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An update on the July 1 University Avenue fire

Recent fire at Freund Haus apartments on University Ave leave students searching for housing.
Image by Photo by Alex Lassiter
The Minneapolis Fire Department responds to a fire at the The Freund Haus on July 1, 2023.

Since the apartment fire on July 1, The Freund Haus on University Ave SE has been working with students to find housing and slowly planning for rebuilding by the next fall.

According to a Minneapolis Fire Department (MFD) press release, the fire started in a dumpster that spread up the building, catching the second, third floor and attic on fire. Approximately 30 people lived in the building and were not injured, but the entire building was deemed uninhabitable by the MFD and was released to the owner for security. 

Owner of the Freund Haus apartments, Mark Freund, said the fire was caused by smoldering fireworks that were disposed of in the recycling dumpster. Freund said it was a devastating loss for him and the students living there. 

“Everyone lost their belongings and everything,” Freund said. “It was a total loss.” 

Freund said it was not caused deliberately and no charges would be made. There were no students nor Freund Haus residents involved with the cause of the fire. 

Freund added a tenant saw the fire while leaving the building and alerted him to call the police. The fire was so intense, he could not stand in the parking lot but returned inside to alert the remaining tenants inside the building to evacuate, according to Freund. 

“I bolted into the building, pounding on every door,” said Freund. “I got them all out before a single alarm could go off in the building.” 

Freund has been building and renting in Dinkytown for the past 28 years, opening Freund Haus on University Avenue in 2010. Freund said he used inspiration from mansions he converted in the past two decades in the Marcy-Holmes area to make Freund Haus unique and eye-catching. 

“I’m not a big corporation. I’m really involved with all my places, especially Freund Haus because I built it really special,” Freund said.

Freund said he prioritizes strong connections and consideration with his tenants and tries to go the extra mile to help tenants with technical issues so they can grow to be homeowners one day. Freund said people from previous years, out-of-state and in-state, were reaching out to him asking if they could help. 

“I was getting texts from people, four, five years ago asking, ‘Is this real? Is this really happening?’” Freund said.

With the apartment being rendered uninhabitable and unsalvageable, Freund has been helping tenants find new housing. Whether it is his other properties or different housing options elsewhere, he said he is trying to help them in any way he can. 

“I was scrambling, trying to find housing for anyone and letting them know,” said Freund. 

A University of Minnesota 2023 graduate, Kaitlyn Bruns, was one of the students who reached out to Freund for housing help following the fire. Bruns had lived at Freund Haus for two years and said she immediately sought help for residence in Dinkytown from her landlord the day after the fire.

“He had another property [available],” Bruns said. “It was very sweet, he painted the walls in that place the same color as the apartment at Freund.” 

Bruns said although she ended up in a different living situation, Freund’s offer and help were appreciated. Bruns added her landlord cares and takes the time to get to know his residents, making a lasting impression on them and the apartment. 

“I feel like most people don’t even know their landlords,” Bruns said. “It definitely makes it harder losing that place because it felt more like a home.” 

In an email statement to the Minnesota Daily, University’s director of public relations Jake Ricker said the University also offers help during housing emergencies through the Office of Student Affairs, which offers short-term, emergency on-campus and off-campus housing. 

Depending on what students prefer, they can contact Housing and Residential Life through their MyU for on-campus housing. For off-campus housing, students can use the Off-Campus Marketplace, which lists apartments and houses near the University campus. 

Ricker added the University’s One Stop Student Services office of financial aid offers emergency grants and payment plans to help students navigate expenses. 

Freund said he plans for the apartment to be rebuilt in a similar fashion to the original concept, only this time, he wants to gather suggestions from his tenants for improvements. Freund plans to open the apartment back up for the 2024-2025 school year. 

“I’m always looking to improve,” Freund said. “I don’t own all the good ideas.”

Correction: The original version of this article included an incorrect year that Freund Haus opened. It opened in 2010.

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