The Shingle Creek neighborhood in the far northwest corner of the city doesn’t make news often, but there’s a dispute brewing there over whether the lone elementary school there ought to be demolished.
Minneapolis Public Schools has applied to demolish the one-story brick building built in 1958 as the city’s furthest reaches filled in with families. But the Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association opposes demolition, and the matter comes before the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission on Tuesday.
A city planner has recommended that the demolition application be denied long enough to study whether the mothballed building at 5034 Oliver Av. N. is worthy to be designated as historic either using local or national criteria. If it's razed, it might become part of an adjacent park.
Shingle Creek school and its distinctive entryway

Shingle Creek school and its distinctive entryway

The case for doing so is based largely on the building’s design with clusters of classrooms connected by enclosed walkways, the city's sole example of this 1950s concept. It’s also the first example of a school sited by school planners with city and park officials to take advantage of park property, according to the report by planner Aaron Hanauer to the commission. The school is integrated with Creekview Park and the creek after which it is named.
“We’ve always advocated that we felt the building was a community asset in a neighborhood that has very few,” said Brock Hanson, board chair of the neighborhood association. Earlier area studies identified the school as potentially eligible for historic designation.   
But the district said that after closing the building in 2007, it tried without success to market the building. “We’ve had it slated for demolition for years,” said Mark Bollinger, the district’s chief administrative officer. The district removed asbestos and duct work in 2010, and the building hasn’t been heated. There are large holes in walls and ceilings from that work, Bollinger said. The district estimates that it would cost $2.8 million to make the building usable.
There’s been discussion in the past of a land swap under which the demolished school property would be added to the park, and the district would get additional green space for Olson Middle School, elsewhere in the neighborhood. But nothing has materialized, and park officials don’t want the property if the building remains, Bollinger said.
One historical footnote that could also influence whether the building is designated for preservation has to do with its role in the city’s school desegregation controversy. According to Hanauer’s report, quoting the old Minneapolis Tribune, Shingle Creek in the late 1960s was the receiving end of the largest transfer of students bused from a segregated school. The city shifted 27 black and Indian students from Willard elementary.
The Heritage Preservation Commission meets at 4:30 p.m. in room 317. Its decision on the matter may be appealed to the City Council.