Tuesday, April 10, 2007
May Ramsey NEVER have a Port Authority. That part of the hubris and legacy of James A. Norman need not be embraced by even his most zealous supporters and cohorts.
As a closing note, two things: First, the RamseyBA IS aiming to build membership among the local Ramsey business community so mention it to friends. I believe their next April 19 meeting will be a public event, not limited to current members, with the open meeting goal being to inform people in the city and to boost the group's membership. But please check with them via the email address from their website:
And have a look at their about us & mission statement page (where meeting detail is given in the footer).
Remember, in that fleecing image, you cannot tell business sheep from solely residential sheep in the long, waiting, fleecing lineup.
This RamseyBA is an interesting community grassroots effort bringing up the second closing point. I am not a member. I am not a business owner-operator and would not qualify for membership or be involved in their executive sessions, but at public sessions I believe I have something to learn from what they present.
Several Ramsey small businesses have been impacted by road changes - beyond everyone's dissatisfaction with wholly unneeded lights along south Ramsey Blvd (while a four-way stop at the dangerous Alpine intersection remains debated, talked over, undone).
In rush hour, perhaps the lights have justification. But during mid-day, evenings and other off-peak times, make them either flashing red four-ways or flashing yellow on Ramsey and flashing red on Sunwood, the seldom-used cross street, so that off-peak there is the equivalent of a two-way stop. Installing non-peak four way flashing red at Ramaey Blvd and Hwy 116 would fit the recently changed but successful past four-way stop there that worked just fine.
Having those nuisance lights operating 24/7 at Sunwood, for the near-vacant Town Center, is a total joke and embarassment.
Monday, April 09, 2007
A vibrant new real estate sector? Downtown, but shared-wall housing (even there) is in the doldrums.
April 5, reporter Susan Feyder, writes:
Despite high construction costs, market conditions may bode well for office development in Minneapolis for the first time since 2001.
It's been six years since downtown Minneapolis got a new office tower, but the signs are growing that at least one could be announced sometime this year.
The vacancy rate for office space has dropped for the past two years, and the rate for top-tier Class A space stood at 13.6 percent at the end of 2006. Typically, developers begin considering adding office buildings when the vacancy rate gets down to 10 percent.
Space is even tighter in office buildings along Nicollet Mall, where the vacancy rate is just 6 percent, according to figures compiled by Bloomington-based United Properties. At year's end, the IDS Center's vacancy rate was 3 percent, while 50 S. 10th St. (formerly Retek on the Mall) was completely full.
"There's a high likelihood we'll see someone come out with plans for a new [downtown] office project within the year," said Brent Erickson, a senior associate at United who specializes in the downtown market. Erickson said the economy is expected to stay relatively healthy, keeping companies growing and in need of more space.
Even so, Erickson said a couple of things will have to change before a developer moves ahead with plans for a new office project. Rental rates have risen in the past couple of years but would need to increase more to get close to the cost of newly built space, creating the equilibrium that would encourage demand from tenants for new office space.
In addition, an anchor tenant for a new building would have to emerge. "You can figure that any new office building that goes into the downtown core will be at least 600,000 square feet," said Russ Nelson, president of the real estate brokerage firm of Nelson, Tietz & Hoye. "You would probably be looking for an anchor that would take about 300,000."
April 6, Jim Butcha reports:
Downtown condo plan goes retail
The developer shifted gears in a saturated downtown condo market. The new plan has Whole Foods and possibly a Best Buy.
A Seattle company has pulled the plug on plans to build a 290-unit condo building planned for the Downtown Jaguar site at Hennepin and Washington Avenues in Minneapolis. Instead, the company is proposing an all-retail complex that will include a Whole Foods and what could be downtown's first Best Buy store.
This is the second luxury high-rise downtown condo project to alter plans in response to a sluggish market, and one of several that's being redrawn for commercial or retail purposes.
In recent days, for example, the group that had planned to build the 350-unit Nicollet condominium tower along the Nicollet Mall announced plans to make it a mixed-use project. Some downtown condo projects are on hold indefinitely.
Many applaud the changes at what was once called the Two Twenty Two project, because it will take some pressure off an already soft condominium market. And it will add much-needed retail to a historic burgeoning riverfront neighborhood that's packed with new housing, sprawling parks and a growing number of cultural attractions.
