is no longer present.
ARTICLE IV: OFFICERS
1. Officers. The officers of the Corporation shall consist of a Chair,
a Vice Chair, and a Treasurer, who shall be appointed by the Board of Directors,
and such other officers as may be appointed from time to time by the Board.
2. Selection and Removal. The Board shall elect officers at its January
board meeting, with the new slate of officers to begin their term at the subsequent
Board meeting. The term of office of each of the officers of the Corporation shall
be for one year or until the election of successors. Any officer may be removed
at any time prior to the expiration of his or her term by a two-thirds vote of
the Board of Directors, where written notice of the proposed action has been given
to the directors personally or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or
facsimile at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. Any vacancy occurring
in an executive office shall be filled by the Board of Directors, where written
notice of the election has been given to the directors and alternates personally
or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or facsimile at least five (5)
business days prior to the meeting. No person shall serve as an officer of the
Corporation in the same office for more than three years.
Chair. The Chair shall work with staff to organize and set agendas
for the Executive Committee; the Chair shall chair meetings of the Executive Committee
and Board of Directors; shall serve as spokespersons for the Corporation; shall
sign and deliver in the name of the Corporation deeds, mortgages, bonds, contracts,
or other instruments pertaining to the business of the Corporation, except in
cases in which the authority to sign and deliver is required by law to be exercised
by another person or is expressly delegated by the Corporation's organizational
documents or by the Board of Directors to another officer or agent of the Corporation;
shall maintain records of and, when necessary, certify proceedings of the Board
of Directors and members; and shall perform other duties prescribed by the Board
Section 4. Treasurer. The Treasurer shall monitor
and provide oversight for the accurate financial records for the Corporation including
the deposit of money, drafts, and checks in the name of and to the credit of the
Corporation in the banks and depositories designated by the Board of Directors;
the disbursement of corporate funds including checks and drafts in the name of
the Corporation, as ordered by the Board of Directors; and shall provide the Chair
and the Executive Committee upon request and the Board of Directors at each regular
meeting of the Board of Directors written account of transactions by the Treasurer
and of the financial condition of the Corporation.
ARTICLE V: COMMITTEES
1. Executive Committee. The Executive Committee of the Corporation
shall have general active management of the business of the Corporation and shall
work with the staff to coordinate meetings of the Board of Directors, assure good
communications with and among directors, promote linkages among committees and
task forces, identify resources, oversee finances, and otherwise see that orders
and resolutions of the Board of Directors are carried into effect. The chair shall
act as chair of the Executive Committee. In the interval between meetings of the
Board of Directors, the Executive Committee shall have the authority of the Board
of Directors to make critical, time-sensitive management decisions, but shall
at all other times be subject to the control and direction of the Board of Directors,
and shall have no policy making authority except as may be expressly granted by
the Board of Directors. Actions taken by the Executive Committee shall be reported
in writing to the directors prior to or at the next meeting of the Board of Directors.
2. Members of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall
include the Chair, the Vice-Chair, the Treasurer, the head of staff (if any) of
the Corporation, and any others appointed by the Board of Directors. The Board
shall appoint persons to the Executive Committee at its January board meeting,
with the new appointed members of the Executive Committee to begin their terms
at the subsequent Board meeting. The term of office for the Executive Committee
shall be for one year or until the election of successors. Any member of the Executive
Committee may be removed from the Executive Committee at any time prior to the
expiration of his or her term by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors,
where written notice of the proposed action has been given to the directors personally
or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or facsimile at least five (5)
business days prior to the meeting. Any vacancy occurring on the Executive Committee
shall be filled by the Board of Directors, where written notice of the election
has been given to the directors personally or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic
mail, or facsimile at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. There
shall be no limitation on the number of consecutive terms a person may serve on
the Executive Committee.
