Historical designation could raise rents for fraternities

Emily Ayshford

A study determining whether certain areas surrounding the University would be designated as historic has some fraternities concerned about higher renovation costs and increased rent for students.

The study, commissioned by the city of Minneapolis, focuses on fraternity row on University Avenue, an 11-block area in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and a four-block area in Stadium Village. It takes into account a building’s historical significance, architectural style and architects.

Previous estimates predicted that the study, which began last fall, would be completed in January. But Amy Lucas, a member of the Heritage Preservation Commission and Minneapolis city planner, said the commission has not received the first draft of the proposal.

Yet, some fraternity members are concerned that a “historic” designation would mean higher renovation costs, which could increase rent for members.

Brent Decker, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said room, board and dues for his fraternity are $2,697 per person each semester. He said if the fraternity is considered historic, increased costs might turn some members away.

“It could definitely cause our rent to increase, making it harder to entice new members to live here instead of somewhere like an apartment,” he said.

Interfraternity Council president John Kokkinen said he has been in touch with alumni who are gathering facts about the proposal’s effects.

“We’re not quite sure what it would do to the cost of living,” Kokkinen said.

But Jim Litsheim, Office of University Architects senior architect, said there can be an impact on renovation costs after a building is designated historic. He said he would add approximately 5 percent to the cost of renovation for historic buildings. He doesn’t think the designation would increase rent for those living in the buildings, but it depends on the building.

Lucas said she did not believe renovation costs would be higher if the houses were considered historic. She said the commission has allowed cheaper options in the past – such as synthetic siding and synthetic slate roofs – but the guidelines are different for each area.

“We try to have guidelines that speak to the district,” Lucas said.

Lucas said if the houses were designated historic, the city would recommend to the State Historic Preservation Office that the areas could be nationally recognized as historic. Then the houses would receive a 20 percent tax credit on rehabilitation costs, which include replacing everything from windows to siding.

Emily Ayshford welcomes comments at [email protected]