"This would just be dynamite," said Fritz Kroll, North Loop livability chairman and a sales agent for an Edina Realty office that's in a renovated 1800s hotel down the street from the project.
"It says that there's enough housing already on the market and that there's already enough housing here to support some substantial retail growth."
[italics added] There's more detail to both items, especially the second, but with regard to Ramsey real estate dreaming, is any of this a good message?
Ramsey competed for that dense housing - Downtown is a more attractive location for that market segment, clearly, whereas Ramsey has prospered on a steady not heady growth by offernig more house and lot for the money - until recently when, with James Norman as City Administrator and with more than a gentle nudge from the Met Council (wanting to gain sewer connection and usage income from us), there was a shift in goals and direction.
Retail? Downtown's after that also, to match its advantages in dense housing. Elk River has its new shopping growth, and Riverdale's been built out. Retail saturation is a worry any potential Ramsey retailer would have to face and weigh in decision making.
Office? Downtown on the move again. What Ramsey has been good at, and successful with, has been the 1 to 1-1/2 acre lot and single family home, and the suburban small shop and warehouse job growth along the BNSF track corridor from the Anoka Business Park (where businesses such as E-Street Makers are housed in Anoka) up to the edge of the near vacant "Town Center" acreage west of Ramsey Blvd.
What has our city council and esteemed set of planners, in hand with Met Council, achieved via its latest trend in decision making?
Can you say "Mistake"? Can you say "Failure"? Can you say "Nedegaard Bankruptcy"? Can you say "Escalating Taxes"? Can you say "Leveled Public Services"?
Get a broom? Make a clean sweep in 2008? Or hold onto a questionable status quo and hope and dream some more into mid-century? Realism, or the romance of growth and the myth of over-saturated humongo numbers of new rooftops aiding us and not just Met Council's cashflow?
John Feges came to Council saying "Upscale" and "The Developer will pay for everything," then in the Monday May 19, 2003, front-page "Billion dollar urban village" article it became, "The developer could pay for everything." After a publicly funded $19 million was blown for City Hall moving and Ramp funding, plus upfront City millions spent for fronting sewer/water and other infrastructure for this private profit-seeking venture, we have a reported developer bankruptcy situation (without having paid for "everything" by any measure). We had Mayor Gamec expressing "doubt" in years-past City minutes about the level of housing exceeding 500 units, whereas we see thousands are planned. We see developer price-cutting and rent-to-own. That does not ring "upscale" to my hearing. Is there any sense of wanting to hold people accountable? How will that be achieved with who accountable for what, exactly?
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
From an email address on the city website, I got a VERY timely reply to a request for info from Habitat for Humanity:
We intend to build and sell 24 townhomes in three phases of 8 each year in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The homes will all be sold to working families who earn between 30% and 50% of the area median income as determined by HUD. Additionally the families will have to contribute between 300 and 500 hours of sweat equity onsite helping to construct their future home.
The site is to the southwest of 149th and Ramsey and construction activity on the first 8-plex will become readily apparent quite soon. We are having a groundbreaking ceremony on the 16th of April at 9:00 am at the site (148th Lane and Olivine) and you would have an opportunity to meet the coalition team that has just formed and will be helping us to garner community engagement and support as we move forward with the development process.
At this point, the coalition is in the early stages of forming so I can't really get you a roster. The chair of the Ramsey Coalition, however, is named Larry Culp [...] Feel free to contact either of us with further questions. It would be great if you post a notice on your blog inviting members of the public to the groundbreaking on 4/16 at 9:00 a.m.
Contact people are
Locally, Larry Culp, firstname.lastname@example.org
Twin Cities HforH, Karl Batalden, email@example.com
I expect Pat Trudgeon of the City Planning staff will be there, and he and the web staff will probably be posting something soon on the city's website "In the News" at the foot of the website, with the other April events now listed.
CMDC is your best source for "owner occupied" commercial real estate financing. We specialize in providing financing through the SBA 504 Loan Program.
Financing commercial projects through CMDC will provide you with the following benefits:* Lower down payments preserving precious capital for operations.