Section 3. Other Committees. The
Board of Directors may act by and through such other committees as may be specified
in resolutions adopted by the Board of Directors. Each such committee shall have
such duties and responsibilities as are granted to it from time to time by the
Board of Directors. Each such committee shall at all times be subject to the control
and direction of the Board of Directors. Committee members, except as specifically
provided for the Executive Committee, need not be directors.
4. Task Forces. The Board of Directors may establish task forces to
focus on specific goals of the Corporation and outcomes. Task forces are time-limited,
task-focused work groups that develop recommendations to the Board of Directors
for pursuing possible action. Members of the task forces need not be directors.
Task forces shall generate a work plan that outlines goals, action steps, persons
responsible and expected results; shall seek representation of vested parties
and active involvement of community members in the process; shall oversee any
work plan approved by the Board of Directors; and shall regularly report progress
to the Board of Directors. Task forces shall provide meeting agendas and minutes
to the Executive Committee for regular distribution to the directors and alternates.
Each task force shall at all times be subject to the control and direction of
the Board of Directors.
Section 5. Meetings and Voting. Meetings
of each committee or task force may be held at such time and place as are announced
at a previous meeting of the committee or task force. Meetings of any committee
or task force may also be called at any time by the chairperson of the committee
or task force or by the Chair, with notice given to the committee or task force
members personally or by mail (postage prepaid), electronic mail, or facsimile,
or by telephone, at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. Appearance
at a meeting is deemed to be a waiver of notice unless the committee or task force
member objects at the beginning of the meeting to the transaction of business
because the meeting is not lawfully called or convened and the committee or task
force member does not participate in the meeting. At all meetings of a committee
or task force of the Corporation each member thereof shall be entitled to cast
one vote on any question coming before such meeting. The presence of one-third
of the membership of any committee or task force of the Corporation shall constitute
a quorum at any meeting thereof, but the members of a committee or task force
present at any such meeting, although less than a quorum, may adjourn the meeting
from time to time. A majority vote of the members of a committee or task force
of the Corporation present at any meeting thereof, if there be a quorum, shall
be sufficient for the transaction of business of such committee or task force.
Any action that could be taken at a committee or task force meeting may be taken
by written action signed by all members of the committee or task force.
Section 1. Indemnity. To the full extent
permitted by any applicable law, the Corporation shall indemnify each person made
or threatened to be made a party to any threatened, pending or completed civil,
criminal, administrative, arbitration, or investigative proceeding, including
a proceeding by or in the right of the Corporation, by reason of the former or
present capacity of the person as director, officer, employee, or member of a
committee or task force of the Corporation, or other person serving the Corporation
in an official capacity.
Section 2. Survival. The indemnification
provided by Section 1 of this Article shall continue as to a person who has ceased
to be a member, director, officer, employee, or member of a committee or task
force of the Corporation, or other person serving the Corporation in an official
capacity, shall inure to the benefit of the heirs, executors and administrators
of such person, and shall apply whether or not the claim against such person arises
out of matters occurring before the adoption of this Section. Any indemnification
realized other than under this Section shall apply as a credit against any indemnification
provided by this Section.
Section 3. Insurance. The Corporation
may, to the full extent permitted by applicable law from time to time in effect,
purchase and maintain insurance on behalf of any person who is or was a member,
director, officer, employee, or member of a committee or task force of the Corporation,
or other person serving the Corporation in an official capacity against any liability
asserted against such person and incurred by such person in any such capacity.
4. Conflicts of Interest. The Corporation shall not enter into any
contract or transaction with (a) one or more its directors; or (b) an organization
or business entity in or of which a director is a director, officer, legal representative,
or has a material financial interest; unless the material facts as to the contract
or transaction and as to the director's or alternate's interest are fully disclosed
or known to the Board of Directors, and the Board of Directors authorizes, approves,
or ratifies the contract or transaction in good faith by the affirmative vote
of a majority of the directors (without counting the interested director or directors)
present at a meeting of the Board of Directors at which there is a quorum. Business
people serve at their own pleasure and not as representatives of their employers
or businesses. Failure to comply with the provisions of this Section shall not
invalidate any contract or transaction to which the Corporation is party. All
contracts entered into by the Corporation shall include a clause concerning conflict
of interest. All directors will be required to sign an annual Disclosure of Interest
Questionnaire. The Board shall enact additional Conflict of Interest Policy requirements
from time to time as it deems appropriate.
