Latest Dinkytown Vote Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth

DinkytownBlogPost

Between the proceedings of last cycle’s Zoning & Planning Committee meeting and full City Council meeting, I have been rather upset. Organizing my thoughts to form a coherent argument for the purpose of this post has been a real struggle.

For those who have not been following this specific development proposal closely, let me provide a little bit of context. Doran Companies had proposed a new mixed use development with ground floor retail and a hotel with 125-140 rooms for the properties of 1315-1319 4th Street SE. Although a land use application hadn’t been submitted yet, the demolition of three buildings required an application for demolition of a historic resource.

Historic resources is a very confusing subject. However, they are described in Title 23 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances regarding Heritage Preservation.

First, it is important to know the difference between a locally designated historic landmark and a historic resource. There are seven criteria that are considered when determining if a property is worthy of local designation, as described in §599.210. In addition, under provisions of §599.240 if a building is nominated for consideration of designation it is placed under interim protection to prevent major alteration during the designation process. Once local designation is awarded, any future change to the property will become much more difficult to perform as it will require a certificate of appropriateness. (See §599.350).

A historic resource, as described under the provisions of §599.450, is any building that appears to meet at least one of the criteria for local designation as defined in §599.210. Any applications for demolition of buildings that are historic resources shall not be issued without review from the Heritage Preservation Commission (§599.460). The HPC must determine if the building is a historic resource or not. If they determine it is not, a demolition permit will be issued. If they determine that it is indeed a historic resource, then demolition shall be denied and CPED directed to commence a designation study (§599.480).

CPED reviewed the three applications and recommended that demolition be allowed to proceed. Staff stated that the three properties are eligible for local designation as part of the potential Dinkytown Historic District. However, since the district was not nominated for designation at the time that the applications were submitted, they could only consider the historical significance of the buildings individually, and not as part of a district. Staff concluded that the buildings individually were not eligible for local designation, thus demolition should be allowed to proceed (See staff reports here, here & here).

Notwithstanding staff recommendations, the HPC voted to deny the application for demolition of a historic resource for all three buildings, placed them under interim protection, and directed staff to prepare designation studies (See HPC minutes here, here & here). Their rationale was not based off of the historical significance of the individual buildings, but their contribution to the overall potential historic district. Exactly what staff said should not be considered as a basis to deny demolition.

Now that brings us to the events that transpired the past two weeks at the Zoning & Planning Committee, as well as the full City Council. Doran appealed the decision of the HPC. The process for appeals of this nature is that Zoning & Planning hears the appeal and holds a public hearing. The Committee then makes a recommendation for action by the full City Council.

During the Z&P meeting, CPED once again recommended granting the demolition. Before opening the public hearing, Committee Chair Lisa Bender asked the city attorney to summarize the legal context of this appeal and what the Committee must base their decision on. The city attorney’s comments begins at approximately 55:52. In summary, he reiterated that because the applications for demolition came before the Dinkytown district was nominated for designation, interim protection did not apply and the decision had to be made on the merits of the individual buildings, not their contribution to a potential historic district.

Most of the comments during the public hearing were against the demolitions. However, no one really addressed the question at hand, which was the historical significance of the individual buildings. After the public hearing was closed, Bender moved to grant all three appeals and to adopt findings consistent with the staff report. Explaining her decision, Bender said the case that the individual buildings are historically significant was simply not made. Committee Vice Chair Andrew Johnson also echoed those comments.

However, Council President Barb Johnson made a substitute motion: to grant the appeals for the buildings at 1315 4th St SE and at 410 13th Ave SE, but to deny the appeal at 1319 4th St SE. She cited that 1319 was the strongest candidate to declare a historic resource and that 1-story buildings were a part of how the neighborhood developed. In response, Chair Bender stated that she represents a ward with many 1-story brick commercial buildings, many along corridors designated by the City for increased development. Specifically, she cited the City’s LPA of having a streetcar along Nicollet Ave for the purpose of economic development. Lisa Goodman indicated support for denying the appeal at 1319, saying that this was not a vote to declare the building historic, but simply a vote to conduct a study to determine if the building is historic. She also stated that it was clear from the testimony at the public hearing that the building deserves a study.

The motion passed 4-2. B. Johnson, Goodman, Reich and Warsame voted in favor, Bender and A. Johnson voted in opposition.

I will add that the decision left me rather confused. There was CPED staff, Chair Bender and Vice Chair Johnson stating that the buildings individually were not historically significant. There was the city attorney, Eric Nilsson, clearly stating that the Committee can only consider the merits of the individual buildings, not their contribution to a potential historic district, as a basis for their decision. Yet, the reasoning to deny the appeal at 1319 completely ignored that. President Johnson stated that 1-story brick buildings were part of how the neighborhood developed. That reason speaks to the buildings contribution to a potential historic district, which they were not allowed to consider. Lisa Goodman stated that it was clear from the testimony during the public hearing that this building deserves a study. Once again, no one at the public hearing made a case for why the building individually was historically significant. They all talked about the historical significance of the whole of Dinkytown.

Regarding the other part of Goodman’s argument, it was completely misleading. She said that this was not a vote to declare the building historic, but to commence a study to make that determination. Actually, if you look at the way the ordinance is written, by denying the appeal and thus denying demolition, you are declaring the building a historic resource. That is the first step in the process of giving it local designation as a historic landmark. Also, by denying the appeal, you are effectively adding 12-18 months to this process.

Despite what happened at Z&P, there was still a chance to grant the appeal and allow for demolition. That is because the Committee’s decision was only a recommendation, and is not official until acted upon by the full City Council. In the past, to overturn committee action, the committee chair would lobby other council members leading up to the full council meeting, and if they got 7 votes, they would pull the item off for discussion and a separate vote at full City Council.

