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Suit seeks to stop Healy house demolition in Minneapolis

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 1, 2014 - 2:54 PM

A group of preservationists are demanding that a district court judge immediately intervene in the demolition of a 19th century house in the Wedge area.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, a group of activists fighting to save the 15-unit rooming house on 24th Street and Colfax Avenue argued that it is a "natural resource" under state law and should be saved. The same argument was made in a 2012 lawsuit to save downtown's Peavey Plaza from the wrecking ball.

The lawsuit comes less than a week after the City Council voted to proceed with the demolition, agreeing with a staff determination that extensive alterations had made restoration of the house infeasible. The interior looks akin to a dormitory, for example, after several fires and conversion to a rooming house.

The complaint against owner Michael Crow seeks a temporary injunction from demolition, which could theoretically occur as soon as Crow obtains a demolition permit. Tenants may still be living there, however.

Crow is attempting to sell the house to developer Michael Lander, who has proposed building a 45-unit apartment building on the site (rendering below). He has said he believes the opposition is being driven more by the apartment building, rather than historic preservation.

The building was constructed in 1893 by master builder T.P. Healy, who raised about 140 homes in Minneapolis -- 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.

The suit, filed by unnamed members of "The Healy Project," argues the house is "literally, one of a kind."

"If demolished, the Orth house cannot be recreated and will be permanently lost. Halting the destruction and impairment of historic resources like the Orth house is precisely what [the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act] was designed to prevent," they wrote.

The suit is requesting a declaration that the house is a natural resource and cannot be destroyed. It was assigned to district court judge Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum. A hearing is scheduled for May 5.

The saga of the so-called "Orth house" -- named after one of its more prominent occupants -- has spurred candlelight vigils and intense fights over social media. It has also garnered the attention of HGTV host Nicole Curtis, who lives in the area.

Top right photo of the 2320 Colfax house taken by Landscape Research LLC.

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