U and city officials say Greek houses could be historic

Paul Sand

City and University officials met with members of the University’s Greek system Tuesday night to discuss an upcoming study commissioned by the city that might designate some fraternity and sorority properties as historic.

Amy Lucas, a Minneapolis city planner and Heritage Preservation Commission member, said the city had been alerted by the University as early as 1981 that properties on University Avenue are historic, but funding did not exist to perform a proper study.

Lucas said that Carole Zellie, of St. Paul-based Landscape Research has been hired by the city as a consultant to perform the study on three designated areas in neighborhoods surrounding the University.

Those areas are: frat row on University Avenue, a four-square block residential area in Stadium Village and an 11-square block area in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood which abuts Interstate 35W.

“We don’t want to put people under a burden, so we picked a tight area,” Lucas said.

The HPC uses seven points of criteria in determining whether a property or building can be classified as historic.

Lucas said that Zellie considers most of the properties to fall under three of the seven main points of criteria. First, the property has to be associated with significant events or periods that exemplify broad patterns of cultural, political, economic or social history.

Second – and the criterion under which Lucas said Zellie felt many of the buildings would fall – is that the property embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type or style, or method of construction, according to an HPC report.

The final area of criteria is that the property exemplifies works of master builders, engineers, designers, artists, craftsmen, or architects.

“It’s a fairly long process,” Lucas said, but added that Zellie hopes to complete the study by January 2003.

Zellie will determine whether a property is historic by using the property’s original building permit to find information regarding year of construction and the property’s original use.

Lucas said that Zellie also will choose a cut-off date so that structures built after that date would not be considered. Lucas did not know the date.

James Litsheim, senior architect in the University’s architect’s office, represented the University at the meeting. He said the school is in support of the historic preservation study as well as the University’s Greek system.

“This is the most collaborative I’ve seen the city,” Litsheim said. “To bring people in this early Ö it’s never been done before.”

Paul Sand welcomes comments at [email protected]