When it came time to present the Z&P report, Bender did pull 1319 off for discussion. She started by moving to grant the appeal and to adopt findings consistent with the staff report. Council Member Reich then moved a substitute motion to deny the appeal per recommendation from Z&P.

Andrew Johnson was the first to speak on the motion. He started by saying that he was still surprised at the decision that was reached because neither CPED staff, the HPC, community members who testified at the public hearing, or the other Committee members spoke as to why the buildings individually were historically significant. He was surprised that although many, including the HPC, talked about the contribution to a potential historic district, this was a quasi-judicial hearing and could only consider the merits of the building individually.

I will just reiterate that CPED examined the 7 criteria for local designation, as described in §599.210, and applied them to these individual buildings. They described, in detail, why none of these buildings on their own individual merits met any of separate criteria.

After Johnson, Jacob Frey was the next to comment. It is important to note that Frey represents Dinkytown. I have transcribed his entire commentary because as I was listening to it, my mouth dropped open in astonishment:

First off I would like to start off by saying that every individual in this entire situation has biases that is associated with the conclusion that they ultimately come to. And I’m not talking about us, but I am talking about the individuals that testified. One of those individuals, of course, is the property owner. The property owner has a lot of money that he could potentially gain in this situation. I don’t fault him for the way he’s decided, but that obviously comes into the consideration. Second off, Dinkytown, and specifically the area between 13th and 14th Aves on 4th St, is one of the last remaining old-school kind of commercial corridors in our entire city. And when I say old school commercial corridors, I’m talking about small, tightly situated one and two-story buildings that do contribute to an overarching bohemian kind of character. But Council Member Johnson, you are correct. In this particular determination you do need to look at each individual building in its own capacity. The first building, which is located, I believe, on 13th Ave, is the older woman’s house. It’s a single-family home, residential, in the middle of a commercial business district. I’m blown away that it’s even there to begin with. I don’t see any historical contribution in that capacity, so yeah, we recommended the demolition. The second building, I don’t think anybody would argue, is just ugly. It’s a cinderblock building, doesn’t contribute a whole ton to the area. I think originally it was used, or at least designed, as a drive-thru bank. Also doesn’t contribute a ton historically. Now, the third building is 1319, which presently houses Mesa Pizza and Camdi. Obviously, there are a lot of people who have fond memories and nostalgia, but as you pointed out during the Committee meeting, fond memories and nostalgia doesn’t necessarily contribute to the historical capacity. But, it was a building that was built between 1900 and 1920. It does have the distinctive characteristics of sort of a streetcar style development during that time frame. Additionally, it was an organizational hub from the ’60s right up to around ’85 or so. In other words, initially it was a space where people would gather for anti-war, Vietnam protests. And then, eventually, it was a spot where people would gather to stop corporate America for coming in and taking over their individual towns. If I could get my aide, Heidi Ritchie, to come up real quick and just show a couple of the protests. This is just showing a bunch of hippies protesting outside of the building. So there you see some hippies yelling. And the next one, you see the building, I think that’s right next to, it says ‘Save the Red Barn.’ The Red Barn was one of those commercial, corporate franchises that wanted to come in. They ultimately stopped it. And one of the final pieces, the next picture that I’d like you to show, that’s actually a helicopter over top that’s dropping pepper spray down on 1319, and other buildings over there on 4th St, and this was in response to some protesters. And there was also some protests there after the, what was it? Kemp University? Kent University? Something like that? There were a bunch of shootings and they ultimately had these peace marches behind 1319, it was a peace garden. And on the side of it, if you could show that final building there Heidi, it’s a, if you can see on the side of it, you can’t really see it, but there’s a mural. It’s a peace mural. What it is, is it’s a showing of the communities coming together, as Council Member Cano would say, it’s people-power organization, changing people’s lives. So, there’s a lot of things that have happened here. And I want to make to make very clear, all this motion is doing, it is not, it is not voting to make this historical. What it is doing, is we are voting to just give this some additional thought. And while we do need to increase density in our city, I think, and we are, if you look at that picture right there, I think that there is two or three cranes just behind that building, already added over 2000 residential units to this neighborhood in just the last couple of years, and we’ve got 4 or 500 on the way right now. So we are adding density, but it is important to do this thoughtfully and I think the thoughtful measure at this time would be to undergo additional study.

Let me respond to Frey’s comments:

  •  First off I would like to start off by saying that every individual in this entire situation has biases that is associated with the conclusion that they ultimately come to. And I’m not talking about us, but I am talking about the individuals that testified. One of those individuals, of course, is the property owner. The property owner has a lot of money that he could potentially gain in this situation. I don’t fault him for the way he’s decided, but that obviously comes into the consideration. 

Really? The community members who testified are biased, but you, as a City Council member, are completely objective? Your own bias is glaringly evident.

  • Second off, Dinkytown, and specifically the area between 13th and 14th Aves on 4th St, is one of the last remaining old-school kind of commercial corridors in our entire city. And when I say old school commercial corridors, I’m talking about small, tightly situated one and two-story buildings that do contribute to an overarching bohemian kind of character.

Once again, you are referring to the overall character of Dinkytown, and not the individual buildings.

  • But, it was a building that was built between 1900 and 1920. It does have the distinctive characteristics of sort of a streetcar style development during that time frame. 

How many of those do we have in Minneapolis? Should we be declaring every single one of those a historic resource?

