June 11, 2013
10.75 miles. St. Anthony Park.
There is a couple block slice of Merriam Park just north of Marshall Avenue, between Cleveland and Cretin Avenues sometimes called “Pill Hill.” At one time, this area of stately, classically designed residences was home to many doctors and hence the name “Pill Hill.”
I’ve ridden on and written about Cleveland Avenue previously but tonight I saw a couple of things I’d never seen before. The first is the MonarchWatch.org official Monarch Waystation in the yard of the home at Cleveland and Roblyn.
According to MonarchWatch.org, Waystations provide food and habitat for monarchs to reproduce and sustain their migration.
Several blocks north, at 550 Cleveland, almost like a window display, were jars of soil and rock samples.
Cleveland Avenue becomes Transfer Road north of University Avenue. Tonight I investigated the industrial neighborhood just west of Transfer and north of University. I found several blocks of warehouses.
The warehouses suddenly gave way to this concrete and asphalt recycling facility on Capp Road.
It’s a grain bin. it’s a building. It’s a grain bin building.
Not until I peaked inside did I have an inkling the grain bin building at 2320 Capp Road is a micro brewery.
Although the building contains no signage related to the building occupant, a quick Google search revealed this is the Bang Brewery.
According to several stories I read in local on-line publications, the owners of the Bang Brewery used recycled materials for many things at the brewery.
A main railroad line and yard are situated to the north of Capp Road across the street from the Bang Brewery. Nearly obscured by a thicket is an old railroad crane.
The foliage around, on and amazingly, even in the crane suggests it has been here for years.
The self-propelled Burro could tow a flat car or other equipment necessary for many projects. This allowed workers to bring rail, ballast, timbers or other materials needed for track repair or a construction project.
2325 Endicott Street looks like a former railroad building. Today, it houses several businesses including a coffee roaster, pottery manufacturer and a couple of residential builders and soon, a brewery. The Twin Cities Daily Planet website reported in its May 21, 2013 edition that the owners of Urban Growler Brewing Company have signed a lease for 6,200 square feet of space here. Just like the Bang Brewery, there was no signage indicating the refreshing repast that will soon be within.
This building is unusual for this neighborhood. For one thing, it’s newer than almost anything else around. Secondly, the four-story structure at 902 Hersey Street is a multi-person residence.
Turns out the facility is home to two Catholic Charities programs. St. Anthony Residence, in the left tower, is sometimes called a “wet house.” It provides permanent housing for 60 late-stage chronic alcoholic men who have repeatedly tried and failed in traditional chemical dependency treatment programs and detox centers. What makes St. Anthony Residence unusual and controversial is that residents are allowed to purchase alcohol and drink it on the premises.
Men trying to overcome long-term homelessness live in the right tower, called St. Paul Residence. Each of the 60 residents has his own room and shares a kitchen, bathroom and computer room.
You’ll recognize one of these views above if you drive on Vandalia Avenue between I-94 and University Avenue. What you likely don’t know is the portion of the RockTenn plant you can see along Vandalia gives no clue to the real size of the sprawling, multi-building plant. More on that later.
The RockTenn banners have hung here since 1997 when the Norcross, GA company purchased what was then called Waldorf Corporation. Waldorf’s roots in Saint Paul go back into the late 1880s, with its presence in the Midway coming in 1907, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. The Waldorf name first emerged in 1915 when three companies merged and became the Waldorf Paper Products Company.
Another merger, this time with an Iowa box manufacturer in 1966, resulted in the renaming of the business as Hoerner Waldorf Corporation. A bitter proxy fight led to the sale of the company in 1977. Eight years later, plant management bought the business and dropped Hoerner from the name. Historical Society documents indicate that in 1994, the Saint Paul facility produced more than 400,000 tons of recycled paperboard a year. Waldorf supplied printed boxes to companies that included General Mills, Proctor & Gamble and Hormel. At the time, Waldorf was Minnesota’s fifth largest privately-held company with annual revenue of about $375 million. Despite Waldorf’s apparent success, shareholders sold out to RockTenn Company three years later. Since then, it’s been tough going for the facility. Employment here has steadily slipped to fewer than 200 people.
Despite the clear warnings, I elected to ride on into plant property. My reasoning, had I been stopped by RockTenn security, was that I was riding around, not through and was not a pedestrian. Fortunately I had no cause to break out the admittedly flawed explanation.
Will this be the next manufacturing facility in Saint Paul closed by an out-of-state owner? It’s an old facility, not running anywhere near capacity, making it expensive to operate. Those factors make it difficult to be optimistic about the future of RockTenn here. For now at least there aren’t whispers of layoffs or a plant closure.
Follow this link for a map of this evening’s ride.