ARTICLE VII: MISCELLANEOUS
1. Fiscal Year. The Board of Directors shall set the fiscal year of
Section 2. Audit. An independent review of
the financial operations of the Corporation shall be completed no less than biennially
by a financial consultant selected by the Board of Directors. Additional audits
shall be completed as required by the funders of the Corporation and governmental
or regulatory authorities.
Section 3. Electronic Communications.
A conference among directors, or members of a committee or task force by any means
of communication through which such persons may simultaneously hear each other
during the conference is a meeting of the members, Board of Directors, committee
or task force, as the case may be, if the same notice is given of the conference
as would be required for a meeting, and if the number of persons participating
in the conference would be sufficient to constitute a quorum at a meeting. Participation
in a meeting by that means constitutes presence in person at the meeting.
4. Amendments. The Articles of Incorporation of the Corporation and
these By-laws may be amended by a two-thirds vote at a duly constituted meeting
of the Board of Directors. All directors shall be notified of any proposed amendments
at least sixty (60) days prior to the action of the Board of Directors to change
the By-laws. Such notice shall include the full text of the proposed amendments
and the changes from the existing By-laws. Any substantive amendments made to
the proposed amendments to the by-laws at the duly constituted meeting of the
board of directors shall not be put to a final vote until the next regular board
of directors meeting, after notice has been provided to each voting member of
the full text of the final proposed amendments to the by-laws.
5. Authority to Borrow and Encumber Assets. No director, officer, agent,
employee, or member of a committee or task force of the Corporation shall have
any power or authority to borrow money on its behalf, to pledge its credit or
to mortgage or pledge its real or personal property except within the scope and
to the extent of the authority delegated by resolutions adopted from time to time
by the Board of Directors. Authority may be given by the Board of Directors for
any of the above purposes and may be general or limited to specific instances.
Section 6. Deposit of Funds. All funds of the Corporation
shall be deposited from time to time to the credit of the Corporation in such
banks, trust companies or other depositories as the Board of Directors may approve
or designate, and all such funds shall be withdrawn only in the manner or manners
authorized by the Board of Directors from time to time.
Complete History of University UNITED:
Revised May 4, 2009
1977 leaders at the Midway Civic and Commerce sought to improve relations with
the area's residential community and invited the district councils bordering University
Avenue to participate in their Economic Development Committee meetings. University
UNITED, a collaboration of businesses and residents, was founded in 1981 as an
outgrowth of these meetings. Also during the 1970's, the U.S. Small Business Administration
set up a program to work with local agencies called Local Development Companies
(LDC) to funnel low-interest loans to small businesses. Three LDCs had been organized
along the University Avenue corridor. They later merged to form the University
Midway Local Development Company, which in 1991 merged with University UNITED.
A watershed moment in UNITED's history was the commissioning of a comprehensive
planning study for the University Avenue Corridor by Chair Bruce Davis in 1987,
who had raised funds from the McKnight Foundation. The consultant team of Dahlgren,
Shardlow, and Uban was retained, and they completed a report entitled the University
Avenue Corridor Study, which described the potential for new commercial and housing
development along the corridor. This was largely adopted into the City Comprehensive
Plan, although the recommendations about infill housing were not included.
first and largest implementation effort was the International Marketplace Project,
funded in the early 1990s with $1.5 million in federal Urban Revitalization Action
Program (URAP) dollars provided by the City of St. Paul. This program included
financing for the development of International Plaza (an Asian/International mini-mall),
streetscape improvements including 17 new ornamental street lanterns, and façade
improvements for 17 businesses in the two block stretch between Western and Mackubin
Avenues. By 1993, the program had leveraged $3.4 in private investment, the creation
of 65 full-time and 12 part-time jobs, and 35 new businesses.
of the URAP/ International Marketplace Project, Dave Gagne, was hired as the first
staff person of UNITED. Under Gagne's leadership UNITED took on several new projects,
including the "Gateway" Project to revitalize the University and Raymond
intersection and the Commercial Revitalization Project for façade improvements
between Lexington and Rice.