  • Additionally, it was an organizational hub from the ’60s right up to around ’85 or so. In other words, initially it was a space where people would gather for anti-war, Vietnam protests. And then, eventually, it was a spot where people would gather to stop corporate America for coming in and taking over their individual towns. If I could get my aide, Heidi Ritchie, to come up real quick and just show a couple of the protests. This is just showing a bunch of hippies protesting outside of the building. So there you see some hippies yelling. And the next one, you see the building, I think that’s right next to, it says ‘Save the Red Barn.’ The Red Barn was one of those commercial, corporate franchises that wanted to come in. They ultimately stopped it. And one of the final pieces, the next picture that I’d like you to show, that’s actually a helicopter over top that’s dropping pepper spray down on 1319, and other buildings over there on 4th St, and this was in response to some protesters. And there was also some protests there after the, what was it? Kemp University? Kent University? Something like that? There were a bunch of shootings and they ultimately had these peace marches behind 1319, it was a peace garden. And on the side of it, if you could show that final building there Heidi, it’s a, if you can see on the side of it, you can’t really see it, but there’s a mural. It’s a peace mural. What it is, is it’s a showing of the communities coming together, as Council Member Cano would say, it’s people-power organization, changing people’s lives.

So you showed several pictures of protests occurring that just happen to include 1319 in the background, and that makes 1319 individually historic? Also, the helicopter is not dropping pepper spray on top of 1319 (and other buildings). It’s dropping it on protesters. According to your reasoning, the bar to declaring a building a historic resource is extremely low.

  • And I want to make to make very clear, all this motion is doing, it is not, it is not voting to make this historical. What it is doing, is we are voting to just give this some additional thought. 

Wrong. Goodman used the same argument during Z&P. (See my comments above)

  • And while we do need to increase density in our city, I think, and we are, if you look at that picture right there, I think that there is two or three cranes just behind that building, already added over 2000 residential units to this neighborhood in just the last couple of years, and we’ve got 4 or 500 on the way right now.

Nothing to do with the question at hand.

  • So we are adding density, but it is important to do this thoughtfully and I think the thoughtful measure at this time would be to undergo additional study.

So your idea of thoughtful is to add an additional 12-18 months to this process?

I also think that it’s important to look at his commentary within the context of a quasi-judicial hearing. Quasi-judicial hearings are something that Frey takes very seriously in other settings. Frey is the Vice Chair of the Community Development & Regulatory Services Committee, which also hears a lot of quasi-judicial appeals. Goodman, the Chair, lets Frey take over and preside over the quasi-judicial hearings. Frey puts on his lawyer hat, and very explicitly explains the scope of evidence and testimony that they are allowed to consider. Watch below, starting at 10:00:

So, does Frey’s commentary regarding 1319 sound like it is coming from a person who takes his quasi-judicial role seriously and objectively evaluates evidence and arguments as presented as a basis for making his decision?

Lisa Goodman also spoke in favor of denying the appeal. Although I’ve come to expect these types of comments from Goodman, I thought that they were revealing as to the real motivation behind denying the appeal:

Many of you who were here during the last session of the Council will remember the discussion that we had in regards to the Opus development. And although I was not on the prevailing side and a number of buildings were torn down as a result of that development, many of us at that time warned that once that happened, we should expect a number of other buildings to be next. And this is exactly what is happening in this situation. Thankfully, the neighborhood association and the business association have asked for a study of the entire area as a historic district, but because development is coming so quickly on the heels of the Opus project, we have not had the time we need to step back and figure out whether or not this is a district worth saving and if this is a contributing structure, which we already know it’s a contributing structure to this district, whether or not it has individual merit. I would argue that we should simply put more money into our preservation office within the planning department to address the backlog of preservation related problems. The previous Council did put more money into planning and this Council certainly could do the same. This isn’t like other issues, how we treat our historic resources is how we feel about our community in the broadest of senses and I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. We could simply ask the developer to include this building in the development. If this developer doesn’t want to do that, another one might come along. This is an area that is clearly being studied for a historic district now. This is an area that has seen an unbelievable amount of development and growth. And unless we’re willing to throw our hands up right now and say every one of those 13 structures should go, we should put a stop to it at some point. I think doing it through this study instead of a moratorium is a much less intense way of allowing for development while moving forward.

So Goodman’s entire argument is that this is an area that is undergoing a study for historical designation and that the City needs to stop development at some point to protect that process. Let me point out that, once again, because these demolition applications were submitted before the district was nominated for historic designation, interim protection does not apply, so the impact on the potential district should not have been considered as a basis for this decision. Also, because the district has now been nominated, it receives interim protection and any future development would be captured by that. Effectively, going forward development has already been stopped. Also, had Goodman been in attendance at Council the day in question, the Dinkytown moratorium most likely would have passed. It failed 6-6 (B. Johnson, Hofstede, Tuthill, Reich, Colvin Roy, Gordon in favor, Schiff, Glidden, Hodges, Quincy, Lilligren, Samuels against).

So after all of the discussion, the substitute motion by Reich to deny the appeal passed 8-4. President Johnson, Goodman, Frey, Reich, Warsame, Cano, Quincy and Palmisano voted in favor. Bender, A. Johnson, Yang and Vice President Glidden voted against. Council Member Gordon was not in attendance.

Full disclosure, I am now entering pure speculation mode.

So why did the vote happen this way? What really happened? I suspect that the largest factor into the deny of this appeal was Jacob Frey. We all know that there is a tradition in City Hall that, regarding development, you always defer to the wish of the Council Member whose Ward the specific development is in. In addition, Frey is a brand new Council Member who is probably feeling a lot of pressure from the neighborhood activists in Dinkytown. I suspect that Frey thought denying the demolition on one of the buildings was a fair compromise with the activists. I also suspect that because Frey is not on Z&P, he went to Barb Johnson and Lisa Goodman behind closed doors and communicated his desires. And since Kevin Reich and Abdi Warsame simply vote the same way Lisa Goodman does, with her help the outcome was all but guaranteed.

