Cracked affordable apartment demolished in the Wedge

The affordable apartment at 2003 Aldrich Ave. was demolished Sept. 1 by a developer that acquired the building after being sued for damaging it. Randolph Street Realty Capital plans to build a 47-unit market-rate apartment on the site. Photo by Rachel Usher

Randolph Street Realty Capital has demolished a Lowry Hill East apartment building that it was sued for damaging. The building, razed on Sept. 1, held 25 affordable units until 2018 — when it was badly cracked in a botched construction job and residents were forced to vacate, some ending up in homeless shelters.

Chicago-based Randolph Street acquired the building, at 2003 Aldrich Ave., in March after settling the lawsuit. The firm, which never publicly disclosed the cost of repairing the building, now has plans to construct a 47-unit market-rate apartment on the site.

The demolition is a disappointment for neighbors and affordable housing activists who had been mobilizing to save the building.

A crowd of about 100 protesters marched from Mueller Park to the four-story brick building on the corner of Franklin & Lyndale on Aug. 20, holding big yellow signs reading, “Welcome to Lowry Hill East Neighborhood! Home of Naturally Occurring Profitable Housing!”

Alicia Gibson, board president of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA), asked the crowd to demand a change in Randolph Street’s plans and to demand that the city devise an alternate strategy for preserving affordable housing at 2003 Aldrich Ave.

“They keep telling us these shenanigans are legal,” she said. “They need to fix that loophole now. If people can come in and damage affordable housing, buy it from their own malfeasance, tear it down and put in market-rate and higher housing, then that should terrify anyone in this city who cares about housing justice.”

Council President Lisa Bender, who represents the area, has said the situation is “unbelievably frustrating” but that the city cannot deny a wrecking permit on subjective grounds.

Activist Toussaint Morrison, a co-organizer of the rally, said the city was allowing gentrification.

“We could have bought this right here, cleaned it up and made it for the people. This could have housed people!” he said. “You are turning away brown, Black, poor neglected people willingly.”

Wedge resident Nick Sanford said he lives in a similar century-old brick building to 2003 Aldrich. “I think they should be preserved,” he said.

The march, led by the groups On Site Public Media and Communities United Against Police Brutality, also stopped outside Bender’s home in Lowry Hill East, with protesters criticizing Bender for not being responsive to constituents and not doing enough to reign in the Minneapolis Police Department before George Floyd was killed.

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association has vowed to oppose any development project on the 2003 Aldrich site that doesn’t include at least 25 apartment units affordable to people making less than 50% of the area median income. In addition, the organization is requesting a review by the city attorney to “ensure proper changes are made to prevent this from ever happening again.” The organization has published a call to action on its website.

“If people can come in and damage affordable housing, buy it from their own malfeasance, tear it down and put in market-rate and higher housing, then that should terrify anyone in this city who cares about housing justice,” says Lowry Hill East board president Alicia Gibson. Photo by Zac Farber
Activist Toussaint Morrison hands out placards in Mueller Park before the march. Photo by Zac Farber