In 1990 UNITED established the University/Dale
Task Force, which helped facilitate the closing of the pornographic Faust Theatre
and led to the City acquisition of the south west corner, where the Rondo Library
UNITED's next major endeavor, also funded by the McKnight Foundation,
was the Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) survey of 1995, led by UNITED's
first full-time executive director Michael Darger. This study looked at the needs
of 31 Midway manufacturing firms that paid living wage wages and had a potential
interest in expanding. The survey found that the issue of greatest concern was
finding, retaining, and training a quality workforce. Several programs emerged
from this study. Over a period of five years, UNITED organized eight Midway Job
and Opportunity Fairs and more than a dozen workshops which attracted more than
200 employers and thousands of jobseekers. UNITED also established a School/Business
Partnership, a CEO of Manufacturers Roundtable, and the Midway Commercial Space
Inventory. This program won an "Exemplar" award from BR&E International
In the mid-to-late 1990's UNITED organized several task forces
on issues related to crime prevention including prostitution, "cruising"
on University Avenue and crime problems facing new immigrant business owners on
University Avenue. Under the leadership of Executive Director Irene Rodriguez,
this effort led to the creation of the Empowerment of New American Business Leaders
(ENABLE) Program, a partnership between UNITED, the St. Paul Police Department,
and other community stakeholders. In 1999 and 2000, the ENABLE Program won national
recognition as a model of community-oriented policing.
In 1997 UNITED helped
create the Midway Design Collaborative, which established the University Avenue
Development Principles, and evolved into the University Avenue Corridor Initiative
(UACI). In 2000, UNITED, the UACI, and the Midway Chamber of Commerce jointly
established the "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" (CPTED)
STAR Program. This was awarded $300,000 in City STAR monies to help University
Avenue businesses make exterior improvements consistent with CPTED principles.
In 2001, new Executive Director Brian McMahon helped complete the merger
of University UNITED and the University Avenue Corridor Initiative, and refocused
UNITED on issues of brick and mortar development and planning. In that year, UNITED
partnered with nonprofit housing developer Central Community Housing Trust to
propose Lexington Park, a 350 unit mixed-use housing development on the southwest
corner of University and Lexington, as an alternative to a proposed Home Depot.
UNITED also prepared an extensive research report on Student Housing Options in
the Midway which detailed the case for student housing on University Avenue for
area colleges and universities.
In 2001 UNITED prepared a funding application
to the Metropolitan Council for a study of transit-oriented development opportunities
at the University Avenue intersections at Snelling and Lexington, and a $70,000
grant was awarded to the City of St. Paul. UNITED's board passed a resolution
in 2001 calling for the creation of 2,000 new housing units in the corridor over
the next decade - at a time when no housing had been built on the corridor in
over 75 years. In that year UNITED released its first newsletter, Corridor Connections,
and created its first website, www.universityunited.com.
2002, UNITED's board approved a resolution adopting Transit-Oriented Development
(TOD) as the framework by which the organization would judge development proposals
for the corridor. This significant policy change was incorporated directly into
the organizational bylaws. UNITED organized a lecture series entitled "Making
a Great Street" which featured experts in the areas of housing, transportation,
public art, and placemaking, and presented an exhibit entitled "Big Plans"
which showcased the dozens of proposals that had been developed for University
Avenue over the years. The lecture series, exhibit and many other community meetings
were held in UNITED's first Planning Center, at 712 University Avenue. A Housing
Task Force utilized the maps and aerial photographs at the Center to identify
priority sites for 3,000 new housing units in a report issued that year.
addition to increasing housing, jobs, tax base, and environmental sustainability,
transit oriented development is a very effective crime-prevention tool because
it incorporates CPTED principles. A mix of land uses with "eyes on the street",
and an attractive and welcoming pedestrian environment, is a proven deterrent
of crime and anti-social behavior. UNITED has continued its historic role in crime
prevention by also offering workshops for merchants and facilitating community
meetings with the police department.
