Tendency to Tear Down Homes Moves into St. Paul

Updated: 05/13/2014 10:20 PM
Created: 05/13/2014 9:44 PM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

The teardown trend of taking down hold homes to make way for newer, larger ones is moving into St. Paul. Last year there were at least two dozen demolition permits granted in the city, many in and around Highland Park. In 2009, there were only 7.

"I understand people are going to build some homes, but I would like them to at least keep in mind the character of the neighborhood," said Highland Park resident Jill Gebhardt.

Gebhardt has lived in her home for eight years. Now, the house next door is being torn down for a new three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a two car garage.

"I won't bother washing my windows this summer, because I'm sure by the end of the project, my house will probably be filthy," Gebhardt said.

Craig Peterson is the co-owner of Custom Renovations. His company is working on the home next-door to Gebhardt's along with several other in St. Paul. Peterson says new owners who want to live in the city are looking for more.

"More space, more square footage," Peterson said.

Peterson's company alone has worked on nearly 50 St. Paul homes in the last few years.

"You're really close, and you're kind of getting close to somebody's space, but the change does need to happen," Peterson said.

Ward 3 Councilmember Chris Tolbert says he is working on new ordinances related to teardowns. One would create a construction management agreement requiring contractors to review the construction ordinances before starting work on the property.

Another ordinance would require that neighbors be notified before any demolition or large remodel project. Tolbert says he is also working on an ordinance that would require licenses for dumpster companies.

"We want to protect the character of our neighborhood. We want to protect our neighborhood but we also want people to invest in St. Paul," Tolbert said.

"If someone's going to come in and do a project like this, that they are required to have maybe a face to face meeting with at least the people on either side and perhaps further," Gebhardt said about her hopes for the future of the neighborhood.

In Minneapolis, the City Council lifted a moratorium on demolition and construction. The ban was supposed to be in place for a full year and include five neighborhoods.

After weeks of strong opposition from residents and builders, the Council lifted the ban saying they needed to study the issue further.

Tolbert says he does not believe a moratorium on demolition is in the cards right now in St. Paul.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

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