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Demand that Minneapolis, the “Zero Waste” City, allow the ordered designation study for the historic Orth House to be done.
Last week the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee, after listening to an hour of testimony, voted on a motion from CM Bender (Ward 10) to approve the owner’s appeal to demolish the Orth House, 2320 Colfax Ave. S. Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) was the lone dissenter. This vote overturned the decision of the Heritage Preservation Commission to allow the house interim protection (180 days) while a designation study is done. CM Bender must be called to account.
Last year the HPC declared the house to be an “historic resource” and the City Council unanimously upheld this decision. The owner, Michael Crow, and developer, Michael Lander, came back to the HPC this year, saying a designation study hadn’t been done and asking again for a permit to demolish an historic resource. The HPC reaffirmed their previous decision, and ordered a study.
Why wasn’t a designation study done? So far, we have no answer. The issue before the City Council is whether or not viable alternatives to demolition exist for the house. Ignoring the testimony of experts like architect John Cuningham (whose firm did the Uptown small area plan) and structural specialist John Jepsen, who both examined the house inside and out, CM Bender based her opinion on the testimony of those who would reap substantial financial gain from the house’s demolition: the owner, his broker, and the developer.
CM Bender declared that it is not feasible to rehab the house as a single-family home. No one testifying suggested that option, focusing instead on the need for affordable multi-family housing in the city. The owner, Michael Crow, declared that he has spent $250k on improvements to the house. City inspections records show that he spent less than $24k. Last year Crow’s broker, Tom Dunne, when asked directly if he marketed the property on residential MLS, said yes, but admitted this year that he has not. Is the Minneapolis City Council simply going to accept the claims of the owner and broker as fact? Shouldn’t all allegations by appellants be fact-checked by the City?
The City Council should not be taking the word of the owner or developer, or anyone else, on faith. Unless the designation study is done, we have no way of knowing who is giving an accurate, fact-based assessment of the house. Since the vote last year, nothing has changed with the condition of the house or the City ordinances governing historic resources. Ask the CMs on Z&P who voted to grant the house protection last year to justify their change of position (Kevin Reich 1, Barbara Johnson 4). Ask the other CMs who voted last year to follow correct procedure and allow the designation study to go forward (Cam Gordon 2, Elizabeth Glidden 8, John Quincy 11). Copy Mayor Betsy Hodges, who served as CM Ward 13 last year. Ask the new CMs to let the study proceed. Send an e-mail to CM Goodman, thanking her for her support.
Let the City Council’s decision about the Orth House be based on verifiable facts, not the appellants’ unsupported allegations.
The full vote of the City Council on this motion will be held, without public hearing, on Friday, April 25th, at 9:30.
Contact city council members NOW and ask that the City follow correct procedure and allow the designation study to be done. Keep your message short and to the point. Request a response. For a list of current Council members, see http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/
What the facts are:
Re: Sustainability. While the City is touting its “Zero-Waste” initiative, City Council is heading towards approving the demolition of a sound, historic house, sending 180+ tons of materials to the landfill. The City and the developer are using “trickle-down” sustainability, putting the responsibility on the project’s residents, who are expected to sell their cars, bike, use public transportation, and recycle.
Re: Density. The developer claims that his so-called “Eco-flats” will provide needed density on transit hubs, a goal of the City Planning Dept. Density and transit hubs already exist in the Wedge. These amenities are there now, new development or not. The population of the Wedge is being increased by 47% by new development along the Greenway. How much density can the neighborhood absorb?
Re: Neighborhood support. The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association does not support the Lander development. A motion to approve the project did not pass the board. A survey of e-mails to the City regarding this issue shows overwhelming support for the house by residents with addresses in the Wedge.
Re: Affordability. Rent in new buildings, to be economically feasible for the developer, must be set at market rate or higher. The 1,800 new units in the Wedge are luxury housing. The Lander project will bring more gentrification, marketing to affluent white people. The affordable housing is the existing houses and apartments, not new construction. A perfect site for an apartment project is available at Franklin and Park. Why doesn’t the City urge Lander to build there, rather than facilitating the wrecking of an historic resource?
Re: Preservation. As noted in the 1981 article in Twin Cities magazine, 2320 Colfax is the transitional design in the career of celebrated master builder Theron Potter Healy. The Heritage Preservation Commission determined that the house is an historic resource. But the City thinks historic houses are worth saving only if they are in “good” neighborhoods. As CM Goodman observed, “This house will see an untimely death as a result of its location. If this was in Lowry Hill or Kenwood we would not be having this conversation.”
Ask CMs to pay attention to the presentation of these facts at Z&P last week. Demand that the City follow protocol and allow the study ordered by the HPC to be completed.
Council Members by Ward:
1. firstname.lastname@example.org, 2. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,11. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 13. email@example.com
Thank Lisa Goodman for her support firstname.lastname@example.org
This Healy house, a design descendant of the Orth House, is on Lowry Hill.
Answer: The one standing.
So says Carl Elephante, Director of Sustainable Design at Quinn Evans Architects. Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a study, “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse,” with data that supports this contention. The report uses Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to compare the relative impacts of building renovation and reuse versus new construction. The description of the study says that it “examines indicators within four environmental impact categories, including climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion.”
|copyright, National Trust for Historic Preservation|
According to the study, wrecking a building and replacing it with a new one comes with very high environmental and economic costs. Let’s look at what how these costs apply to the wrecking of the historic Orth House at 2320 Colfax Ave. S.in order to build the Lander Group’s new four-story apartment building:
First is the cost of destroying the existing structure. Wrecking the Orth House (and its neighbor at 2316) will cost the developer approximately $30,000 each. Add to this cost, the waste of the building materials of the house. The Orth House, a large 6,000+-square-foot house, is estimated to weigh 180 tons, not including the foundation (John Jepsen, Jepsen, Inc.). The Orth House was built in 1893 of lumber from Minnesota’s virgin forests. This irreplaceable resource will be hauled off to a landfill, never to be used again. The plaster, lath, windows, and mechanical systems will similarly be trashed. Yes, some of these features could be removed for salvage; however, the sad fact is that staircases, doors, and windows in a house of this size and vintage cannot easily be fitted into an existing structure. To reuse them, one would have to custom build a structure they could fit into. And what’s the point of that when they are already serving their purpose in the existing house?
|The Orth House today.|
Second is the cost in labor and materials to build the new structure. New construction consumes many resources. The developer’s claim about energy savings makes no sense because new construction consumes so much energy upfront in producing new materials. (U.S.Green Building Council) The proposed apartment building is not one that uses a variety of “green” features and technologies, but a run-of-the mill structure. Recycling bins and bicycle racks do not a green building make. In fact, according to the Trust’s study, when replacing an average existing building with a new, more efficient building, it still requires as many as 80 years to overcome the impact of the construction.
|The Orth House c. 1900|