* Longer terms which can help to maximize cash flow.
* Below market fixed rates providing you, the business owner, with the ability to accurately predict your future capital needs.
* Rapid turnaround as a result of CMDC's Preferred Lender status and "best in class" service.
Lower down, longer terms, below market fixed rates, and rapid turnaround.
It cannot get much better than that, when you are looking to leverage your business risk with loans of other people's money. It gives a real advantage over competitors not accessing such benefit.
However, two specific and intriguing audience comments struck me as noteworthy. First, there was talk of recall. That always is an interesting consideration because it is a rejudgment of those elected. Second, someone spoke of hearing about "an investigation." It's nothing I know of, but it would not be unusual in a bankruptcy situation where millions have been spent on a "billion dollar urban village" concept, to look to account for cash that has flowed, and where the flow took all or most of it. Bankruptcy is a federal action, and bankruptcy fraud, wherever it might happen, is a federal crime. An investigation lifting all the rocks would not only be proper, it would be salutary to know if there is one. There should be one. The people of Ramsey deserve that.
Every player in promoting and propagandizing that billion dollar urban village image of reassuring prosperity should be scrutinized in order to assure the citizens of total trustworthiness. The big picture should be professionally reviewed, not a piece or a corner but how the entire business was done.
The second question bears on the first - the questions of recall for "malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office," see here, chap. 5, p 16.
[A]n SBA Premier Certified Lender (PCLP) authorized to provide SBA 504 financing throughout the state of Minnesota. Less than 10% of the certified development companies in the nation have this designation. Our mission is to promote economic development by cultivating a financing environment that allows small businesses to grow and prosper. To fulfill this mission, CMDC provides the following services to businesses and bank lenders:
* SBA 504 Loans
* SBA 7(a) Loan Packaging Assistance
* CMDC Initiative Fund
* Business Plan Development
Representative of its operations, CMDC's website touts:
At the age of ten, David Elvig was more than dabbling in wood working, building, and engineering. He was building—what must have been the talk of the playground—extraordinary tree forts.
At E-Street Makers, Inc., he is still going beyond the expected. He says, “I knew I wanted to be a great builder. Design had real importance. However, I’m an engineer first and an artisan second. My designs are driven by a need.”
They have pioneered the motorization utilized in cabinetry and boardroom tables that interface with audio/visual components and have refined the artistry of veneering and finishes. Their amazing talent of mixing the mediums of exotic wood, metal, and glass and their extreme quality craftsmanship sets them apart.
“My goals were to build a business profitably, [...] and be the best craftsman in the land. CMDC helped me achieve those goals [...] to afford more than the building, they created a single package for the land, building, equipment, and working capital. They have the competitive edge because of their knowledge of the community and willingness to help. They are great partners.”
[italics in original] CMDC principals and board are in a position to look for Anoka County operations with which they can build mutual trust and affiliation as Elvig said, "great partners" having "knowledge of the community." We should recognize these folks, both operations, for what they add to the tax base in Anoka and in Andover.
It was a good session. No mobs milling about with pitchforks and torches looking for the monster to destroy. I had a chance to speak briefly with Joe McDilda, one of the RAMSEY3 individuals, who was encouraged by the tenor and mood and turnout.
The Met Council was represented by its councilmember Natalie Haas-Steffen, a resident of Ramsey presumably also attending in her personal as well as official capacity. She spoke briefly. Presumably in both capacities.
The meeting was well attended.
"Hard channeling" was a topic receiving quite a large degree of attention. This is a public works issue. One dimension, a mid-highway hard channel cuts down traffic access to highway-side business from two directions to one; with consequent business impact.
I am collecting my thoughts from the meeting before posting them. This is strictly a notice item, giving readers notice of the chosen name that Bob Ramsey introduced, and giving notice of the following information:
THERE IS A BUSINESS-CITIZENSHIP GROUP ACTIVE IN RAMSEY
The RBA or RAMSEY BUSINESS ASSOCIATION with the web address:
It has no hierarchical leadership as far as I can tell, I know of two affilaited business people, but to know about it check the website.
I could discuss the site, but it speaks for itself. Have a look.
