Neighbors express frustration over Hamline U. demolitions


Andy Dawkins, current Green Party candidate for Minnesota attorney general, spoke briefly towards the end of the meeting in support of Historic Hamline Village. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)[/caption]


A one-year moratorium on demolition of almost two dozen structures near the Hamline University campus will give university officials, neighborhood residents and city officials more time to review university expansion plans. And, although the fate of 1549 Minnehaha was originally in doubt, it has been learned that Hamline has agreed to add that address to the moratorium list after the meeting.

Lack of information about campus expansion plans, recent building demolitions and notice to neighborhood residents are hot-button issues in Hamline-Midway, drawing about 140 people to Hamline Church United Methodist for a meeting Sept. 17. The ad hoc group, Historic Hamline Village, which is working to put the brakes on the campus plans, invited university officials to outline their next steps.

As the Monitor went to press, Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark was working with neighbors and university officials. Historic Hamline Village hopes to schedule a follow-up meeting.

Russ Stark, 4th Ward Council Member, said the university, which is planning a change in administration, shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged with the neighbors. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)[/caption]

Stark noted that administrative changes, including a new president, are coming to Hamline University. He said the university shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged.

“Obviously Hamline University has been an asset to the neighborhood for a very long time,” said Stark. “But we also need to recognize that the neighborhood is also an asset to Hamline University.” He expressed support for the moratorium and said that 1549 Minnehaha should be part of those plans.

Hamline officials made it clear they still wish to expand south to Minnehaha Ave. and west to Pascal St. Some neighbors question why that is needed and why the university is continuing to pursue a 2008 plan. They threw out a number of ideas, ranging from online learning to car sharing to reduce parking needs, to reuse of houses as “honor” houses or language houses.

Doug Anderson, who has since stepped down as Hamline University’s senior vice present and chief financial officer, apologized to those who felt the recent home teardowns were a surprise. But while saying the university is open to a one-year moratorium on 22 other structures, “1549 Minnehaha is a separate topic.” Anderson said the house is in a “significant state of disrepair.” Some neighbors countered that Hamline University neglects properties and then uses that as a reason to tear them down.

Anderson said the 2008 expansion plan was set aside during the recession. He said the campus needs to grow to support its students. Generally, the plans call for added parking in a ramp and new lot, more academic space including fine arts space, and more housing. Plans for the southeast area called for underground parking and a commons at the southwest corner.

One priority need that has been built since 2008 is the new Anderson Student Center at Snelling and Englewood avenues. Plans to “green up” Snelling are also in the works. Anderson said the university does need new housing, as its enrollment is stable.

Doug Anderson spoke to the group as a senior vice president and chief financial officer for Hamline University. He said Hamline needs to expand now that the recession has ended and that their long-term wish and plan is to expand down to Minnehaha Ave. The meeting was one of the last for Anderson, who had planned to step down from his position at HU before the current neighborhood controversy occurred. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)[/caption]

The university also intends to keep two converted houses it owns west of Snelling, said Anderson.

The Sept. 17 meeting grew heated at times. Several neighbors, alumni, students and current and former faculty are angry about the demolition of the White House, the historic president’s house on campus.  When a picture was shown, some in the crowd booed its demolition.

“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly repurpose, buildings through a series of meetings.

Several neighbors said they cannot trust the university and that they are tired of seeing houses snatched up. Others said it’s concerning to see properties not owned by Hamline identified as future teardowns.

“It’s really insulting to us to hear you need green space when we all know your agenda,” said Diane Novotny. She lives on Pascal and expressed frustration about lack of clarity about plans.

“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly re-purpose, buildings through a series of meetings. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)[/caption]

“I’m a fan of Hamline University,” said neighbor Alan Ickler. His parents met there. But he is disappointed in how the campus plan is unfolding. “I think this has implications for the economic vitality of the community.”

City Planner Josh Williams explained the city’s role. All of the city’s colleges and universities have conditional use permits that set boundaries, building heights and setbacks, parking requirements and other limitations. While schools can buy property outside of those boundaries and demolish those houses (as Hamline has), uses are limited if properties aren’t within the boundaries.

Williams also noted that in 1997, Hamline University requested a greater expansion than the city would allow.


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