There are alternatives

The issue at hand is not an either/or issue – school meets its educational need vs. historic designation.  We contend that this is a false choice; there is potential for an alternative path.  Saint Paul’s Heritage Preservation Commission has worked with property owners on reuse plans, and compromise can be found.

St. Andrew’s is an eligible historic landmark; it should be saved.  It can be repurposed and altered in collaboration—rather than be destroyed. 

Based on advice from some of the best architectural minds in the state, we believe a collaborative solution is possible to provide for the school’s needs within the school’s budget while also preserving Saint Andrew’s.  The problem seems to be that TCGIS is wedded to a single architect, whereas a design exploration with many architects and stakeholders could result in solutions.  Church layouts are challenging, but they can be adapted to serve TCGIS’s immediate needs without destroying a historic landmark.  There are many examples of adaptive reuse that should be explored. Interior modifications are not restricted by historic designation. It’s okay to get creative.

According to the Minnesota Design Center Director Tom Fisher of the University of Minnesota, “there are other options for you to meet your needs and still keep the church.”

A prime example of adaptive reuse is the Schmidt Brewery on West 7th St, which has been adapted as artist lofts and helped invigorate a boom in that neighborhood and greater appreciation of its historic sites.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation states that “Adaptive reuse should be the default, and demolition a last resort.” And for good reason: “Historic preservation encourages cities to build on the assets they have—unleashing the enormous power and potential of older buildings to improve health, affordability, prosperity, and well-being. By transforming the places we live to places we love, older buildings are a key and irreplaceable component of this ...future, and we are richer and stronger when they remain.”

Whatever you think about these buildings being used for non-religious purposes, you must appreciate the design - both the original architecture and the creative way these structures have been converted to maintain their historic appeal. (Text: Josh Lew).

Myth busting

Some fear that historic designation would unfairly constrain their growth options, harm their ability to sell the property if they decided to move, or worse, result in a vacant building. These are myths that continue to abound.

 A common myth is that historic designation results in vacancies. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation Leadership Forum, “With millions of buildings throughout the United States lying vacant and underused, cities need innovative strategies to incentivize the reuse of older buildings and discourage their demolition.” 

  • Local designation adds some rules and an HPC review step into planning for major exterior changes, but it doesn’t stop new construction, appropriate, limited demolition, or respectful remodeling.

  • Interior changes are not prohibited by local historic designation.

  • You don’t need to change anything if you don’t want to; historic preservation does not mean that you must remodel.

  •  Preservation can increase resale value, especially in desirable areas like Warrendale.

  • According to the State Historic Preservation Office, property values often go up faster in local preservation districts. In St. Paul, residential property values in the Historic Hill District rose 31% vs an 18% drop elsewhere in the city.