Anoka's Housing Redevelopment Authority is looking for a buyer to move and renovate the 19th-century house to make way for other uses, possibly a parking ramp.
The starting bid for this 2,700-square-foot house is $1.
The 19th-century, two-story home was built in an Italianate style. It’s endured a series of renovations and additions over the past century, but from the curb, it retains its historic charm.
The catch: You have to move it.
The city of Anoka’s Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) bought the house for $190,000 a year ago because it’s sitting on some prime real estate at 210 Monroe St., a block south of historic Main Street. The house is surrounded by surface parking lots and is across the street from a newly renovated historic school district building. The city and school district are discussing building a parking ramp at the site.
HRA officials, under pressure from neighborhood preservationists, wrung their hands about what to do with the 1880s home that’s been divided into four 1960s-era apartments. Is it worth saving? That’s the type of question the river town wrestles with frequently.
HRA members weighed all their options — online auctions, housing wholesalers, paying to move the home, even the wrecking ball — before deciding to put it on the block with the opening bid of $1 and leave it up to market forces.
Anoka is accepting proposals from interested buyers until 4:30 p.m. on July 31. City officials will look at several factors. They would like to keep the house in Anoka. They want it restored to a single-family home, and they want to see a proposed plan and schedule for completing the move.
If there are no buyers, it could demolished.
That’s a real possibility. Moving the structure just a few blocks could cost $20,000 or more. Figure in the cost of a new lot, pouring a new foundation, utilities and a gut-job renovation, and total expenses could easily reach six figures.
“We know it’s a sensitive issue. When it’s all said and done, if it comes down to that home going away, no one is going to say we haven’t tried,” said Carl Youngquist, chairman of the HRA and a Realtor for nearly 40 years. “There comes a point where it’s lost its historical value. You could build a case for 210 Monroe on the basis it’s no longer a single-family dwelling. It’s got shag carpeting. It’s got paneled walls. Is that historic?”
But nearby homeowners who have restored their historic properties implore the HRA and city officials to have more vision and reverence for bricks-and-mortar history in Anoka.
Barbara Thurston lives on a picturesque block of 3rd Avenue. She can see 210 Monroe from her lush, terraced back yard. She and her husband spent a decade restoring their century-old home. She is also on the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, which supports preservation of 210 Monroe. Commissioners are hoping someone will buy it, keep it in the neighborhood and restore it. Thurston said her son is interested in the home.
“We want to see the neighborhood and old homes preserved. That one has good bones,” said Thurston. “We can’t afford to lose any more old homes.”
She said her home also was buried under a century of outmoded renovations, including shag carpeting and paneling. It took some vision and handwork to bring it back.
“We went one room at a time. It took 10 years,” Thurston said.
She and others in the neighborhood also oppose the idea of building a parking structure.
“It would ruin the neighborhood,” Thurston said. “I don’t think the vision of the neighborhood and the vision of the city are the same.”