Now what am I basing my speculations on? First off, Barb Johnson and Goodman’s arguments during Z&P seemed to be coordinated and to come out of nowhere. Now that’s not much to go on. However, I think the most compelling evidence was Frey’s commentary during full City Council. Here you have the Council Member who represents Dinkytown vigorously trying to defend the decision made by a Committee that he does not even serve on. His comments were clearly that of someone who had a vested interest in the outcome of the decision.

If this is the case, what does it mean? It means the abuse of historic preservation and that Frey and others abused their quasi-judicial authority to justify their own desired outcome.

End of speculation.

So let me end with some final thoughts:

First, some would say that Lisa Bender should not have pulled the item for discussion if she didn’t have the votes. I say nonsense, and I thank her for doing it. Even though the outcome didn’t change, the discussion brought more transparency to the decision-making process and resulted in some very revealing commentary.

Second, I want to thank both Bender and Andrew Johnson for speaking out on this issue. It must not have been easy, especially being brand new Council Members going up against the likes of Lisa Goodman and company.

Third, I also want to thank Elizabeth Glidden and Blong Yang for also voting against denying the appeal.

Finally, the significance of this decision isn’t about the Doran project, which seems dead for now. I’m concerned about the precedent it sets for future development. How many 1-2 story commercial buildings do we have in Minneapolis built during the Streetcar era? How many of those lie along corridors designated for increased development? I believe that historic preservation was abused in this case and that quasi-judicial authority was abused to justify a desired outcome. If this was an abuse of historic preservation, then I think our Heritage Preservation ordinance needs to be changed. I don’t know what answer is to fixing it, but I am happy to start the conversation.

Moving forward, those of us who care about development need to organize, be active, and make our voices heard. We need to start attending community meetings, testifying at public hearings, and writing to our City Council members. Not just our own individual Council Member, but all 13 Council Members. Hopefully, by staying involved, we will not let this happen again.

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64 Responses to Latest Dinkytown Vote Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 26, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Thanks for writing this up, Andrew. You clarified a confusing situation.

    The best line of your analysis: “Also, had Goodman been in attendance at Council the day in question, the Dinkytown moratorium most likely would have passed. It failed 6-6.”

    Someone told me that Bob Dylan took a dump in that building once, so it certainly is historic.

  2. Morgan February 26, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Thank you for this write up. It will take me some time to digest but the first few paragraphs don’t look good.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 26, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    PS I think this wins the coveted “longest post of all time” award.

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      Hence why it took me so long to write!

  4. Nathaniel M Hood
    Nathaniel February 26, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Thank you for writing this up. It’s great to see the whole process (and commentary along with it). Good work.

  5. Alex February 26, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    “it was an organizational hub from the ’60s right up to around ’85 or so. In other words, initially it was a space where people would gather for anti-war, Vietnam protests. And then, eventually, it was a spot where people would gather to stop corporate America for coming in and taking over their individual towns.”

    If this is true, it is certainly a justification for study of potential historic resource under criteria 1 & 2 of section 599.210.

    Can you explain where in the ordinance it states or even implies that “by denying the appeal and thus denying demolition, you are declaring the building a historic resource”? Section 599.240 reads to me to explicitly state that any protections are interim with an explicit sunset no later than 18 months from the establishment of interim protection.

    I certainly agree that there is some awkwardness in the process that could stand clarification. But in general it is important for there to be a review of the staff determination by elected officials so there is some public accountability. I actually see a great deal of hope in this particular case because the clumsy half-assed excuses by the councilmembers-for-life were demolished by two new councilmembers, and then Frey stepped in with some actual relevant justification. What happened here was democracy, and we haven’t seen that in a while in Minneapolis, it will take some getting used to.

    • Alex February 26, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      ps I totally saw a graffito in the bathroom that said “BOBBY Z = SOOPERSTUD 4EVA” that could be historically significant.

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      “it was an organizational hub from the ’60s right up to around ’85 or so. In other words, initially it was a space where people would gather for anti-war, Vietnam protests. And then, eventually, it was a spot where people would gather to stop corporate America for coming in and taking over their individual towns.”

      Going back to staff recommendations, I would say that this speaks to the district as a whole, but not specifically to the individual property. I definitely think that it’s a leap to use events of a historic nature that took place outside of a building as a justification to declare the building itself historic. It’s using geographic proximity in place of a genuine connection to the specific building.

      §599.480 states “If the commission determines that the property is not an historic resource, the commission shall approve the demolition permit. If the commission determines that the property is an historic resource, the commission shall deny the demolition permit and direct the planning director to prepare or cause to be prepared a designation study of the property, as provided in section 599.230, or shall approve the demolition permit as provided in this section…” In other words, to even get to the point of denying the demolition, they have to declare it as a historic resource.

      • Peter Bajurny February 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

        599.480 allows the council to order a designation study. There’s nothing that says the designation study has to deem it historic. If the entire city council fell on their heads and voted to study the Taco Bell across from my apartment as a historic resource, I’m sure that 18 months later the planning director would come back with a study that says it wasn’t at all historic.

        So, I’ll disagree with your interpretation that commencing the study is what’s designates the property as historic, rater than the outcome of the study determining the designation. I believe it was Lisa Goodman that said it during the Z&P meeting that if the study came back saying the property wasn’t historic, that the developer would have carte blance to demolish the building.