[UPDATE: Check the contact feature on the site, it appears business owners and operators can join but it is unclear if RBA meetings are open to the general public. In either event, the website gives a meeting notice: "Our next meeting is scheduled at Diamonds on March 15th 2007 at noon." Please check with them to assure whether it is open to the public.]
I know that the City uses Mike Mulroney, with SBA ties, as a consultant. My understanding is his firm's board has at least one Ramsey resident on it, but that's hearsay. I have no real knowledge of that. The firm is active in other parts of Anoka County. Sean Sullivan on staff, Ramsey's TIF specialist, probably knows much more and would be the first City person to contact.
That website is:
Mulroney has been a Ramsey consultant for years, and our Mayor for years might also know more about his Ramsey-related activities.
To avoid all confusion: The CDMC site speaks for itself as the ramseyba.com does. Each, to the best of my knolwedge, is independent of the other; without any ties or links I know of. I am publishing this strictly for public notice. I have no membership or other ties to either group.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Elvig argued Town Center was "on schedule" and that other large real estate projects did not bloom overnight [despite his earlier being a part of quite optimistic projections since proven wrong, such as James Norman quoted by Ms. Sakry of Anoka County Union saying we'd all be shopping at Town Center, Christmas 2004]. I believe Elvig presently is aware of development postponements west of the proposed Ramsey Crossings shopping area.
Subsequent to the election, in the second half of November 2007, days before he died, Bruce Nedegaard was served with involuntary bankruptcy papers and he was the master builder money man for Ramsey Town Center, LLC.
The even more unfortunate part of my argument proving true, is shown by actual recent shared-wall purchasers facing possible negative equity situations (as well as some instances of ARM mortgage rates and monthly payments going up as interest rates rise), with evidence via representative example published now on the Parkside Village [Town Center 9th Addition] website showing price slashing being done now for units completed in 2006 by sometimes as much as 30%; see, here, here and here, for descriptions and links, location, and pricing, respectively.
The situation is real. It is serious and sobering. The bubble has burst. Timing of a rebound is uncertain. The builder of Parkside Village cannot be faulted at all for yielding rationally to market realities. He gambled, and is merely cutting losses or locking in lesser profit than was gambled on. He did his gamble honestly, without any special voice or special treatment from the council table.
If you are a recent shared-wall homebuyer in the situation of facing the over-built market in Ramsey and facing the price slashing occuring around you to where you could not now sell for what you've paid, I urge you to contact ALL members of the Ramsey City Council from Mr. Elvig and the mayor on down the line to discuss your plight - contact info is online here. In particular, you should inquire about the platted but as yet unbuilt situation west of Ramsey Crossings; and how that may impact you and whether anyone on council can or will do anything to alleviate the overbuilding crunch.
City Council meeting minutes, Tuesday, June 28, 2005, at p.16-17, indicate a unanimous council approval of 90 units for Ramsey Town Center Addition No. 9, see, also; full agenda for that meeting, p.277; for a site plan. The Chazen - Parkside Village webpage listed a dozen discounted properties - up to 1/3 off. If it is Developer last stock being remaindered out in a down market; this undercuts the likelihood of any benefit to a seller of one of 78 other purchased units who may have bought at full list price (or less of a discount). With these units authorized mid-2005 and built out in 2006, it lools like the developer is closing out inventory. Hence, any past purchaser who might need to sell a previously occupied "used" Parkside Village townhome into competition with their seller is in a real bind. Those that can "wait out the market," if feasible, possibly can avoid harm. Those pressed to a distress sale against their seller's discounting would likely suffer greatly.
Crabgrass does not have to call all the shots for our future. It's not an inevitability. We can compel being listened to if we have a unified voice. We must find a unified voice and RAMSEY3 and this separate meeting can foster or splinter reaching the goal. So ---- Let's keep our eyes on the prize. That's common sense.
I believe there will be at least one RAMSEY3 citizen-sponsor there in the audience, perhaps a few of them. They will listen, and I expect crabgrass will be there in person or via running dogs. (How you judge a running dog is for you to decide.)
This post is about Solomon's choices and Ben Franklin. Or however you would say it. What could get lost in factionalism with differing agendas or non-consensus arising over agenda details is the general consensus "It's broke and needs fixing."
