A fierce battle over whether to preserve or demolish a 19th century house that has fallen into disrepair ended Friday with a City Council vote allowing the demolition to proceed.
The house, located on 24th Street and Colfax Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood, was built more than 120 years ago by master builder T.P. Healy. Following several fires, the inside has been converted into a rooming house with 16 units.
Owner Michael Crow has been seeking to unload the property after a series of medical problems. Developer Michael Lander wants to build a 45-unit apartment building on the site (rendering below).
Friday's action comes almost exactly a year after the City Council voted that the building did meet the definition of a historic resource. Crow then submitted an application to demolish a historic resource in 2014, which was what the council acted on Friday.
City staff recommended allowing demolition after studying the house and finding that extensive alterations made preservation exceedingly difficult. It has been dubbed the "Orth" house because it was inhabited by the son of a prominent brewer.
“This is not about the city ordering a demolition," said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden. "This is about what are the rights of a property owner who has said this is what he wishes to do with his property.”
But the notion of demolishing such an old house has stirred neighborhood and preservation activists, who say it could be brought back to its original glory. They have held nightly candlelight vigils ahead of Friday's vote.
Nicole Curtis, host of HGTV's "Rehab Addict" and a resident of the area, has drawn further attention to the project through social media. Her followers have flooded council members with messages this week.
Curtis brought a cameraman to City Hall Friday and began yelling loudly in a hallway -- while wearing a wireless microphone -- after the council's 11-2 vote approving demolition. "That's not green," she shouted at Lander as he walked toward an exit.
Curtis and others have highlighted the amount of waste that will be generated by demolishing the building. She noted that a council member is seeking to ban Styrofoam containers.
"Styrofoam containers are 4.4. grams of waste," she said. "It takes 36 million Styrofoam containers to equal the waste that the council has just voted for them to put into the ground with the Orth project."
Curtis has offered $400,000 to purchase the property. A document submitted to the city show the seller is asking $600,000 for it, however.
T.P. Healy designed about 140 houses in the Minneapolis area, many of which are still standing. A grouping of Healy houses just off the northbound 31st Street off-ramp of Interstate 35W is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Council Member Blong Yang, who voted against demolition, said he has been disappointed with the personal attacks against council member Lisa Bender, who represents the area. He added that the vote cannot be reduced to merely being “pro-density” or “pro-preservation.”
But, he said, an offer was made that would save the house. “There was an offer,” Yang said. “The offer wasn’t as great as the other offer, but it was a pretty reasonable offer under the circumstances.”
Council Member Cam Gordon, who voted that the property was a historic resource in 2013, said there has been extensive time to nominate the property so it could be studied for potential historic designation. But that nomination never occurred.
"The problem that I found is that there wasn't proof to say that this is a historic resource," Gordon said. "And it's also a great source of frustration to me that thwe haven''t figured this out by now."
Top right photo of the 2320 Colfax house taken by Landscape Research LLC. Others taken by Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune.