More than two months after a fire ripped through a stretch of north Minneapolis’ prime commercial street, city officials say some or all of the four most damaged buildings will likely be demolished.
The decision follows uncertainty about the future of the historic W. Broadway buildings, which housed businesses and apartment tenants on the avenue for more than a century. The city gave building owners until Tuesday to outline a plan for rehabbing or demolishing the buildings, which officials say are structurally unsafe.
Contractors submitted — or were expected to submit — applications to demolish all four properties at 909 to 915 W. Broadway, the city said. But the owner of Brix Grocery at 915 W. Broadway, likely the city’s oldest grocery store, maintained Wednesday that he intends to rehab the building.
“I’m trying to repair the store and my building, that’s all I can tell you right now,” building owner Nader Abuammo said. “There’s a [funding] gap, but I’m trying to close that gap.”
City spokesman Matt Lindstrom said staffers are determining whether to grant Abuammo an extension, issue fines or pursue their own demolition, since the deadline has passed and he has not submitted rehabilitation plans. The fire destroyed the apartments above the grocery, but the business itself was left with smoke and water damage. It also needs a new roof.
Charlie Rossley, whose building formerly housed Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, said insurance money wasn’t sufficient to repair his building or rebuild it from scratch.
“I put a ‘For Sale’ sign in my building and had a couple of bites but nobody’s really interested,” Rossley said. “I think there’s so much mold now in the basement that they probably can’t get around that.”
Council Member Blong Yang, who represents the area, said it is important that the lots not remain empty for long.
But redevelopment could hinge on a developer buying the rest of the buildings on the block, he said, all of which are more than a century old.
“I don’t imagine anybody wants to buy four or five [parcels] in between several buildings that could or could not remain there in the next decade or two,” Yang said.
The most prominent recent proposal for that stretch of W. Broadway involved tearing down most of the historic buildings on just over two blocks to make way for more than 200 apartments, office space, 86,000 square feet of retail and more than 670 parking spaces.
Tim Baylor, the man behind the “Satori” plan, said they still hope to proceed but need the city to allow for denser zoning.
“If they continue with the current zoning that’s in place, then they will only allow for similar buildings to be built there,” said Baylor, a McDonalds franchisee. “It would not maximize the site and the potential of the community.”
In addition to the former Neighborhoods Organizing for Change location, the properties to be demolished housed Unbank and a lighting store that was used for storage.
Shaina Brassard, a spokeswoman for the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, said people are likely most connected to the Brix building because of the business’ long history in the neighborhood.
“I think it will be traumatizing for people,” Brassard said generally of the demolitions. “I think people were already traumatized by the fires themselves.”
The cause of the fire was not determined. Police spokesman John Elder said Wednesday that it remains under investigation.