City Council, Library Board begin search for new downtown library sites

Put on your thinking caps and tell us your ideas. Go ahead and dream a little. Just type your ideas into the comments at the end of this story.

Click to view cool panoramic photo!Imagine the Northfield Public Library celebrating its centennial in 2010 in a new building perched over Highway 3, linking east and west, incorporating a pedestrian/bicycle bridge and symbolizing the city's future.

What about a new library near The Grand, with a shared downtown parking ramp and public space linking everything to the old library, which is transformed into a new use?

Too far outside the box? Maybe, maybe not, judging by the conversation launched at Monday's City Council work session.

No decisions will be made for months, and all ideas will be fair game as the council and the Library Board try to figure out how to keep a public library downtown.

"We probably have no option but to look at a single-level building on a new site," Library Board Chairman Mark Gleason told the council.

This Week in the Northfield Blogosphere

This week in the 'Sphere, we get naked and run around Carleton checking our email. Well, maybe not us, but someone does. We were going to, but we heard that job has been taken.

More inside...

Creating a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community

Bill and Ava Ostrem - click to enlargeFor the last few months I’ve been speaking to people about a vision I have for the Northfield area. It’s a vision of a community that relies less on motorized vehicles for getting around and more on the old-fashioned power of our own bodies. In particular, it’s a vision of a community that walks and bikes more and drives less.

I’ve been inspired to speak out primarily because of my experience in the city of Davis, California, where  my family and I lived for two years before moving to Northfield in 2004. Davis—which is in northern California, near Sacramento—has been designated the most “bicycle-friendly community” in the country by the League of American Bicyclists.

In Davis I saw that a city can create a transportation infrastructure that serves not only cars and trucks but also pedestrians and bikers. That city has invested in bike and walking trails as well as bike lanes on city streets. Like Northfield, Davis is divided by a major road, but in Davis, it is Interstate 80, a much busier road than Highway 3. Davis has responded by creating bridges and tunnels that bring the opposite sides of the city together, including pedestrian/bike bridges and tunnels.

This Week at City Hall

It's going to be a busy week at City Hall, with lots of important issues under discussion. Here's a preview...

Monday, 7 p.m. City Council: The council meets in a work session to tackle the new library space needs assessment. A report released in April indicates it could cost up to $9.2 million to replace or renovate the downtown library, so this should be interesting. The council also will discuss the proposed pay equity plan for city employees.

Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. Economic Development Authority: The EDA will get a look at the revised version of the city's proposed Economic Development Plan. The consultants recently provided a draft version, which drew lots of suggestions for changes and improvements.

Garden Club Plant Sale Saturday, May 13

The Northfield Garden Club is holding their annual Plant Sale fundraiser Saturday, May 13, from 9 a.m. - noon on Bridge Square. Rain or shine, you can come downtown to purchase perennials, annuals, and houseplants from member gardens.

Outdoor Dining Contest

Click to view contest entry form (PDF)Lots of good discussion is going on about the future of sidewalk dining in downtown Northfield, but do you know all the places where you can eat outside in the area now?

The current issue of the Northfield Entertainment Guide has a fun contest about these dining venues, with a chance to win a prize by matching the names of the restaurants with pictures of their outdoor seating areas. You can try your luck at the contest by clicking the image here to download a full-size PDF of the contest page and following the directions to enter. Then let's meet for some lemonade...outside, of course!

Changes Ahead for Downtown Sidewalks

Click to view larger sizeIt looks like the sidewalks of Northfield will be busy this summer, with the city considering plans for more outdoor dining and looking for places to install some new bike racks.

The immediate issue is deciding where to place eight "hitching posts," the small bike racks that are designed to fit in busy retail areas.

"The NDDC started this conversation a long time ago," said Dan Bergeson, president of the Northfield Dowtown Development Corp. "We've just been plugging away. We finally managed to get it to happen."

The city is looking for suggestions, so make them here and we'll pass them along to Howard Merriam, director of resource planning for the city.

St. Olaf Students Tackle Wal-Mart

Class finds giant retailer's impact embedded in communities, society

Is Wal-Mart the enemy of our society or just a reflection of it?

Click to view larger sizeAbout 200 people flocked to the Lion’s Pause at St. Olaf College Thursday night to witness the symposium: “WalMart America – Changing the Face of Our World”. The event, hosted by Professor Eric Fure-Slocum’s History 297 class (Wal-Mart America), drew a diverse crowd of St. Olaf students, faculty, alumni, and a number of Northfield community members.

The event included presentations of the students' research, ranging from an examination of how people of different faiths respond to Wal-Mart, to Wal-Mart’s impact on local crime rates, to the retailers' shaping of the music industry, to the enormous changes in the U.S. and global economies in recent decades.

The highlight of the evening was a lively panel discussion, moderated by students Max Wojtanowicz ’06 and Anna Gieselman ’06. Panelists [pictured, from left to right] included Rebecca Judge (Professor of Economics at St. Olaf), Ross Currier (Northfield Downtown Development Corporation), and Jenny Shegos (United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789). Shegos is also the local field coordinator for Wake-Up Wal-Mart.

