Despite protests, committee passes historic designation

Eric Swanson

The Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee unanimously approved the proposed historic designation of several greek houses near campus at its meeting Thursday, clearing the way for the full council to consider the issue next week.

Most fraternities and sororities have opposed the historic designation, concerned that it could add costs to repairs and renovations and possibly create safety issues.

Representatives for the fraternities, sororities, neighborhood associations and the Heritage Preservation Commission were allotted speaking time.

Lynn Swon, chairwoman of the Coalition for Non-Profit Student Housing, said she was alarmed by the proposed designation, and that if it passes it could lead to the demise of the greek community.

“Our main concern is that it will be impossible to meet student needs in the future with these new regulations,” Swon said.

Council members were vocal in their support for a historic designation.

“The things brought up before us by Lynn Swon were simply not true,” said council member Lisa Goodman, 7th Ward, a former University sorority member. “I don’t believe this is an affordable housing issue. These are grand institutions that do great things for the University. I can’t see why there is such opposition.”

Council member Robert Lilligren, 8th Ward, voted for the designation, but said it could mean some higher costs for renovations, and the designation will not come with any funds for fraternities or sororities.

The Zoning and Planning Committee is made up of six City Council members. The full City Council will discuss the issue at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Interfraternity Council President John Kokkinen said after the committee meeting that the greek community is going to continue lobbying against the historic designation.

“I am in favor of preserving historic buildings, but we don’t need the city to get involved and impose new regulation,” he said. “We have been preserving our houses for over 80 years in some cases, and we don’t need the city’s involvement now.”