Recovering addicts are now receiving therapy in a stately south Minneapolis mansion converted into a treatment center, despite neighborhood objections last year.
The striking limestone building on Blaisdell Avenue is one of the last surviving examples of the prominent houses that once dominated the area inhabited by some of the city’s wealthiest families. The 1913 house was built for Nelle Snyder and her husband, John Pillsbury Snyder, grandson of milling magnate and former governor John Pillsbury.
NuWay House Inc., which is based nearby on Nicollet Avenue, originally proposed converting the space into a residential facility for addicts who had completed their intensive treatment regimen but still needed counseling. Neighbors in Whittier objected to the plan, largely due to the concentration of such supportive housing in the area.
NuWay changed course, moving their outpatient treatment programs to the mansion instead of adding a residential component.
“I think people were happy about that,” said David Vennes, NuWay’s executive director.
The treatment center ended up networking with more sober houses in the area. “So the … net outcome is that we’re working with even more clients than we originally intended,” he said.
Vennes said NuWay has become one of the largest providers locally of extended care services.
The mansion was also granted local historic designation after NuWay announced its plans, protecting most of it from large-scale changes. The Snyders, who were famous for having survived the sinking of the Titanic, lived there until the 1950s, when it became a nursing home and then a showroom for wood furnishings.
Ricardo McCurley, executive director of the Whittier Alliance, said neighbors still believe recovery facilities should be better dispersed around the city. The issue has a long history in the area: The state’s first Alcoholics Anonymous club was formed in Whittier, and its members later formed NuWay in 1966.
“The Whittier Alliance has had a long fight with the density of support services, recovery services, and of poverty, in our neighborhood,” McCurley said. “And that’s not to say we’re anti-those things. But we do have a strong belief — and we’ve seen evidence to support this — that when you have such high concentrations, it’s a detriment to the community as a whole.”
Whittier was one of the groups that joined a federal complaint against the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, accusing them of concentrating affordable housing in high-poverty areas. The cities ultimately agreed to examine concentrations of housing, and include more community input.