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.”
Youngquist said he is sympathetic but that the city needs to address parking now that the historic school will be used.
“I can understand the [feelings of] neighbors abutting the property,” Youngquist said. “They want to see the sunset. They don’t want to be blocked from the sun or looking at a brick wall. We will work through that. They have to understand there will be changes. There has to be room for 250 cars. We will hide them the best we can.”
City Housing Manager Darin Berger is overseeing the sale process for 210 Monroe, giving tours to prospective buyers. Berger said he’s had two so far, but no bids. The home is structurally sound, but both the exterior and interior have undergone significant changes over the years, Berger said.
Inside, it’s cut into four dated, cramped apartments. He points out the drop-panel ceilings, wooden paneling, linoleum and 1970s-era light fixtures. There don’t seem to be many original features intact, Berger said.
Almost half the square footage is from later additions tacked onto the rear of the home, he said. Even the home’s original stairway seems to have been altered.
Given the home’s deteriorated state, Berger said the HRA felt confident essentially giving the home away.
“They felt the person who saw the potential in this home would need funds to make it happen. They felt the dollar price tag was an incentive that would bring the right buyers who would pull the full potential from the project,” Berger said. “It has great potential for the right buyer.”
Berger said that he has researched the home’s history. It was built in the 1880s. One of its first owners was Louis Ingebretson. Lucille Lane owned the home longer than anyone. She, and then her family trust, owned the home from 1960 to 2012.
There isn’t any significant history attached to the home, Berger said. That’s another reason the HRA wasn’t compelled to pay to move it. Still, members of the HRA struggled with the decision.
“Originally I was in favor of the HRA moving the property and then selling it,” HRA member Patrick Walker said. “It’s an interesting house. I am not a big history buff. Anoka has a lot of historical properties and [residents] are pretty emotional when it’s time to take one down.”
Walker said he doesn’t have a lot of confidence it will sell for $1. Before the HRA bought the home in 2012, it had been on the market for over a year.
Still, he’s hopeful the right buyer will move and transform the home.
“I think it could be restored but it’s better if the private market does it,” Walker said.
Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804