Sherlock Homes

Minneapolis's Victorian gems have endured boom times, bad times, and some godawful weather. Now they face their greatest danger yet: government ownership and a new brand of antique "collectors."

The buffets, windows, tubs, and banisters are offered free of charge to "nonprofit contractors working on MCDA-approved projects," says Hartman, but there is no provision for selling the items to members of the public. Hartman says she is "working on a cost estimate to have a public sale. I'm thinking I should, to get more of this back into the neighborhoods. But nothing like that is happening in the immediate future."

Preservation advocates say the MCDA doesn't have much time to waste: The pieces stored in the warehouse could actually save historic buildings from the wrecking ball, argues David Piehl, housing chair for the Central Neighborhood Improvement Association. He describes an MCDA-owned house--"a basic 1910 Prairie-style house," that recently plummeted $20,000 in value after being robbed of its interior decorations. Explains Piehl: "Many of the rehabs in our neighborhood are so extensive that they're marginal to begin with, but they're doable because of the architectural amenities. Without them, a marginal rehab becomes financially undoable--the appraisal is lower, but the cost of project is the same, so you have a bigger gap to make up. That house we spoke of--it's a vacant lot now."

Jim Skuldt

The MCDA's closed-door policy amounts to a betrayal of inner-city homeowners, charges real estate agent Sandy Green. "When does the public get those things back? Anyone using an MCDA rehab loan on a house built before 1940 should have that warehouse accessible to them, to purchase things that are compatible with their house. A lot of individuals are putting their very own money into rehabbing their own houses. If it's owned by a public agency, it should be available to the public." (Reckdahl)

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