City should pay historic designation costs

The Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Commission voted to designate 33 former or current greek houses as historic, making them one step away from becoming part of a greek-chapter historical district. When making the final vote on Friday, the City Council is likely take the same stance. If it does, it should also make the city pay for extra costs designation brings building owners.

Instead of just going to the Zoning and Planning Committee for permit approval of work on their buildings, owners of historic property would also go to the Heritage Preservation Commission for their permission. Greeks, who own most of the affected properties, disagree with the Heritage Preservation Commission on the hassle and extra costs the process might bring and whether historic preservation is necessary.

“We have maintained the historical significance of many houses for over 80 years. We don’t need further burdens as well,” Interfraternity Council President John Kokkinen said. Yet, a stroll down “fraternity row” invites different thoughts. Some houses elucidate a clear display of pride in the aesthetic condition of the stately brick villas, others raise fears about the buildings’ future existence.

Designation does affect property rights, and so the city should be careful making its decision. If tighter control of the preservation of these buildings is of such importance, Minneapolis should finance any extra construction costs exclusively credited to the regulations of historic preservation. Otherwise, improper coercion in the realm of property rights emerges.

While the greeks are unhappy with potential restrictions, historical preservation could open doors in some facets. Such is the case with Campus Journey Ministries. Pending its designation as a historic building, the Christian fraternity will open a coffee shop. This would not be possible without the designation.

Perhaps through cooperation, both the aesthetic visionaries within city government and the affected property owners could achieve a complementary balance – rather than polarization.