Ramsey county 4R program

Reuse, Recycle and Renovate for Reinvestment Program – is what the Ramsey County 4R program is all about. I am very much in favor of saving old houses when possible and always in favor of keeping house parts and everything else out of landfills.

The program has been around since 2010 and is aimed at the tax forfeiture properties that the county becomes responsible for. Examples of the work that has already been done can be found on the Ramsey county web site.

Its mission is two-fold:

  1. Promote productive reuse of old building materials from deconstructed buildings in order to keep those materials out of landfills, thereby minimizing the effect on our natural resources and environment.
  2. Renovate dilapidated structures back to being appealing, taxable properties with an emphasis on using sustainable building practices and incorporating sustainable components in each renovation project.

The house in the picture has sat vacant for many years and is in the process of being renovated through the program. Eventually, it will be sold by public auction.  Revenue coming from the sale of tax-forfeited properties is used to replenish the fund for costs incurred and to use for future forfeited properties.

old house
735 Margaret Street – St. Paul, MN


July 4th is a bit different in St. Paul

There was a time not long ago when the City of Saint Paul had a public fireworks display for all to enjoy. Those days are gone and all we have are the memories and pictures of fireworks at the State Capital.

Last year the mayor announced that there will be no fireworks because the city has other budget priorities (we are broke). In recent years they have been launched from Lowertown ballpark where few people could see them. I’ll always associate the loss of public fireworks displays with the opening of CHS field because that is when they stopped being public.

July 4th is a national day of celebration. Towns and suburbs all around us have parades, celebrations, and beautiful public fireworks displays. It is a day for picnics, barbeque grills, family, and swimming.

If you are in town over the 4th head over to  Minneapolis for a beautiful public fireworks display put on by Minneapolis department of parks and recreation with help from some private sector donors. There will be events all day including a half marathon in the morning. 

We can blame the mayor for the lack of celebration in St. Paul but it isn’t totally his fault. He inherited the mess and it looks like he will pass it along to his successor.  There is an opportunity to build and inclusive free event for the July 4th holiday. A celebration that could foster civic pride.

Maybe our next mayor will help bring July 4th celebration back to St. Paul.

July 4th fireworks over the Mississippi River

Fireworks 2014 St. Paul, MN

Downtown St. Paul in the middle of the day on July 4th 2018.

Downtown St. Paul


Stop for me

stop for me

Stop For Me is a yearlong campaign to improve safety for people who use St. Paul’s sidewalks and cross our streets. The campaign is organized by St. Paul’s 17 district councils, St. Paul Smart Trips and the St. Paul Police.

Last week I participated in a Stop For Me event. A few neighbors and a police officer crossed the street at an intersection on West 7th street. We crossed a few times. Drivers who did not stop were pulled over by the police. I believe they issued four citations and caught one drunk driver.

The Law:  “Drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at all intersections without crosswalks or stop lights. Pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals at all intersections that have them.”

There was a large orange sign nearby that said “enforcement area”.

Only three in 10 drivers in Saint Paul stop for people crossing the streets at non-signaled crosswalks, according to city researchers. From what I observed it was more like 7 out of 10 drivers stopped.

I talked to a couple of neighbors who stopped by and each of them commented on how dangerous crossing the street can be.

Stop For Me is part of an initiative to make walking safer in St. Paul.

Got buckthorn?

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds. It is an invasive species that was imported from Europe and used for hedges. You may recall a couple of years ago goats were hired to eat the buckthorn growing in Indian Mounds Park.

This year I found some buckthorn in my yard and my neighbors are growing a large buckthorn bush along a fence. The way to get rid of buckthorn is to pull it out and dig out the roots. The plant I found was fairly small and easy to remove. It was hiding near my lilac bushes.

The plant is fairly easy to identify. When in doubt look for thorns at the base of the leaves where they join the stem.

Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and then covering or treating the stump to prevent re-sprouting. Cutting can be effectively done with hand tools (for a few plants), chain saws or brush cutters.

The Minnesota DNR has a lot of information about the plant and how to remove it. You will need a permit to have goats in your St. Paul yard but I suppose that is an option too.

Buckthorn Bush



Ten years ago homes were hard to sell

When I look at the marketing materials some real estate agents put out there you would think they are magicians the way they sell houses. When selling houses in a seller’s market just about any kind of marketing works better than it did during the buyer’s market.  Here is something I wrote in June of 2009:

Brickhouse“I found 107 homes listed on the MLS that have been on the market for more than 500 days.  That is a long time even in today’s market.

Of the 1768 homes that have sold this year in St. Paul the average cumulative days on market was 137.

Townhomes and condos take about 90 days longer to sell on average than single family homes and most of the homes that have been on the market more than 500 days are townhouses or condos.

Buyers look at how long a home has been on the market.  Sometimes the information is used to determine how much to offer for the home and in other cases, they get cold feet and make no offer because the home has been on the market for so long.

When I look at these listings I check to see if there have been any price reductions.  If I see a home that has been on the market for a long time, like over a year and the price has never changed I assume that the sellers are not very motivated and wonder if they are open to negotiation.”


Ten years later in some price ranges if a home is on the market for more than three weeks without any offers it is almost always overpriced. The demand for homes is higher than the supply especially in price ranges below $450,000.

Back in June of 2009, there were 1770 or so  houses on the market in St. Paul, today there are less than 550. It was a very different housing market.

Rice Park is open again

Rice Park in downtown St. Paul was closed for a year and a half or so for renovations. The park is the center of many events throughout the year. It just wasn’t the same having Winter Carnival events in Kellogg Plaza Park.

There will be an official grand re-opening on June 11th from 4:00 to 6:00 PM 

The park has a long history, it is 170 years old and St. Paul sprouted up around it. It is seven years older than Central Park in New York City. Before it became a park, Rice Park was used as an open space to dry laundry and graze animals. The land was eventually made into a “public square” in 1849 by John R. Irvine, a territorial pioneer and Henry M. Rice, territorial delegate and United States Senator. In May of 1914, a Woman suffrage rally was held in the park.

The revitalized park doesn’t look all that different, and this isn’t the first time it has been renovated. The landscaping has been changed, and the lighting has been improved. There are fewer trees and more concrete. The fountain is still in place. Statues were moved around but they are all still there.

My memories of Rice Park go way back. During summer vacations we used to ride the bus downtown and go to the Library, which is across the street from Rice Park. We would check out some books and sometimes sit in the park and read them.

Part of what makes the park so special is the Saint Paul Public Library on one side and the Landmark Center on the other.

I looked through my pictures of the park and most of them were taken in winter during the winter carnival. Last week I got some new pictures just before the park was filled with tents and people ready to add to the history of the park.

Go to StPaul.gov for more information about the recent renovations at the park and future events.  – Click on the pictures for a larger view.