ST. PAUL — Flanked by grinning legislators from both parties, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Historic Resources Equity Act into law late Monday. The controversial legislation mandates the relocation of historic resources to balance their distribution between the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Effectively, the law means that buildings will need to be moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis.
The press conference capped a marathon two weeks of debate about property rights, the cost of physically dismantling the St. Paul Hotel and moving it on flatbed trucks to Downtown Minneapolis, and regional equity. “Minneapolis has gotten the short end of the heritage stick for too long,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Dave Boone, a supporter of the bill. “This legislation will go a long way towards evening that out.”
Citing the “clear disparity in authentic, historic urban fabric” between the two cities, Minneapolitans For Evening It Out (MFEIO) was formed in mid-2013. MFEIO (pronounced “m’FEE-oh”) was initially a grassroots coalition of individuals and groups impacted by particularly bleak stretches of urban renewed Minneapolis, including Downtown East and that giant mess on the northwest side of Lake Calhoun. However, after the group was characterized as “insecure” by St. Paul Mayor Randy Bush at a fall fundraiser, it quickly expanded and picked up political support from Minneapolis politicians and, surprisingly, outstate Republicans who probably didn’t have any ulterior motives.
Critics, including Bush, claim that the conditions in the two cities reflect different approaches to growth and change over decades. “Minneapolis made a conscious decision to demolish the buildings it had,” he said when reached for comment ahead of the vote. “It’s not St. Paul’s or the East Metro’s job to compensate for that.” However, that argument proved unconvincing at the legislature–even when presented with a last minute compromise where St. Paul could have added new strip malls in lieu of giving up buildings.
“It’s just not fair that St. Paul has things that Minneapolis doesn’t have,” repeated Councilmember Boone from MFEIO headquarters, a late 90s Winnebago in the parking lot of the Lake Street K-Mart. “St. Paul had a ten year head start on us–of course they’re going to have more historic structures, and I can’t think of any large scale demolitions in Minneapolis that can account for the difference.”
The bill includes a “social” mechanism for Minneapolitans choosing which resources they’d like to reallocate, with votes being tabulated on Facebook. Early favorites include the Landmark Center, the James J. Hill House, and the feeling you get drinking hot chocolate after ice skating in Rice Park the Sunday evening before Christmas.
Relocation operations, largely subsidized through an Anoka County sales tax, are slated to begin August 1.
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