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Doran hotel project in Dinkytown is dealt a setback

Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis
The building housing Camdi Restaurant and Mesa Pizza was designated for a historic-significance study.

Plans to build a boutique hotel in Dinkytown hit a bump in the road when permission to tear down three buildings to make way for the new construction fell short of what the developer has said he needs to make room for the project.

Instead, two of the properties were approved for demolition while a study of possible historic significance was ordered for the third building by members of the City Council Zoning and Planning committee. The study could take could take at least four months.

Developer Kelly Doran left the meeting saying “no comment at this time.” The full City Council will consider the matter Feb. 21.

The question before the committee was not about the planned hotel but was instead focused on the possible historic significance of the three buildings. Earlier the Historical Preservation Commission denied Doran’s application for demolition, citing the properties as “historic resources.”

Building contains two restaurants

A study of the historic significance of the single-story building at 1319 4th St. SE would go beyond what is known about the structure, which was built in 1921 when Dinkytown was flourishing. The building is currently home to the Camdi Restaurant and Mesa Pizza.

The two structures approved for demolition are a commercial property at 1315 4th St. SE and a private residence at 410 13th Ave. SE.

“Looking at these three properties it is clear that the one that has the nature of an historic resource is 1319,” said Council President Barb Johnson, who singled out that structure for further study and moved to deny the application to tear it down.  “One-story buildings were the way that neighborhood developed,” she said.

John Meyers, the owner of the property at 1319, disagreed with Johnson about this possible historic status of his building, saying “every part of that building has been disassembled.”

“It’s not the building that’s bringing people there, it’s the university, it’s the events, it’s the activities,” said Meyers. “We’re not taking that away.”

“Dinkytown is a very small district and it will not take too many tear downs of key sites to alter the character of the district,” said Kristen Eide Tollafson, owner of The Book House who has been doing business in Dinkytown for 37 years. “Dinkytown would cease to function as a character district and would instead be a retail location with a few isolated old buildings.”

‘An energy worth preserving’

“There are absolutely no facts that indicate that any of these properties have any particular significance. They are not historic resources, “ said Anne Behrendt, an attorney for Doran Development, in her presentation to the committee.

“I think what everyone agrees on is that Dinkytown is unique and there is an energy worth preserving,” said Behrendt.  “What the disagreement is about is how you achieve that.”

“Dinkytown’s older character is going to be increasingly important,” said Cordelia Pierson, who is president of the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association; it is currently working on planning guidelines for the commercial district.  “Without this historic designation Dinkytown will definitely decline.”

Doran has plans for a six-story hotel on the site of the the three buildings.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Zach Padoe on 02/14/2014 - 10:58 am.

    Dinkytown Is NOT Unique

    Doran should just tear down the two buildings and pave the lots for parking. No hotel, no restaurants, and no activity. How would Minneapolis officials and Dinkytown residents feel then? BTW, there is nothing unique about Dinkytown. I’ve been living in or near Dinkytown and supporting its businesses since the 90s.
    Thinking that this neighborhood and its structure are somehow unique or historic is totally provincial and Minneapolitans need to break this habit.

  2. Submitted by Steve Sande on 02/14/2014 - 04:19 pm.

    Dinkytown’s character is worth saving

    What distinguishes Dinkytown for me is that each of its main streets offers a nearly unbroken wall of low-rise, early 20th-century buildings. Lively storefronts meet the sidewalk, and it makes for a very inviting pedestrian environment. There is a sense of history, and it complements the nearby East Bank U of M campus.

    There is room for more density, and new, more dense developments are in progress just a block or two away from the building housing Camdi Restaurant. I will shed no tears over the loss of the House of Hanson building, and replacing the former Burger King across the street with a more dense, mixed-use development would benefit the neighborhood. But I would hate to lose this old building, the Camdi building, which is representative of the character of Dinkytown. At a time when many suburbs, too, are embracing the idea of walkable “new urbanist” commercial nodes, I think cities should preserve what they can of what makes them distinctive.

    The development proposal at the intersection of Lyndale and Franklin Avenues provides a useful contrast. The plan there is for a six-story, mixed-use development that would benefit its surroundings. Some old storefronts of similar vintage to the Camdi Restaurant building will be demolished, but here there is no sense of loss. Why? Because the corner of that intersection is a parking lot, and surface lots pockmark both sides of the street on Lyndale. This development is adjacent to a freeway entrance, and the commercial district is a bit of a hodgepodge anyway. Really, it doesn’t feel as if there is much to preserve here.

    I think we need to make these kinds of distinctions when it comes to decisions about what should be sacrificed in the name of increased density.

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/15/2014 - 11:50 am.

    Barbara Johnson is wrong when she asserts of Dinkytown that ” “One-story buildings were the way that neighborhood developed.”

    Not only does history prove her wrong. You can’t say that and look across 4th St. SE from the property she thinks should be saved from demolition for the Doran hotel project: the entire block on the south side of 4th St. SE, which is older than the one-story brick in question, is more than one-story. So is the very old Simm’s Hardware building, mid-block on the west side of 14th Ave. SE north of 4th St. The buildings that were torn down on the east side of 14th Ave. SE near 5th St. SE (The Scholar, for example) were also more than one-story and had residential units above the retail first level.

    One despairs of historical ignorance on the part of members of Council committees, like Zoning and Planning, where so much of our city’s character may be tossed aside in the interests of so-called density development.

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