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Ohio Teachers Vow to Drop $1M Into Grand Ave Reno

Plus national check-ins on affordable housing and the Timberwolves, plus a fish-fry scene report in today's Flyover news roundup.

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No Ohioans in sight…

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

The Fate of Grand Avenue Lies in an Ohio Pension Fund

For some reason, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio owns a large amount of property along Grand Avenue in St. Paul. So when the area started hemorrhaging tenants (Pottery Barn, J.Crew, Lululemon), major stakeholders wondered if STRS was making any effort to fill those empty spaces. “Unlike some other commercial owners willing to host seasonal vendors, pop-up shops and art collectives, the retirement system has kept some of the three-mile corridor’s largest retail areas empty rather than lower rents and negotiate with small, local businesses,” wrote Frederick Melo in the Pioneer Press last June.

Do these retired Ohio teachers have a plan for St. Paul or what?

J.D. Duggan at Biz Journal finally tracked down some answers, though they're a bit vague at the moment. “They want to maintain what Grand Avenue is,” says Sara Martin, the pension fund's local broker, adding “I can legitimately tell you that these guys are the most cooperative landlord that I work with.” According to Martin, the group, which has over $90 billion in investments, is planning to spend over $1 million renovating Milton Mall, a one-time Grand Avenue hotspot that used to house an Anthropologie and Salut bar/restaurant. She says they’re planning to add two “really new and interesting” restaurants to the space—they just gotta find ‘em.

Affording Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is a major issue locally, but the Twin Cities is hardly the only metro where folks are struggling to afford a place to live. Yesterday, Finance & Commerce’s Paul Nolan used the Richfield housing market as an example of a nationwide problem that’s too little discussed: the cost of maintaining affordable housing after it’s built. “If nobody knows that it’s a problem, we won’t have the political will to do it,” says Mary Tingerthal, a former Minnesota Housing Finance Agency commissioner. While funding to build new affordable housing can be secured, Nolan writes, property owners often cite maintenance costs as their reason for converting their housing stock to market rate. 

As an example of how to preserve affordable housing, the piece cites the Richfield City Council working with a developer in 2017 to preserve more than 400 units from conversion. And the state of Minnesota is taking steps to address the problem too: Of the $3.1 billion the DFL-controlled legislature allocated for affordable housing in its gangbusters 2023 session, $50 million was set aside for the Stable Housing Organization Relief Program (SHORP), which subsidizes maintenance costs. There’s also talk of establishing a “legacy fund” for housing assistance, via a constitutional amendment that would increase the state sales tax, some of which could go to maintenance.

A question Nolan’s story does not address: If we’re paying developers to build, and we’re paying them for upkeep, why not skip the middleman and just build public housing?

Wolves Get National Props

For your Minnesota Timberwolves, this week brought potentially devastating news (Karl-Anthony Towns ripping his meniscus), a certifiably sick highlight (Anthony Edwards's god-tier block of Indiana Pacer Aaron Nesmith), and long overdue national kudos: ESPN published a longform story late Thursday headlined "For the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning finally feels real." (The timing no doubt sucked for high-profile freelancer Hanif Abdurraqib, considering KAT's knee.)

In it, Abdurraqib—a literal poet and longtime Wolves fan—waxes poetic about a first-place team that our hard-luck fans have "to get comfortable with... The post-Garnett years feel like a fog." The reporting took months, beginning before Christmas (a Santa danced outside First Ave) and concluded this week, and serves as a terrific primer on a dazzling 44-19 team that's expected to make a deep playoff run. "The city is just beside themselves, you go out and people are thanking you and excited about the next game, people flood the arenas," says Mike Conley, the grizzled veteran point guard who's viewed as the team's great stabilizer. "I've played against Minnesota my whole career, and it was never like what I've seen now."

With five more wins through their next 20 games, Abdurraqib observes, the Wolves will have stacked more Ws this season than they have in any given campaign since 2003-'04. You can do the decadal math. "You don't get a trophy for outdoing the lesser versions of your past self," the writer concludes, and meeting lofty expectations, in and of itself something uncharted for this roster, got a helluva tougher without Towns. There's a wary optimism baked into the 4,645-word essay, however; we encourage you to read the whole thing. Or, for a capsule version that hits many of the same notes, simply listen to the great (and greatly hyped!) KG...

That's a Lotta Tilapia

Happy Friday! We'll send you off with this look at what it takes to pull of St. Albert's famous south Minneapolis Lenten fish fry (a "veritable Noah's Ark of volunteer[s]," for one) from Longfellow Whatever. "St. Albert’s has become to the church fish fry what Matt’s Bar is to the Jucy Lucy: the marquee example that draws people from all over," according to Trevor Born, who donned a green volunteer apron, carried plates to dish scrapers, chatted up diners—and, for his trouble, enjoyed 50% off his meal. Charming stuff, with delightful photos to boot.

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