Greeks query city on new house rules

by Eric Swanson

O Owners of historically designated fraternity and sorority houses met with the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission on Monday evening to discuss new building guidelines.

The recently designated historic properties must follow and consult the design guidelines when making changes to a building’s exterior. The rules are in place to preserve the houses’ historic materials and features, commission members said.

The Minneapolis City Council designated 33 greek houses as historic at its Oct. 10 meeting. It also agreed to create a committee to oversee the creation of historic design guidelines for the properties.

The city is working with property owners to alleviate any undue hardships caused by the designation, said Amy Lucas, senior planner for the preservation commission.

Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission representatives said they will invite five property owners to work with the commission to draft final guidelines. Interested owners could sign up after the meeting.

The commission also asked University representatives to be part of the committee, not only because they are a property owner, but also for their close relationship with the city and greek community.

Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, said he wants to partner with the city, fraternities and sororities on housing issues.

“Our goal is to accomplish a re-integration of the greek system back into the University community,” Rinehart said. “These houses are a great contribution to the University.”

Guidelines for the historic properties are based on U.S. secretary of the interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and are not applied to existing elements. Commission representatives said these are the basis for most historic districts nationwide.

Lucas said the guidelines will be changed to specifically apply to this historic district. Guidelines given to property owners two weeks ago were preliminary. Final rules will be set within six weeks.

The initial rules include restrictions on any changes to windows or roofing materials.

Minneapolis has 11 historic districts, each with its own set of guidelines.

“We need clarification of the guidelines to make sure of possible implications for property owners,” said Lynn Swon, chairwoman of the Coalition for Non-Profit Student Housing.

In lobbying against the historic designation, property owners argued it could result in higher renovation costs and stricter repair regulations for the houses.

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