In a surprising move, a key City Council panel voted Thursday to save just one of three buildings in Dinkytown that were needed to build a new hotel.
Council President Barb Johnson introduced the motion to stop demolition of 1319 4th St SE, currently home to Camdi Restaurant and Mesa Pizza (above), until it could be studied for possible historic designation. That was opposed by the zoning and planning committee chair, council member Lisa Bender.
Just where that leaves developer Kelly Doran's plans to build a six-story hotel (right) remains unclear. Doran declined to comment following the vote.
The decision will ultimately have to be ratified by the full city council, which could overturn it.
Simultaneously, the committee voted to approve demolition of two other buildings. The heritage preservation commission had previously voted to protect all of the buildings and perform a historic designation study.
“How things change is part of the way a city works," Barb Johnson said. "But I think when you have an opportunity to make a statement about the flavor of what that place looked like in the beginning, I think this particular building at 1319 offers that.”
Bender, an urban planner, responded that the building is not dissimilar from those along Nicollet Avenue, where the city has plans to create a vibrant, denser transit corridor.
"So I don’t know how I could support designating this particular one-story brick building as historically significant and then with a straight face look at my constituents in ward 10 and look at that corridor as a place that we have designated for economic growth," Bender said. "I just feel it’s important to be consistent.”
Much of the public testimony hinged on whether buildings or merely the neighborhood's inhabitants make Dinkytown a unique place.
“We all love the character of Dinkytown," said Gary Eidson, who owns on of the buildings slated for demolition. "But that character has more to do with its geographic location and its demographics than any particular building or buildings."
Demolition opponents said while the buildings may not individually qualify as historic, they collectively add up to something worth preserving.
“It’s not one building that’s historic," said Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association board member Paul Buchanan. "It’s the fabric of Dinkytown that is historic, that contributes to the identity of our neighborhood.”
Cordelia Pierson, president of the board, added: "A historic district is made up of parts. If you take out part of those parts, you don’t necessarily have a whole anymore.”
If the full council upholds the vote next week, a historic designation study will commence for the building -- a process that takes at least four months. City staff said it will likely be subsumed into a larger historic designation study of the area.
Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area, said he plans to do more research on the 1319 4th St. SE building before the final vote.
“Smart growth and density, retaining historical value and incorporating community input are not mutually exclusive concepts," Frey said. "It does, however, require both sides to compromise and work together…We’re going to have to have some compromise on both sides to ultimately get this done.”