      • Alex February 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

        It sounds to me like CM Frey is alleging that this specific property was associated with significant historical events related to these protest movements. I admit to having only skimmed the staff report, but they don’t seem to have looked for any specific associations between this property and those historical eras. Certainly staff doesn’t have time to do a thorough historical evaluation of every property that comes before them, so it is up to the public review process to check their work, and that may be what happened here. If that’s the case, then it’s a great thing that even Doran’s pretty good development got held up to save a historic resource. If this is just a bluff, the study will find that out and there will be another proposal down the road.

        I don’t believe that either the HPC or the council action ever determined the property to be a historic resource under 599.480. The original action of the HPC was to deny “the demolition of the property…, establish interim protection, and direct the Planning Director to prepare or cause to be prepared a designation study.” This is what the council voted to uphold, so I believe the relevant section to be 599.240. But I’m no lawyer, I just play one on the internet.

        • Andrew Degerstrom
          Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

          When a demolition permit goes before the HPC for review, their job is to determine if the building is a historic resource. If no, the demolition permit shall be granted. If yes, the demolition shall not be granted and the property is placed under interim protection, etc, etc. So what I am saying that in order to even get to denying the demolition, you have to declare the building a historic resource. Now that is not the same as declaring it a locally designated historic landmark. That can only happen after a designation study. What I’m trying to point out is that Goodman and Frey’s comments were misleading. They say that all they’re doing is to allow for further study. However, with the way the ordinance is written, to get to that point of further study you already have to declare the building as a historic resource.

          • Alex February 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

            Sure, and here is where the ordinance is awkward and should be fixed. The definition of a historic resource is “A property that is believed to have historical, cultural, architectural, archaeological or engineering significance and to meet at least one of the criteria for designation as a landmark or historic district as provided in this chapter.” If the study finds that it is not a historic resource, it can be un-historic resourced. In other words, the designation of Historic Resource doesn’t mean that it will be a historic resource forever. So I don’t think that what Frey and Goodman said was misleading, I think the terms used in the ordinance are misleading; they should say Potential Historic Resource or something.

  6. Peter Bajurny February 26, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I watched the city attorney speak, and while he said that because this request for demolition was made before the Dinkytown district designation, it was not blocked by that moratorium. However he explained that they have to evaluate it based on the criteria in 599.210, and part 3 is “The property contains or is associated with distinctive elements of city or neighborhood identity.” which to me sounds like saying that it would in some way contribute to a district, hence making it a criteria under which it could be designated historic.

    Is there somewhere in staff reports that explains why part 3 doesn’t apply here, or explains that part 3 isn’t about how it could contribute to a historic district and is in fact about something else?

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 11:56 am #

      Staff report is here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/shbjwavtl1zno6b/bzh28032CPEDReport.pdf

      They use the same justification as why criterion #1 doesn’t apply.

      • Peter Bajurny February 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

        First I’ll say that I actually agree with you, that the demolition should have been granted.

        However, Iooking at the report for the house on 13th Ave (https://www.dropbox.com/s/9qgukx8gxvhi8bw/bzh28035CPEDReport.pdf) for Criteria #3 they say that the house wouldn’t contribute to the historic district. So then doesn’t it seem that the contribution to a potential historic district is a reasonable criterion under Criteria #3? It looks like staff just kind of glossed over the building’s contribution to a potential historic district for the 1319 building, but included it for the house on 13th Ave, so I guess I’m a little confused here. I think I’m going to email Andrew Johnson to try and get a clearer justification on why they weren’t allowed to look at the potential historic district, when in fact staff did do just that.

        • Andrew Degerstrom
          Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

          I agree that the staff reports are confusing. I would highlight §599.480b:

          “Destruction of historic resource. Before approving the demolition of a property determined to be an historic resource, the commission shall make findings that the demolition is necessary to correct an unsafe or dangerous condition on the property, or that there are no reasonable alternatives to the demolition. In determining whether reasonable alternatives exist, the commission shall consider, but not be limited to, the significance of the property, the integrity of the property and the economic value or usefulness of the existing structure, including its current use, costs of renovation and feasible alternative uses. The commission may delay a final decision for up to one hundred eighty (180) days to allow parties interested in preserving the historic resource a reasonable opportunity to act to protect it.”

          So what staff is doing is addressing the significance of the building to help inform the decision as outlined in that section. I’m still unclear if staff was arguing that the building didn’t even pass the first test, which was whether or not it was a historic resource (which would grant automatic demolition), or if they were arguing that it did pass that first test but still warranted for demolition to be granted.

  7. Andrew B February 26, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Step 1) Acquire a huge amount of amber
    Step 2) Pour over all of Minneapolis
    Step 3) Perfectly preserved city

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      I’d bet that this thought has already occurred to the preservationists in our city.

  8. Adam Miller
    Adam February 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Thanks for this, it’s very valuable.

    While I agree with you entirely, I’d like to add, that this: “one of the last remaining old-school kind of commercial corridors in our entire city” is mind-boggling.

    Does he not travel around the city at all? Does he not care about sounding completely ignorant of the city?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

      Yeah, “it’s ugly” and “this is old school” aren’t really comments worthy of public debate.

      • Matt Brillhart February 26, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

        I second Adam’s comment that Mr. Frey needs to get out more and see literally any other old streetcar intersection, many of them more original/intact than Dinkytown.

        His comments were extremely disappointing. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re elected based on good looks & dude-bro vibes contrasted with a clueless incumbent who became a pariah.

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

      I love how Bender and A. Johnson both thanked Frey for his “very thoughtful” comments, but still voted against denial.

  9. Scott Shaffer
    Scott Shaffer February 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Truly epic, Andrew.

    I tried listening to the Marcy-Holmes NA president, but eventually I couldn’t hear her over my repeated shouts of “OBJECTION: RELEVANCE.” Why is she talking about pedestrian and cyclist safety, demolition and construction in the area since 2010, and LRT, when she’s supposed to be talking about the historical significance of the buildings?

