Preservationists descend on Minneapolis

Curious eyes have descended on the Minneapolis skyline this week.

They stand in the shadows of Minneapolis mammoths such as the IDS center and the historic Foshay tower, and they’re on the ground in Loring Park and along the river at old grain elevators.

But it’s not locals who have taken up newfound curiosity for the architecture and preservation efforts that surround them.

Preservation experts from around the country are exploring Minneapolis this week during the annual National Preservation Conference.

The conference, which runs through Saturday at the St. Paul RiverCentre, brings together preservationists, architects, landscape architects and preservation fans from all 50 states and Guam to exchange and develop ideas on restoration.

Everything from the classic re-build to sustainable development and landscaping will be explored in a setting that includes speakers, seminars and tours of diverse Minnesota neighborhoods and communities.

Tours of downtown Minneapolis will continue throughout the week. Some will focus on a general overview of Minneapolis, while others will take a look at the role of Modernism in Downtown.

Lori Feinman, associate director of conferences with The National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the conferences focus not only on saving buildings themselves, but also on landscapes and the importance of historical flavor.

“(Participants) learn different tools they use to save buildings and historical resources,” Feinman said.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group hosts its annual conference in one of six different regions around the nation each year.

Minneapolis and St. Paul won the bid against other Midwest cities this year for the conference.

“They have different successes and failures,” Feinman said, explaining the differences that can be studied between preservation efforts in Minneapolis and St. Paul. “(That) makes our conference even richer than it normally is.”

The conference will host a wide array speakers, including author and radio-show host Garrison Keillor. Tours highlight a diverse range of areas, styles and historic periods, from the rural city of Owatonna to Downtown’s Peavey Plaza.