Locally Grown podcast #16: Sidewalk dining; Northfield Library expansion report

Issues covered in episode #16 of Locally Grown, recorded this afternoon: The "Northfield Public Library Preliminary Report on Community Needs Assessment And Space Needs" with guest Adam Gurno, library board member; also, a brief recap of Tuesday's NDDC downtown forum on sidewalk dining.


Local Architect Interviews Global Design Leader

Peter SchmelzerWe love it when local people get out there and shake things up.

In case you haven't heard, a local Northfield architect is getting some wider exposure. Peter Schmelzer is too humble to brag, but his brother Paul let us know that the brothers have teamed up to interview Achitecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair for a book coming out in the United Kingdom called Land, Art: A Culture Ecology Handbook.

Peter and his wife, Mary, started Vivus Architecture two years ago on 5th Street in downtown Northfield, doing both architecture and interior design, Paul is the managing editor of the Walker Art Center's magazine and manages the Walker blogs. Paul said he invited Peter to join him in interviewing Sinclair—their first writing collaboration—because Peter's interest in green design would complement his own interests in art and activism. Peter also is interested in seeing whether there is interest in starting an Architecture for Humanity chapter in Northfield.

50 Ways to "State" Happy Birthday

Rick EstensonWhat do you do when you wake up and on your way to work there are 50 signs spread out on a 2 mile stretch, each written just for you? You smile big and enjoy the celebration of turning 50.

Click to view full photoNCO Board member Rick Estenson was treated to a day of celebration yesterday with family and friends at the occasion of his 50th birthday. Rick had a goal of visiting each of the 50 states before reaching the age of 50. With just 2 months to spare, he traveled to North Carolina on a weekend trip with a nephew (another goal of taking a personal trip with each of his nieces and nephews) to fulfill his dream. Inside information has it that once he drove hundreds of miles out of the way in order to step foot in one of the states.

It seems Rick's "state of mind" is still sharp and his "distressed state" of turning 50 was definitely "overstated". It is an "understatement" to say that Rick is a great guy and all of his friends and family look forward to the next 50 with him!

Northfield Youth Choirs End Season with Friday Dinner, Saturday Concert

Poster by Kari Alberg - click to view larger sizeThe Northfield Youth Choirs(NYC) wind up their season with two special events that are open to the public this weekend. NYC's annual spaghetti dinner and silent auction will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at St. John's Lutheran Church. A suggested donation is asked of $7 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 12, and free for those under 5, with a family maximum price of $24.

On Saturday, the choirs will perform their spring concert, "Come Make a Home," at 4 p.m. in the Northfield Middle School auditorium. Admission is free.

The concert's theme, "Come Make a Home," is named for the piece performed by the NYC at the Governors Ball in December. The piece, commissioned for the youth choirs and written by Northfield residents Dan and Christine Kallman, was choreographed and will be danced by Shari Setchell.

"This is only the second time this piece will be performed in Northfield," said artistic director Liz Shepley. "Anyone who wasn't able to hear its debut at the Governors Ball will have a second chance this Saturday."

BOOK & STARS Schedule for this summer!

Click to view larger posterWednesday evenings throughout the summer, you are invited to enjoy fun, free family entertainment at various parks all over Northfield!

Booker the Book Bus opens at 6 pm, the entertainment begins at 7 p.m. Booker has library materials for all ages. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and settle in for fun! The Cocoa Bean returns to sell their refreshing Hawaiian Shaved Ice and half the proceeds are donated to Booker!

Read the rest of this entry to view the full schedule.

Wal-Mart Symposium Thursday at St. Olaf College

Eric Fure-SlocumSt. Olaf College will host the symposium “Wal-Mart America: Changing the Face of our World” Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Lion’s Pause of Buntrock Commons. The event, sponsored by Assistant Professor of History Eric Fure-Slocum’s History 297 class, is open to students, faculty, staff and the public.

The symposium will feature a panel discussion on Wal-Mart and American society, which will include speakers Jenny Shegos from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, Ross Currier of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation, and a Wal-Mart representative. Panelists will discuss both sides of the controversy surrounding Wal-Mart’s role in American culture and politics, particularly regarding labor issues. The panel, moderated by St. Olaf students Anna Gieselman ’06 and Max Wojtanowicz ’06, will run from 7 to 8:15 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session.

Northfielders join national push for immigrant rights

Click to view additional photosAbout 200 people gathered on Monday night, May 1st, at Bridge Square for a candlelight vigil in solidarity with national (and international) actions in support of immigrant rights.

People gathered at Bridge Square at about 8 p.m. and were met by a contingent who marched downtown from St. Dominic's Church. As they turned onto Division Street we could hear chants of "Si se puede" ("Yes, we can") and "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido" ("The people united will overcome").

For an hour people held candles, chanted and talked. Gathered in the center of Northfield, first-, second-, third- and fourth-generation immigrants stood together in support of justice, dignity and human rights for immigrant workers.

The vigil was the culmination of a community effort that began last Tuesday in the Carleton ACT (Acting in the Community Together) Center. The ACT committee had sent out an e-mail announcing an organizing meeting to plan potential events for May 1 to coincide with immigrant rights events across the country.

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