For Glendale, designation is key objective

Supporters of the housing units say a historic designation could save it from demolition.

Raju Chaduvula

The Prospect Park Association has officially asked for a historic designation for a complex of low income townhomes to help thwart its demolition. 

The resolution — passed last week by the Prospect Park Association’s board of directors after months of deliberation — asks Minneapolis Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon to nominate the neighborhood’s Glendale Townhomes for historic designation. The move protects the cluster of houses from demolition for up to 18 months.

Some Glendale residents have been at odds with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority for nearly two years, spurring the formation of resident group Defend Glendale to protest MPHA plans to raze the townhomes, relocate residents and build new buildings before moving the residents back.

In October 2015, PPA took an official stance to advocate for restoration of the buildings without demolition, said PPA board member Joe Ring.

Ring is also chair of PPA’s historic designation commission and said historic preservation has long been a focus for residents.

He said the new steps will give Glendale a second level of protection beyond Defend Glendale’s protests and city resistance to MPHA.

The aging group of housing tailored to those with low incomes is in need of repairs that could top $24 million, according to a report released last month by Sherman Associates — money that the city’s housing authority says it doesn’t have due to limited federal funds for public housing renovations. Razing and replacing the townhomes with private development, the agency has said, is more cost-effective. 

Some residents, though, fear that a privately owned development would make affordable housing harder to obtain.  

But if the historic designation is granted, Ring said, any plans MPHA may have for Glendale would need approval from Minneapolis’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Gordon said he will honor PPA’s request. 

He said he first wants Glendale residents to meet with Defend Glendale. He said the meetings are to help protect the homes as historic property and are set for August.

Gordon also said his staff is preparing a presentation of the exact definition of historic designations.

He said there are requirements — like how many recent changes were made to the homes — and procedures residents must be aware of.

Gordon also said he plans to meet with MPHA and city officials to discuss their involvement with the project.

But historic designation is only part of a larger conflict between the MPHA and residents, said Ladan Yusuf, one of Defend Glendale’s leaders and chair of the PPA Glendale Committee.

Yusuf said Defend Glendale has worked on its own historic designation proposal for Gordon over the last six months.

“We are building our campaign for it and doing our own process that works for us. … We’re [working separate from PPA],” Yusuf said. 

Gordon said once the historic nomination process starts, the location is protected until it is found qualified or unqualified for further protection.

Ring said the city reviews any proposed 

changes in this interim period, including possible demolition by MPHA.

The HPC would likely deny any demolition request, he said.

Gordon said this temporary protection lasts up to 18 months, until a final study is presented to the HPC.

The commission would then choose whether to designate the location as historic. If approved, the decision is voted on by the City Council.