A young Anoka couple wants to buy a 19th century house that the city has offered to sell for $1 with the caveat that it be moved to a new lot.
But their desire to preserve the home may not be enough to save it from the wrecking ball.
Erik and Amanda Skogquist submitted four proposals to buy the building at 210 Monroe St. for $1 and move it. They were the only ones to bid on it.
The sticking point is that the couple needs additional help from the city to make any of their plans work. The city’s Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) seems reluctant to spend additional money or resources on the property, which has been modified over the years and currently consists of four 1960s-era apartments.
The HRA bought the house a year ago for $190,000 and wants to clear the lot in order to build a parking structure. Under pressure from local preservationists who wanted the house saved, the agency decided to accept bids on it and set a July 31 deadline.
Last week, the HRA rejected three of the Skogquists’ four proposals, which outlined moving the home to nearby city-owned lots. One of those lots has been sold and the others are being evaluated for downtown redevelopment.
A fourth plan is still a possibility: That proposal calls for buying and razing a condemned home at 314 Monroe St. and moving the 210 Monroe home there.
But it’s far from a done deal.
The Skogquists asked the HRA to buy the condemned home, raze it and then sell the lot to them for $25,000. The Skogquists would pay to move the 210 Monroe home there. The HRA seemed to balk at the cost. Instead, the agency has given the Skogquists until Sept. 1 to buy the 314 Monroe property on their own.
Last week, the HRA met in closed session for nearly an hour before announcing its decision.
“The HRA is trying to prove to the world they are doing everything possible to get this project completed,” agency Chairman Carl Youngquist said afterward. “For the sake of trying to make every effort, I agree with the motion” to give the couple until Sept. 1.
Youngquist said that his ultimate goal is to “get to the dirt” of 210 Monroe.
But Erik Skogquist said he’s not sure he and his wife can make the finances work if they have to buy the property directly. “I wish they would have considered all those options,” he said.
Erik Skogquist is a property assessor for municipalities. Amanda Skogquist is an educator who now stays home with their son. Erik Skogquist grew up around the corner from 210 Monroe. His mother is Barbara Thurston, who is on Anoka’s Historical Preservation Commission.
“They didn’t give me much explanation for their reasoning and logic behind it. They never asked me any questions or engaged me in their conversation. It seems like they have their minds made up prior to opening their meeting to the public. It’s too bad,’ ” Erik Skogquist said. “This seemed like good timing and a good opportunity to save this home and make something work for myself and my family.”
The home at 210 Monroe was built in the 1880s in the Italianate style. Its historic curb appeal is apparent but it’s been through a series of renovations and additions. The interior is shag carpet and paneling.
Youngquist has questioned whether the home is worth saving. It’s surrounded by surface parking lots on the edge of downtown Anoka. It has no historical designation. No one notable lived there and nothing noteworthy happened there, but it is a good example of the Italianate style, one preservationist noted years ago.
But the Skogquists say they approach the project with eyes wide open and see the home’s potential. Peel away the shag and paneling, and many original features remain, including woodwork and pocket doors.
The couple have experience moving houses — Amanda Skogquist’s parents moved a farm house in 2010; Erik Skogquist also moved a farm house in Nowthen years ago.
Erik Skogquist said moving the house, pouring a basement and driveway, connecting utilities and building a garage would cost $100,000. The couple planned to do much of the renovation themselves over the next five to 10 years, converting the four apartments into a four-bedroom home.
“We know there is a lot of work involved,” he said. “I’ve grown up in Anoka. I’ve lived in older homes my whole life. There is a lot of character and history involved with these old home. They are built really well. They have good materials and interesting features. It takes work to restore but there’s a lot those houses have to offer.”