    • Andrew Degerstrom
      Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      According to Goodman, that testimony was compelling enough to warrant further study of 1319.

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer February 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Mike Mulrooney gets two thumbs up. Two thumbs down for the pastor who’s bragging about his congregation of “property-owners” and complaining about missing parking.

      MinnCRAP might be interested in the following line of reasoning:
      1) The First Amendment prohibits any law that impedes the free exercise of religion, and
      2) parking at church is a necessary part of the exercise of religion, so
      3) scarce parking impedes the free exercise of religion, therefore
      4) church-goers have a constitutional right to free parking.

      Maybe you could even do the same thing with the right to peaceably assemble.

      • Andrew Degerstrom
        Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

        Maybe we should simply declare the entire City a historic district?

        • Matt Steele
          Matt Steele February 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

          Maybe we should simply declare the entire City a parking district.

          • Andrew Degerstrom
            Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

            Because parking and heritage preservation go hand in hand!

          • Adam Miller
            Adam February 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

            It’s not already?

  10. Claire VanderEyk
    Claire February 26, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I couldn’t disagree with your take on this more. You mention twice that we have many similar commercial buildings in Minneapolis, tell me how that makes it OK to go about demolishing them with no thought to the repercussions of the neighborhood in which they exist? So, your whole point is that the members who voted to deny the appeal were doing so based on the building’s contribution to the neighborhood and not the building’s individual significance – I don’t see how that matters, other than from the stance of “it’s not how ordinance is written”, in which case I agree with you that it needs to be revamped, but not in the way I’m guessing you’d like to see it changed. The Dinkytown neighborhood just began testing the waters on historic designation last Fall. So, by your logic, since the process hasn’t quite started yet we should allow developers to step in and tear down any and all of the buildings that contribute to the neighborhood’s significance but are not necessarily individually significant? Ok, well I guess that takes care of the need to study Dinkytown’s historic relevance. Also, to clarify this decision does not designate this building as a historic resource – true it is the first step in the process but it very well could turn out that after review it is decided that it is not a historic resource. I agree with the stance that it’s worth another look – if that means a year or greater so be it – at least we’re taking the time to think on a broader scale what development will do to our old neighborhoods. I’m not against development; I advocate for thoughtful urban planning that allows our cities to grow and prosper while maintaining their cultural fabric. I think the city council made the right decision.

    • Morgan February 26, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      Your rebuttal is excellent.

      But reading through Andrew’s piece (I have not read it all) I was struck by the fact that there is no application pending for historic district designation. I am an advocate for historic districts but I didn’t think that seemed fair. If nothing has even been filed let alone decided then I think that this really did impede on Doran’s property rights.

      That said, I think that your conclusion is more or less correct. This decision adds one year to Doran’s timeline. He still might be able to get a demolition permit later. And as to the marginal expense of incorporating the existing building into the new development, which Doran says is not economically feasible, well, it’s only not economically feasible right now. His long term interest is obviously in the University and access to downtown. That’s what’s valuable. He will still be able to develop that property, to the zoning envelope, but he will need to take into account aspects of the design of that building, IF it is deemed contributing. But this decision creates some more risk for him. Out of the blue. Which is not cool.

      In the very short-medium term, I believe that the City will get a better development then it otherwise would have. Not saying that Doran’s buildings aren’t already good, but additional design review will help if needed.

      But the process still seems a little broken.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke February 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

        TL,DR

        • Morgan February 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

          ??,??

          (I don’t know that secret urbanist code)

          • Morgan February 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

            Oh I see.

          • Andrew Degerstrom
            Andrew Degerstrom February 26, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

            It means too long, didn’t read. I’d guess Bill is referencing the fact that you think Claire’s rebuttal to my post is excellent, but you yourself admit to not having read all of my piece.

            • Morgan February 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

              I’ve read your whole piece. While your ideas about precedent on development in other areas of the city are interesting, in the long-term, if there is demand and money to be made, the Council can’t stop development. Doran will develop those properties, or like Goodman said, he will sell them to another developer that will.

              I didn’t quite grasp the Frey speculation bit. What I took from that part was that his relationships with other Council members are very valuable to him right now, which is probably smart, no?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam February 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      I believe his logic is that considering the building individually is what the law requires for the city to take away the property owner’s right to use his property as he sees fit.

  11. Matty Lang
    Matty Lang February 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    So. Maybe I’m misunderstanding or misremembering the significance of a quasi-judicial hearing, but can’t the City get sued by Doran on this and lose if found to have based the denial on something they shouldn’t have been considering?

    • Morgan February 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

      Yes I think so, but it’s also sort of “so what”. It still needs to be worth it for the developer to sue. And it probably isn’t.

  12. Sanguinic February 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Interesting post. Although I remain mystified by the city council’s decision, what I find even more puzzling is why it takes a year to complete a study on what appears to be a 3,000 square foot building. Really, an entire year, to complete a report?

  13. Keith February 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    I can see why the bad taste, but although the question wasn’t directly addressed I think it could have been without much difficulty: plain as it is where do you see anything at all like it being built recently or even 50 years ago in Mpls? I can’t think of anything, but if you look at the adjacent street with he Qdoba you can see that a similar low-rise commercial strip. It’s bland as hell and whatever was there before surely had historic character which could enhance the strip, but can’t since it’s gone.

    http://goo.gl/maps/RVeuu

    As for other 1-2 story commercial buildings many are next to or adjacent to a surface lot, so I don’t see maintaining them as is being obstructive to development. Cases in point:

    E 38th & Bloomington http://goo.gl/maps/74DZx

    Notice the parking lot just east of the intersection facing 38th where a mid-rise could go.

