Homes torn down, or slated for demolition, are part of a six-year-old campus development plan. The plan identifies over two dozen homes and buildings for potential demolition.
[/caption] By JANE MCCLURE
Concerns about the demolition of houses owned by Hamline University, the university’s long-range plans and implications for the neighborhood will be discussed at an upcoming community meeting. The issues will be discussed at 6:30-8:30pm on Wed., Sept. 17 at Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave. Representatives of Hamline University, Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) and neighborhood residents will meet. An agenda was still being set as of Monitor deadline. Many neighborhood residents have been concerned this summer as homes were torn down, including the historic White House. The White House, which stood at Simpson and Hewitt avenues, had been home to nine university presidents since 1912. University officials cited the Greek Revival style home’s deteriorated condition as a reason to tear it down. The president’s home is now on Summit Ave. Four other properties on Hewitt have also came down recently, with four homes clustered around the Hewitt-Pascal intersection. Homes torn down, or slated for demolition, are part of a six-year-old campus development plan. The plan identities over two dozen homes and buildings for potential demolition. One worry is that properties slated for demolition surround the Hamline-Midway Branch Library, which neighborhood residents have had to fight to keep open. More properties are on Englewood Ave., Pascal, Simpson and Asbury streets. Neighborhood resident Roy Neal has been researching the homes and said almost all have historic value in the community. While university officials say the expansion plan has been in place since 2008, there is agreement with neighbors to share the plans again. Jane McEvoy lives near Pascal and Taylor, in the house she grew up in. Over the years the university has purchased homes around her home. “My house is now the only privately owned house on the block,” she said. “My family has owned it since 1939.” Several neighbors attended the July HMC Board meeting to express concerns. They question why expansion is moving ahead now and why more isn’t being done to save and possibly move homes. They were also frustrated that the university didn’t send representatives to the meeting to outline their plans, saying they were told that would happen. But HMC Board members and a university spokesperson said there had been a miscommunication. Another concern of neighbors is that the university no longer has a neighborhood liaison to work with the community. No action was taken at the July meeting. Instead, discussion centered on how the district council could facilitate discussion between the university and community. “There’s been a lot about this issue on social media and we need to discuss what our role should be,” said HMC Executive Director Michael Jon Olson. JaQui Getty is on HMC. She is Hamline University Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications and Content. She said the university has put a moratorium on house demolitions. “There is no plan to take anything else down at this time.” Work has been suspended on a house being torn down at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. The Victorian house was built in the late 1880s. It was the home of Professor G.D. Walcott, chairman of the university’s philosophy and psychology department. The university is willing to meet with the neighborhood and discuss the campus plan. “We do want to have a discussion as a community,” Getty said. “We’ll talk about where we are and where we’re headed.” Getty noted that due to the recession, much of campus plan implementation had been put on hold in recent years. Tom Goldstein chairs the district council’s land use committee. He said that since so much time has passed since the campus plan was approved by the university, there’s a need for a community update. There’s also a need to discuss whether the plan needs to be changed. “We’d like to convince Hamline University that the plan may be based on a vision that is dated and that it may need updating,” Goldstein said. He and others at the meeting cited trends in university enrollment and how people learn need to be considered. “Hamline University, with the community, could create a vision for the properties that is more inclusive,” said Goldstein. Neighbor Cheryl Loesch co-chaired a community-university task force several years ago to work on campus plans. “At the time we were told there would be continued community discussion,” she said. “That has been lost. It needs to be continued from this point onward.” The task force discussed the need for communication as a well as a transition area between the university and neighborhood, Loesch said. “Now we have neighbors ‘interfacing’ with a parking lot.” “I’m actually pro-Hamline, so if you’re hearing this from me there’s a deep-seated problem,” Loesch added.