Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Endangered Dutch Colonials of Oliver Avenue North

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, except where noted as contributed.

The house at 2635 Oliver Avenue North needs some work.  It's a relative certainty that somebody's going to be calling for its demolition, since the city of Minneapolis has informed the Jordan neighborhood of their intent to acquire the property.  The item will come up for discussion at tonight's housing committee meeting.  While there may be a case for tearing it down, I'll take the side of preservation, and lay out my reasons for that position.

First, there are already at least three or four vacant lots on the 2600 block of Oliver.  The house to the north of this one is 2639 Oliver, a Mahmood Khan duplex that has had almost no work done since the tornado, and will likely be torn down.  (A position I support, to the point where I went to a council hearing holding signs to express that view, even though no public testimony was formally heard then.)

On top of that pending demolition, we have...

...another tornado-damaged dutch colonial with a demolition order on it, and a third similar property immediately to the south of that house.



The boarded house with the demo order, by the way, appears to be on a nonconforming lot that would be too small to rebuild on.  If that structure goes away, so does the tax base for that property.

Across the street from these homes, there are another two dutch colonial-style homes.


And just off-camera sits a sixth dutch colonial on the northeast corner of Oliver and 26th Avenues North.  There is not, to my knowledge, a similar concentration of such houses anywhere nearby.  This street has its own unique character to it that isn't present elsewhere in the immediate vicinity.  Granted, some would say that "character" is blight, but that's because the houses in their existing condition aren't looking so hot.  That's a reason to advocate rehab when appropriate, however, and not carte blanche for tearing things down.

Here, by the way, is a contributed photograph of what a row of dutch colonial houses looks like.

http://www.curatorofshit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Curator_NJ_OceanGrove_Gambrel.jpg

The potential loss of these houses underscores a point I made at a recent proposal for a Minneapolis conservation district ordinance.  Namely, that if we keep tearing down houses in north Minneapolis, there will be nothing left to even qualify as a conservation district in our communities, and then such ordinances will only widen the gap of housing preservation when we compare north to the rest of the city.

These dutch colonials are essentially an endangered species, and deserve protection.

14 comments:

  1. They are also fugly, they look like a back yard shed on steroids. I would think we could preserve better looking craftsman style homes.

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    1. Why not save them all? It isn't about what you think they look like. Some people would say Craftsmen Style homes are like Belly Buttons - everybody has one. That's reason enough for others to justify demoing them.

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    2. The aesthetics don't do much for me either, to be honest. But there are people who are attracted to these kinds of homes and for those that aren't, we have plenty of other houses to buy and vacant lots to build on. Further, the design of the dutch colonial lends itself quite well to function. The steep pitch of the roof allows for much higher ceilings on a second floor than the 1.5- and 1.75-story bungalows that are prevalent throughout this part of Jordan. There is more space in these homes than one would imagine by looking at the exterior alone.

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  2. Good luck with the conservation district! We have a district here in New Orleans that I helped craft years ago. I'd be happy to discuss some lessons learned offline. Here is the enabling legislation: http://blog.prcno.org/neighborhood-conservation-district-committee-enabling-legislation/

    ~Michelle B. Kimball (find me on Facebook)

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  3. Would you consider a compromise of demo-ing the least appealing house from each of the pairs in the non-conforming lot configurations? I get claustrophobic looking at these two pictures and personally I'd never purchase a house, no matter how nicely restored, that was sitting that close to another, for both safety (fire) and privacy concerns. Since you point out the small lots are unlikely to be re-used for new construction, is it possible to annex the land to the remaining Dutch's lot? Perhaps to allow a potential owner to build a leg to an L-shaped addition or expand some green garden space to the block?

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    1. Actually, the non-conforming lots are the ones I'm most interested in saving. First, we have no clue whether the neighbors even want to annex the property. Second, the demolition of just a few such houses is precisely what this post is arguing against, on the grounds that after a few are gone, the remaining ones will look out of place and then be more likely to be torn down themselves.

      And third, "What if we just tear things down a little bit?" isn't really a convincing line of reasoning to a preservationist.

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    2. Thanks for the reply. I was working under the assumption the homes were vacant and there may be structural issues that legitimize the removal of at least one of the properties, but as you have pointed out several times, the City is willing to suspend logic when making demolition decisions. I still feel like the sandwich-effect may prevent good, potential owners from buying versus an investor who wouldn't care one way or another, but perhaps that is just my personal bias coming out. I am curious, however, if you know if annexing non-conforming lots to existing homesteads is an option for the reasons I described above. If only to give homeowners a way to mitigate empty, unusable lots on the block.

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    3. There are a growing number of people who want a house, not a condo, and want to be close to downtown, but don't want much of a yard. The tight space, for the right person, could be a selling point.

      When I look at houses like this, I try and avoid projecting my personal preferences onto the scenario. Instead, I prefer to think, "Who would want this house and how can we market it to that type of person?"

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    4. http://www.trulia.com/property/3002264428-3417-Yosemite-Ave-S-Saint-Louis-Park-MN-55416

      http://www.trulia.com/property/1040117073-4032-Wooddale-Ave-S-Saint-Louis-Park-MN-55416

      http://www.trulia.com/property/3000758270-4125-Utica-Ave-S-Saint-Louis-Park-MN-55416

      It would be a mistake to assume that a smaller home on a small lot would not sell.

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    5. I wasn't assuming people would not be interested in purchasing small homes on small lots. Nearly any homesteader in North, myself included, has affirmed that choice as an amenable situation. I merely pointed out an issue with such close proximity between neighboring buildings that may cause buyers to pause for reasons that don't need to be enumerated (again) and provided a hypothetical compromise, assuming said properties were vacant and at least some were in bad shape. You know, compromise, that concept that most Americans don't believe in anymore? That being said, I thought HH provided some good points in siding with total preservation.

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  4. I have been in 2 of these over sized sheds. They have terrible floor plans and to make them work functionally is not worth it economically! They got to go!

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    1. I would be willing to bet that some of the 4,000+ people evicted in the last several years might disagree with you regarding the floor plans and what is functionable.

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  5. Jeff, I was just hearing some stuff on the radio about 203(k) mortgages which can include the costs of renovations in the amount for the mortgage. Are we doing anything to promote, promote, promote this kind of mortgage in North Minneapolis?

    http://www.hgtv.com/home-improvement/renovation-costs-can-be-bundled-with-mortgage/index.html

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  6. I lived at 2655 Oliver Avenue (no longer standing) from 1972 until 1977 when my family built in Brooklyn Park (which is also no longer standing). The wood work and lead glass in the two story corner house was beautiful. I absolute love the thought of restoration and preservation over tear down, and feel the loss of my childhood home is a tragedy. Those unique built-in features are not common in today's new builds. I am a new addict to Rehab Addict, and now this blog. I hope my old neighborhood becomes a safe place to visit when I make my way back to Minneapolis in the near future.

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