Being a resident and member of the association for Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood, I know that many are concerned about the lawsuit with our historic Witches Hat Tower (“Suit says condo could be a curse on Witch’s Hat,” Dec. 19). Unlike other university-area developers, Vermilion Development has spent months meeting with the neighborhood group refining its condo plan to make it an splendid and appropriate fit for the gateway into our neighborhood. A final open vote by neighborhood residents last summer was overwhelmingly in favor of Vermilion’s plan. The city and its planning commission agreed. The few hired an attorney and fight on.
Roger Kiemele, Minneapolis
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This lawsuit is a necessary response to the untruths that Vermilion development manager Ari Parritz has told the neighborhood, the city and the Star Tribune’s reporter.
Parritz has done nothing but spread misinformation from day one, almost 11 months ago. His talk of working with the neighborhood is fiction: Before doing a site plan, he never spoke to the homeowners whose backyards would be loomed over by hundreds of balcony-owning renters less than 11 feet from the property line, and his plan even crossed onto one property without getting prior permission from the owner.
Vermilion’s plan also puts a high-density, 15-story, million-dollar-per-unit condo building next to a National Register of Historic Places site designed to be a cherished landmark for the entire city. Instead, Vermilion is selling its beloved view off to a very few, very wealthy individuals. And Vermilion’s use of vinyl and fiberglass add insult to injury: The design is nowhere near worthy of such a special site.
Last, the neighborhood’s response was actually 800 signatures on a petition against going as high as Vermilion’s tower does, 31 pages of e-mails to the Planning Commission and 150 people at a May 2018 meeting — with an overwhelming majority of all these vocally against this kind of plan on that side of University Avenue, a site that’s zoned for a maximum height of four stories.
Trina Porte, Minneapolis
The writer is a member of the Prospect Park Association land-use committee.
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The Witch’s Hat water tower holds way more meaning for Minneapolis and St. Paul residents than the once-a-year view from the deck. It’s not just a Prospect Park treasure; it’s a Twin Cities icon. For 365 days, it’s a landmark for anyone going between downtowns or along the Mississippi River. My kids would squeal with delight whenever they caught sight of the tower, like a mini castle in a tiny forest surrounded by city.
The developer that will build a 14-story condo right next to the tower wants you to forget that year-round fairytale scene. Haven’t we sacrificed enough of our historic landscape to the destructive gods of “growth?” Can’t we keep this gem to adorn the neighborhood, and enjoy it from miles around without the blight of a modern structure to destroy the magic? Contact Friends of Tower Hill Park at Tower100@jringglass.com.
Karen Lilley, St. Paul
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT DESIGN
In this case, renovation (and thus preservation) is good news
I’d like to offer some perspective on the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright house in St. Louis Park (“A question of Wright and wrong,” front page, Dec. 20, and Readers Write, Dec. 21). One, the house is being renovated, not demolished, so it will not “be lost,” as a source the Dec. 20 article implied. Two, the Olfelt House is far from being a “Picasso.”
Even the most devout of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fans would have to admit that not everything he designed was a masterpiece and that the Olfelt House, one of his last houses, is far from perfection. It features one of his great rooms with a stunning wall of wood-framed windows that offers a view over a swamp. And the built-in dining table is cleverly designed. The sloping roof over the carport is visually arresting, and the entry to the house incorporates Wright’s characteristic low hall opening to the large room — a spatial experience architects call “compression-release.” But the bedroom wing was a series of monk-like rooms arrayed along a narrow corridor made more unappealing by the tall built-in cabinetry that allowed for only narrow high windows into a bunkerlike berm.
If new owners were required to keep such a bedroom wing, it would be highly likely they would choose to demolish the house instead. So, the fact that someone was willing to buy the house, take on the challenge of renovating the desirable parts of the house and make the rest of it livable seems like only good architecture news. And if anyone else is interested in such a project, another (and better) Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Neils House, is for sale on the east side of Cedar Lake.
Linda Mack, Minneapolis
The writer is a former Star Tribune architecture reporter and critic.
DEFENSE SECRETARY RESIGNS
The continuing spree of departures is truly alarming for our country
This is getting scary. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is resigning, the fourth Trump administration Cabinet member to resign or be forced out in the past two months. Chief of Staff John Kelly is leaving. Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci and Tom Price each hold the shortest tenure in the history of their respective offices. Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, James Comey and six others have left Cabinet positions or high-level agency leadership under Trump. So far, I also count 24 high-level White House aides who have left. A very large number of these departures have been in national security, homeland security, defense and justice, replaced by sycophants whose only loyalty is to our unstable president. Mattis was often considered a moderating influence at Defense. Are there still any “adults in the room” to restrain this erratic narcissist who is commander in chief and has access to the nuclear launch codes?
Charles Underwood, Minneapolis
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Every American should be concerned about Mattis resigning. There are no serious foreign-policy experts applauding President Donald Trump’s pullout in Syria. That a man of the stature, experience and temperament of Mattis would resign in protest over these recent rash decisions by the president should alarm all of us. There are no serious adults left in the room with Trump, and we are ceding Syria to our enemies and potential chaos.
Will Nicoll, Minneapolis
Argument for: Prevents deaths. Argument against: Ineffective.
There is one issue that has not been brought up in the debate on weather or not to build a fence/wall on the Mexican border. From 1998 to 2017, more than 7,000 people died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. They tried to make it because they knew there was a good chance they would be able to be successful.
Most if not all of those people would not have tried to cross the border had they been told it was nearly impossible due to a fence/wall. They would most likely be alive today. Men, women and children suffering and dying in the desert is terrible. If building a fence/wall will help stop the dying and suffering, it should certainly be included in the debate.
Tom Carvelli, Gilbert, Minn.
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Why all of the sturm und drang about a wall to keep migrants from crossing from Mexico into the U. S.? A little history tells us all that walls never have accomplished their goals. I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China, a beautiful and impressive structure, but ineffectual in keeping Genghis Khan and his hoards from crossing. The oldest notion of such a wall was at Jericho, and it came tumbling down. Then there is the beautiful Hadrian’s Wall in England, which was ineffectual. And many of us remember the Berlin Wall. No hordes breached it, but some strong people did make it over the top, and, more important, it was torn down after 28 years. More-intelligent systems run by capable people and fewer bricks and mortar seem the logical answer to controlling our borders.
Parker Trostel, Minneapolis