Council votes to save Healy house

The Healy house at 24th & Colfax. Credit:

THE WEDGE — The fate of an 1893 rooming house at 24th & Colfax is now uncertain, following a City Council decision to preserve the building and block its demolition for an apartment project.

Despite the Council’s unanimous vote, the Lander Group isn’t ready to give up on the idea of building a four-story, 45-unit apartment project on the corner.

Michael Lander said he thought he was on solid ground when he made the proposal — he proceeded only after confirming that the house, built by architect T.P. Healy, was not historically designated. In addition, the city’s 2005 “historic reconnaissance survey” passed over the property and didn’t recommend it for further research.

“We believe in our project,” Lander said. “This hasn’t changed what we believe, because it was only political. It doesn’t change that it was decided to be non-historic.”

Lander noted his experience in historic renovation work, and said this would only be the second building he’s taken down in his 35-year career. He said the building is too damaged, both in and out, for a feasible rehabilitation. “If a seller gave it away for free and it was renovated properly, it would cost more than the value of the property by quite a bit,” he said.

Members of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association were split on the project, with some favoring the design and density a block off Hennepin, and others worried about the impact on the neighborhood. A group of preservationists appealed city staff’s determination that the Healy house was not historic, and the City Council agreed.

At the May 24 City Council meeting, Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) said a narrow reading of city guidelines could determine that the “Healy block” in the Central neighborhood is “good enough” — the city isn’t obligated to save other examples of his work. Schiff argued for broader preservation.

“Do we want to be a city with 10 Healy homes? Or do we want to be a city with 110 Healy homes?” Schiff said. “This is a market-building approach to historic preservation that recognizes that the most unique thing the city of Minneapolis has is the historic nature of our homes and the age of our housing stock.”

He recommended a survey of all surviving Healy homes in the city, and said there is nothing “greener” than reusing an existing home.

What’s next

The group that lobbied to save the Healy house plans to stay involved in its future. Anders Christensen, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to Healy, said he’d like to see a community charrette envision the next step.

“We should start over from the point of view of the neighborhood,” he said.

Christensen said he wants to help the landowner sell the property to a preservation-minded buyer.

“There is a really great opportunity here to do something exciting,” he said.

Nicole Curtis, the local host of the show Rehab Addict, recently joined the lobby to preserve the house. She said she has a buyer for the property, and she’d like to help with the rehab.

The Lander Group is currently weighing its options. Lander said there is a process to apply for the demolition of an historic property, for example, but whether the house now officially falls into the “historic” category is uncertain.

Lander said his project fits with the city’s long-term plans to accommodate population growth. He said the size of his proposed building is smaller than the existing R6 zoning would allow, with the exception of the number of units.

“On record with the city is essentially what we’re proposing,” Lander said. “There tends to be this notion that we’re creating all this controversy. The city got way ahead of us, with a vision that’s not necessarily embraced. It has cost me tens of thousands to ask if we can do this. That’s a rough deal.”

 

 *An earlier version of this story said property owner Michael Crow did not respond for comment, when in fact, he did not receive the reporter’s message.