City Council votes to allow demolition of Healy house

Healy's Orth House at 2320 Colfax Ave. S. Credit: File photo

WEDGE — The City Council voted 11-2 this morning to allow the owner of the Healy house at 2320 Colfax Ave. S. to demolish the property to make way for a new apartment complex.

The Council faced intense lobbying from preservationists, including Nicole Curtis of the DIY Network’s “Rehab Addict,” to save the house from demolition. The debate over the fate of the 1893-era home has played out on social media and a group called the Minneapolis Residents for Responsible Development Coalition (MRRDC) has held nightly vigils this week outside the house.

The two “no” votes on the Council were cast by Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) and Blong Yang (Ward 5). 

The Council’s vote granted Healy house owner Michael Crow’s appeal of a recent Heritage Preservation Commission decision blocking demolition. He’s been working with the Lander Group on a proposal for 45-unit apartment complex for the site. 

The property, known as Healy’s Orth House, is currently a rooming house. It was built as a Queen Anne-style home by noted Minneapolis architect T.P. Healy.

Council members who supported granting Crow’s appeal said it came down to an issue of property rights since the house was never officially declared a historic landmark. There’s been disagreement among preservationists and members of the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission over the historic integrity of the property since it has been substantially altered over the years. 

The city has a historically designated Healy Block featuring the architect’s homes between 31st and 32nd Street and 2nd and 3rd Avenue.

Several people requested the Council deny Crow’s appeal during a hearing before the Council’s Zoning & Planning Committee on April 17, including Healy’s great-grandson John Cuningham. Opponents of tearing the property down have argued the home could be rehabbed to honor its history. They have also suggested tearing it down is wasteful and will eliminate affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Curtis, who placed an offer on the property, has advocated the Lander Group consider developing on other vacant lots in the neighborhood.

“I want this message heard very loudly — I do not believe in tearing down buildings to make way for new. I am for reusing them,” she wrote on her Facebook page after today’s vote. “Many have come out and said that I am against apartment buildings and renters-absolutely not-this was not a case of a housing shortage in this area-in fact there are vacancies everywhere. I asked that this development be moved to an empty lot (as we have over 450 in the City).” 

The Committee’s Chair Lisa Bender (Ward 10) has faced intense criticism from opponents of demolishing the Healy house who have suggested she favors density at the expense of historic preservation. At the April 17 hearing she raised questions about the project’s historic value and said she found it hard to believe that anyone would invest half a million dollars to restore it as a single-family home. 

“The attackers are hurting their own credibility and cause, don’t stoop to that level. I am here to represent my constituents, including those who disagree with me on this one vote,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I am working hard and staying focused. We worked hard to get here now let’s work equally hard to make our city the inclusive, thriving and wonderful place we all want it to be.”