A fierce battle over whether to preserve or demolish a 19th-century Minneapolis house that has fallen into disrepair ended Friday with a City Council vote allowing the demolition to proceed.
The house, located on 24th Street and Colfax Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood, was built more than 120 years ago by master builder T.P. Healy. Following several fires, the inside has been converted into a rooming house with 16 units.
Developer Michael Lander wants to build a 45-unit apartment building on the site.
Friday’s action comes almost exactly a year after the City Council voted that the building did meet the definition of a historic resource. After that, owner Michael Crow submitted an application to demolish a historic resource in 2014, which was what the council acted on Friday.
City staff recommended allowing demolition after studying the house and finding that extensive alterations made preservation exceedingly difficult. It has been dubbed the “Orth house” because it was inhabited by the son of a prominent brewer.
“This is not about the city ordering a demolition,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden. “This is about what are the rights of a property owner who has said this is what he wishes to do with his property.”
But the notion of demolishing such an old house has stirred neighborhood and preservation activists.
Nicole Curtis, host of HGTV’s “Rehab Addict” and a resident of the area, has drawn further attention to the project through social media. Her followers have flooded council members with messages this week.
Curtis brought a cameraman to City Hall Friday and began yelling loudly in a hallway — while wearing a wireless microphone — after the council’s 11-2 vote approving demolition. “That’s not green,” she shouted at Lander as he walked toward an exit.
Curtis and others have highlighted the amount of waste that will be generated by demolishing the building. She noted that a council member is seeking to ban Styrofoam containers.
“Styrofoam containers are 4.4. grams of waste,” she said. “It takes 36 million Styrofoam containers to equal the waste that the council has just voted for them to put into the ground with the Orth project.”
Curtis has offered $400,000 to purchase the property. A document submitted to the city shows Crow is asking $600,000 for it, however.
T.P. Healy designed about 140 houses in the Minneapolis area, 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.
Council Member Blong Yang, who voted against demolition, said he was disappointed with the personal attacks against Council Member Lisa Bender, who represents the area. He added that the vote cannot be reduced to being “pro-density” or “pro-preservation.”
But, he said, an offer was made that would save the house. “There was an offer,” Yang said. “The offer wasn’t as great as the other offer [from Lander], but it was a pretty reasonable offer under the circumstances.”
Council Member Cam Gordon, who voted that the property was a historic resource in 2013, said there has been extensive time to nominate the property so it could be studied for potential historic designation. But that nomination never occurred.
“We need to be able to have a more forward-thinking view of how we manage what we think might be historic resources, and figure those things out before we get stuck in the middle of a big fight over it,” he said. “Legally, if it’s not a historic resource, I just feel obligated that we have to allow it to go forward.”