    E 35th & Minnehaha http://goo.gl/maps/wk9nd

    There’s a dumpy body shop w/ surface lot which wouldn’t be missed and could make way for denser development.

    E 26th & 1st Ave S http://goo.gl/maps/L95fi

    Another empty lot waiting for development.

    The list goes on, so I’m not concerned this will set a precedent that halts denser development.

  14. Morgan February 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    I don’t see why keith’s post confuses you.

    From Google: Historic = famous or important in history, or potentially so.

    Keith is saying that since the buildings in question are over 50 years old that they are historic. Intuitive enough to me.

    Why do people on Streets.MN always want to equate historic with scarcity? That is not anywhere in the definition. A whole city can be historic. Savannah basically is.

    • Peter Bajurny February 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      The Minneapolis city code, 599.210, describes what criteria are used to determine if a building is worthy of historic or landmark designation.
      (1)
      The property is associated with significant events or with periods that exemplify broad patterns of cultural, political, economic or social history.
      (2)
      The property is associated with the lives of significant persons or groups.
      (3)
      The property contains or is associated with distinctive elements of city or neighborhood identity.
      (4)
      The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type or style, or method of construction.
      (5)
      The property exemplifies a landscape design or development pattern distinguished by innovation, rarity, uniqueness or quality of design or detail.
      (6)
      The property exemplifies works of master builders, engineers, designers, artists, craftsmen or architects.
      (7)
      The property has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history. (2001-Or-029, § 1, 3-2-01; 2009-Or-023, § 9, 3-27-2009)

      Every criteria based on the physical building itself, rather that events that happened in the building, uses words like distinctive, rarity, and uniqueness.

      So, the City of Minneapolis wants to equate historic with scarcity.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam February 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Wow. How is it that “old” means “famous or important?” Those two things are not even remotely synonymous.

      And if he’s saying that a building becomes famous or important (and thus historical) simply because it’s 50 years old, no, I simply reject that. That’s massively devaluing both what historic means and property owner’s rights. It’s also a recipe for “preserving” a truly frightening number of buildings that are of no particular note.

      But to Keith’s credit, I don’t think he was saying old = historic. He seems to be saying it’s historic because it’s a style of building that has not been built in 50 years, thus suggesting that more like it will not be built, thus making it important.

      I think that’s a reasonable argument. If the thing in question is a thing we are unlikely to see again if we let it be torn down, maybe that thing is important.

      The problem, as I said, is that there are hundreds if not thousands of that thing in our city. We don’t need to preserve this one to keep an example of the style. It’s everywhere.

      • Morgan February 27, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

        “potentially so”

        That’s really what this whole debate is about. It’s mushy but so is culture, emotions, art, and all that other jazz. Is jazz historic? It certainly is potentially historic.

        The way that I read Keith’s post is that he was using 50 years of age as a proxy for if a building is “potentially historic”. Make sense to me.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam February 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

          I guess I’m just giving Keith a lot more credit than you are.

          This discussion is rather strange. You’re arguing from a definition that is irrelevant, as it is not the definition of historic in the applicable law. Whether or not the Google definition of “historic” implies that mere age makes something “potentially famous or important” (which, by the way it doesn’t; there is an unstated assumption doing all of that work) is beside the point.

          • Morgan February 27, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

            Almost everyone on this thread, including me, has agreed that the law has not deemed that property or district historic under the law prior to the application for the demolition permit. There has not even been an application filed for historic district protection. But the law didn’t matter. Something else did.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam February 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

          I don’t mean to beat this to death, but I don’t think I’ve been clear enough. My apologies if this sounds argumentative. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to try to be a bit more precise so we can understand each other.

          Anyway, let’s do a thought experiment to maybe get at my point.

          There are two items, Item A and Item B. Both are found within the White House. Item A is four years old and Item B is 20 years old. Can we say anything about which item is potentially “famous or important in history?”

          Well, we certainly can if we think fame or importance correlates with age (that’s the assumption I referred to above). But why do we think that?

          It could very well be that Item A is a pen used to sign the ACA into law (inarguably famous and important) and Item B is a plastic scrub bucket. Age alone tells us very little about importance or fame, or potential for either.

          Now, you might argue that the fact that someone has kept Item B for all these years gives a basis for that assumption, but does it really? Instead it might tell us that there has been no reason to replace it.

          There are certainly garages and woodsheds all over this city that are more than 50 years old (and a lot of houses of varying quality). Should their age imply importance or fame, or the potential therefor? Why? Because no one happened to tear them down? How does that make any sense? Like the plastic bucket, isn’t it just as likely that those structure were sufficiently useful that no one tore them down not because they were felt to be important but just simply that they were still sufficiently useful as to not be worth the effort?

  15. Morgan February 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Does this apply to districts too? Or just buildings?

    Anyway, I think that “distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type, or style, or method of construction” could apply to all of the buildings we are discussing OR streetcar commercial nodes as districts.

    Distinctive does not equal scarce. A whole city can be built in the exact same style and that would be very distinctive.

    • Peter Bajurny February 27, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      Distinct literally means different. You can’t have 50 identical buildings that are all distinct. At that point the definition of historical becomes “it’s old” and when something is worth of preservation for no reason other than it’s old, that flies in direct opposition to growing a city through incremental urbanism.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam February 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

        Among other things.

      • Morgan February 27, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

        Sounds good. I am not trying to be argumentative. Just having fun! You guys are smart.