Ben Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." He said that at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
INDEPENDENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST WITHOUT SOLIDARITY. LEADERS THEN WERE EXCEPTIONAL. IN RAMSEY WE CURRENTLY HAVE "EXCEPTIONAL" ALSO, THE DIRECTION DIFFERING FROM THE FOUNDING FATHERS, AND THE RESULT BEING THE TOWN CENTER FIASCO AS IT STANDS AND THE EVER ESCALATING TAXES IMPOSED TO COVER FOR RECENT PAST DECISION-MAKING AND THE ADVANCING OF FAMILY LAND INTERESTS FROM THE COUNCIL TABLE IN WAYS THAT ARGUABLY DIFFER FROM OBJECTIVELY PROMOTING THE PUBLIC INTEREST.
Solomon said, "Split the baby," and looked to see who would concede rather than see a disaster.
Hang together, Franklin said. Be willing to concede something to avoid further dictated disaster, Solomon said. Both are viewed as wise men.
Ramsey is a small community. Crabgrass has grassroots in Ramsey. There are individuals who find it cordial.
Unanimity and vigilance will hold it at a tolerable level. Indifference or divided attention could mean splintering of the hoe handle. That will make the policing of crabgrass, weeding it out, harder on the hands. There are 900 ways to say it. The last thing we need is a civil war among the opposition. If there is not a coherent and strong voice against business as usual, as it's been with unanimous council votes before the last election, then the future of all residents and taxpayers in Ramsey will be dictated by a majority of the council without fear of recall or ouster in 2008. Business as usual. If there is a coherent counter-plan to what's been done and failed, and what's planned west of Town Center and around Brookfield and the gun club, and reprecussions of that, then accept a future of escalating taxes and very costly connection fees for most of us with a very few individuals prospering greatly.
In fighting crabgrass, pragmatism and consensus will trump ideology, every time. Enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend pragmatism and inclusiveness will be needed, so that emphasis on core ideologies that might be in conflict between pragmatists must be curtailed. People have to lift together. The rock's that heavy.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I recall the first RAMSEY3 meeting at the new oppulent over-built City Hall, Alexander Ramsey Room, where Sarah Strommen stood up at the beginning, and praised the building and how the meeting rooms are available as a community asset, for citizen groups such as the RAMSEY3 organizers to hold sessions. At the time I was offended because any praise for that costly building WE never had a referendum chance to vote on offends me greatly. I would have voted against it. I believe the citizens would have voted it down. I believe Gamec, Norman, Elvig - that whole crowd knew that - or felt the same way and hence there was no official thought of ever having a referendum. That building was a cram down. Pure and simple.
But a meeting place for citizens. Okay. It's there. The thing got built. You cannot fight continuously against a finished item, no matter how you'd have liked to have scuttled it along the way.
So. Citizens can get together and hold a meeting. That's a nice enough idea.
It does not have to be an official thing. Stormmen said so. Nor approved paternalistically. By some official or an official body. Citizens are paying and will be paying for years for the cost of that ediface, and at least the officials who did the cram down recognize citizen usage is a good PR thing. They do realize that, don't they?
The RAMSEY3 people did not meet that way initially because the building was not available to them. It got built. Now they meet there. Official sponsorships or official ties are not required or demanded or expected. Are they?
NOW ANOTHER GROUP OF CITIZENS WILL BE MEETING THERE TOMORROW.
AND THE CITY SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING TO HARASS, HINDER OR DELAY THAT.
IT WOULD BE AN ACT OF EXTREME HUBRIS AND IGNORANCE TO OPPOSE CITIZENS DOING WHAT, EXACTLY WHAT THE RAMSEY3 INITIATORS DID AT THE START OF THEIR EFFORTS - NAMELY, GETTING TOGETHER FOR DISCUSSIONS TO SEE WHERE CONSENSUS MIGHT EXIST. WITHOUT THAT, WHAT DO YOU HAVE? BODIES OF GOVERNMENT TELLING US WHAT WE WANT? PROPAGANDA?
NO BODY OF GOVERNMENT IN THIS NATION SHOULD BE SO STUPID AS TO OPPOSE CITIZEN ACTIVISM, SHOULD THEY? INDIVIDUALS SHOULD WELCOME IT FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST THEMSELVES AND THEIR COHORTS HOLDING LIKE-MINDED VIEWS.