There were several other significant
bylaws' changes in 2002. Board members were empowered to vote with "autonomy"
thereby allowing organizational representatives to make decisions at the meetings.
Additionally, a category of business representatives selected by the full Board
replaced the earlier model of having the Midway Chamber of Commerce designate
the business delegates. Finally, two new organizational members were admitted,
the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation, and the Prospect Park
East River Road Improvement Association in Minneapolis.
UNITED formed a
Task Force in 2002 to research activities and development opportunities in the
1,200 acre Midway industrial area. As part of this multi-year study, UNITED did
considerable research on the development potential of biotechnology clusters.
It also commissioned a transportation study which demonstrated the inadequacy
of the existing infrastructure, which would be further exacerbated by planned
development. UNITED also proposed a new north-south bridge at Vandalia Street
crossing the BNSF train tracks to increase connectivity. As part of its ongoing
study of the industrial area, UNITED, later partnered with the Green Institute
and sponsored a one-day workshop with a panel of international experts on the
potential for using a new power plant for the Rock-Tenn recycling plant as the
centerpiece for a larger eco-industrial complex.
In 2002, UNITED invested
considerable effort to improve the appearance of the proposed Menard's Home Improvement
Store at Prior and University. It retained an architectural consultant who did
numerous façade sketches, and organized several community meetings. This
set the pattern for how UNITED dealt with future development proposals.
several years, University UNITED operated as the fiscal sponsor for the Midway
Transportation Management Organization (TMO), a new transportation advocacy group.
In 2002, this group was incorporated into UNITED as an operating program, led
by staff member Russ Stark.
The 25th Anniversary of University UNITED was
celebrated in 2002 with an exhibit of historic pictures of University Avenue.
That year was also the start of one of UNITED's most successful ongoing activities,
the Annual Awards Program, with the first event held at Andy's Garage.
2003, UNITED initiated a major, multi-year study of the Midway retail centers
which included extensive survey and outreach work, market research, and architectural
visioning. UNITED also continued to be a strong advocate for TOD as part of the
planning process for the Lexington and Snelling intersections.
the lead on opposing a proposed CVS drug store at Snelling and University which
did not meet TOD criteria. UNITED offered specific design alternatives and options
which it had generated at a very well-attended design charrette led by almost
a dozen architects. Through intense negotiations, and an appeal to the city Council,
some improvements to the project were secured.
A very successful charrette
was also held for Dickerman Park, a linear green space between Fairview and Aldine
Avenues, which was owned by the city - but unrecognized as a community asset.
Funding was secured to do a master plan, completed by the noted landscape architecture
firm of Coen + Partners.
Development activity on the corridor intensified
in 2004 with the acquisition of the 8 acre parcel on the south west corner of
Lexington and University. The new owner proposed subdividing the site into four
or five lots which would be sold separately for suburban-style developments. UNITED
strongly opposed the lot splits, as well as proposals to build a single story
Aldi's, a single story TCF Branch Bank, and various other aspects of the development.
Through intense negotiation and a number of formal appeals to City Council, the
individual projects were improved. Aldi's added considerable height to their building
abutting the University Avenue frontage. TCF added a second floor and reduced
the number of drive-through lanes. Continued community pressure over the next
several years helped ensure several high-quality projects including the Wilder
Foundation headquarters, and Carty Heights, a senior citizens housing complex.
2004 on, UNITED led strong campaigns to have the city enact a temporary TOD overlay
zoning district and permanent TN zoning. This was based upon extensive research
into best practices from other cities around the country and the development of
a draft model ordinance which received considerable support.
