1. Minnehaha Creek: Minnehaha Creek, one of the great natural features of the Twin Cities, has been ignominiously straightened, ditched, polluted, covered up, messed with and generally disrespected for over a century. The old creek is finally getting its due with some projects in the west metro, carried out through the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Accessible boardwalks, restored wetlands, and new connections to existing park and recreation infrastructure will help Minnehaha Creek the regional attraction it deserves to be.
2. Arlington Hills Library reopens as the East Side Freedom Library. The old Arlington Hills library was one of St. Paul’s three historic Carnegie libraries, a community hub for generations. When the library moved into a new and larger building, the old site didn’t have a clear use — until Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary signed a lease to bring a community-focused library in. The East Side Freedom Library is a growing collection of materials related to the history, culture and stories of the neighborhood, and the many immigrant communities who’ve called the East Side home over the last 150 years.
3. Secrets of the City email newsletter relaunch. The Rake was my Bible when I moved to Minneapolis 10 years ago — weekly proof that I’d chosen a smart, irreverent and funny new hometown. The brand went through some strange transitions over time, from a free weekly to a website to a mash-up with the old MNSpeak. I’ve been happy to see the old rake character himself re-emerge as a daily newsletter, under the direction of Taylor Carik. There’s some of the usual stuff (interesting upcoming events) but also some of the unusual (the charming insistence on “Twincy” as a nickname for Minneapolis/St. Paul). As you may have already read elsewhere, newsletters are the new blogs.
4. Brad Zellar and Lester B. Morrison’s “House of Coates.” Published as a limited-edition book a few years ago by photographer Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom press, “House of Coates” was a sad, funny meditation on wandering and loneliness in Southeastern Minnesota, told through the life and times of one Lester B. Morrison, and it deserved a bigger audience. It got it this year, with a very handsome paperback edition from Coffee House Press. There were also some great media appearances by Zellar and Alec Soth, most notably on MPR’s “The Daily Circuit,” where they talked to a woman parked outside the actual House of Coates in Rosemount. The book includes a new afterword that wraps the whole mystery of Lester beautifully.
5. New Quatrefoil Library. One of the oldest LGBT-focused libraries in the United States, with an unparalleled collection of just any cultural item related to the gay community you can think of — historic newsletters, books, magazines, videos, artifacts and more. Started in 1986 and having had a few different homes over the years, it’s now moved into spacious and centrally located new digs on Lake Street at the Spirit on Lake senior housing (at the very end of 2013, in all fairness, but I’m including them all the same). Located on street-level with spaces for public meetings, it’s a model for how community libraries can be accessible and relevant.
6. The Mischke Roadshow podcast. T.D. Mischke had one of the most distinctive voices in local radio, and when he walked away from his late-night WCCO call-in show in 2013, it seemed like something really special was coming to an end. In fact, it was the start of something special. Relaunching as a podcast this past year, Mischke is freed from the constraints of terrestrial radio, and able to drive across the region, doing what he does best — talking to people, collecting stories, writing some truly strange and wonderful sketches (I’m not even sure that’s the right word), and otherwise just being Mischke for an hour or so every week.