The ongoing and passionate debate over the future of Dinkytown now revolves around a proposal to build a six-story hotel in the heart of the commercial district.

Minneapolis’ Heritage Preservation Commission will vote Tuesday on whether to let developer Kelly Doran demolish two commercial buildings and a single-family home to make way for the boutique hotel on 4th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues SE.

The surrounding Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association opposes the demolition, arguing the small-scale buildings contribute to the neighborhood’s character.

Doran’s proposal is the third major development to spring up between 13th and 14th Avenues, which is becoming a denser residential area. The former Marshall High School is being transformed into more than 300 apartments and a first-of-its-kind TargetExpress store, and Opus Group is beginning work on a mixed-use project at 5th Street SE that will include 140 apartments.

The commercial buildings at the heart of the hotel proposal now house Camdi Vietnamese restaurant, Mesa Pizza, Dinkytown Tattoo, Publika coffee shop and the University LifeCare Center. Doran said the new development would have about 4,000 square feet of retail space.

“We don’t want to look backward 100 years,” Doran said in an interview. “We want to look forward for the next 100 years. And … the hotel will add to the energy and atmosphere that already exists in Dinkytown.”

City staff has recommended demolition of the properties, noting that the buildings are not associated with significant persons or events, nor do they embody the characteristics of a particular architectural style.

The neighborhood group said in a letter that they would support modern developments outside of Dinkytown’s core area. They note that the small-scale buildings in question were specifically highlighted in a draft plan for the district as being “important to the historic value of Dinkytown and help provide the pedestrian scale that is typical of the district.” That draft plan is not complete.

This block is no stranger to development controversy. An adjacent building was the site of protests and police clashes in 1970, when a Red Barn restaurant was proposed for the site.

Three hotels serve the university area: the Commons Hotel, a Days Inn and a Marriott Courtyard near the West Bank. “We have indications that there is a need for additional hotel rooms in and around the university,” Doran said.

The Heritage Preservation Commission serves an advisory role, so the final decision will be up to the City Council. City Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area, said city laws prevent him from commenting extensively on the project until it is officially before the council.

He said the buildings are of varying significance, noting that the single-family home on 13th Avenue SE. is somewhat out of place and the oldest building — housing Camdi and Mesa — is “charming” and “does add to the community substantially.”

Cordelia Pierson, president of the neighborhood association, said the group would support some form of historic designation for the district, which could protect some buildings from demolition. She noted that the association supported the mixed-use Opus development.

“We are not absolutist about this,” Pierson said. “We are very [interested] in Dinkytown growing and changing, but we also see the historic preservation as a key value that will maintain its strength as a place.”


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