With the interest
in the Dickerman Park project, and the successful development at Episcopal Homes
on the south west corner of Fairview and University, and the potential for a new
YMCA and refurbished Griggs Midway complex, UNITED felt the time was right in
2005 to do a master plan for the entire Fairview intersection. It retained the
architectural firm of Hokanson, Lunning and Wende to look at all the development
potential at the corner and explore ways for coordinating individual projects
addressing such issues as parking, open space, circulation, storm water management
and the like. The plan was presented to all the impacted property owners and the
city, sparking discussions about ways to coordinate future development.
continued researching Midway retail issues and envisioned a complete revamping
of the three adjoining shopping centers. It challenged a developer agreement between
the city and RK Midway that was made without any community input, and opposed
a proposal to bring in big-box development at Snelling and University. UNITED
also opposed the demolition of the Midway Sheraton Hotel to make way for a new
SuperTarget project. In every instance where UNITED played an oppositional role,
it offered architectural drawings detailing alternative options. While UNITED
did not often prevail on its challenges, it usually was able to negotiate incremental
improvements that made the projects more in keeping with TOD guidelines. Before
the Midway Sheraton was torn down, UNITED hosted a very well attended University
Avenue Development Exposition in the convention area that displayed dozens of
projects along the corridor in various stages of development.
In 2005, St.
Paul, Ramsey County and the state initiated the Snelling University Congestion
Study (SUCS) a transportation study which ultimately moved towards recommending
a six lane tunnel under University and Snelling. UNITED participated in a broad
community effort opposing this proposal because of its disruptive impact on the
pedestrian environment and the prospects for transit-oriented development at that
critical intersection. UNITED repeated its call for a study of the larger traffic
system bounded by I-94 on the south, Highway 36 on the north, and 35E on the east
and 35W on the west.
It became increasingly clear that the lack of a corridor
merchant's group left small businesses underrepresented in many of the important
community discussions. In 2005 UNITED made efforts to organize the retailers and
established the University Avenue Merchants Association. While it had successful
programs and good attendance at a number of events over the years, real success
did not come until 2008 when staff member, Linda Winsor, took over the project.
Renamed the University Avenue Business Association (UABA), it now has over 150
active members, a slate of elected officers, a strong executive committee, and
will soon be moving to a membership fee structure and a more independent role.
It has become the most important and effective voice of small businesses along
Several important research projects commenced in 2005, including
an examination of how the property tax system impacts development, and a study
by the Midway TMO of parking along the corridor. When completed in subsequent
years, both reports had significant policy impacts.
In 2005 there was considerable
discussion about the upcoming light rail project, and UNITED's potential role
in this development. UNITED opted for several reasons to not take a significant
role. Because it was already perceived as an advocate for LRT, UNITED felt it
could not play an impartial community convening role. Additionally, because UNITED
was very focused on land use issues and promoting TOD, it believed that taking
a major role in LRT would unduly complicate its relations with property owners
- many of whom harbored serious misgivings about LRT. For that reason in June,
2005, UNITED commenced an effort to form a new, independent community organization
that would represent the neighborhood associations along the corridor in the important
work relating to LRT. UNITED provided start-up funding for a staff person and
was successful in securing multi-year funding for the new group, which eventually
became known as the District Councils Collaborative.
With the increasing
pace of planning for land use, LRT, and various development proposals, UNITED
responded in 2006 by creating U-PLAN, a community-based planning and design studio,
which offers technical support service to stakeholders along the corridor. Operating
from a storefront at 1956 University, U-PLAN has provided maps, graphics, drawings
and research reports to scores of community organizations, small businesses, and
stakeholders. One of its most successful programs was the AIA 150, which was a
partnership with the St. Paul Chapter of the American Institute of Architects,
marking the 150th anniversary of their national organization. Over 50 volunteer
architects and designers worked with property owners on fourteen blocks along
University Avenue to do "visioning studies" showing how their sites
could be redeveloped over time to better take advantage of the light rail project.
