The Prospect Park neighborhood group is looking to the past in its bid to preserve the Glendale public housing complex — asking the city to designate it as a historic district.
Such a tactic would give added — but not complete — protection to the 184-unit complex where the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is exploring options for razing the row houses built in 1952 and building a larger mixed-income development.
The board of the Prospect Park Association on Monday voted 17-5, with multiple abstentions, to ask City Council Member Cam Gordon to nominate Glendale as a local historic district.
Gordon, who attended the meeting, said he’s trying to schedule a meeting in August with Glendale tenants to discuss the designation process and gauge their opinions.
But the neighborhood board opted to proceed with the request after waiting months for tenant input. Relations between the board and a tenants’ group called Defend Glendale have been tense at times. Defend Glendale has preferred to work independently to try to stop demolition of the complex.
“I hear the residents say, ‘We’re tired of you doing things for us,’ ” said board member Dick Gilyard, arguing to wait for tenants’ opinions.
But others supporting the historic designation request say that getting a study going now is critical.
“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” said Sarah Nassif, a member of the association’s historic district committee.
An earlier study requested by the housing authority found Glendale would be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. But when the agency ran that conclusion by the state historic preservation office, officials there questioned Glendale’s eligibility because of alterations to windows, rooflines and other features.
However, those versed in local designation say that a city historic district poses a lower bar.
“Local designation doesn’t require the exactitude of architectural characteristics that national does,” said board member Robert Roscoe.
If Gordon nominates Glendale as a historic district, and the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission orders a study — believing the property fits one or more criteria for protection — that triggers up to 18 months of interim protection. Then, if the property is designated a historic district, it could be razed only if it’s necessary to correct a dangerous or unsafe condition, or if there’s no reasonable alternative.
The housing authority hasn’t decided how many units it wants to build at Glendale, but it argues against rehabilitating the 64-year-old complex as the Defend Glendale group wants.
Developer George Sherman, hired by MPHA as a consultant, told the authority that rehabbing the units at an estimated cost of $24.4 million would add another 25 to 30 years of useful life to the complex. A full redevelopment that would last at least 50 years would cost several times that, but would have a cheaper annual unit cost, he said.
The housing authority needs to determine its options for financing a project at Glendale, spokesman Bob Boyd said.
He said the agency isn’t clear on what local historic designation would mean. It could limit the agency’s options, or it might help its chances of snaring tax credits to help finance the work.
Tenants who have been the loudest in opposing redevelopment at Glendale said in May that seeking the historic designation wasn’t their first priority, noting that considering the issue could take months. But days later Defend Glendale applauded a local lawmaker’s support for historic designation.
“They cannot do it without our voice,” Ladan Yusuf, a key figure in the anti-demolition tenant group, said then. She didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.