        I don’t know. I’m not in love with the streetcar commercial nodes or anything but if their was a push to make all of the nodes mentioned in the above posts historic districts I think that it would have merit. This does not mean that all of the buildings need to stay one story, or that there would be no demolition permits, just that care would need to be taken with the design to incorporate context. On Conservation District threads I have mentioned that vernacular architecture no longer exists so making sure that our urban experience remains great, and “distinctive”, requires a high standard of maintaining and appreciating past buildings and styles.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam February 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      There is no historic district in place, which is why we are discussing the building (and it’s only one at issue at the moment, as the demolition of the other two was approved) individually.

  16. minneapolisite February 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    I’m just saying that these otherwise nondescript commercial buildings do have a place in our urban fabric especially when they interact with the sidewalk and streetscape on a level much higher than many new builds: take retail frontage for example. Not to mention the building materials are by and large higher quality than what’s built today: when’s the last time a new storefront in a new mixed-use building even had an ornate tin ceiling? Even the minimal brick detailing on these buildings looks incredibly intricate when compared next to a new, bland, flat square of brick and glass. They don’t build em like they used to and likely never will for the foreseeable future, so why wastefully tear down perfectly good ones that seamlessly connect the urban fabric and properly interact with the street when we don’t have to? The city should have a policy to discourage such wasteful demolitions in this context. The vacant grocery store that as torn down around the corner with its big parking lot certainly didn’t meet this standard.

    Cities out east kept such seemingly insignificant structures and with them they kept their walkability and historic ambiance. The kinds we all talk about wishing we had the same thing here, remember? We can’t even compete in the intact department with even Pittsburgh which kept its ho-hum one or two-story structure filled commercial districts largely intact and while they typically don’t stand out they do contribute to the overall feel of the place.Outside of Pittsburgh in healthier cities seeing more development they’ve managed to hold on to such buildings and accommodate new dense buildings, so why is it even an issue here when in so many cases there is an un or underutilized lot literally next door or across the street for a developer to build vertically? The city of Mpls needs to provide incentives for owners of these lots to attract developers like Doran to build on empty lots instead of healthy occupied ones and/or provide a disincentive like a tax that takes into account the disparity between what utilized developed lots in an urban business district on the same block contribute vs the ones serving as gaps on the same block that are being underutilized with the obvious example being surface parking in lieu of an occupied storefront that’s generating decent revenue.

    I think we as a city really need to have a long overdue discussion about what we’re doing wrong, because when we have so, so many vacant lots desperate for development yet lots of developers are only willing to build where a vibrant lot already exists that says there’s something way off with the policies we have in place today and we need to solve that ASAP.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam February 28, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      You know that a good portion of the footprint of this project is on existing surface parking lots? Eyeballing it, I’d say it looks like roughly 4/5 of this project is on the vacant lots you’re so eager to develop.

      Beyond that, these are hardly thriving businesses. Isn’t part of 1309 even currently vacant?

  17. Morgan February 28, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    ^^^

    What this person said. Great post.

  18. Jacob Frey March 4, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    Thanks, all. A lot of the points made here are dead on accurate. Well done. A lot of them them, however, are incorrect. Two points that I think are most important are the following: (1) the study will only take 3 of 4 months, and (2) the project is not dead. In fact, I think ultimately we can get a great project that incorporates both density and neighborhood input. Feel free to call our 3rd Ward office if you have any questions.

  19. Cadillac Kolstad March 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    A few questions.
    Is there some philosophic basis for the objection on halting demolition?
    What is the ultimate goal of the people advocating for demolition? New Urbanism and Smart Growth include historic preservation as part of the philosophy. I have included this info at the end of this post.
    Why are people advocating preservation being portrayed as against growth and better urban environments? This is a false argument!
    Many of the areas where demolition is being proposed already fit the principles of “new urbanism” so I’m confused why all the fuss for remaking these areas in the name of the philosophy.
    It really seems like the proponents of demolition and redevelopment are pushing development for the sake of development. Many of these developments do not fit well with New urban, or smart growth philosophies.
    The arguments i’m seeing could be better described as Neo-Modernism, in that the modernists believed we could demolish build our way out of perceived problems.

    What is it that in the mind of some gives CPED, and the city attorney so much credibility? For example the city attorney has given advice in case after case that has been taken to court and LOST all the way to the supreme court of mn! On both sides of the preservation issue.

    Also when the city is advocating “Zero Waste” the practice of demolition has to be looked at for the environmental impact. Here is an article detailing the extreme negative impacts of demolition. for example ~40% of waste stream is from demolition and the it emits massive amounts of Co2.

    From wikipedia:
    The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:
    We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.[3]
    New Urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in suburban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the re-development of brownfield land.
    Architecturally, new urbanist developments are often accompanied by New Classical, postmodern or vernacular styles, while that is not always the case.

    The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:
    We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.[3]

    New Urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in suburban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.
    Architecturally, new urbanist developments are often accompanied by New Classical, postmodern or vernacular styles, while that is not always the case.

  20. Cadillac Kolstad March 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Oops!! here’s the link to the article detailing the significant negative environmental impact of choosing demolition over rehabilitation.
    http://sanfrancisco.urbdezine.com/2012/05/01/the-greenest-building-is-one-thats-already-built/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sunday Summary | streets.mn - March 2, 2014

    […] appeared on streets.mn which critiqued the proposed Doran hotel/mixed use project.  This week Latest Dinkytown Vote Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth gives a well-documented and very detailed account of the City Council vote against demolition of […]

  2. Joe Urban » Blog Archive » Same Old Minneapolis? - March 12, 2014

    […] than abuse the historic preservation process to oppose developers’ proposals in places like Dinkytown and […]

  3. Same Old Minneapolis? | streets.mn - March 12, 2014

    […] than abuse the historic preservation process to oppose developers’ proposals in places like Dinkytown and […]

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