Demolition of Lowry Hill house denied

LOWRY HILL — A proposal to demolish one of the oldest existing homes in Lowry Hill was rejected by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission Tuesday.

The Commission granted 1724 Colfax Ave. S. — known as the John Speedy House — interim protection while the building is studied for possible landmark status.

Nate Wissink of Wayzata homebuilding and remodeling company Streeter & Associates applied for demolition on behalf of the owners, Todd Hess and William Tricker of Sunfish Lake, who purchased the property in March. The owners planned to construct a new single-family home on the site, which faces Thomas Lowry Park.

The proposal divided neighbors of the home. Supporters of the demolition characterized the home as a neglected eyesore, while opponents feared a historical resource would be replaced with a so-called “McMansion.”

The home was originally built in 1885 by John Speedy, a paint and wallpaper salesman. In his application, Wissink argued the home was in such a state of disrepair that only five percent of the original materials could be reused in a renovation.

He added that the historical significance of the home was limited because of “shoddy workmanship” during repairs and additions. Built as a single-family home, the structure was converted first to a duplex and then a triplex.

Susan Greenberg, who lives a block from the home on Mt. Curve Avenue, agreed with Wissink’s characterization.

“If you’ve been in the house, it clearly hasn’t been taken care of,” Greenberg said.

Still, of the eight Lowry Hill residents who spoke at the public hearing, Greenberg was the only one who supported demolition. All the others urged the owners to consider renovating the home.

Bill Payne, who also lives on Mt. Curve Avenue, acknowledged it was “not a pretty house,” but argued it could be saved. The replacement home proposed by the property owners “is not characteristic” of the neighborhood, Payne said.

Bob Glancy, a Lowry Hill resident and former Commissioner, said he would often start walking tours of the neighborhood at the John Speedy House because of its historical significance.

“It’s a house that certainly can be saved, it’s a house that should be saved and to lose it would be a crime,” Glancy said.

Commission Chairman Phillip Koski was the only committee member present who voted in support of demolition.

Koski said it was not fair to property owners that demolitions or renovations are often halted because their buildings stand in potential historic districts. If neighborhoods wish to protect their historic structures, they should push harder to get achieve historic district status, he said.

Several commissioners who voted to spare the home said they agreed with Koski, but countered that the owners had not provided sufficient evidence that the home was beyond saving.

The interim protection granted by the Commission will prevent demolition or major alteration of the John Speedy House for up to 18 months. Those protections would be extended if the property was granted landmark status following the study.

The owners had not decided whether to appeal the decision.

“We haven’t really made any decisions yet,” Tricker said. “We’re looking at all our options at this point.”