Historic district review continues for Prospect Park

The HPC voted to extend Prospect Park’s interim protection period.

Alex Holmquist

Though Prospect Park residents and Minneapolis city officials agree they want to protect the historic character of the neighborhood, they canâÄôt agree on how to do it. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission voted to extend the period of interim protection for Prospect Park on Tuesday to allow time for further investigations that will determine whether it will be designated as a local historic district. But some residents donâÄôt feel this is in the neighborhoodâÄôs best interest right now. âÄúI think it was the wrong choice,âÄù said Dick Poppele, president of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association. In August 2008, Prospect Park was nominated to become a local historic district and was placed under interim protection the following month. The neighborhood is marked by historically significant landmarks such as Tower Hill Park and architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The purpose of historical designation is to preserve cultural resources and protect these areas from the pressures of development. Interim protection temporarily serves this function, said Aaron Hanauer, senior planner for the HPC. If designated, the neighborhood would be subject to design guidelines approved by the HPC. PPERRIA has drafted a set of suggested design guidelines but has not been able to agree with HPC staff on several specific criteria, said Dick Gilyard, PPERRIAâÄôs planning committee chairman. Gilyard said the HPC staff took a âÄústrict preservationist approachâÄù to the guidelines, while PPERRIA supported a more liberal approach. Residents have raised concerns about large application fees required to make certain alterations to the exterior of their property. They also worry about a lack of sufficient knowledge about what changes would likely be approved. Residents said potential conflicts could occur regarding home ownersâÄô desires to preserve the neighborhoodâÄôs historic character while improving its sustainability. At an HPC public hearing Tuesday, residents told HPC commissioners they were particularly concerned with previous demolitions of homes they thought should have been protected by the HPC. However, HPC chairman Chad Larsen said those demolitions occurred before the period of interim protection began and therefore were out of the HPCâÄôs control. Larsen added this supports why the period of interim protection should be extended. Poppele said PPERRIA will investigate other options to protect the neighborhood, such as becoming a Neighborhood Conservation District. This option could be explored, said Larsen, but it would not be possible unless there are changes made to the current city code. HPC commissioners said they would like to poll more Prospect Park residents and clear up any confusion before making the decision to end the process entirely. There are 12 historic districts in Minneapolis, including the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Greek Letter Chapter House Historic District. In 2008, Prospect Park was also nominated to become a nationally designated historic district. The State Historic Preservation Office is still reviewing the nomination and will likely not make its decision until the end of the year.