A group of residents trying to save Robbinsdale’s Terrace Theatre from demolition is taking the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Hennepin County District Judge Michael Browne denied the Friends of the Terrace’s request on Monday for a temporary restraining order to stop the 1950s theater from being torn down. On Thursday, the group filed an appeal with the state Court of Appeals, asking for an emergency injunction, arguing that the District Court put too much weight on economic factors and thought the group was trying to get involved in redevelopment.
“We’re just trying to preserve it; the ruling was so far off what the facts of the case are,” said Brad Nyberg, the group’s leader. “I expect [the appeal] to be the last stand for the theater.”
Friends of the Terrace sued theater owner Brixmor Property Group in August after the City Council approved demolition. St. Louis Park-based Inland Development Partners wants to redevelop the theater and half of the adjacent mall into a 91,500-square-foot Hy-Vee grocery store, convenience store, coffee shop and gas pumps. A Rainbow Foods closed on the site in 2013.
Preservationists say that the theater is still salvageable and that groups have tried to buy and restore it. The lawsuit argued that demolition would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA).
“All the history of the town has been stripped away,” Nyberg said. “This is kind of what’s left.”
In court documents, Brixmor countered that stopping development would allow a structurally deficient building to sit vacant, posing a safety risk. The theater, which closed in 1999, has water damage, mold and a collapsing ceiling and roof; it would cost $2.4 million to bring it up to code. In court documents, Inland Development Partners said it has agreed to pay $5.2 million for the property and already has invested several hundred thousand dollars in it.
The City Council has unanimously supported redevelopment plans, saying they will revitalize a blighted 10 acres off 36th Avenue and W. Broadway and create 700 new jobs. The project also would increase property taxes by 503 percent, from about $69,000 a year to $418,500 a year, according to court documents.
Friends of the Terrace’s attorney Erik Hansen, who fought renovation plans for Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, said it’s the first case he has seen where a city has advocated for the destruction of a historic building.
In Browne’s order, the judge wrote that “maintaining the Terrace as it stands is a sad and unworthy tribute to its former self.”
“Despite being touted as the ‘gem of the lakes’ and standing as an icon of the city of Robbinsdale for decades, its final service to its community may be to give way to more practical and fruitful endeavors,” Browne wrote. “We must preserve our history and culture, but not at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of our communities.”