BOTTOM LINE: CITIZENS STANDING UP IS WHAT OUR NATIONHOOD IS BASED ON - IF NOT FOR THAT WE WOULD ALL STILL BE SINGING "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN." WE WOULD NOT HAVE STATES, AND HENCE NO STATE MOTTOS SUCH AS "DON'T TREAD ON ME," AND "LIVE FREE OR DIE."
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
A reminder -- this Thursday's meet-up arising from a thought RAMSEY3 might be misdirected or narrower than needed.
City Hall - Alexander Ramsey Room
7 pm Thursday, April 5
7700 181st St. NW
Ramsey, MN 55303
Disclaimer -- Please do not try to contact me with questions. I am unaware of what the meeting will be like, and that's why I am going. I think that's the proper Bob Ramsey info given above, for the event organizer, but I am uncertain.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
A bite of irony to go with your sweet roll at Caribou Coffee, or if picking up a Subway sandwich on the way home.
Four-and-one-half years ago, almost to the day, and trust me you don't want to read the entire article, it will only make you cry, so I will not link to it. But, this:
Anoka County Union
4101 Coon Rapids Blvd.
Anoka, MN 55303
Town Center plan offers a glimpse into the future
-- Preferences identified
In May, the city of Ramsey sent 1,300 three-question surveys to find out what residents wanted to see included in the proposed Town Center. Approximately 882 surveys were return[d] by the end of August.
The top five categories in the three questions are:
-- If you could pick the places you would like to shop in the Town Center what stores would you support?
Bakery/coffee shop Yes: 648 No: 231
Hardware store Yes: 510 No: 368
New/used books Yes: 448 No: 431
Women's clothing Yes: 447 No: 431
Craft/gift store Yes: 416 No: 463
-- What restaurants would you like to dine at in a Town Center?
Italian Yes: 479 No: 399
Bakery/coffee Yes: 459 No: 420
Mexican/Tex Mex Yes: 443 No: 435
Seafood Yes: 438 No:441
Steaks/chops Yes: 411 No:468
-- What other services or businesses would be valuable in a Town Center?
Post Office Yes: 697 No:180
Park/Walking Trails Yes: 537 No: 340
Indoor Pool Yes: 492 No: 387
Movie Theater Yes: 444 No:435
Community Center Yes: 396 No: 481
Source: city of Ramsey
Copyright ©ECM Publishers, Inc. All Rights Reserved
by Tammy Sakry
Yes, TexMex, Northern Chinese, Thai, and - a real nice steakhouse. Prime rib at Town Center. Yes, your City of Ramsey tax dollars at work, in a survey 4-1/2 years ago. You may ask yourself, have you gotten your money's worth for all the tax hikes since then? When you answer, keep smiling. Ben is smiling, but then look at the nice place where he lives -- A walkable distance from a job at City Hall.
I think about that, and the community that in my mind has the best image is Lake Elmo.
They stood up to the Metropolitan Council and said, "NO. Not us."
They said no to the homoginizing blender. Sure, the planners got them in Court; but they had the integrity to say NO.
Ramsey could start from there. Where forces compel Ramsey to end is indeterminate, but saying no to the Metropolitan Council and their crabgrass contingent of driving allies, those happy with that body's rationing of buildable land and its ratcheting up of per lot costs to where the pay-off is apparently in overbuilding 3+ bedrooms per new single family home and dense shared-wall, but nothing in between like nice quiet private smaller homes on lots of an acre or acre and a half with easily maintained and reliable well and septic tank systems - detatched enough from nearness to the neighbors to make better neighborhood relations; that is one fine place where Ramsey might start.
Doing that, having the spine to face off against Met Council - I can think of no better image to have for a north suburban town facing growth pressures from outside and from landowners inside wanting to cash out big in the same ways as the Kuraks and Gun Club contingent have jiggered the machine to serve themselves.
Is there a better image? Would you perfer the image of a town run by those in it who gain council seats for family, and then take their profits? Is that admirable, to be viewable that way from the outside? Or by those growing up here?