Mpls. Historical Preservation Committee Nixes Dinkytown Demolition

Updated: 01/22/2014 7:41 AM
Created: 01/21/2014 6:06 PM
By: Leslie Dyste

A key vote puts a proposed Minneapolis construction project in limbo.

On Tuesday night, the Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny demolition permits for three buildings in Dinkytown, putting plans for a new hotel on hold -- for now.

The basic question is: Are the buildings historic, or should they be history?

"By themselves, they may look insignificant, but they are right at the heart of our neighborhood commercial district," said Cordelia Pierson, the president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, which is fighting to save the buildings.

They're at the center of Dinkytown and currently house a Mesa Pizza, a tattoo parlor and two other businesses. But Doran Development's plan for the parcel is far more lucrative -- a brand new, 120-plus-room hotel.

First, the existing structures would need to be demolished -- a move some say would cause Dinkytown's character to crumble.

"This area thrives, in part, because people know it's different," Pierson said.

The issue of whether to allow the demolition of the buildings came before the Heritage Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

"The way to keep Dinkytown a vibrant center is, you allow it to continue to evolve and change just as it has for the past hundred years," Anne Behrendt, general counsel for Doran Development, told the HPC.

Behrendt also argued that the simple fact that the buildings are located in Dinkytown doesn't make them historic.

"The character of Dinkytown is associated with the people who live there, and the people who use Dinkytown and care about it," Behrendt said.

But agreement emerged among the commissioners that while the individual buildings may not be "historic," taken together, they help define Dinkytown.

They then voted to deny demolition permits.

"We're obviously disappointed. We think city staff had it right in their recommendation that our demolition permit be approved," Behrendt said.

"We understand that developers need certainty about where and how they can develop, and we welcome growth. But this was too fast," Pierson said.

Too fast, according to Pierson, because there is already an ongoing study to determine whether to designate all of Dinkytown a historic neighborhood. That process is expected to be completed in a matter of months, not years.

The HPC also granted the buildings "interim protection" pending further study of their historic value.

In the meantime, Doran Development says an appeal from them is "very likely." That would send the issue to the Minneapolis City Council, where it would ultimately be decided.

Click here to read more information from the City of Minneapolis on the proposed project.

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