The block at the north east corner of University and Snelling was the initial
pilot project. Working with Russ Stark of the Midway TMO, a very detailed plan
was developed for shared off-street parking. This effort has served as the model
for several subsequent parking studies.
At the request of various community
organizations, U-PLAN played a significant role in reviewing several major development
proposals including a SuperTarget at Hamline Avenue, and a second proposal for
Home Depot at Snelling and the St. Anthony Frontage Road. Numerous options and
alternatives for these projects were developed. University UNITED took the lead
on strongly advocating for improvements that would make the projects more transit
and pedestrian friendly.
In 2006, the TMO hired its first full time staff
person, Jessica Treat, and launched the Midway in Motion project promoting walking,
biking and transit.
In 2007 UNITED created an environmental working group
with the goal of promoting the University Avenue corridor as one of the "greenest
streets" in the country. Conversations are ongoing with a number of environmental
groups and utility companies about the possibility of creating a "one stop
shop" for small businesses to learn about the variety of conservation and
retrofit programs. UNITED and U-PLAN did considerable research on best-practices
in cities around the country and drafted a model environmental ordinance for the
consideration of St. Paul. It has also established a carbon footprint calculator
and did a baseline model for the corridor and hopes to continue tracking progress
in future years.
The preliminary design of the LRT project unveiled in 2007
and 2008 raised great concern in the community. In three of the most transit dependent
neighborhoods on the eastern end of the Avenue, stations were spaced a mile apart.
Almost all on-street parking spaces were eliminated. There was a backpedaling
on the commitment for extensive streetscape improvements. In 2008, UNITED reversed
its earlier decision to not engage around the LRT issue primarily because of the
growing acceptance of the project by the community and emergence of a consensus
around critical issues, and the need to address critical technical elements that
were not being addressed by other organizations. It was recognized that U-PLAN
could play a unique role in reviewing the details of the LRT proposal, and the
related issues of parking and streetscape. UNITED collaborated with other groups
in strongly advocating for improvements to the preliminary design proposal. U-PLAN
prepared maps showing how the transit-dependant populations were not being adequately
served, and other graphics showing the potential development opportunities around
some of the "missing" stations. U-PLAN also played a pivotal role in
"translating" the official Met Council civil engineering drawings of
the LRT project to 3D drawings that were more easily understood. This led to a
formal request by Minneapolis and St. Paul for improved graphic materials from
Met Council. U-PLAN also prepared numerous maps and drawings documenting how the
loss of street parking would impact small businesses and the pedestrian environment,
and also developed alternative options.
For reasons relating to fundraising,
UNITED decided in 2008 to separate from the District Councils Collaborative.
and culture greatly influence planning and development discussions. Recognizing
the need for more engagement, UNITED in 2008 helped organize the University Avenue
History Group. Several workshops were presented on researching local history,
and a website on University Avenue history was created. UNITED received a grant
from the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission to do an exhibit on the history
of the University and Prior Avenue intersection which opened at the Landmark Center
In 2008 UNITED helped convene the Frogtown Rondo Partnership which
received a grant from the Ford Foundation to participate in a national pilot project
that aimed to bring technology tools and resources to communities that were experiencing
significant change as a result of a project like light rail. This collaboration
did considerable research and data gathering and developed a variety of innovative
tools and modeling programs.
From its earliest days, UNITED has benefited
from the strong, progressive leadership of its Board comprised of neighborhood
and business representatives reflective of the diverse interests of the community.
UNITED has also been fortunate to receive strong financial support from area foundations
Over the past 30 years the work of University UNITED
has been quite diverse and has constantly evolved with the changing needs of the
community. From crime prevention, to workforce development, to engaging on future
development projects, the connecting thread has been the ability of UNITED to
bring together businesses and residents for the betterment of the people living
and working along the University Avenue corridor.