7.12.05

mpls: Historcal/Modern Hybrids

The diagram for the new condo in Eliot Park, located at 1010 Park where the Hinkle-Murphy mansion currently resides, pictures what the developer hopes will be the future of the site. As you can see, the condo tower swallows and dwarfs the mansion, which is currently being used as an art gallery.

The problem is that the proposal is so clearly weird, and doesn't maintain much of character of the original building. But, it adds much needed density to what had been a parking lot near both downtown and the freeway chasm. How do you reconcile the need to preserve Minneapolis's vanishing history with making the city liveable and vibrant again?

The Strib had yet another editorial today about development, this time discussing the need for preciesly this kind of history-saving attention. Only, from what I understand, the paper is all for preserving historical buildings only if they're in the first ring suburbs or something. What do you think?
It's a shame that Minnesota does so little to preserve the historic character of its cities and towns. It is one of only 10 states that does not offer a specific financial incentive to rehabilitate older buildings. Forty states either allow local governments to abate taxes for historic preservation or, better yet, grant state tax credits to supplement credits offered under federal law.
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Keep in mind, this isn't about do-gooders running around trying to save old mansions. This is about giving older parts of cities and towns a shot at competing with the outskirts. Now it's not a fair fight. Minnesota spends untold millions on redundant infrastructure (roads, sewers, schools, etc.) to benefit greenfield construction while neglecting older sections where infrastructure already exists. That's a wasteful approach inconsistent with Minnesota values. A state whose citizens recycle 2.5 million tons of refuse per year can surely understand that its historic structures can also be recycled if given an even chance.

This is also an issue of economic competition. The best jobs and brightest people won't be drawn to the cities with the longest strips of discount stores and soulless office parks. People want authenticity, a true sense of place.


OK. I love the part about authenticity, but I guess I'm still a do-gooder running around trying to save old mansions. And here's an old mansion, and it's being "saved," kind of, and I'm still complaining?

What I'd like to see is more regulatory strength behind the idea of historical preservation. A good example is the proposal for the new downtown Lunds, as covered in the recent issue of the Downtown Journal. The Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission made a series of minor suggestions about how to keep a Nicollet Mall area building "authentic." Instead, Lunds, a local company that ought to have its values in line with the area, rejected all of them and successfully appealed the ruling.

In my mind, a truly authentic city doesn't have cookie-cutter chain developments, and doesn't constatly insist on giant "showcase" developments. I'm envisioning human scale, less-than-10 story buildings that have smaller footprints and mix gracefully into their rich historical surroundings. It seems like Minneapolis hasn't been doing much of that lately.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

There has been some historical preservation or should I say rehabilitation as we have seen along the Minneapolis Riverfront and the warehouse district.
Are you a follower of "new urbanism"?
One of the crimes of Minneapolis was the gateway revitilization project that destroyed the Metropolitan building and some other classic stone built skyscrapers. From the sounds of it you have done your research, do you have a background in urban development or planning or is this just an interest? I am a student at the University of Minnesota majoring in Urban Studies with the goal of becoming an urban planner here in the Twin Cities.
I agree with your comment on the cookie-cutter chain developments and that this is somthing to be concerned about, but that does not mean Minneapolitans or Minnesotans should fear heights of developments that are over 10 stories. Minneapolis is the principle urban core for the Twin Cities, so naturally heghts and densitites should be higher as well as in St. Paul. Plus, a more intense height can allow for more greenspace in a development.

I would like to know your opinion on transportation issues as well.

Thank you,

Andrew Wambach
University of Minnesota