Neighbors Upset Historic Homes in St. Paul Could be Torn Down

Updated: 07/16/2014 7:38 AM
Created: 07/15/2014 9:43 PM
By: Beth McDonough

Dozens of old homes and buildings in the Hamline Midway neighborhood of St. Paul could be torn down.

The demolition is part of a plan that's been rattling neighbors for the past six years -- and still is now.

The area surrounds Hamline University, and the lots would be cleared in order to expand the campus. Most of the homes are on Minnehaha Avenue between Snelling and North Ashburg Street, including a 13-room building, which is the focus of a contentious community meeting. 

When longtime neighbors look at the Victorian home built in 1888, they see what used to be.

"The way things once were in the midst of your community, it gives you a connection to the past. It's not nostalgia; there's real value in that," said Tom Goldstein, who lives nearby.

The buildings’ owner, Hamline University, envisions what could be at 1549 Minnehaha Ave.

The home is one of 27 properties in the Hamline Midway area on the University's endangered list. Hamline owns them.  Five have already been demolished this year, including one to make way for green space.  It was known as The White House and was home to a number of the university's presidents. 

Neighbors took notice, then they took their worries about preserving all the historic homes to university officials at a meeting Monday.

"There's history there; it's been around longer than us. They’ve been here 130 years, and I don't think they should cavalierly demolish them," Goldstein said.

The university says redeveloping the mostly-vacant properties is part of its expansion plan south of campus. It was created in 2008. 

There has been community outrage, and Hamline has the desire to be a good neighbor.

"We're going to hold off on doing anything further until there's a community meeting," said JacQui Getty, a spokesperson with Hamline University.

Because of the temporary moratorium, the home and others are spared for now.

Getty said the university is in the process of reviewing its plan, perhaps even revising it.  As a result, the school committed to no more tear downs until after the next trustee meeting, which happens at the end of August.

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