Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

More Questions Than Answers in the Southwest Minneapolis Teardown Controversy

Dateline: 3:44 pm March 24, 2014 Filed under:

Last year a family on our street outgrew their home. They liked our street, and our kids were friends, but there were no homes for sale nearby at the time. Faced with choosing between a very disruptive remodel/addition or simply moving, they chose the latter. Their current home is a couple miles away. Luckily for Minneapolis, they found another home in the city, but sadly for us, they no longer live on our street. It crossed my mind that a third option for them was to tear down their home and start over. Is their house a teardown? I guess a house isn’t a teardown until it’s torn down. The problem is the house didn’t work for them and now they are gone from our street, and if our street or neighborhood was a powerful enough magnet they may have chosen differently, provided they were ready to manage the disruption and the finances penciled out. If they took the teardown route, would I have liked the resulting design? I cannot say. I can say I wouldn’t mind the noise and debris from construction for a couple months if it meant they would stay, because now I miss them as neighbors. I would have supported the decision to tear down and I’ll welcome them back to my street if they ever choose to do so.

With that in mind, I took a drive around an area of Ward 13 in southwest Minneapolis that has seen a lot of teardowns and a resulting moratorium (and what seems to be an equal, if not greater amount of renovations), and I have a few questions.


Which house (see above) is new and which one old? Which do you like better and why?


I think the house on the left is a teardown and the house on the right is older, but can you tell? Does it matter? If so, will it still matter in 5, 10 or 20 years? Why or why not?


The photo above shows a new home next to an older one. Compared to the first photo, in which the new and old homes are the same size, is the scale of the new home appropriate? In other words, if the adjacent homes are small, should a replacement match them in terms of size so as to not be “out of character?”


Above is a new home next to an existing home with an addition or two. Aesthetically, which one is better? As much as one can argue that a new home doesn’t fit with the character of the neighborhood, does the addition to the older home also compromise its integrity?


Here’s a renovation. It appears much taller than both old and new houses in the neighborhood. Should renovations like this be part of the moratorium?


Of the two foursquare homes above, I believe the one on the left is new and the one on the right is old. When I drove by, a mother and her young child were shoveling the front walk of their new home. By the looks of the toys in front of the really tall renovated home two images above, a family also lives there. Should we have a policy that says families can buy and renovate a home but not build a new one? What if each brings in the same taxes to the city? Would you really not want to get to know the family in the new house simply because it is new? Would you, Keri Ferrier? How many families will choose to live somewhere other than Minneapolis if the moratorium sticks? Why am I prioritizing families over other households?


Referring to the home on the left, should we regulate taste? Or color? Or style? Or materials? A recent MinnPost article about the moratorium talks about how we like our tree-lined streets, lakeside views, walking and biking trails, and great little restaurants. Does a new home detract from all of this? Do we need design guidelines and would that be fair?


Is the above home a teardown or old? Does it matter?


Which of the above homes provides more value to the street? The new one with a front porch or the old one without?


I have a hard time believing this home wasn’t renovated and significantly added on to, and if so, it is entirely possible the construction disrupted neighbors. Is this better or worse than a teardown?


Clearly there is demand for renovations and additions, as well as teardowns. New or remodeled, all three of these properties have seen significant investment in the past few years. Furthermore, contractors are likely to get work regardless, so why should the city be deciding which method is preferred? The MinnPost article on the moratorium pointed out that 280 teardowns in Edina in 2013 bring in more taxes than Southdale. How much revenue is Minneapolis giving up with this moratorium? Is it worth it?


This is one of a precious few Parade of Homes within the Minneapolis city limits. What if the household that buys this house simply wants a nice new home above all else? If so, why should the city of Minneapolis refuse their business?

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>